On March 23, I visited Doi Lang again with my dad. The weather was unusually overcast and we were completely surrounded by thick fog as we reached the mountain top. There was a car driving constantly up and down the hills with huge lens pointing from the window. I guess the driver was searching for the Mrs Hume’s Pheasants which I photographed earlier. I actually thought it wasn’t a good idea because the pheasants tend to shy away from the road if the cars keep passing once every 10 minutes or so.
As we arrived at our usual birding area, I was shocked to see that the whole area was burned down by forest fire. I quickly checked to see if the Hodgson’s Frogmouth was still there and surprisingly it was! I felt so relieved to see that it was still staying at the nest even though the area underneath was completely burned.
I just love watching the frogmouth when it fluffs up its body feathers. It can totally switch from a skinny twig-like creature into an almost fully rounded feathery ball. It only fluffs up its feathers when it feels comfortable though, so in order to get photos of it while fluffing, I had to stand very still and wait for some minutes for it to feel relaxed.
Then I heard someone spotted a female Himalayan Cutia feeding in a tall tree nearby. I quickly went to have a look and could get some brief glimpses of it before it moved further into the forest. This was my first sighting of this rare species this year.
I spent some minutes sitting at the photography stakeouts near the frogmouth’s nest and the first visitor that showed up was a female Slaty-blue Flycatcher. It stayed around for some time before picking up a meal worm and flew back into the bush. A second calender-year male Hill Blue Flycatcher also showed up briefly afterwards but was too shy to come to the feeding area.
Then I moved to another stakeout on the other side of the road where a male White-bellied Redstart was seen earlier. The first bird that showed up was a female Rufous-bellied Niltava. Then after a while the male White-bellied Redstart showed up. It was a bit shy at first but afterwards became very obliging. A second calender-year female White-tailed Robin also visited the area later on and constantly chased off the redstart. Other birds which came around the stakeout included a pair of Hill Prinias and a pair of Silver-eared Laughingthrushes. It was surprising for me that even after such serious fire, all these birds were still loyal to the feeding area.
I spent some more time at the stakeout near the frogmouth’s nest and photographed a very obliging second year male Siberian Rubythroat before moving on the other side of Doi Lang where a Chestnut-headed Tesia was reported to be showing.
Along the way, I heard a singing Russet Bush Warbler just by the roadside, so I quickly stopped the car and went out to look for it. After a few playbacks, it showed up curiously and extremely close to where I was standing but was too fast for me to get any good shot. After a while, it seemed to have found its comfortable place to sing and stayed on the same perch for a couple of minutes but as you can see, the view wasn’t very good.
I immediately heard the sharp unmistakable call of the Chestnut-headed Tesia as soon as I arrived at the feeding area where it was reported to visit. After setting up a hide, I spotted the bird came creeping out from the dense bush. Even though it later came out to the open to catch the meal worms, it was still incredibly difficult to photograph. Just like any other tesias (even though the Chestnut-headed Tesia is not a true tesia anymore), it was extremely fast moving, so most of the shots that I got were either blurry or out of focus.
Another bird which showed up at the same feeding area as the Chestnut-headed Tesia was the male Slaty-blue Flycatcher, another bird that I hadn’t had any decent photo of. It was slightly shy and wouldn’t come close if I wasn’t in the hide. Judging from the whitish throat contrasting to the duller buffish breast and underparts, I think it is the subspecies F. t. minuta which I’ve never seen before. The male bird that I photographed back in 2013 was another subspecies F. t. diversa which has more buffish throat and underparts.
After a while, a male Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher also showed up at the stakeout. It was way more confiding than the Slaty-blue Flycatcher and I didn’t need the hide to get all these shots! Even though it is one of the commoner Ficedula flycatchers in northern Thailand, I really enjoyed the opportunity to photograph it nicely like this.
We took a lunch break at Pha Hom Pok army camp which was just a few hundred metres from the tesia stakeout. There were quite many birds around the camp including at least 3 males and 1 female Slaty-backed Flycatchers, a male Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher, a female Little Pied Flycatchers, a very tame female and a shy male Himalayan Bluetails, a flock of Whiskered Yuhina, a breeding pair of Davison’s Leaf Warbler and a singing Slaty-bellied Tesia. Another big surprise also came while I was enjoying my lunch, a male Jerdon’s Baza (greyish cheeks) came gliding over the camp before disappearing beyond the tree line.
Before returning to Doi San Ju side where we started our day, I spent another hour at the tesia stakeout and enjoyed photographing the same 3 colourful visitors until I felt like I couldn’t take any better shot of them.