Thailand is not only gorgeous white beaches, lowland tropical forests and Bangkok cabaret shows; there are also some great high-altitude forests. Doi Inthanon National Park in Chiang Mai province holds Thailands highest mountain (of the same name) rising up to a surprising 2565m asl (8415ft). It is pretty much solid forest all the way to the top and – shrouded in thick fog – it really did not stand out as much of a stunning-view sort of place.
But we were not there for the view, but because Doi Inthanon’s forests hold a whole pile of great birds.
Paging through Robson’s Birds of Thailand, the Laughingthrush plate is not going to stop you in your tracks. You are not going to stumble across them and think: now that is the group of birds I really really want to see. No, you are probably going to be most drawn to the dozens of crazy-coloured pittas, kingfishers, broadbills or leafbirds. But my first Laughingthrush was an absolute gob-smacker. It appeared shortly after dawn – at the famous second check-point – a surprisingly large and charismatically bouncy over-sized thrush – like nothing I had ever seen before. I have always had a soft spot for thrushes, so these guys jumped straight in to my heart. Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush – what a great bird!
But the bird of the morning on our first day was undoubtedly the Grey-cheeked Fulvetta. It was by no means the rarest or most interesting bird of the day, but it was always a permanent accompaniment in their twittering groups; their behavior reminiscent of the white-eyes I grew up with. Robson’s Birds of Thailand describes them as being in “Small restless flocks; often with bird waves”. Apt.
Despite being a rainy, foggy morning, the birds came thick and fast with mountain forest birds like the Rufous-backed Sibia (Heterophasia annectens), Mountain Bulbul (Hypsipetes mcclellandii), Yellow-cheeked Tit, Grey-chinned Minivet (Pericrocotus solaris) and Chestnut-crowned Warbler (Seicercus castaniceps) – amongst many others – showing well.
Amongst the brightest of the birds we picked up that morning were the ever-present – but rather shy – Large Niltava (Niltava grandis) and Small Niltava – both of which showed really well with adult males and females, and juveniles.
This Tuesday 16 Aug, I will publish a second post on birding with Jan and Tu in Doi Inthanon; with the really special birds up at the summit, and a good few great birds down low in Doi Inthanon National Park. Find it here on 10,000 Birds.