I made a solo journey to Doi Ang Khang on 12 October to check for winter migrants which should have already mostly arrived. I reached the foothill of Doi Ang Khang, around Ban Arunothai, just before sunrise. The place was as scenic and serene as ever.
The road to Ban Arunothai just before sunrise
The peaceful atmosphere around Doi Ang Khang foothill
Adult Crested Serpent Eagle (ssp. burmanicus)
Silhouette of a lone Rufous-winged Buzzard
They also like to perch together in a loose group.
Another view of a different Rufous-winged Buzzard
Either a juvenile or adult Changeable Hawk Eagle (ssp. limnaetus) in pale morph
Surprisingly, the morning was particularly good for raptors. I encountered 3 species of raptors just by the roadside. The first one was an adult Crested Serpent Eagle sitting on a dead tree top before sunrise. The second was the locally scarce Rufous-winged Buzzard which I found in total 7 birds in just one morning. The last species was the Changeable Hawk Eagle, which was found calling very loudly from the roadside. I’m not quite sure whether it was a juvenile or adult in pale morph. This was only the second time I found this species in this area.
More landscape shots along the way to Ban Arunothai
A very blurry record shot of an adult Grey-backed Shrike, first for the season!
There were lots of Striated Swallows with a few Red-rumped Swallows in the mix at Ban Sin Chai.
A confiding Long-tailed Shrike (ssp. tricolor)
An unusually tame male Burmese Shrike
The crown seems to be very dark slate-grey, almost looking concolorous with facial mask from some angles.
It was quite a birdy morning. I came across 2 Grey-backed Shrikes (1 adult and 1 juvenile) which was the first sighting for this season, and a very confiding male Burmese Shrike which has a striking dark crown. I’m still curious about which subspecies this one actually is. Read more about my speculation in this post.
It’s a rare occasion to see Striated Swallows perching against forest background!
The resident subspecies ‘stanfordi’ has bold streaks on underparts, particularly this individual.
Adult Red-rumped Swallow (ssp. japonica) is noticeably smaller with much thinner streaks.
Juvenile Red-rumped Swallow has even thinner and fainter streaking on the underparts with dull blackish crown and upperparts.
Showing the pale reddish rump
There were many Striated Swallows perching here and there. I also picked out a few Red-rumped Swallows in the mix too. Most of them were juveniles with at least 1 adult. When perching side by side, Red-rumped Swallows are noticeably smaller, being almost about the same size as Barn Swallow.
One of the many Black Bulbuls (ssp. concolor)
Female Ashy Minivet found mixing with a flock of Grey-chinned Minivets
The brightly coloured male Grey-chinned Minivet (ssp. rubrolimbatus)
Greenish Warbler was abundant!
Note the slightly greyer crown contrasting to the more olive mantle similar to Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler
But beware of the lighting condition. The same bird can appear to be totally different.
A relatively grey-crowned Yellow-browed Warbler
Hume’s Leaf Warbler (ssp. mandellii); note dark bill, legs and feet, greyish crown contrasting to mantle and smaller median covert bar. The ID was confirmed again by call.
Note the white fringes on tertials
I came across a nice mixed flock of birds along the road including many Grey-chinned Minivets, 2 female Ashy Minivets, lots of Black, Mountain, Flavescent and Grey-eyed Bulbuls, Crested Finchbills and a nice pair of Blue-bearded Bee-eaters. There were also lots of Phylloscopus warblers everywhere. Most of them were the common Yellow-browed and Greenish Warblers but with some Claudia’s Leaf Warblers and a rather confiding Hume’s Leaf Warbler too!
I’m happy to get this photo showing the typical jizz for the Himalayan Swiftlet. Notice how long the wings are. The tail also looks longer than Germain’s Swiftlet.
Rump patch can be quite variable though. This one shows a darkish rump patch looking almost concolourous with the back and uppertail coverts.
Most birds showed a quite contrasting pale rump patch but not as pale as in Germain’s Swiftlet.
But beware of the lighting condition. I think this bird has the same shade of rump patch as the previous one but strong light makes it look paler and more contrasting.
It’s interesting to see that many birds were moulting their tail feathers making the tail comes in various funny shapes.
A fork-tailed swift? No.
Never thought that it could resemble an Apus swift!
There were lots of swifts everywhere. I tried to focus mainly on taking photos of the Aerodramus swiftlets which should all be Himalayan Swiftlets. They all show quite a consistent jizz which is being noticeably larger with longer wings and tail than Germain’s Swiftlet of central and southern Thailand.
Cook’s Swift has a very dark blackish plumage and narrow rump patch.
The tail is deeply forked hence the former named Fork-tailed Swift.
In good light, you can see the bold white scales on the underparts clearly.
Some birds looked a bit plainer because of the feather wear.
Another species of swift that was regularly seen was the huge Cook’s Swift. It is a recently split species from what used to be called Fork-tailed Swift which has now split into 4 different species. Cook’s Swift is a very dark one, looking very plain blackish from above with the narrowest white rump patch. Dave Bakewell has a nice blog post on the identification of Cook’s and Pacific Swift which is a widespread winter migrant in SE Asia here.
A colourful male Fire-breasted Flowerpecker
Not sure about the sex and subspecies of this White Wagtail. The black breast patch looks good for breeding male leucopsis but it has grey back, so it might be a female breeding instead? The black rump and uppertail coverts rule out baicalensis.
It was interesting to see a flock of migrating Black Drongos flying overhead. This should be the subspecies D. m. cathoecus which is described to be the wintering race.
A very confiding juvenile Grey-backed Shrike
One of the two Buff-throated Warblers
Adult Mountain Hawk Eagle
Other interesting birds seen during the afternoon included a nice pair of Buff-throated Warblers which was the first sighting of the season and a huge adult Mountain Hawk Eagle which glided by at eye level. A beautiful male Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird also came to feed on flowering tree and gave a nice close up view too, but the highlight of the day came during the late afternoon just when I was driving back home, a nice 30+ flock of Grey-headed Parrotbills just by the roadside! The birds gave exceptional views while moving along the roadside before disappearing into the dense forest.
Despite its large size, Grey-headed Parrotbill is probably the trickiest one to see and photograph well.
First time for me getting 2 birds in one frame.
They were also quite curious!