by Nick Upton
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Doi Inthanon National Park, 8-10th November 1999
  Bird Watching Trips:
if you need help organizing a bird watching trip to Thailand, take a look at the suggested itineraries for ideas on creating a tailor-made trip and contact me for advice: Thailand bird tours.
I decided that it was finally time to make a trip to Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand, having neglected the north of Thailand for far too long. Having arrived a few days earlier in Chiang Mai by bus from Bangkok I took a Songthaew to the small town of Chom Thong, close to the national park. Unfortunately I hadn't woken up early enough and couldn't get a shared vehicle up the mountain; the transport only departs when full. Having waited a few hours for more people to turn up I gave up and decided to charter a vehicle to headquarters for 300 baht, considering the low cost I don't know why I didn't just do that to start with.
Field Guides
1. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand by Craig Robson
2. Guide to the Birds of Thailand by Philip D. Round & Boonsong Lekagul

At HQ I was pointed in the direction of the campsite, rather too far from the HQ to walk in the midday sun. After setting up my tent I took a walk throught the orchards and agriculture along the campsite road.Typical open country birds were easily seen; Brown Shrike, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Pied Bushchat, Olive-backed Pipit and Common Tailorbird amongst the shrubbery with Barn Swallow and Asian House Martin soaring overhead.

With the evening approaching I headed to the restaurants at park HQ where on the mown grass White Wagtail and Richard's Pipit were feeding. Food here was typically good and cheap, with fried fresh vegetables being particularly tasty!What I wasn't prepared for was how cold it was at this altitude in Thailand and spent a very chilly night alone in my tent, constantly waking because of cold toes.This at least meant that I was awake early and walking up the road birding.
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Along the road Large Woodshrike and a pair of Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler proved interesting while many common bulbuls were seen by the roadside as was a "ticking" Taiga Flycatcher. With the best birds being higher up I was keen to get to the summit, and was lucky enough to be able to jump on the back of one full of Chinese tourists.

At the summit thick mist was everywhere and a coat was essential, however, once on the summit marsh trail birds were suddenly everywhere. Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Dark-backed Sibia, Chestnut-tailed Minla and Rufous-winged Fulvetta were just some of the colourful species easily observed at this altitude. Although I could have spent a lot more time here, with the prospect of a 15 kilometre walk back down I started on my way. Beautiful habitat was on both sides of the road and more wonderful birds were quickly seen; Yellow-bellied Fantail and Grey-backed Shrike were only eclipsed by one of the most fantastically coloured birds in Thailand: Green-tailed Sunbird; no picture seems to do this species justice. All of these species are typical of the mystical twisted forest around Doi Inthanon's summit. Every tree seems covered in moss and it would almost come as no surprise to see an elf or fairy in this habitat.

Further down, where the forest gives way to grassland near the two giant chedis, White-headed Bulbul was a welcome distraction, and a little further down I got a brief look at a Spectacled Barwing. Along the way many side trails looked interesting, but time meant I continued to walk downhill. I continued to see new species; White-throated Fantail, Slender-billed Oriole and Grey-chinned Minivet all put in a welcome appearance, and finally a family party of Grey Bushchats were at the campsite.

The evening routine was the same as the previous night, and once again a cold night meant little sleep. At around 3 am I awoke and read a little with a candle to warm the tent. This proved far too succesful in raising the temperature as at about 7 am I awoke to a tent full of flames and thick black smoke. Leaping out, I was helped by passing Thai bird watchers to extinguish the central heating system of my tent. This incident rather sapped my enthusiasm and I hopped on a songthaew back to Chiang Mai.

This unfortunate incident meant that I didn't have a chance to see enough of Doi Inthanon and I made up my mind to return with my own transport in the future, not just to get the most from Doi Inthanon but to explore some of the other national parks in Chiang Mai province.
Nick Upton (
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 Birds seen at Doi Inthanon
The birds seen are listed in the order that they appear in Lekagul and Round's Guide to the Birds of Thailand. I have updated the names to reflect splits and indicated what they were formerly known as.
Asian Palm Swift
Barn Swallow
Asian House Martin
Olive-backed Pipit
Richard's Pipit
White Wagtail
Grey Wagtail
Large Woodshrike
Grey-chinned Minivet
Orange-bellied Leafbird
Black-headed Bulbul
Black-crested Bulbul
Red-whiskered Bulbul
Sooty-headed Bulbul
Flavescent Bulbul
Streak-eared Bulbul
Mountain Bulbul
Black Bulbul
White-headed Bulbul
Ashy Drongo
Bronzed Drongo
Hair-crested Drongo
Slender-billed Oriole
Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler
Grey-throated Babbler
Silver-eared Laughingthrush
- formerly Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush
Rufous-winged Fulvetta
Bar-throated Minla
- formerly Chestnut-tailed Minla
Spectacled Barwing
Dark-backed Sibia
Two-barred Warbler
Davison's Leaf Warbler
- formerly White-tailed Leaf Warbler
Common Tailorbird
Oriental Magpie Robin
Pied Bushchat
Grey Bushchat
Blue Whistling Thrush
Taiga Flycatcher
Verditer Flycatcher
Yellow-bellied Fantail
White-throated Fantail
Brown Shrike
Grey-backed Shrike
Common Myna
Green-tailed Sunbird
Japanese White-eye
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
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More information on Doi Inthanon  
If you are interested in arranging a bird watching tour you can see some suggested itineraries here - Birdwatching Trips - and you can contact me at the above email address to discuss the best options.

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