Phu Chi Fa: 27-28 March 2014

I visited Phu Chi Fa, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Chiang Rai with 2 other friends during 27-28 March 2014 before moving on to Chiang Saen and Nam Kham Nature Reserve. It was my first time visiting this place despite having heard how good the birds are. It also holds the first and so far the only record of Wallcreeper in Thailand and South East Asia, but my main target was the scarce Jerdon’s Bush Chat which is especially common at Phu Chi Fa.

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Male Jerdon’s Bush Chat

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Male Jerdon’s Bush Chat on a distant perch is a common scene at Phu Chi Fa.

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This male Chestnut Bunting was one of the many seen flying around in the grass.

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Dusky Crag Martins were abundant and extremely confiding. Unfortunately they were too fast and too close for me to get any good shot.

We arrived on the evening and quickly walked up to the summit. The habitat was mainly open grassland among limestone hills. The most abundant species was the Dusky Crag Martin which many of them were seen flying all over the area. The second most abundant species was surprisingly my target bird, the Jerdon’s Bush Chat. However, all of them were really shy and I still couldn’t get any satisfying shot. A single Peregrine Falcon was also seen flying overhead before disappearing into a distance as well.

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Part of the Crested Bunting flock seen early in the morning

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Female Crested Bunting

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A male Jerdon’s Bush Chat on the rock is an unusual sight elsewhere.

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Brown-breasted Bulbul was also very common.

We revisited the summit again on the next morning. Birds were very vocal but difficult to locate since they were mostly in the tall grass. We came across a flock of Crested Buntings perching on grass top before flying out to their feeding area. Several Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babblers as well as a breeding pair of Long-tailed Shrikes were seen along the way. Lots of Russet Bush Warblers were singing from every direction but I failed to see any.

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This was the only female bird that I saw. It was even shyer than the males.

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I spent the whole morning trying to get photos of the Jerdon’s Bush Chats which still proved to be one of the shyest chats in Thailand (the resident race ‘przewalskii’ of Siberian Stonechat is still a bit shyer). Normally, Jerdon’s Bush Chat is a bird of lowland reed beds along large rivers and open wetlands. Phu Chi Fa is the only place where this species populates far from any source of water. Another place where Jerdon’s Bush Chats can be found on high altitude is at Doi Lang, but they also stay mainly along a small stream which flows through paddy fields.

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We left Phu Chi Fa in the afternoon and headed to Nam Kham Nature Reserve which took us about 2 hours and a half. To finish this post, above are some photos of the Asian Palm Swifts which we found resting on their nests at one of the gas stations we stopped on our way to Phu Chi Fa. It was the first time for me to photograph this common swift closely at their nests. Normally, they choose to nest on higher trees which makes photography very difficult.

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