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Doi Ang Khang, 2nd Mar 2002
 
 
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Participants: Peter Ericsson and Bengt Legnell

Transportation: Train from Bangkok Friday evening at 18:50. 600 Baht for sleeper.
Arrived in Chiang Mai 07:20 am Saturday. Met Bengt who brought rented vehicle (600/day) from Boss rental company. Caught the train back to Bangkok following day, Sunday at 18:00, allowing for 24 hours birding at Doi Angkhang. Along the drive to DAK we stopped by Mae Taang Irrigation Canal. Otherwise the drive is an easy drive for about 3 hours. Turn off to the left at km 137 a little before the town of Fang. After the turn off, the road quickly starts climbing steeply. Good tarmac road though so 4 wheel drive is not really needed.

The Irrigation Project was a quick stop to try to see some Buntings. The Canal is located about 30 minutes drive North of CM. We crossed the canal by foot and made our way through the brush on the other side. Here at the end of a dry field we had a group of Crested Buntings. My first lifer. Then a small bird perched on a smaller stick and the scope revealed a Little Bunting. 2nd lifer. Other good birds here were Eurasian Kestrel hovering over the field. Lots of Pied Wagtails. Also saw my first Green Sandpiper (jinx bird). Lifer number 3. Rufous-winged Bushlark, Grey Bush Chat, Pied Bush Chat, Pied Wagtail, etc was other things seen. A Eurasian Kestrel hovered over a field giving good views.

On the way in to the canal we saw 2 Grey-headed Lapwings and a Snipe in a field. Nearby Eurasian Jay gave away harsh calls. Seemed to be a very birdy area and could easily keep one busy for a full morning.

I have never really had a clear picture of what Doi Ankhang is like. Only heard about its remoteness and good birds. It was actually very easy to get to. Though steep the climb was far less time consuming then going up Doi Inthanon. Most of the journey up though had to be done in first gear. Once up, the road follows a mountain ridge until it starts going down into a valley where the little town by the same name is located. Here a few simple houses fight for space with some upper class resorts and squeezed in between is a Royal agricultural project. There are many mountain peaks around and looking over the valleys, many are still covered in thick forest. The area we did our birding is called km 21.5. Altitude must be around 18-1900m. Here a jeep track goes off the road to the right. For about 100 meters there is thick forest and then comes a clearing and grass/scrub land. After that the road continues down to the left and apparently comes out down at km 24 or Mae Peu water substation (a rather steep walk down). We pitched our tents in the clearing near to a big tree. Here we watched the grassy hillside in front of us. Brown-breasted Bulbuls are everywhere here. They are quite an attractive little Bulbul with their clean white throat and musical notes.

Someone had seen Spot-breasted Parrotbills and Fire-capped Tits here the day before so our expectations were immediately heightened. Several trails are around here. Free walking mules live on the mountain and keep the trails open through their constant walking. We did 80% of our birding in this area. Saw Red-faced Liocichla twice in low herbage near to the clearing. The bird is supposedly in more moist areas but seeing how dry everything is this year it may not have much of a choice. Ha!

Food was easy down in town. One cheap and tasty dish was called Khao pat pet gai by kra pow sai kai dao (fried chicken with basil leaves and chilies with a fried egg on top of rice).

The other hot-spot where Giant Nuthatch has been seen is at the Mae Peu water substation at km 24. Park at the flagpole and go down to the dirt road below. We followed the road to the left and soon had a flock of Red-faced Liocichlas, the main attraction of the mountain. Then on a grassy hillside 500 meters down the trek a group of 4 Spot-breasted Parrotbills came close. They have a strongly churring call which is quite diagnostic. I had to search hard for the White-browed Laughingthrushes. They finally caught up with me midday before departure. It was generally hard to see birds. Density was rather low to meet my expectations, except for a great abundance of Flavescent and Brown-breasted Bulbuls soon considered common. Could have to do with the fact that I was set on getting target birds and so disregarded many of the more commoner species. There actually are a great many very interesting birds one can see at length here i.e. White-tailed Robin, Orange-flanked Bush Robin, Common Rosefinches and many, many Warblers.

I had a superb Violet Cuckoo at km 21.5. Had a real hard time ID’ing the bird in spite of it being so close. It was neither green as the Emerald, nor violet as the Violet. It was shimmering blue. Bill was yellow/orange with no black tip to it. My assumption is that it was Violet Cuckoo even though I understand it is not normally recorded this high. In either case it was an extremely handsome bird.

There is quite a bit of pine along the road. Many Flycatchers can be seen here but we didn’t invest much time into it. Think I saw a female Ultramarine Flycatcher but not positive.

A very nice surprise was a pair of Aberrant Bush Warblers a bit up the steps on the peak to the right of the clearing. One have to walk through the large pines (50 meters, White-tailed Robin hangs around here at the end of the pines) then follow the trail another 50 meters. Steps start to the right. This bird kept calling after sitting waiting for a while I saw the bird for a short moment by the trail side.

Crested Finchbill
was only seen once (supposedly common) and only by Bengt.

Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler was not seen at all a bit disappointingly.

I had a hard time with the many Warblers around but managed to pick out a Lemon-rumped Leaf-Warbler (Lifebird) amongst the many species.

Temperature fell to around 15 Celsius at night and was very high daytime.

Was it worth 2 nights on a train plus hours of driving? Undoubtedly, YES! Several lifebirds, many of which I have only dreamed off, great fellowship with oldtime friend, plus a working knowledge of one of Thailand’s many great birding hot-spots. Hopefully I will be back again!
Peter Ericsson
Peter Ericsson can be contacted at pkknjj@yahoo.com
 
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