Sunday, January 24, 2016

Doi Angkhang, Doi Lang, Chiang Saen Lake & Chiang Rai 11 -16 January 2016

Last year we did a trip to the Doi’s and enjoyed birding in the cold weather so this year we arranged another trip coincidentally on the same dates as last year.  A change to the itinerary was to include Chiang Saen Lake which is further north towards Chiang Rai.  We contacted Uthai Cheummarung Chiang Mai Birding  for his availability. 
Rusty-naped Pitta
As it turned out he had recently visited Doi AngKhang and had seen the Rusty-naped Pitta which last year we had a poor view of as it had kept itself partially hidden in the bamboo groves. 
On 11th we flew into Chiangmai and Uthai picked us at 2 pm and drove to Doi AngKhang.  He told us the accommodations at the mountain were tight with the "cold snap" and the flowers in full bloom, many visitors were there photo-taking and enjoying the cold weather.  The only accommodation he managed to book was Ang Garden Resort which is behind the town.  As it turned out, Ang Garden is just next to AngKhang Villa where we stayed last year. Here the room is bigger but similarly basic conditions of the local hotels outside of the AngKhang Nature Resort.

Chinese Blue Flycatcher 

The next day 12th at 6.30 am we left after a quick breakfast and entered the King’s Project and headed to the bamboo garden.  The White-tailed Robin was flying out to check out the morning’s business.  There were 4 WT Robins and they were engaged in territorial fights with each other and disturbed other birds like the Siberian Blue Robin and the Chinese Blue Flycatcher that came to investigate the hide’s offerings.  To our surprise not too long after, the Rusty-naped Pitta appeared and being bigger size, the Robins backed off.   Then another Pitta showed itself to our delight, to see 2 of them together.
An hour later as we were leaving the hide, we saw 3 Thrushes feeding among the bamboo nursery boxes and they turned out to be an Eye-browed Thrush with 2 Grey-sided Thrushes. Uthai was excited as the Grey-sided is considered a rare sighting.  Unfortunately the thrushes were skittish and moved further into the bamboo and did not return.   We left to try the area near the restaurant kitchen for the Black-breasted Thrush.  Indeed a pair was feeding in the garden among the rose bushes. 

Grey-sided Thrush 
We walked around the garden and back to the restaurant platform area overlooking the trees where White-eyes and Bulbuls were feeding among the flowers.  This is one of the best areas for good photos of these fast moving species.  In the afternoon we went to the Thai-Burmese border for the Daurian Redstart which seems to be a regular winter visitor here. 

On Wed 13th  it was another early morning to the mountain roads to check out the pheasants but there was burning of rubbish near the cemetery area and no sign of any pheasant crossing.   We returned to the King’s project to take in the flowers and checked for the thrushes but they did not show at the bamboo groves.   After lunch we left Doi AngKhang for Tatton to check out the Jerdon’s Bushchat at the rice fields.  Someone had seen this rare species but it did not show although we saw a Blue-throat which is also a rare visitor.  Then it was an hour's drive to Fang and we checked into Vieng Kaew’s Resort before going for dinner by the river.
Daurian Redstart
On Thu, 14th it was an early drive at 6.15 am to Doi Lang.  As we reached the mountain road we were surprised we were not the earliest, 3 vehicles were already parked by the road side and photographers were having their breakfast in the early dawn light.  Further along another photographer had put up his hide by the side, they were all at different stages waiting for Mrs Hulme's Pheasant to cross.   Thus we decided to move further to the shrine area and waited for the morning to light up.   During the half hour's wait a few more vehicles passed so we decided to go where they were headed which was the Cutia area.   As we arrived we were lucky to see the White-browed Laughing Thrush and stopped to take some photos.   We then walked up the slope and along a long path to a clearing higher up where at least 10 photographers were sitting comfortably in their foldable stools waiting for the Cutia to come feed at one particular tall tree.
   Indeed after 20 mins of waiting, the flock of birds came, it was a quick wave and the Cutias were obscured from view behind the leafy tree.   A second wave came 10 mins later and preceding the Cutias were a small flock of Blue-winged Minlas.   After this second wave it was another long wait but most of the photographers who had taken the Cutia the day before had now their “best or better” shots and left.   We stayed for a while and went down to the main road to look for the Sapphire Flycatcher which had also been sighted but high in the trees.   We did not see it but got good shots of the Siberian Rubythroat, Rufous Gorgeted and White Gorgeted Flycatcher and the Slaty-blue Flycatcher.   Later in the afternoon it was quiet and we walked to the army post where the Chestnut-flanked White-eyes and Mrs Gould Sunbirds were feeding on the pink flowers.

Siberian Rubythroat

White-gorgeted Flycatcher

We left Doi Lang at 1 pm for our 3-hour drive to Chiang Saen and on arrival at the lake Uthai inquired about getting the boat next morning for the trip on the Lake.  It was arranged for 9 am.   We checked into the Serene Hotel next to the river for the night.   On Fri 15th we went earlier to the Lake for a walk around the boardwalk area for other birds.  Two other photographers had also booked the boat for an earlier slot but as there was only one boat it was suggested we go together.   We boarded the boat with one of the lake’s staff and it was enjoyable to be able to see the ducks quite close with the boat stopping now and then for better views.  We saw raptors – Osprey, Eastern Marsh Harrier and Pied Harrier trying to catch their breakfast too.  The Lesser Whistling ducks were making a lot of noise as the boat approached and they took flight.  While the lake is full of Spot-billed ducks we had sightings of the Gadwall, Northern Pintails and Garganey. 
Spot-billed Duck

We left Chiang Saen in the afternoon for another 1.5 hour's drive to Chiangrai where we checked into the Nak Nakara Hotel for our final night. On the way we visited the Nam Kham Nature Reserve, a private park but there were not many birds in the hot afternoon. We also checked out a private hospital for the Javan munia that was seen recently but none was found. We bid goodbye to Uthai who will take a 3-hour drive back to Chiangmai. We visited the Chiang Rai Flower Festival (23 Dec 15 to 14 Feb 16) on our way to dinner. It was a relaxing end to our birding trip seeing the beautiful flower and orchid displays.

 Birds Seen:

1)     Ashy Wood Swallow
38)  Japanese White-eye
2)     Black Bulbul39)  Large Niltava
3)     Black-breasted Thrush M & F40)  Lesser Whistling Duck
4)     Black-collared Starling41)  Little Grebe
5)     Blue-throat42)  Long-tailed Shrike
6)     Blue-winged Minla43)  Maroon Oriole F
7)     Bronze Drongo44)  Mountain Bulbul
8)     Brown Shrike45)  Mountain Imperial Pigeon
9)     Brown-breasted Bulbul46)  Mrs Gould Sunbird
10)  Buff-throated Warbler (Lifer)47)  Olive-backed Pipit
11)  Burmese Shrike48)  Oriental Magpie Robin
12)  Chestnut-flanked White-eye49)  Oriental White-eye
13)  Chestnut-tailed Starling50)  Pied Bushchat M & F
14)  Chestnut-vented Nuthatch51)  Pied Harrier
15)  Chinese Blue Flycatcher (Lifer)52)  Plaintive Cuckoo
16)  Cinnamon Bittern53)  Purple Sunbird
17)  Collared Falconet54)  Purple Swamphen
18)  Common Iora55)  Red-faced Liocichla
19)  Common Moorhen56)  Red-whiskered Bulbul
20)  Coppersmith Barbet57)  Rufous Gorgeted Flycatcher (Lifer)
21)  Cutia (Lifer)58)  Rusty-naped Pitta
22)  Dark-backed Sibia59)  Siberian Blue Robin F
23)  Daurian Redstart60)  Siberian Rubythroat
24)  Eastern Marsh Harrier, 61)  Silver-eared Laughing Thrush
25)  Eastern Stonechat62)  Slaty Blue Flycatcher
26)  Eurasian Coot63)  Sooty-headed Bulbul
27)  Eurasian Pochard (Lifer)64)  Spot-billed Duck
28)  Eyebrow Thrush65)  Taiga Flycatcher
29)  Flavescent Bulbul,66)  Western Osprey
30)  Gadwall (Lifer)67)  White Gorgeted Flycatcher
31)  Green Bee-eater68)  White-bellied Redstart M & F
32)  Grey Bushchat M and F69)  White-browed Laughing Thrush
33)  Grey Wagtail70)  White-headed Bulbul
34)  Grey-sided Thrush (Lifer)71)  White-tailed Robin M & F
35)  Hoopoe72)  White-throated King Fisher
36)  Hulme's Leaf Warbler (Lifer)73)  Yellow-cheeked Tit
37)  Indian Peafowl