On the night of October 19, Yann Muzika of The Wilderness Alternative and I drove up to Doi Inthanon, one of the most popular places for birding in northern Thailand. Our first mission was to look for the famous Brown Wood Owl family that was showing around the 2nd Checkpoint.
It wasn’t all that easy. The wood owls usually come out to feed on horned beetles that only appear after the rain. It had been completely dry for several days before our arrive. There was no beetle around the checkpoint at all. Needless to say the wood owl wasn’t there. We tried using playbacks but still didn’t work. Instead, we heard several Mountain Scops-Owls calling, so we turned our attentions towards them. But the scops-owls weren’t easy neither. We had one bird perching in the open and really close for a second but couldn’t manage to take any photo even after that.
After more than an hour of struggling with the scops-owls, we walked back to the checkpoint and tried for the wood owl again. As earlier, there was no response, but then I decided to walk around a bit and was shocked to find one bird sitting really close to the road just a few metres from where we were standing. It might have been there all along but it made completely no sound. It sat there for about 5 minutes then flew out towards the checkpoint where I spotted another bird circling and disappearing into the forest.
After our successful night with the wood owls, we headed down to Muang Ang village at the foothill of Doi Inthanon to look for the globally threatened White-rumped Falcon but it was nowhere to be found. We then moved up to Km 34.5 trail instead and luckily, the place was very birdy. We encountered a big bird-wave consisting of a pair of male and female Clicking Shrike-babbler, Yunnan Fulvettas, Mountain Tailorbird, Grey-throated Babblers, Fire-breasted Flowerpeckers and lots of Phylloscopus warblers. But the best was undoubtedly a flock of about 10 Black-throated Parrotbills that was very responsive to the playback and gave us unusually good photographic opportunity.
Most Phylloscopus warblers we found in the trail were the Blyth’s/Claudia’s/Davison’s Leaf Warbler group. For Davison’s, it wasn’t so difficult to identify since it has striking white undertail. However, it was much trickier when trying to identify Blyth’s and Claudia’s. I observed 1 bird which was most likely Blyth’s Leaf Warbler due to its behaviour and the width of white trailing edge to the undertail feather. It was the first time for me to see a Blyth’s Leaf Warbler outside the summit of Doi Inthanon.
We headed up to the highest summit around noon. It was still quite birdy when we arrived. Yann had a nice time with the extremely confiding White-browed Shortwings and a male Snowy-browed Flycatcher which are the regulars around the entrance of Ang Ka Nature Trail. I also had a chance to photograph a Blyth’s Leaf Warbler that was responding really well to the playback. Doi Inthanon summit is one of the very few places and the most accessible one in Thailand where this species is regularly found.
Sadly, we could only bird just until a little after 12 o’clock because of the rain. However, we had a nice relaxing time while waiting in a coffee shop watching the birds that came to feed on bananas that the shop owner put out for them. These birds were really tame and we could take photos of them just with our phones. We drove down around 4pm and visited Muang Ang for the falcon again but still had no luck, so we continued down to Chiang Mai before heading to our next destination, Doi Ang Khang.