On March 18, I officially visited Doi Lang for the first time after coming back to Thailand. I actually had a very brief visit once when coming back from Chiang Rai but it was just to see the nesting Hodgson’s Frogmouth, one of the star birds of Doi Lang.
This time I departed from my house around 6 AM and arrived at the foothill around 8:30 AM. The sun was already quite high up in the sky and it was a bit hot even on the mountain. My first stop was at the first Hodgson’s Frogmouth‘s nest which was located at the foothill. As I arrived, there was a fire burning on the opposite side of the road. I tried my best to stop the fire from crossing to the other side where the nest was located. Good news, up until now, the fire has never successfully crossed the road!
Frogmouths have interesting breeding ecology. Male bird, as seen here, incubates during the daytime while the female incubates at night. From the observations made by others, it seems like the female only comes after around 7 PM and leaves even before 5 AM. So most of the incubation is done by the male.
Along the way uphill, I came across a breeding pair of Long-tailed Minivets. They seemed to be nesting somewhere near the road but I couldn’t locate the nest. Despite being a common species, I never get tired of the bright red plumage of the male and the bright yellow of the female.
Then the big surprise came as I was heading up the summit, a pair of Mrs Hume’s Pheasant was flushed from the roadside. I first spotted the female climbing up the slope right next to the road, then the male later walked out from the roadside grass. It even performed the wing-whirring display several times before disappearing into the grass.
But it wasn’t the only surprise, just a few kilometres after, I came across another female Mrs Hume’s Pheasant standing motionlessly on the road. It quickly walked into the roadside bush as it noticed my camera pointing out from the car. Then out of the blue, the beautiful male walked out from the bush and followed the female to the other side. I was completely stunned by its beauty. That was definitely the best view I’ve ever had of this rare pheasant.
I arrived at the viewpoint around noon. There was a breeding pair of ‘Przewalski’s’ Stonechat, currently a subspecies of Siberian Stonechat (Saxicola maurus) staying along the road. As usual, both of them were extremely shy and I couldn’t get any decent shot at close range. The male bird somehow had much white on the underparts than usual but the small white patch on the neck indicates that it is not the wintering Stejneger’s Stonechat. The female was in its full breeding plumage and it had the darkest plumage I’ve ever seen, looking almost like a male in non-breeding plumage. I really hope someone will study this taxon more carefully since to me, it seems like a very distinct species.
I spent few hours around the Pha Hom Pok military base camp. Right next to a small track behind one of the soldier’s houses, I found a nest of Davison’s Leaf Warbler. One of the birds, probably the female, frequently came to the nest with mouthful nesting materials, while the other bird kept singing nearby. The nest was mainly made of moss and was very well camouflaged. It took a long time for me to realise the location of the nest.
There were also many flycatchers around the base camp. At least 2 male and 1 female Slaty-backed Flycatchers were seen, as well as a male Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher and a female Little Pied Flycatcher.
This army base camp is well known for the extremely tame Scarlet-faced Liocichlas which often come to the feeder made by the army. This visit was no exception, a pair of this colourful bird was showing extremely well and I just couldn’t help but taking photos of them again and again.
Then I spent few hours in the afternoon at the bird bath made by my friend. It was relatively new so the birds were still very skittish. Even though many of them came close to the puddle, few felt comfortable enough to get in and bathe. In total, I saw 7 species including Crested Finchbill, Dark-backed and Rufous-backed Sibia, Flavescent Bulbul, White-browed Scimitar-babbler, Blue-winged Minla and an unidentified Phylloscopus leaf warbler.
Then I slowly moved down to Fang where I stayed for one night. Along the way, I also came across another male Mrs Hume’s Pheasant, which seemed to be moulting so it didn’t look as beautiful as other individuals I saw earlier. I also stopped to see the male Ultramarine Flycatcher which had been staying at the same place for several months. It was also moulting so it looked a bit scruffy. The best time to photograph this bird seems to be around mid winter because the plumage still looks neat and more colourful.