My wife is brilliant in many ways but especially when letting me sneak off for a days guided birding if I can source one, when we are away on holiday in Thailand, this time was no different with a guide called Keng being found for a full (nearly 12 hours) day out around the Doi Inthanon National Park.
Doi Inthanon National Park, nicknamed "the roof of Thailand", is in the Thanon Thong Chai Range, Chom Thong District, Chiang Mai Province, northern Thailand, Doi Inthanon is the country's highest mountain.
I was picked up by Keng at 5.15am and off we went for the 1 hour or so drive from Chiang Mai to Doi Inthanon, it was a lovely morning with a little rain along the way, no matter what country early mornings seems to have that relaxed feel about them.
A stop off for breakfast and we arrived at the lower level of Doi Inthanon and stopped just after the first gate for a look around, because we were at the base of a mountain it was cooler and a little mistier than when we left Chiang Mai as you would probably expect.
Check point 1 saw us stopping and soon seeing a couple of Flavescent Bulbuls.
Check point 2 was the next stop for a walk up the road to scan the trees and sky.
Mountain Bulbul, Velvet Fronted Nuthatch were seen along with a brief view of a distant female Black Throated Sunbird - all nice life ticks!
The road to the summit twisted and turned until we made it it to the top and the area where a view of Green Tailed Sunbird was a distinct possibility, the mist / fog was thicker at the top of the mountain and it was obviously cooler too. We parked and when walking to the spot to see the Green Tailed Sunbird we enjoyed a few moments with a lovely looking but rather nervy and skulking species the Silver Eared Laughing Thrush.
This bird was only visible to photograph for a few seconds before it headed back into the low vegetation it seemed to favour we saw a couple more birds later throughout our time at the summit but not long enough to get more images of sadly.
At the roadside was more activity when Keng shouted and pointed 'Sibia' - I scanned across the road with the bins I had been lent fir the days and saw a small group of Black Backed Sibia hunting the moths that were congregating around the roadside lights that were still illuminated due to the low levels of light in the early morning high mountain gloom.
We watched as they took moths both small and large (and I mean large - some the size of a hand! - (Large Brown Moth ... Lyssa zampa) and managed a few pleasing images of yet another lifer!
We moved to the Sunbird spot behind the kitchens and immediately we had a flypast from a glorious male, he came as close as 3 feet to my head as he flew from the taller trees away from the kitchens towards us landing in the fuchsia bush right next to the kitchen buildings, wow what a start to see this target bird for me!
We followed the birds around a small area that took them occasionally in the main tourist areas of the summit where a male and female displayed perfectly for those who were interested in them and I got a few shots of a species that can only be seen in a handful of locations across South East Asia.
We had a great time along with a couple of Korean birders / photographers looking at these delightful Sunbirds going about their business, wonderful stuff!
We then began to make our way back down the road from the mountain summit with Keng's invaluable local knowledge delivering me lifer after lifer! We stopped at Koi Mae Pan on the way down which is a little lay-by / viewpoint and Keng immediately got me onto a stunning bird called Chestnut Tailed Milna - a wonderful looking bird that sadly would not keep still long enough for me to get a clear shot of it, best achieved below.
Warblers were moving around the bushes near to the buidlgins here and soon an Eastern Crowned Warbler came into view for a few seconds, I fired off about 3 shots and thankfully got this photo below.
Another slightly different little Warbler appeared and I only managed a shot at the birds back end as it disappeared into the this vegetation, this bird turned out to be an Ashy Throated Warbler, I waited a little while to see if it would come back but sadly it did not. We there moved to another area behind the toilet building and soon was seeing the Chestnut Tailed Milna again, still not getting shots of them though but also around here were two more species never seen before, Yellow Bellied Fantail and the diminutive Rufous Winged Fulvetta.
The Yellow Bellied Fantail was alone but the Fulvetta's were in a small group of about 8 birds foraging on the floor of the area behind the toilets. Reluctantly, for me anyway, we left this area and headed further down the mountain.
In the car we immediately saw more common species a dapper Grey Wagtail.
A short drive took us to the first of two waterfall areas planned to look at, first Siribhume Waterfall to look for Stonechat, sadly we dipped out as the area was very quite at the time of our visit but we did see a loud and active Hill Prinia on the way back to the car, another lifer you ask? - yep!
Next was the Wachirathan Waterfall but once again we dipped out on birds here but this location was also our luck destination too so not all bad!
My guide Keng with part of the Wachirathan Waterfall behind him rainbow and all!
Above birding lunch for two Thai style - the spicy papaya salad had not arrived when I took this photo!
We then moved onto the Mae Ping river at Ban Sang Kwang and soon were treated to seeing 6 Black Kites, some having a few aerial battles with the odd bird coming in close and low enough for a decent image against the bright light.
A little walk along the river bank produced a pair of White Wagtail and yet another lifer a nice male Pied Bushchat.
A Common Kingfisher was also seen sheltering from the hot sunshine beak open in an effort to cool itself down.
We then moved to yet another birding location at the base of the Doi Inthanon mountain (the name of which escapes me!) all the time getting closer and closer to my holiday base in Chiang Mai. This areas ranged from cultivated land for crops and animals to forested areas at the base of the mountain.
Here we saw several species, many seen during the days birding and also within the city of Chiang Mai itself and also on other trips to Thailand in the past, Red Collared Lapwing, Ashy Drongo, Paddyfield Pipit, Coppersmith and Lineated Barbets. More lifers were seen also though, species like Grey Bushchat and Stiegner's Stonechat.
We returned to the hotel knackered (well I did as you can see below!) just after 4pm.
It was a terrific day with a great guide Keng, all in all just under 60 species seen with 50% being lifers, not counting some species seen that were unidentified - not a bad return really for a 11 hour day?
A list of some of the other more interesting birds seen on the day not mentioned in the blog can be seen below ....
Asian Emerald Dove
Golden Throated Barbet
Short Billed Minivet
Lesser Racket Tailed Drongo
Red Billed Blue Magpie
Yellow Cheeked Tit
Yellow Browed Warbler
Japanese White Eye
Grey Throated Babbler
Dark Sided Flycatcher
Little Pied Flycatcher
Fire Breasted Flowerpecker