Early Winter At Doi Lang

On September 10, I had a chance to visit Doi Lang, one of the major birding sites in Chiang Mai. I was hoping to see some interesting early arrivals but it didn’t turn out to be a quite productive day. We started from the San Ju side. The weather was just perfect. The sky was clear and calm. It was one of the most beautiful mornings, but it was also perfectly silent. I totally had no idea where had all the birds gone.

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The landscape of San Ju area looks incredibly similar to Doi Chiang Dao.

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A view towards the valley. I just love the fresh atmosphere of late rainy season/early winter.

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And this was taken along the way from Fang to San Ju hill.

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In the mist, we came across 2 Oriental Turtle-Doves, a pretty scarce residence that is more frequently seen at Doi Lang than any other places that I know.

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It was extremely quiet. Apart from the above turtle-doves and this juvenile male Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, we didn’t see anything much. So we decided to drive further to the old side of Doi Lang.

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After we passed the San Ju military checkpoint, we found this obliging Long-tailed Shrike (race ‘tricolor’ with pale grey upper mantle) and decided to enjoy taking photos of it even though it is such a common bird in northern Thailand.

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Luckily, birds started to become more active as we moved further towards the old side. This male Barred Cuckoo Dove was calling from the road side. The female was also nearby but we didn’t manage to see it before it flew away. We also came across a small bird wave consisting of a female Clicking Shrike-Babbler, Grey-cheeked Fulvettas, Yellow-browed Tits, Chestnut-vented Nuthatches and a pair of Mrs Gould’s Sunbirds.

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I also found these 2 male Little Pied Flycatchers aggressively chasing each other.

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We made a stop at the open grassy area which has become one of the major stops for birding at Doi Lang. There was a small family group of Chestnut-capped Babblers which showed up briefly before flushing away. A pair of Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babblers was also perching on a bare tree preening and drying themselves. There was also a small group of White-browed Scimitar-Babblers passing by as well.

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Then we moved on to the Pha Hom Pok military camp and I decided to spend some time walking around the area. I came across a shy male Snowy-browed Flycatcher and several Golden-throated Barbets. One of them was perching on a pretty low branch.

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A pair of Striated Bulbuls was also seen perching on bare treetop trying to dry themselves. This is one of the common birds that are really difficult to get a decent photo of, so I was pleased to get these shots.

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After a while, things got really quiet so I walked back to the military camp and there I found these 2 Scarlet-faced Liocichlas coming out to get some rice put out by another friend of mine. The soldiers at the camp also regularly put out some leftover rice and fruits for these birds as well, so they have become much familiar with human beings.

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Even though they are extremely tame and easy to see and photograph, I don’t think I can get tired of those colours.

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A pair of Dark-baked Sibias also joined the feast later on. They are like the Oriental Magpie Robins of montane forest.

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More Scarlet-faced Liocichlas. I later found out that they were raising another 2 fully fledged chicks that were hiding in the nearby bush.

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How close do want it to be?

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After getting hundreds of photos of the liocichlas, we then moved on by driving back to San Ju area. Along the way, we came across a fruiting tree where several Golden-throated Barbets were visiting.

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I was later informed that the fruit is called Tetrastigma serrulatum and the barbets could only eat the ripe blackish ones because the unripe fruits are extremely hard.

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Then it got interesting when a new barbet entered the tree. I snapped few shots before it later moved into the thicker vines. From the plumage, it looked like an integration between the subspecies ‘franklinii’ and ‘ramsayi’. The problem is that, so far, we know that only ‘ramsayi’ occurs in north-western Thailand (Chiang Mai, Mae Wong NP, etc.) and ‘franklinii’ only occurs in the north-eastern (Nan, Loei, etc.) area.

However, I later found several other photos of the similar barbets taken also at Doi Lang and this kind of bird hasn’t been photographed from any other mountains in northern Thailand. Indeed, there are few other species at Doi Lang including Striated Yuhina and Grey-breasted Parrotbill that show some integrated characteristics of the north-western and north-eastern subspecies. It’s certainly interesting to investigate further on this topic.

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Many small bird waves were found along the way back to San Ju area. This male Yellow-cheeked Tit was also joining one of the waves but decided to spend almost 5 minutes singing on this branch allowing me to get some pretty nice shots.

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Then I heard the unmistakable soft, hight-pitched calls coming along the wave and there they were, the incredibly lovely Black-throated Tits.

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There were about 10-15 birds in the flock. Even though they came really close at times, it was extremely difficult to get a decent shot because they were extremely fast.

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This one got a spider for lunch! It’s interesting to see how such tiny bill can catch a spider that big.

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Catching a camouflaging worm! They surely have extremely sharp eyesight!

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Who wouldn’t fall in love with such cute and tiny little creature!

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And those were pretty much all the acceptable shots that I got of this incredibly fast moving bird. Will need to come back and take some more for sure!

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Big surprise! We came across a pair of Yellow-throated Martens as we were reaching San Ju military check point. Too bad, I couldn’t manage to get any good shot of them.

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We passed San Ju hill and it was still really quiet. As we were reaching Fang, we had a nice view of this Crested Goshawk soaring right above our head and that was the last bird that I photographed for the day.

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6 thoughts on “Early Winter At Doi Lang

  1. Ayuwat, looks like you had quite a good one despite the slow start. Love the striking colours of some the species that you managed to capture. Well done!

    Mun

  2. I have never been to Doi Lang, maybe try to get there next month. I always go to Doi Ang Khang – which I like becuase you can walk there – but maybe not so good? Anyway I am back there in early February again. Hoping things will be peaceful in Thailand – one of my very favourite countries; so hope everything can be better for the future for all Thai people (and visitors!).

    • Doi Lang is really good for birding while walking along the road because there is almost no car passing by. Only birders go there. I will also be back in Thailand in March. Hope the situation gets better by then too……

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