Doi Lang: 6 Feb 2013 (1)

Early February last year, I was enjoying some great birding trips around my hometown in Chiang Mai. I made a 2-day visit to one of the hottest birding spots at the moment which was Doi Lang. It was incredible how good the birds were. We visited the San Ju area on the first day and it was extremely productive. My main target for the trip was the long awaited Spot-breasted Laughingthrush, one of the rarest laughingthrushes in Thailand and probably in the world.

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We arrived at the birding area very early in the morning and the forest was still extremely dark. As crazy as it was, the Spot-breasted Laughingthrush was one of the very first birds that we found. I stepped out of the car and the first bird song that I heard was a melodious song of the Spot-breasted Laughingthrush singing from thick bush by the roadside.

I managed to get a crappy record of the song by using my camera’s video function. You can listen to it in the video above.

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I saw 2 birds in total during my visit but according to other birders, there used to be more, probably about 4 birds. They were first found by a photographer who spotted an unidentified brown bird and decided to leave some meal worms in the area. After some times, the birds were lured out and became familiar with birders and photographers.

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The birds were extremely tame during my visit, so I could get loads of shots very easily. They’d come around every 5-10 minutes. When they’re full, they’d just spend their time preening and resting in the bush around the feeding area. My 10+ years of waiting had ended very effortlessly.

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Naturally, they’d spend most of the time feeding by picking up dry leaves looking for insects underneath. Sometimes they’d peck out the ground looking for food.

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The discovery of this rare laughingthrush at Doi Lang is probably the first time ever for this bird to be photographed in the wild. I’ve only seen one photo in captive from China and a few photos of a specimen from India. The black spots on the breast indicate that this is the subspecies G. m. laoensis.

Here’s a compilation of the video clips that I took. You can see their natural feeding habits.

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At the same area where the Spot-breasted Laughingthrushes were found, many other birds also came to enjoy the feast put out by bird photographers. Above is the common yet stunning male Large Niltava.

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The much smaller but equally stunning male Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher was also one of the regular visitors. It is a fairly common winter visitor to high mountains in northern Thailand.

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But the Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher was constantly being chased by the local White-gorgetted Flycatchers. There was a pair of this resident ficedula flycatcher at the feeding area and they seemed to be ruling over other species of ficedula flycatchers.

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You can see clearly how it got the name!

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Another ficedula flycatcher which occasionally showed up at the feeding area was this male Slaty-blue Flycatcher. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring a photography hide with me so I couldn’t get any decent shot of this scarce winter migrant because it was pretty shy. The buffish throat and underparts suggest that it’s the subspecies F. t. diversa which migrates from China.

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And yet there was another ficedula flycatcher in the same area! This non-breeding male Sapphire Flycatcher was staying just above the feeding station. Even though it never came to lower branches like other flycatchers, it never really moved to other area. I couldn’t get many shots of it because it only kept staying in the canopy, but it was already nice enough for me to see this rare winter visitor.

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The non-breeding male Sapphire Flycatcher enjoying its big morning meal.

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Enough with the ficedula flycatchers, nearby I also found this vocal male Pale Blue Flycatcher which kept singing its sweet song from the tree top. This is also one of the less frequently seen species in northern Thailand. I’ve only seen it several times before. It seems to be more common in the south.

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This seicercus warbler was one of the two that I saw around the area. Based on the call, we could identify it as Bianchi’s Warbler, the least common ‘Golden-spectacled Warbler’ wintering in Thailand. Another was the more common Martens’s Warbler.

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This Lesser Shortwing also briefly showed up in early morning but disappeared during the day. The subspecies B. l. carolinae of northern Thailand has overall sandy-brown plumage with whitish underparts unlike the subspecies B. l. wrayi of southern Thailand which has slaty-blue plumage.

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Another species of laughingthrush which also came to the same feeding area was this Silver-eared Laughingthrush. It was split recently from the Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush complex which differs greatly in plumage. It is the commonest laughingthrush in northern mountains. Next post, I’ll continue with another feeding station which was just a few hundred metres away and also attracted many great birds.

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