Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thailand Nov-Dec 08: 27-29th Nov - Doi Inthanon

I last visited Doi Inthanon in January this year, and I took the family back to see old friends for a few days, courtesy of the protests at Sivarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, which delayed my wife's return to Malaysia by 4 days.

It was great to be back at Mr Daeng's again - so cool in fact! Business is obviously good for Mr Daeng, as he had upgraded the Purple and Green Cochoa rooms completely since my last visit, and they are now complete with TV, hot showers and a selection of interesting foreign birding magazines to browse!

The superb bird photos are still there, though possibly a little more covered in cobwebs. My favourite is an amazing shot of one of the Black-tailed Crakes at the campsite marsh, and I spent many hours there again this trip - two evenings and one dawn - with the same results as last visit. At least the birds were vocalizing this time, uttering their loud Little Grebe-like whinny, but they remained resolutely invisible.

Black-tailed Crake site at dawn. I believe the sign on the right says, "Black-tailed Crakes live here - honest!"

Old friends weren't confined to people - I was amazed to find what must be the very same Siberian Blue Robin that I photographed in January was still a welcome visitor at Mr Daeng's restaurant. Just amazing that this bird migrates all the way to Siberia to breed and then finds it way back to this little spot to feed from Mrs Daeng's hand each winter!

This photo, taken without flash, illustrates the natural colours more accurately. At 1/5th of a second, the head is sharp, but the camera can't freeze the ever shivering tail!

Mr and Mrs Daeng, without their robin!

At the Second Checkpoint I met another 'old friend', surely the same male Rufous-bellied Niltava I photographed in January, but this time minus the fog.

The few times is wasn't sitting in full view it could be found perched on a wire inside the park rangers' car shed!

Along with a pair of Large Niltavas!

This Silver-eared Laughingthrush, a fairly recent split from Chestnut-crowned, was another loiterer behind the shed.

As was a noisy group of Grey-cheeked Fulvettas.

But it was the Rufous-bellied Niltava that seemed to want to grab all the attention!

A short walk along the jeep track at km 37 just above the checkpoint produced several vocal Slaty-bellied Tesias - my second lifer of the trip. Seeing them was another matter though!

This is presumably the newly discovered 'chiangmaiensis' race of Slaty-bellied Tesia reported in the September 2008 edition of The Babbler (page 47)

This picture is a bit of a cheat, as I stuck the head of the previous photo onto another showing just the rear end of the same bird - but at least I'm an honest cheat!

A couple of birds seen from the road:

A Hair-crested Drongo...

...and a juvenile Black-eared Kite (recently split from Black Kite and distinguished by larger pale under-primary patches, broader pale streaks and a darker mask).

The Summit Trail at the weekend resembled a marketplace rather than a nature trail, so we birded the road and saw a few common species, as well as an Orange-flanked Bush Robin (or Red-flanked Bluetail if you prefer!).

Ashy-throated Warblers were abundant but usually high in the trees.

Flavescent Bulbuls were here and there in small numbers.

God must have been in a more than usually happy mood when he painted the male Green-tailed Sunbird!

The female's colours are a little more circumspect.

Siriphum Waterfall and its beautifully laid-out Botanical Gardens was a place that the whole family could enjoy.

It was also a good place to photograph aerial feeders, like this Asian Palm Swift...

...and the Cecropis swallows. These seemed much less streaked beneath than the birds at Mae Hia, with apparently unstreaked underwing coverts.

The nape looks dark on this picture, though a pale nuchal collar could easily be concealed at this angle. The rump looks unstreaked, and the birds apparently lacked the dark thigh mark of the Mae Hia birds. They also seemed to have more rufous on the upper ear coverts and supercilium behind the eye. So perhaps these were migratory Red-rumped rather than Striated??

A couple of visits to the famous km13 trail produced no falconets, White-rumped Falcons or Black-headed Woodpeckers - in fact very very few birds were seen at all.

A stake-out at the bridge finally produced a Black-backed Forktail at 5.30 in the late afternoon in the gathering gloom, my third lifer of the trip, and a good bird to conclude our visit to the mountain with.

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