Doi Lang: 23 March 2014

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.

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Male Hodgson’s Frogmouth still staying strong even after the fire. How surprising!

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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.

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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.

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One of the two adult Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babblers

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The same Erythrina subumbrans still had some flowers left but less birds visited the tree compared to my earlier visit.

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One of the two juvenile Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babblers which came along with the adults. It looked extra cute with that short bill.

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One of the two Rufous-fronted Babblers which passed by the area while I was photographing the frogmouth. This is one of the common yet rarely well photographed species.

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A record shot of a female Himalayan Cutia

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.

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Second calender-year male Hill Blue Flycatcher

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Female Slaty-blue Flycatcher

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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.

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Adult female Rufous-bellied Niltava

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Note the small glossy blue patch on the neck

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Adult male White-bellied Redstart

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Unusual to see it among burnt ashes

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Second calender-year female White-tailed Robin

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Showing why it’s called ‘white-tailed’

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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.

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One of the two Hill Prinias in breeding plumage

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The same male White-bellied Redstart

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It has a habit of walking and running unlike other redstarts which normally hops instead of walking.

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Showing the orange patch which is normally well hidden

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The same male Hodgson’s Frogmouth from a different angle

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Second calender-year male Siberian Rubythroat

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Blackish lore suggests that it is a male bird rather than an old female which can show the same amount of red on the throat as well.

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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.

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The abundant but extremely secretive Russet Bush Warbler

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After finding its comfortable perch, it would stay for some minutes singing its strange insect-like song.

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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.

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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.

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Male Slaty-blue Flycatcher (ssp. minuta)

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It has an unmistakable habit of cocking its tail up to 90 degree.

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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.

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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.

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Another Ficedula flycatcher from the same area, a female Slaty-backed Flycatcher

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One of the 3 male Slaty-backed Flycatchers near the Pha Hom Pok army camp

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A very confiding female Himalayan Bluetail

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Another big surprise of the day and a lifer for me, a male Jerdon’s Baza!

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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.

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The only shot that I got while it was calling. What a cute bird!

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The same male Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher while singing

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Also some more shots of the same male Slaty-blue Flycatcher

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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.

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One of the many female Grey Bush Chats along the way

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An unusually tame female Mountain Bamboo Partridge. Its partner quickly walked into the bush and I couldn’t get any decent shot of.

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We were surprised again by a flock of 7-8 Assam Macaques which came crossing the road while we were driving down.

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Look how cute the baby is!

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And we didn’t forget to check the other Hodgson’s Frogmouth’s nest on our way back. The male bird looked super scruffy because of the afternoon shower.

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3 thoughts on “Doi Lang: 23 March 2014

  1. Some great birds in this post – White-bellied Redstart and Chestnut-headed Tesias are such skulkers !
    And I’ve never seen Hodgson’s Frogmouth in daylight… glad the nest survived the fire.

  2. I’m glad the Frogmouth is doing fine. You have really outdone yourself this time with the images. Love the Tesia – so adorable.

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