December 31st 1997 Arthur and I left Narita Airport at 10:30 a.m. and flew to Bangkok and then to Chiang Mai arriving at 06:30 p.m. Our Thai guide Uthai Treesucon and Ms. Ng Bee Choo from Singapore accompanied us from Bangkok. Uthai rented a car, and we drove to a hotel in Chong Thom near Doi Inthanon National Park.
We left the hotel at 06:00 a.m., arriving at the summit of the 2,565 metre high Mount Inthanon an hour or so later. There were already many people there waiting for the sun to rise, and to visit the nearby pagodas. A silver pagoda for the queen and a gold one for the king. After breakfast we started birdwatching. A park ranger motioned us to follow him, and we saw 2 Rufous-throated Partridges in a bush. Then we went along a forest footpath (trail) where we met 15 birders from England. A lady said that they hadn't seen many birds as there were too many people on the trail. We were later to meet the same group the next day on a different road.
Parts of the trail were boarded, as it ran over wetlands. There were many people strolling along the path. Nevertheless we saw a Chestnut-crowned Laughing-thrush, an Ashy-throated Warbler, Orange-barred Leaf-warbler, and a White-tailed Leaf-warbler.
We returned to our car and drove down the very crowded road to a spot near a stream where Uthai found a female Plumbeous Redstart on a rock in the stream. Then Uthai showed us a rare River Chat on the side of another rock. We then drove to a restaurant and ordered noodles. I bought several T shirts with a River Chat painted on. The small shop had many name cards of birders pinned on the walls. In the restaurant garden we saw several Black-Throated Sunbirds in a tree.
In the afternoon we saw a Yellow-cheeked Tit, Gould's Sunbird, Mountain Tailorbird, Black-headed Sibia, Golden-throated Barbet, Short-billed Minivet, Wedge-tailed Pigeon, Flavescent Bulbul, Brown-throated Treecreeper, Chestnut-fronted Shrike-babbler, Blue-winged Minia, Mountain Bulbul, Ashy Drongo, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Inornate Warbler, Bronzed Drongo, Hill Prinia, Olive-backed Pipit, Grey-backed Shrike, Slaty-backed Flycatcher, and a Blue Whistling-thrush. I am not so clever, because I wrote down so many birds without noting which birds were rare. Uthai said that some birds could only be seen in those parts, so we were very lucky to have seen them.
We left the hotel at 06:00 and drove back up the mountain before it became crowded. We were able to park near the pagodas and do some sightseeing. We could see Burma in the distance. There were several birds in the area, so we could combine sightseeing with birding. Uthai said that he has no interest in temples but he came with us anyway, but Bee stayed in the car. We saw a Grey Bushchat on a bush. He ignored us and continued calling, never opening it's beak but we could plainly see the throat swelling.
May I mention other birds that I saw? White-browed Shrike-barbet, Japanese White-eye, Brown Shrike, Black-crested Bulbul, Long-tailed Minivet, etc.
In the afternoon we went to see a waterfall but could only find a Grey Wagtail there. On our way back, Uthai heard a Blue-bearded Bee-eater calling. Then we began to look for it, with Uthai mimicking the bird, and the Bee-eater answering. At last we could see the Bee-eater still calling without opening it's mouth.
We left the hotel at the usual time and drove to the outskirts of the town and entered a dirt road in the dark. Arthur stayed in the car whilst Uthai, Bee and myself looked for an Indian Nightjar. Uthai used his tape and voice to call an Indian Nightjar until at last one flew 4 times in front of me, and Uthai shone his powerful torch on it.
As dawn broke we drove to the lower parts of the mountain. We had a picnic breakfast and then crossed a small suspension bridge and climbed a steep footpath. Several times we had to step off the path to let a motorcycle pass. We clearly saw 2 White-rumped Falcons and several Collared Falconets, plus several other birds.
We went back to our hotel and freshened up before checking out. Then we dropped in at an old pagoda named Wat Phra That Si Chom Thong, and then made our way to Chiang Mai. We stopped at a shop belonging to a friend of Uthai's as he had ordered some embroidery. I boughta few postcards and entered the garden and saw a few birds.
After checking in at our new hotel and having lunch we drove to a famous temple, and then to a Hill Tribe Village on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. Mainly all we saw were shops and stalls selling souvenirs, Uthai was getting tired and hungry, so we went to a very nice restaurant and had a delicious vegetarian Thai meal. Uthai does not eat meat, only fish, so we were surprised when he ordered grubs taken from bamboo. He seemed to enjoy the grubs, but we did not eat any.
It was dark, so although there are over 50 species of birds in that area we quit birding and drove to a bookshop which unfortunately had just closed. We parked the car, and the four of us piled into a tiny motorcycle cab and went to the night market. I was surprised how large it was and of how many foreigners were there.
We had a buffet breakfast at 05:45 and drove to the Chiang Mai airport where we caught a plane to Bangkok and then on to Narita. I really enjoyed the trip, and although we did not see so many species, the ones we did see could be seen very clearly. Uthai Treesucon is a very good birder, and so is Ng Bee Choo. Both have taken groups to many parts of the world including India and South Africa.
Birds seen by Dr. Shoko Tomikawa on Doi Inthanon and on the way to Chiang Mai (Thailand) January 1st to January 3rd, 1998. Accompanied by Arthur Tansley, Uthai Treesucon (guide) and Ms Ng Bee Choo. (As listed in the Birds of Thailand by Boonsong Lekagul and Philip D. Round.)
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