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Doi Inthanon National Park, 21st - 25th April 2006
 
 
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Introduction
From my base in Chiang Mai I was able to make several very productive birding trips to local national parks. Transport was by rented motorcycle, a 125cc Honda Dream from “A” Rent-a-Car along Moon Muang Road, just north of the Tha Pae Gate. There are many similar outlets in the area and competition is tough, particularly in the low season, so I was able to negotiate a rate of just 700 baht per week (about GBP 1.50 per day). A motorbike is certainly the cheapest and most convenient form of transport. Riding can be a little hair-raising in Chiang Mai city but once out on the open road the traffic rapidly diminishes. It was also very useful for reaching the substation area of Doi Chiang Dao along a very rough track which would not be passable in a 2WD car.

Doi Inthanon
Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand (alt. 2565m) lies south-west of Chiang Mai, about an hour and a half by motorbike from the city. To get there, follow route 108 as far as Km 57, then turn right onto route 1009. Take the right-hand fork after 8km onto the summit road, and purchase your entrance permit from the checkpoint, 200 baht per foreigner (now 400 baht) plus an additional fee of 20 baht for your motorcycle.

The main birding sites and distances along the summit road are shown below (not to scale):

I stayed at the Karen Eco-Lodge, clearly signposted at Km 26 along the summit road. Although the posted price was 400 baht per night for a basic bungalow, they gladly accepted 200 baht as the place was almost empty. Other accommodation options include bungalows at the Park HQ which were way beyond my budget. Even renting a tent and bedding to use at the campsite would have come to nearly 300 baht per night. The cheapest option is to bring your own tent.

As mentioned in many previous reports, Mr Daeng’s restaurant at Km 31.5 does indeed serve excellent food, and Mr Daeng himself and the logbook at his restaurant provide all the latest info on birds seen in the area.

The weather was distinctly chilly on the summit in the early morning, as low as 10 degrees Celsius. By contrast, lower areas, particularly the Km 13 trails, were very hot by late morning. Heavy showers occurred daily, particularly in the afternoons. I concentrated on birding the main sites shown on the map above, as follows:

21st April : Summit area early morning, Km 34.5 trail late morning, Km 37.5 trail afternoon.
22nd April : Km 34.5 trail morning, Km 20 waterfall afternoon.
23rd April : Km 37.5 trail morning, Km 13 trail early afternoon, Km 34.5 trail late afternoon.
24th April : Summit area early morning, Km 37.5 trail late morning, Km34.5 trail afternoon.
25th April : Km 13 trail early morning before heading back to Chiang Mai.

In addition some interesting species were seen along the summit road, around the Karen Eco-Lodge, and at the Royal Gardens reached by turning left at the road fork in the village.

1) Summit and Summit Marsh trail
A fairly limited range of species but some of the birds found here were seen nowhere else on the mountain. This area is best on weekdays and in the very early morning before the hordes of Thai tourists arrive.

Highlights :
Yellow-bellied Fantail – 1, summit marsh
Green Cochoa – 2 seen twice in trees beside boardwalk at summit marsh
Snowy-browed Flycatcher – 1 male, summit marsh
White-browed Shortwing – common
Ashy-throated Warbler – common
Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush – common around summit in early morning and very confiding
Chestnut-tailed Minla – common
Green-tailed Sunbird – common

Also around summit, summit marsh and last 2km of summit road : Golden-throated Barbet, White-throated Fantail, Blue Whistling Thrush, Verditer Flycatcher, Mountain Bulbul, Mountain Tailorbird, White-tailed and Blyth’s Leaf Warblers (not all phylloscs seen were identified but both species were certainly present), Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, and Dark-backed Sibia.

I was disappointed to miss Chestnut Thrush, two of which had been reported near the warden’s kitchen at the summit. I saw no other wintering thrushes and concluded that they had probably already departed by the end of April.

2) Km 37.5 “jeep track” trail
This trail starts just after the second checkpoint as you ascend the summit road, on the right hand side of the road almost directly opposite the road junction. There are marker posts every 100 metres along the trail to help with locating the birds mentioned in Mr Daeng’s logbook! There were many birds in here but the forest is very tall and it was frustratingly difficult to obtain good views – many more species were heard than seen. After the primary forest ended, the trail became pretty overgrown and I didn’t explore any further.

Highlights :
Bay Woodpecker – 1 at trail entrance
Red-headed Trogon – 1 at 600m
Orange-breasted Trogon – pair at 500m
Short-billed Minivet – 2
White-tailed Robin – male at 150m
Yellow-cheeked Tit – several
Slaty-bellied Tesia – 2
Streaked Wren-babbler – pair, 400m
Golden Babbler – several with bird-waves
Grey-throated Babbler – 2 pairs
Black-throated Sunbird - 1

Others seen : Golden-throated Barbet, Lesser racket-tailed Drongo, White-throated Fantail, Blue Whistling Thrush, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, White-tailed Leaf Warbler, Rufous-winged and Grey-cheeked Fulvettas.

3) Km 34.5 “jeep track” trail
This was by far the most productive and easiest to work trail. It often seemed better in the afternoons than the mornings, in fact even on my fourth visit late on the afternoon of the 24th I managed to see five new “trip ticks”. The first 1km or so before the track junction was the best area, but I also saw some interesting birds along both trails after the junction and also in the area of the tower near the entrance to the trail.

Highlights :
Stripe-breasted Woodpecker – pair in tower area
Great Barbet – 1 seen plus others heard
Red-headed Trogon – 1
Besra – 1
Long-tailed Broadbill – 1
Maroon Oriole – male seen plus others heard
Grey-chinned Minivet – 2
Short-billed Minivet – 2
Asian Paradise-flycatcher – 1
Green Cochoa – 2 on the ground at the corner just before the large fallen tree
Large Niltava – fairly common
Yellow-cheeked Tit – 2
Greenish Warbler – 1 in pines after track fork
White-browed Shrike-babbler – 2
Black-eared Shrike-babbler – 1
Chestnut-fronted Shrike-babbler – 1
Blue-winged Minla – 2
Rufous-backed Sibia – 2
Silver-eared Mesia – several flocks seen especially in scrub below tower
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker – several
Black-throated Sunbird – 3

Others seen : Greater Coucal, House Swift, Bronzed Drongo, Lesser racket-tailed Drongo, Ashy Woodswallow, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Blue Whistling Thrush, Red-throated Flycatcher, Verditer Flycatcher, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Asian House Martin and Red-rumped Swallow (both over valley viewed from tower), Oriental and Japanese White-eye (in scrub below tower), Flavescent, Red-whiskered and Mountain Bulbuls, Hill Prinia (around tower), Mountain Tailorbird, White-tailed Leaf Warbler, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Streaked Spiderhunter, Olive-backed Pipit, White-rumped Munia.

The only major disappointment here was missing Purple Cochoa. Given the numbers of birds here, I reckon this trail would be the best area to look for it.

4) The summit road between Km 45 and Km 20, the Royal Gardens behind the village at Km 30, the Karen Eco-Lodge area at Km 26 and the waterfall at Km 20
Freewheeling slowly down the road on the motorbike allowed many interesting birds to be seen.

Highlights :
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater – pair at Km 23
Oriental Honey-buzzard – over the road at Km 35 and Km 26
Rufous-winged Buzzard – 1,Km 26
Grey-backed Shrike – 1, Km 33
Large-billed Crow – 1, Km 26
Little Pied Flycatcher – male at Km 39
White-capped Water Redstart – 1, Km 20 waterfall
Grey Bushchat – common around Km 43 to Km 41
Striated Bulbul – 3 at Km 44
Hume’s Warbler – 1 showed well with phyllosc flock at Km 43
Yellow-bellied Warbler – 1, Km 20 waterfall
Spectacled Barwing – 1, Km 36
Silver-eared Mesia – several flocks
White-bellied Yuhina – 4, royal gardens
Plain Flowerpecker – 1, Km 43

Others seen : Plaintive Cuckoo, Greater Coucal, Shikra, Blue-winged Leafbird, Ashy Drongo, White-throated Fantail, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Blue Whistling Thrush, Oriental and Japanese White-eye, Black-crested, Flavescent, Red-whiskered and Mountain Bulbuls, Hill Prinia, Mountain Tailorbird, Phylloscopus warblers, Fulvettas and Dark-backed Sibia.

5) Km 13 “ridge trail”
This trail was best in the early mornings as the relatively low altitude meant it got very hot after 10am.

Highlights :
Black-headed Woodpecker
– 1, 1km along ridge
Greater Yellownape – 1, same area as above
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker – 2, same area as both above species
Mountain Hawk Eagle
– 1
Collared Falconet
– 1 in trees beside river

Others seen : Lineated Barbet, Asian Barred Owlet, Shikra, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Greater racket-tailed Drongo, Black-naped Monarch, Black-headed, Black-crested and Sooty-headed Bulbuls, Rufescent Prinia, Dark-necked Tailorbird.

Total species seen on Doi Inthanon : 100

Dominic Le Croissette

Dominic Le Croissette can be contacted at dominic@surfbirder.com
 
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