Thailand B

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Subject: Thailand B
From: "Dion Hobcroft" <>
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2007 14:43:23 +1100
Flying into Chiang Mai makes a pleasant change from the megalopolis that
is Bangkok even if there was not a spare seat on the 747. As per usual
we are up well before dawn, so early in fact we collect a Collared Scops
Owl that decides to fly into the side of the van. Dazed and confused it
flies off OK allaying my fears of more unwanted fractures and concern
for its welfare. Everyone has quite a view. We all hope it is OK, no-one
likes to hit a bird especially on a birding trip.
The next bird sighted is a male Green Peafowl that juggernauts out of a
tree over my head, struggling in flight across a reservoir before
successfully landing in a more substantial roosting platform. If ever
there was a bird that should not become airborne it is this species. It
may also win the medal for the most value added bird in the world. As
the predawn gloom improves the lighting it comes to reveal its turquoise
and mauve facial skin, glittering emerald ocelli and crest- an
incredible bird and now incredibly rare, restricted to a handful of
pockets across its once extensive range. Its powerful voice similar to
the Blue Peafowl (that has destroyed many neighbourly relations) rips
through the dawn. More light brings more great birds like a perched
Black Baza, a mixed flock of Rosy and Swinhoe's Minivets plus the
omnipresent Asian Barred Owlet.
Doi Inthanon is a famous birding site, the highest mountain in Thailand
(about 2600 m). Dawn again and the summit is packed with Thai tourists
enjoying (or at least experiencing) the cold and dozens of them join us
birding on the summit bog boardwalk. While you might expect this to be
disastrous for trying to see shy forest skulkers it has had a reverse
effect. Skulking birds habituated to noisy tourists go about their
foraging unconcerned. We have exceptional views of the Rufous-throated
Partridge, a Eurasian Woodcock feeds right out in the open (I get the
amazing view of this bird facing directly away from me yet can still see
its huge laterally located eyes keeping me in view) while a pair of
White-browed Shortwing provide megaviews. The jeep trail is another must
visit birding location and we have a great time with the scarce
Dark-sided Thrush (sort of like a dull Bassian Thrush with a bulldozer
beak) that ploughs through the leaves unconcerned in the middle of the
trail. A male Asian Emerald Cuckoo is sensational in the sun whilst
forest sprites like Eye-browed and Pygmy Wren-Babblers keep people
contorting into awkward positions hoping to get the narrow window on
these birds of the shadows.
Doi Ang Khang on the Burmese border is not as high but its more
northerly position offers the chance for different species. As the sun
hits flowering cherry blossoms hordes of birds move in to take nectar
and insects. It is incredibly bird rich even though most of the habitat
is secondary cut over scrub. Best bird for me here is the Spot-breasted
Parrotbill, one of a subfamily of Asian babblers with parrot-like bills
for snipping through bamboo. They often move in shimmering flocks
through dense bamboo and other grasses, the moving stems sometimes as
close as you get. We connect with several of the specialty birds here
from Spectacled Barwing, Red-faced Liocichla, Rufous-backed Sibia while
some lucky folks have the elusive Mountain Bamboo Partridge stroll
across the road. I am wondering if those distant Red-rumped Swallows can
start my Burma list off.
We spend an afternoon in agricultural fields around Thaton. It is a lot
of fun with male Siberian Rubythroats and a Wryneck (a frogmouth like
woodpecker) competing with dashing Pied Harriers for birds of the visit.
We scout along the border to a possible stakeout for the rare Jerdon's
Bushchat. We have found the right location and scanning turns up Grey
Bushchats and Stonechats but no sign of the hoped for rarity. Our Thai
guides cannot communicate with rice farmers here who speak their own
dialect. We keep checking out the preferred tall grass patches that are
very few and begin to feel dip building momentum. One lady scopes a bird
and asks me to check it out. A brilliant piece of spotting as a male
Jerdon's Bushchat is tucked in the forest edge about 300 metres away. We
get much closer and everyone gets a great scope view. 
It is time to fly south again for our final week in Thailand. We hope to
bird in the Gulf of Siam and the jungles on the Isthmus of Kra.

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