After a day at Doi Ang Khang, Yann and I stayed over in a popular hotel among birders in Fang city. On the following morning, we departed before sunrise to visit one of Thailand’s birding meccas, Doi San Ju or the western side of Doi Lang. Yann’s targets included the globally endangered Mrs. Hume’s Pheasant, Giant Nuthatch and Hodgson’s Frogmouth.
We slowly drove uphill hoping to come across a single or two pheasants or partridges but it seemed like we didn’t have enough luck. As we reached the top of the hill where birders regularly stop, I tried playing the call of Spot-breasted Parrotbill, a species regularly found around the area. Within a minute, a pair appeared from the grassy hill below and one bird came up to sing on exposed branches only a few metres away!
Then I heard tiny voices which sounded so familiar coming from the tree behind and as I looked up, I found that they were the extremely cute Black-throated Bushtits. There were more than 30 of them and the tree looked busy with these tiny birds flicking all over it. Interestingly, they were also interested in the playback and came down to lower branches allowing me to capture some nice photos.
Despite the overcast weather, birds were generally quite good. A pair of Giant Nuthatches was showing really well and Yann had an up close and prolonged view of them. Finally, he had his first main target. A Crested Serpent Eagle was also seen perching on a lonely tree trunk, as well as Slender-billed Oriole and Large Cuckooshrikes. Along the road a bit lower downhill, we also came across the first Chestnut Bunting of the season feeding in the grass next to the road and a huge flock of over 50 Grey-headed Parrotbills which were extremely skittish as usual.
There were really lots of Cook’s Swift at Doi San Ju. They were all over the sky and can be flying really low too. I tried my best to photograph these big swifts despite the cloudy background.
The weather didn’t get any better and finally just before noon, it rained. There was no shelter up on Doi San Ju, so we could only wait inside our car. Hours went by and it seemed like the rain wasn’t going to stop easily. The whole mountain became very dark and foggy. We decided to try driving downhill, in case the weather might be better.
Just a few hundred metres downhill, we encountered Yann’s next target, a male Mrs. Hume’s Pheasant. It came running across the road right in front of our car and instead of running into cover, it decided to walk along the open road. Throughout the whole approximately 5 minutes that it spent on the road, we observed it picking up earthworms which came out after the rain. This was the most prolonged view I’ve ever had of this species and the best way to end our day.
On the following morning, we decided to visit the eastern side of Doi Lang with the company of Dr. Rungsrit and Natthaphat. However, the weather got worse and we didn’t have much good birding. The road was already terrible and the rain made it even worse. We came across a showy White-crowned Forktail, the first Grey-crowned Warbler of the season, Plain and Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, a flock of Swinhoe’s Minivets and some other common birds along the way.
We spent most of the time walking along the road near the army base camp, where we found small flocks of Whiskered Yuhinas, Dark-backed Sibias and the brightly coloured Scarlet-faced Liocichla which was one of the birds we intended to see. Another spot where we went for birding was the San Ju viewpoint where I came across a female White-bellied Redstart, a male Daurian Redstart which was the first for the season, as well as a Little Bunting. Before leaving for Fang in the afternoon, Natthaphat and I spent some time chasing a Phylloscopus warbler which I believe could be a Hume’s Leaf Warbler at the army camp. It has a clear greyish crown contrasting to the olive mantle with dark bill, legs and feet. Unfortunately, it didn’t call so I couldn’t be completely sure of its identity.