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Doi Chiang Dao 2nd - 4th May 2006
 
 
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Introduction
Doi Chiang Dao lies due north of Chiang Mai. From the city take route 107 north for approximately 73km, as far as the town of Chiang Dao. There are two main birding areas here:
1) The Temple area and temple trails - The Temple lies along a minor road, 2km beyond the well-known tourist attraction of Chiang Dao cave. There are two ways to get there from Chiang Dao – either turn left in the centre of town towards the cave and “Malee’s”, or alternatively take the almost-completed Chiang Dao by-pass and turn left at the first major crossroads after the incomplete section. Detailed maps and information on this area is already available in the log book at Malee’s bungalows, and in other trip reports, so I have not provided a map or instructions. I spent relatively little time here, a total of one afternoon in the Gully near the Temple, and one morning walking the Gully and North Trails.

2) The substations area - I make no apologies for giving very precise directions and providing a detailed map below, as I found very little good access information for the substation, either on the Internet or in the bird logbook at Malee’s.

From the cave road/main road junction in central Chiang Dao, drive back towards Chiang Mai for 5km. Look out for a green bus shelter on the left, standing in the corner of a field by the road. Opposite this is a concrete road with a sign in Thai. Proceed through the village along this paved road. The road then crosses a stream and continues through rice paddies. 3km from the main road junction, the paved road ends. Bear left on the unmade track as it starts ascending the mountain. This track is rough in places although there are a few concreted sections. It continues through forest and then passes two small villages.

NOTE (June 2006)
["I noticed when passing along the main road past Chiang Dao on 29th May 2006 that the "green bus shelter" indicating the start of the road to the Den Ya Khat (DYK) substation, which I have referred to in my site description and map, has disappeared. The foundations of the old bus shelter are still visible, and of course it may be rebuilt, but be warned that at the present time it no longer exists!"] Approximately 12km from the start of the unmade track, 15km or so from the main road, you arrive at a checkpoint. Almost immediately afterwards the track forks :
The RIGHT FORK goes to the Den Ya Khat (DYK) substation. The route passes along a ridge with mature pines (the best area for Giant Nuthatch), and then climbs up some steep hairpins (Mrs Hume’s Pheasant in the open forest) before arriving at the DYK substation approximately 5km from the track fork.
The LEFT FORK ends up at another substation, which I have imaginatively entitled substation 2. To get there, continue along the main track from the junction, remaining on the higher trail and ignoring tracks branching off to the left and right. Shortly before the substation, you pass an area of well-maintained bungalows on a ridge to the right of the track (is it possible to stay here?). 100 metres or so further along, 3km from the track fork at the checkpoint, there is an obvious open grassy area and group of buildings to the left. I left my motorcycle here and continued along the track on foot for another 4km, seeing plenty of birds including some species that are rarely or never reported from DYK.
Many birders worry about the state of the access track and opt to hire a 4WD vehicle and driver for the day from Malee’s. This option was outside the scope of my budget so I had no choice but to attempt the climb on an ordinary 125cc motorcycle. I really needn’t have worried, as even after several days of heavy rain the track was easily passable. It probably wouldn’t be so easy in a 2WD car ; ground clearance could be an issue along some of the rougher sections.
The following rough map showing the access route to the substations may be helpful: 

3) Other information

Accommodation - I stayed at Malee’s Bungalows, 1.5km beyond Chiang Dao cave, for 250 baht per night for a simple room with shared bathroom. Unfortunately, 100 baht dormitory accommodation is no longer available. Excellent food is served communally in the evenings so it’s ideal if you’re on your own. The logbook provided plenty of information about bird sightings but had not been updated since March. There was also some good information in the log about Doi Angkhang for birders proceeding to that area after Doi Chiang Dao. Malee’s is within easy walking distance of the Temple and its birds.

Permits - These are available from the forestry headquarters a short distance along the road from Malee’s to the Temple. A permit is needed to access the substations beyond the checkpoint, and also to proceed along the road beyond Malee’s, but is not required to visit the trails around the Temple. The cost is 200 baht for foreigners, but it is valid for as many days as you want (mention at the office that you want to go to the substation and specify how many days you would like). Despite dutifully buying my permit it was never checked, but if the guards decide to do so at the substations checkpoint it’s a long way to come back and get one!

Dominic Le Croissette
 
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 Birding Highlights

Mrs Hume’s Pheasant – male showed superbly in the open forest between the hairpin bends, near the DYK substation.
Speckled Piculet – 1, 50m before substations checkpoint.
Stripe-breasted Woodpecker – common beyond substation 2.
Greater Yellownape – 2 on North Trail.
Bay Woodpecker – 2 along track before substation 2.
Hoopoe – 3 along DYK ridge.
Blue-bearded Bee-eater – several near the small villages along access road to substations, also 1 on North Trail.
Himalayan Swiftlet – flock over road behind Malee’s, beyond checkpoint.
Crested Treeswift – 3 around temple on two dates.
Brown-backed Needletail – 5+ over DYK ridge.
Mountain Imperial Pigeon – 1 on North Trail, 1 along substations access road, many others heard.
Oriental Turtle Dove – 3 singles along track beyond substation 2.
Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon – 3+ in fruiting tree along Gully Trail.
Pin-tailed Green Pigeon – 1 with above birds.
Emerald Dove – common along access road to substations in the early morning, also seen along Gully Trail.
Black Baza – 2+ along North Trail.
Silver-breasted Broadbill – 1 along track before substation 2.
Orange-bellied Leafbird – 2, DYK ridge.
Grey Treepie – seen in several places along the tracks to DYK and substation 2.
Slender-billed Oriole – 2, DYK ridge.
Maroon Oriole – 1 along track before substation 2, 2 along DYK ridge.
Black-headed Oriole – pair frequently seen at the start of the track to the park headquarters.
Black-winged Cuckooshrike – 2 singles along DYK ridge.
Grey-chinned Minivet – 2 pairs, DYK ridge.
Asian Paradise-flycatcher – fairly common.
Large Woodshrike – several flocks along DYK ridge.
Dark-sided Flycatcher – 1, just before DYK substation.
Little Pied Flycatcher – 2 along DYK ridge but it was very common in the pine forest beyond substation 2.
Pale Blue Flycatcher – 1 pair DYK ridge and 1 pair beyond substation 2.

Hill Blue Flycatcher – common.
White-crowned Forktail – pair and 1+ juveniles in Temple Gully, 1 near small villages along track to the substations.
Giant Nuthatch – pair with juvenile along DYK ridge and 1 further single bird near the hairpins, also 1 in mature pines just before the substations checkpoint.
Chestnut-vented Nuthatch – almost all sightings were beyond substation 2 where it was very common.
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch – common.
Striated Bulbul – 2 beyond substation 2.
Crested Finchbill – 1 in scrub along track close to substation 2, a species rarely recorded along the DYK track.
Greater necklaced Laughingthrush – flock of 6+ including juveniles on North Trail.
Buff-breasted Babbler – common along Gully and North Trails + nest found.
Spot-throated Babbler – 1 beyond substation 2 just beyond first track junction.
Rufous-fronted Babbler – common, North Trail.
Grey-throated Babbler – temple steps.
Puff-throated Babbler – temple steps and along road outside Malee’s.
Striped Tit-babbler – fairly common.
Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler – 4 in scrub close to substation 2.
White-browed Scimitar-babbler – fairly common beyond substation 2.
White-browed Shrike-babbler – common.
Chestnut-fronted Shrike-babbler – 1, DYK ridge.
Blue-winged Minla – several along DYK ridge and also beyond substation 2.
Silver-eared Mesia – 3 beyond substation 2.
Striated Yuhina – common.
Grey-headed Parrotbill – 4, DYK ridge.
Black-throated Parrotbill – 2 in bird-wave beyond substation 2, a species not previously mentioned in the log book at Malee’s.
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker – several beyond substation 2.
Thick-billed Flowerpecker – 1, North Trail.
Purple Sunbird – 1 at end of Malee’s drive.
Black-throated Sunbird – several beyond substation 2.
Ruby-cheeked Sunbird – seen several times in temple area.
Streaked Spiderhunter – several.
Little Spiderhunter – regularly seen near temple.

 Other Birds Seen (Including a brief visit to rice paddies near Chiang Dao)
Red Junglefowl
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker
Blue-throated Barbet
Great Barbet
Plaintive Cuckoo
Green-billed Malkoha
Greater Coucal
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
House Swift
Asian Barred Owlet
Spotted Dove
Crested Serpent Eagle
Shikra
Chinese Pond Heron
Blue-winged Leafbird
Common Iora
Scarlet Minivet
Bronzed Drongo
Ashy Drongo
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo
Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike
White-throated Fantail
Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher
Black-naped Monarch
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Verditer Flycatcher
White-rumped Shama
Great Tit
Oriental White-eye
Japanese White-eye
Black-crested Bulbul
Black-headed Bulbul
Flavescent Bulbul
Red-whiskered Bulbul
Sooty-headed Bulbul
Black Bulbul
Puff-throated Bulbul
Mountain Bulbul
Grey-eyed Bulbul
Rufescent Prinia
Hill Prinia
Yellow-bellied Prinia
Common Tailorbird
Mountain Tailorbird
Blyth’s Leaf Warbler
White-tailed Leaf Warbler
Yellow-bellied Warbler
Grey-cheeked Fulvetta
Olive-backed Sunbird
White-rumped Munia
Scaly-breasted Munia
Total species seen at Doi Chiang Dao : 110
Dominic Le Croissette can be contacted at dominic@surfbirder.com
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