Incredible! How else can I describe standing, surrounded by a milliard
of birds, buzzing and dashing around me in an area the size of an
average classroom. Where was I? Early morning at km 37.5, Doi
Inthanon. An incredible amount of moths and insects
are attracted to the light by the checkpoint here and a host of
birds come to feed on them in the wee hours of the day.
Small Niltava, Little
Pied Flycatcher, Rufous-winged
and Grey-cheeked Fulvettas, Grey-chinned
and Short-tailed Minivets, Yellow-cheeked
Tit, Dark-backed and Rufous-backed
Sibias, Spectacled Barwing etc
were feverishly feeding on the abundance of insects. Boy, did I
ever have a rush? An amazing encounter of one of God’s wonders.
We then proceeded
to the top, entering the all encompassing clouds, resting over the
upper part of the mountain. To our amazement we soon penetrated
the white ‘cotton’ and found ourselves on the other
side with a fabulous bright, blue sky, warming up the cold morning
air. We stopped to take in the breathtaking scenario, watching the
cloud carpet cover the mountains below us, leaving only a few distant
peaks visible. A truly wonderful view!
The Summit was
normal this early November day. Chestnut-tailed Minlas (right) were
all over and very easy to photograph. The common Chestnut-crowned
Laughingthrush took a little while to detect but we caught
up with a few. Green-tailed Sunbirds
were actively feeding on nectar on flowering bushes. In
the bog, the White-browed Shortwing
sang and let us have complete views. The first bird to greet us
in the bog though was the ever so charming little Pygmy
Wren Babbler. It came within arms lengths and I couldn’t
even focus my camera on the little fellow. A pair of Snowy-browed
Flycatchers revealed themselves in the low bushes. They perched
at lengths and I started snapping away. Much to my grief the flash
wouldn’t work no matter what I did. I even had time to change
film and batteries while the birds were perched still. You can understand
my frustrations and at the same time marvel of watching these magnificent
birds! We also had Dark-sided Thrush
and Ashy Wood Pigeons along with Ashy-throated
Warblers in here.
we went to Geew Mae Ban nature trail. I wanted to show the Treecreeper
I had seen earlier in the year in some montane oak forest. We had
no sooner entered the area when a pair showed up. They were doing
their normal ‘up and down’ the tree acrobatics. While
Bengt and kids went on to the cliffs I started walking back to the
entrance of the trail. There is not normally much bird life in here
so every little sound counts. I heard what I thought to be a Slaty-bellied
Tesia singing from down a gully by a stream. I went down and stood
on the little moss covered, wooden bridge, eagerly scanning the
vegetation. A few leaves were moving just a tiny bit more then being
moved by the wind alone. Waiting and waiting I then caught sight
of a Chestnut-headed Tesia! I was simply
elevated! What a treat! My 4th lifer!
We left the
gates (a Blue Magpie was hopping on
the road here in the early morning) of DI at 1 PM. Why did I start
with DI? Well, DI was a climax to a very unusual birding trip. I
had set my mind on Doi
Angkhang and Doi PaHomPok in the very North. My friend,
Bengt Legnell, firstname.lastname@example.org, who lives in Chiang Mai and
works with the same volunteer work as I do in Bangkok, told me that
‘the weather has been fantastic here lately, presumably leaving
the rainy season behind us’.
I arrived to
rain and dark clouds Saturday the 2nd. We loaded up our 4 wheel
drive and headed to Doi
Chiang Dao. Here we checked out the Temple grounds
trying to not get too wet. This is a very birdy area but we couldn’t
stay on. We then headed up the mountain towards where pine forest
sets in. Still gloomy and wet we started going down a small dirt
road to a Lizu village. Somehow we managed to get stuck in the muddy
road and decided to go no further. Timely, a village hunter, with
an old, incredibly long rifle, came by . We explained ourselves
(I speak Thai but this man hardly did) and let him know that if
he could get help from the village we would deliver all the clothing
right there and then. A group of 8 young men came and after much
pushing and lifting we managed to get the vehicle free. They were
very pleased to leave with many boxes of warm clothing. Had we not
managed to free ourselves we may still be on that mountain as far
as I can imagine.
Angkhang was covered in mist and temperate rain from
the time we arrived until 44 hours later when the clouds vanished,
giving us 6 hours of good light. I actually didn’t mind as
the contrast from hot Bangkok was striking. We did a lot of road
side birding from the car, braving the rains when necessary.
Due to the
weather, birds moved about slowly and we generally obtained good
views of what we saw. Some of the highlights from DAK;
- A flock of
atleast 50 Red-whiskered Bulbuls mixed
with a few Brown-breasted moving through
the mist covered pine trees. I have never seen
such a big flock before.
- A huge mixed flock of Japanese and
Chestnut-vented White-Eyes feeding
in a flowering tree.
- A single Scaly Thrush feeding on
the ground on an open grass patch.
- A pair of Mountain Bamboo Partridges slowly
walking along the trail at km 21.5
- A flock of a dozen Silver-eared Mesias
in low bushes.
- Many Great Tits, reminding me of
my Nordic homeland.
- Plenty of Olive-backed Pipits and
Grey Bushchats as constant companions.
- An Aberrant Bush Warbler on the trail
- Spot-throated Babblers on two occasions.
- A flock of 6 Striated Bulbuls giving
- Lots of Blue-winged Minlas and Verditer
- No Crested Finchbills and only a
short glimpse of Red-faced Liochicla.
We stayed at
KhangVilla which is a good alternative to the much more upscale
Amari Nature resort. Look for their sign above the roof tops in
the village.We decided to take the longer mountain road back to
CM. This road has some spectacular scenery with lots of healthy
looking forest along the road. It winds its way through a few hill
tribe villages and the feeling of being remote is imminent.
As we started
on our way home I felt very satisfied even though we had had poor
weather for birding and the numbers of birds seen had been on the
low side. Just being able to wear a few layers of clothing and feeling
the elements along with the fresh scents of pine and forest was
enough for me. I had had only one lifer: Spot-throated Babbler,
but didn’t really mind. We then caught eyes of some White-browed
Laughing Thrushes, moving in the tall grass along the road.
I quickly jumped out of the car and decided to scramble through
the grass for more looks. Once through some 10 meters of thick grass,
a steep mountain side opened up. Here in a wind beaten short tree
sat my 2nd lifer, a Rusty-cheeked Scimitar
Babbler. Triumphantly, I moved back to the road sharing my
joy with Bengt who had stayed behind.
He was busy
trying to watch a group of something else. I thought since it had
worked so well to crash through the grass once, I should try it
again. So I did, and lo and behold, an incredible Grey-headed
Parrotbill came in full view in another of these hardly little
trees. My lifer number 3. I simply felt elevated and content even
though we had to cancel our proposed trip to Doi PoHomPok.
Once back home
again a cold front has now moved in over Northern Thailand. Hopefully
I will be able to fit another trip to these mountain again in the
not too distant future.