Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Doi Angkang: 1 April 2012

I last visited my most favourite birding spot in Thailand, Doi Angkang on April 1st. The weather was not very pleasant as it has become normal for northern Thailand to suffer with smog during spring. You can see that the photos are quite reddish/yellowish due to the smoggy condition. At least, the air was cleaner up on the mountains than in the city. I arrived at my usual stop at the viewpoint next to an army base camp just after sunrise. It always feels good to be greeted with songs of passerines in spring. Flocks of Common Rosefinches were seen here and there, as well as a Stripe-breasted Woodpecker, Verditer Flycatcher and lots of busy Barn Swallow parents. However, I could only manage to grab a photo of a Brown-breasted Bulbul (Pycnonotus xanthorrhous) posing nicely among new leaves.

Brown-breasted Bulbul among new leaves

Spring in Thailand

Brown-breasted Bulbul

The shy White-browed Laughingthrush

I then moved to another favourite spot near the Chinese cemetery. It's the place where I normally spend my time the most. Many pairs of Brown-breasted Bulbuls were singing and moving around all over the area. A pair seemed to be nesting in thick bush just about 1m above the ground. I couldn't see the nest since it was completely covered by the bush, but the parent birds kept coming back to the same area every 3-5 minutes. Nearby, I also enjoyed following a small flock of a very shy species, White-browed Laughingthrushes (Garrulax sannio comis). They were moving through the bushes while constantly giving out their loud and diagnostic calls.

A pair of White-browed Lauhgingthrushes

Female Siberian Rubythroat

Yellow-streaked Warbler

Note its fine bill

Showing off its buffish undertail coverts

Apart from the bulbuls and laughingthrushes, I also enjoyed taking photos of the small Yellow-streaked Warbler (Phylloscopus armandii). Even though they are quite numerous and can be seen quite easily, they are surely not an easy target to photograph. But once you recognised its call, its not a difficult task at all to find another one since it always moving around giving its tzit call similar to that of the Little Bunting. There was also a pair of male and female Siberian Rubythroat nearby. I could only photograph the female. At first, I was quite puzzled by its appearance, as it was going through a moult.

Cook's Swift showing its narrow rump band

White scales on underparts are normally hard to see.

It seems to be quite darker than Fork-tailed Swift.

Well known 'Kao-soi Yunnan'

I next stopped at Ban Luang, a small village located along the steep hills of Doi Angkang. There's a noodle shop well-known among Chiang Mai birders which I always stop for lunch. The menu that I always order is called 'Kao-soi Yunnan', a kind of noodle with chicken in Yunnan style. Since people who live up here are mostly Chinese who migrated from China many decades ago, especially from the southern part like Yunnan Province, the culture and the atmosphere around here resemble southern China more than Thailand. Along the way to the noodle shop, I made a brief stop to take photos of the recently split Cook's Swifts (Apus cooki) which were flying over the valleys catching low-flying insects before the rain began to fall. It was split from the Fork-tailed Swift (Apus pacificus), which is a winter visitor in SE Asia. Cook's Swifts are mainly resident along the western border of Thailand and was reported to be short-distance migrant to southern Thailand as well. It has a much narrower white rump band than the Fork-tailed Swift.

Calling Mountain Hawk-Eagle

Delicious wild berries

Singing Spot-throated Babbler

Not very easy to see the 'spots'

Coming so close but always being covered

Female Black-throated Sunbird looking for nesting materials

Few more shots of the Spot-throated Babbler

Greenish Warbler going through a moult

After the meal, I entered the trail which I used to visit very often when I started birding at Doi Angkang. Birds were not very active, so I decided to just set up a hide and wait for anything to come. Surprisingly, a (male?) Mountain Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus nipalensis) came perching right above the hide and constantly gave a weird nasal call. The call didn't fit to its majestic look at all. It sounded more like a baby cat crying. I assumed that it was a male bird since it seemed to be quite small. It later disappeared as I was trying to move around for a better angle. There was another bird calling on the other side of the forest as well. Probably a pair was nesting nearby. Few extremely shy Scarlet-faced Liocichlas and Silver-eared Laughingthrushes showed up briefly, as well as a pair of Coral-billed Scimitar-babblers which all disappeared before I could even pick up my camera. Fortunately, a pair of Spot-throated Babblers (Pellorneum albiventre cinnamomeum) were found just behind the hide. They responded to the playback really well, but both of them were extremely shy and didn't come out to an exposed perch at all. At least, I am satisfied with the result as this species of babbler is hardly photographed.

Non-breeding Great Cormorant

I left Doi Angkang around 3pm. On my way back, I came across a really big surprise. I spotted a large black bird perching on a bare tree on the roadside pond next to Chiang Dao bypass. I immediately stopped the car and picked up my binocular to check what kind of bird it was. Turned out it was a non-breeding Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis), an abundant species in Japan but a rare winter visitor in Thailand! This is also the first record of this area.


  1. White-browed Laugher and Brown-breasted Bulbul remind me of SW China.... not so far from Doi Ankhang, I guess. Nice shots.

  2. Both species are wonderful and despite the condition, you managed to get wonderful shots of them... Well done! The up-date on your Pbase galleries are also superb!

  3. No wonder it is your favourite spot. Wonderful images as usual.