On the morning of 8 March, I visited Doi Angkhang with my dad as usual. Along the way, we saw forest fire caused by the locals in order to get rid of dry leaves and expand their agricultural area. At least the sky was still generally clear and the air on the mountain was still fresh and cool.
We stopped at our usual birding spot where I always get to photograph the Common Rosefinches. A flock of about 10-15 birds was still staying in the area. The ground below the bamboo platform where I lied down to photograph the finches was more open than usual allowing me to see why they always gather around this area. They were coming to for the salt lick!
Again, I’ve noticed the differences in bill shape among the birds that were showing. At least one of the males had very obviously shorter and stouter bill. I’ve written a long post about different subspecies of Common Rosefinch here. The one with stouter bill might be the subspecies grebnitskii of NE China.
While I was photographing the Common Rosefinches, a female Chestnut Bunting also came up from the bush and gave me quite a good view too. I waited to see if there would be any male bird around but didn’t see any. This is one of the common birds that I’ve never got the chance to photograph nicely.
Along the way uphill, I came across 3 Burmese Shrikes. The first one was a female bird which looked very different from what I normally see. At first sight, it looked almost exactly like a male bird of the subspecies L. c. collurioides which is the only subspecies confirmed to be found in Thailand, but at a closer look, a very indistinct pale lore is visible suggesting that it is actually a female.
I then came across another pair around Ban Luang. This time I could photograph the male bird. It had very dark head, almost completely black but with dark slaty nape and hindcrown. According to Craig Robson’s guide to birds of Thailand and South-East Asia, this is the characteristic of the subspecies L. c. nigricapillus which is found only in C, S Annam and Cochinchina. Plumage of the female bird that I photographed earlier also fits to the description of female nigricapillus. Since Doi Angkhang is way out of the range of confirmed nigricapillus, it would be extremely interesting to know what subspecies these birds are. For now, I can think of 2 possibilities. The first is that these are indeed nigricapillus and NW Thailand is the new distribution range. The second is that this is actually some kind of a breeding plumage of collurioides which looks similar to the (non-breeding?) plumage of nigricapillus. I’m working on getting more photos of breeding Burmese Shrikes in northern Thailand now.
Before going back home, I spent some hours in the Royal Project area. I visited one of the photography stakeouts and had a great time photographing some tame colourful birds. There were 2 male Rufous-bellied Niltavas showing extremely well. One of them was an adult male with completely black bill and another was a young first summer with pale gape and brownish wing feathers. A beautiful male Hill Blue Flycatcher was also staying in the area but was constantly chased by the niltavas. Other birds showing at the stakeout including a pair of White-tailed Robins, a male White-rumped Shama, a very tame female Siberian Blue Robin and a passing by Green-billed Malkoha.