Wednesday, January 16, 2008

13th January, 2008: Chiang Mai area, northern Thailand

Chiang Mai is a rather pleasant historical city in the northwest of the country, and it's particularly pleasant at this time of year because the weather seems to be unvaryingly fine and yet not too hot. In fact, I have had to resort to the drastic step of wearing a sweatshirt at breakfast time! It's the traditional jumping off point for birders 'doing' the various mountains or 'dois', all within a few hours drive.

I have meetings practically daily however, so am having to content myself mostly with short, mainly afternoon trips to areas in the near vicinity.

This afternoon, I took a 'song thaew', which is a kind of small open air minibus/taxi, up to the summit of Doi Suthep, the nearest mountain to the city.

A song thaew (already indicating that he'd like to pick me up!)

It was the worst time of day for bird activity, and the place was awash with tourists, mostly local, visiting the temple at the summit, so I didn't expect much, but it was preferable to drinking in exhaust fumes in the city!

Sure enough, birds were scarce. I did see a female Rufous-bellied Niltava, and photographed this Banded Bay Cuckoo feeding on grubs.

I spent a long time looking at the swifts hawking over the summit, hoping there might be some Himalayan Swiftlets, but all I cold see were lots and lots of Asian Palm Swifts.

Bombs away (again!)

Eventually I found a trail that went downhill and decided to follow it. This proved a foolish decision, as it was so steep that I was far too busy trying to stay upright to see any birds. Eventually I emerged on the road further downhill and hitched a lift with a minibus full of Thai tourists from one of the southern provinces. This proved another foolhardy move, as they (very kindly) dropped me off miles away from where I needed to go, and there wasn't a taxi, song thaew or tuk tuk in sight! Approximately an hour's walk later I arrived back at the guesthouse!

Looking for song thaews as dusk falls!

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