by Nick Upton
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A Day Trip to Doi Inthanon, 26th July 2008
  Bird Watching Trips:
If you need help organizing a birdwatching 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.
Most birders include Doi Inthanon as part of a more extended tour of the country, but for those who are on just a brief stop in Chiang Mai or on a holiday with non-birding family or friends, Doi Inthanon represents an opportunity for a day's excellent birding in the north. This was the situation for Phil Hitchens who joined me for a day trip to Doi Inthanon.
The park gate, and consequently the birdwatching opportunities, is just 1 hour 15 minutes from Chiang Mai town centre, with the summit another 30-40 minutes away.

Car Hire
We used a 4-door Toyota Vigo supplied by Thai Rent a car as I had the vehicle from a trip I had recently finished; Wet Season Birding Tour of Thailand, 17-25th July 2008; but for those hiring a car for only a short period there are many small car hire operators in Chiang Mai and hire usually starts at 800 baht per day for a small jeep. In the dry season one may need to book a vehicle at least a few days in advance, but in the wet season just turn up and sort something out the day before.

It is possible to get to Doi Inthanon by public transport but for a day trip this would waste a large portion of the day so a car is highly recommended.
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Notes on Finding Birds
On a day trip one wants to maximize birding time and so staying out all day is recommended - at the summit in particular there is always bird activity. Depending on one's experience different tactics should be employed; if targeting specific species one should research where and how to see them and spend time on these; if, however, like Phil, Thailand is a new destination and virtually everything seen is new it is a good idea to spend time at a variety of altitudes in order to see as many species as possible. In this case an hour or two at most stops will reveal many of the more common species before moving on to a new set of birds; a stop just outside the park for open-country species can also be very useful if this is the strategy.

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

After collecting Phil from his guesthouse in Chiang Mai we arrived at the park gates at about 6.15 am where we paid the 400 baht per person entrance fee, plus 30 for a vehicle. We began birding a short distance from the park gates where we found a flock of rather noisy Golden-fronted Leafbirds along with a few Black-crested Bulbuls and Striped Tit Babblers, two of the most common forest birds in Thailand.

Moving a little uphill we made a couple of stops for birds that we spotted on over head wires and in this way we found Red-whiskered Bulbul, Ashy Drongo and Bronzed Drongo. Furthermore, this tactic also brought us excellent views of 2 juvenile and 1 adult Black-hooded Oriole, birds that we spotted after stopping for more common species.

Our first scheduled stop was at Vatcharitan waterfall where we hoped to see Slaty-backed Forktail. This species was very obliging as a pair of them performed for quite some time fairly close by giving us an excellent and unobscured view; a eugenei Blue Whistling Thrush also put in an appearance for us and a couple of Puff-throated Bulbuls posed in a photogenic way.

With the rain beginning at a very low altitude we headed for the summit, hoping it would be above the worst of the rain. This was at first a vain hope and we walked around the boardwalks in the rain spotting only a few birds including an excellent Pygmy Wren Babbler, Yellow-bellied Fantail and Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, but after a while we got lucky with a break in the clouds. As soon as the sun came out so did the birds and before long we were admiring Chestnut-tailed Minlas, Rufous-winged Fulvettas, a Yellow-cheeked Tit, Ashy-throated Warbler, more Laughingthrushes and Fantails along with a few very confiding White-browed Shortwings. It is interesting to note that the male White-browed Shortwing is able to fluff its eyebrows and often when first seen the eyebrows are not obvious, but when it fluffs them up the white contrasts beautifully with its dark plumage.
As we were considering moving back down the mountain an Ashy Woodpigeon flew past and another group of birds including some beautiful male Green-tailed Sunbirds displayed themselves. Whilst enjoying a cup of hot chocolate we heard dark-backed Sibia and Golden-throated Barbet but were unable to locate either of them.

Heading down through the rain we stopped for a couple of Flavescent Bulbuls and a Dark-backed Sibia before stopping at Km 37.5.

With a persistent drizzle I was not hopeful of our prospects here but luckily for us the birds performed well and a little sunshine blessed us with its presence. Along the road we found a Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Grey-chinned Minivet, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Mountain Bulbul, Golden Babbler, Black-throated Sunbird, Yellow-cheeked Tit and White-tailed Leaf Warbler and with this encouragement we headed down the jeep track. The rain kept things fairly dim at first and we walked quite some distance without seeing very much at all, just a White-throated Fantail. At 400m a Green Cochoa was calling and flying around in the canopy, but despite spending 30-40 minutes with it we only caught glimpses of it flashing through the upper storey of the forest. However, as we turned back the sun came out and with it the birds; we bumped into several excellent mixed flocks in which we found Lesser racket-tailed Drongo, a male and a female Large Niltava, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Brown-throated Treecreeper, Rufous-backed Sibia, Dark-backed Sibia, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta and Golden Babbler. We also got lucky with a White-crowned Forktail creeping along the trail. The variety and number of birds that we found here were very pleasing considering the weather but it is also worth mentioning the quality of the forest along this trail. I am always impressed by the size of the trees and the abundance of ferns, mosses and other attractive plants along here and Phil was suitably impressed.

After lunch at Mr Daeng's we moved down to the campsite near HQ but found only a few birds there; Large-billed Crow, Mountain Bulbul and Eurasian Jay. Moving on to Siripum waterfall we saw virtually nothing at all so it was time to move further down the mountain to another habitat. Intending to go to the trail at Km 13 for Collared Falconet we got lucky with this species sitting on a wire at around Km 15. In fact it was the larger Blue-bearded Bee-eater which first caught my attention but we very nicely had both of these species in the same field of view through the telescope.
  Bird Watching Trips to Doi Inthanon:
If you have only a short time for birding from Chiang Mai, Doi Inthanon is a must.

This site is also excellent one to add to any Thailand birding itinerary at any time of year with many species of colorful and cryptic birds.

Contact me to arrange a trip and/or to discuss the best birdwatching options for you:
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With time pressing on we decided to head out of the national park to get some open-country species; I drove to the Blossom-headed Parakeet pre-roost site close to Inthanon Highland Resort. It is important to note that the parakeets only attend this pre-roost in the dry season and in the wet are not present. Birds that were present in the area included Pied Bushchat, Common Iora, Plain-backed Sparrow, Coppersmith Barbet, Scaly-breasted Munia, Indian Roller, White-throated Kingfisher and Olive-backed Sunbird which were nice species to end our day with.

Leaving at 5pm we were back in Chiang Mai a little after 6 having had an excellent day's birding.
Nick Upton (
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 Species list with notes
1. White-throated Kingfisher: 1 just outside the park.
2. Blue-bearded Bee-eater: 1 at Km 15.
3. Indian Roller: I just outside the park.
4. Ashy Woodpigeon: 1 flypast at the summit.
5. Mountain Imperial Pigeon: 1 at Km 37.5.
6. Spotted Dove: A few outside the park.
7. White-breasted Waterhen: 2, outside the park.
8. Collared Falconet: 5 at Km 15.
9. Golden-fronted Leafbird: A flock near park gate.
10. Ashy Drongo: 2 mouhoti, Km 19.
11. Bronzed Drongo: Fairly common.
12. Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo: 1 on jeep track Km 37.5.
13. Spangled (Hair-crested) Drongo: 1 at Vatcharitan waterfall.
14. Eastern Jungle (Large-billed) Crow: Several at campsite.
15. Eurasian Jay: 2 at campsite.
16. Black-hooded Oriole: 1ad 2j, Km 19.
17. Grey-chinned Minivet: A few, Km 37.5.
18. Yellow-bellied Fantail: A few, summit.
19. White-throated Fantail: A few, Km 37.5 jeep track.
20. Common Iora: 1 outside the park.
21. Blue Whistling Thrush: 1 eugenei, Vatcharitan waterfall.
22. Large Niltava: 1m 1f, Km 37.5.
23. Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher: Common.
24. Oriental Magpie Robin: A few outside the park.
25. White-browed Shortwing: A few, summit.
26. Slaty-backed Forktail: 2, Vatcharitan Waterfall.
27. White-crowned Forktail: 1 Km 37.5 jeep track.
28. Pied Bushchat: 1j male outside the park.
29. Chestnut-vented Nuthatch: 1, Km 37.5 jeep track.
30. Hume's (Brown-throated) Treecreeper: 1, Km 37.5 track.
31. Yellow-cheeked Tit: A few.
32. Black-crested Bulbul: Common at lower altitudes.
33. Red-whiskered Bulbul: 2 at Km 22.
34. Sooty-headed Bulbul: A few at Km 18.
35. Flavescent Bulbul: 2 near summit.
36. Streak-eared Bulbul: Abundant outside the park.
37. Puff-throated Bulbul: A few at Vatcharitan waterfall.
38. Mountain Bulbul: Common.
39. Common Tailorbird: 1 outside the park.
40. Ashy-throated Warbler: Several, summit.
41. Davison's (White-tailed) Leaf Warbler: Abundant.
42. Chestnut-crowned Warbler: 2, Km 37.5 jeep track.
43. Silver-eared (Chestnut-crowned) Laughingthrush: A few at summit DI.
44. Pygmy Wren Babbler: 1, summit.
45. Pin-Striped Tit Babbler: Many at lower altitudes.
46. Golden Babbler: Several, Km 37.5 jeep track.
47. Bar-throated (Chestnut-tailed) Minla: Common, summit.
48. Rufous-winged Fulvetta: Common, summit.
49. Grey-cheeked Fulvetta: Common Km 37.5.
50. Dark-backed Sibia: A few.
51. Rufous-backed Sibia: 2, Km 37.5 jeep track.
52. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker: 1m, near park gate.
53. Olive-backed Sunbird: 1 outside park.
54. Green-tailed Sunbird: A few, summit.
55. Black-throated Sunbird: 1m 2f, Km 37.5.
56. Plain-backed Sparrow: Several outside park.
57. Scaly-breasted Munia: Common outside park.
Nick Upton can be contacted at
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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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