Skip to navigation, or go to main content.

WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Thailand: The Northwest

2016 Narrative

In Brief: Our trip to northwest Thailand produced a fine mix of resident and migratory species typical of this part of the country.  Striking resident species included displaying Green Peafowl, Mountain Bamboo Partridge, Rusty-naped Pitta (pair seen), Giant Nuthatch, Black-breasted Thrush, Scarlet-faced Liocichla and a flock of Spot-winged Grosbeaks.    Interesting winter migrants included a number of Grey-sided Thrushes, a male and female Grey-winged Blackbird and a Chestnut Thrush along with a nice variety of flycatchers including Slaty-blue, Ultramarine and Sapphire.  A single Oriental Darter and a small flock of Spot-winged Starlings were particularly unusual. 

In Detail: Our trip began with a meeting in the lobby of the Novotel followed by a delicious buffet dinner.  The next morning we flew to Chiang Mai where we headed to Chiang Mai University.  Here around the lake some Spot-winged Starlings had been seen recently in one of the flowering trees.  After a short time we found them, five to be exact, including a few stunning males.  They were loosely associating with ten Chestnut-tailed Starlings.  This is the first record of this Indian species in more than a decade and is the first time we have recorded it on our Thailand tour.  Other species of note included a Rufous-winged Buzzard, three Green-billed Malkohas, an Asian Barred Owlet, fine views of a number of a number of Blue-bearded Bee-eaters, a Burmese Shrike, Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, a Wire-tailed Swallow, Burmese Shrike and a Eurasian Kestrel. 

The next morning we left before dawn for the summits of Doi Suthep and Doi Pui.  We spent a bit of time on the summit Doi Pui and then walked slowly down the saddle.  On the drive up we noted a half dozen ‘black-billed’ Blue Whistling-Thrushes.  Species of note on the walk down included a number of Long-tailed Minivets, three Rufous-fronted Shrike-Babblers, Cinereous and Yellow-cheeked Tits, Velvet-fronted Nuthatches, two Grey-throated Babblers (on nearby Doi Suthep), and a male Rufous-bellied Niltava.

The next morning we visited Huai Hong Khrai Royal Development Study Center, a large area of lowland deciduous forest to the northeast of Chiang Mai.  Here we had outstanding views of a number of Green Peafowl, including adult males with the tail fully spread.  Other species of note included a mixed group of Swinhoe’s (Brown-rumped )and Rosy Minivets, a Japanese Sparrowhawk, two Eurasian Jays, a Slender-billed Oriole and three species of Old World flycatchers:  Hainan Blue, Tickell’s, and Asian Brown, the latter rare in the north of Thailand in mid-winter.  An Oriental Darter present for a time on the main pond was quite surprising and is only the 2nd time we have recorded this species on a Thailand tour.  Later near our accommodation at the base of Doi Inthanon, we watched a small flock of Blossom-headed Parakeets come in to their pre-roost site and also had several Rufous Treepies.

We left well before dawn the next morning for our trip to the summit of Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s tallest peak.  Above the temple we stopped to study a group of wintering Speckled Wood Pigeons and later also noted small groups of resident Ashy Wood Pigeons.  Around the summit and the bog just below we enjoyed mixed groups of stunning Gould’s and Green-tailed Sunbirds, and more somber colored, but distinctive Buff-bared and Ashy-throated  Warblers.  Also noted was a female type Red-flanked Bluetail (likely the newly split Himalayan Bluetail on probability), Yellow-bellied Fantails, Rufous-winged Fulvettas, and Chestnut-tailed Minlas, the latter only an arm’s reach away, a Dark-sided and a Chestnut Thrush as well as two very photogenic Grey-sided Thrushes, two White-browed Shortwings, Common Rosefinches, and a couple of Snowy-browed Flycathcers.  Two colorful Rufous-throated Partridges eventually came in just above the kitchen.  On the way back down we stopped at the check-point where we added a number of new species, including a pair of Grey-chinned Minivets.

We slept in a little the next morning and started at Mr. T’s platform a short distance from our accommodation.  Here the visibility was superb.  On the ridge above we had scope views of Black-hooded Oriole and a Crested Goshawk.  An Asian Barred-Owlet was perched just below the platform. Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters were much in evidence and the Blossom-headed Parakeets passed overhead.  A male Golden-fronted Leafbird was very cooperative.  Later, a little higher up the mountain at Wachiritan Waterfall we found bulbuls of several species and Blue-winged Leafbirds plentiful in a fruiting tree.  The bulbuls included Puff-throated and the stunning and range confined White-headed.  Later around the Royal Project we found a scarce wintering female Slaty-blue Flycatcher and a Grey-crowned Warbler along with the stunning White-capped Redstart and for a few a male Fire-breasted Flowerpecker.

On our final morning at Doi Inthanon we started at the check-point.  Highlights included an absolutely fluorescent male Asian Emerald Cuckoo along with Short-billed and Grey-chinned Minivets.  Several secretive Slaty-bellied Tesias were noted, including one seen well.  We also recorded three species of Niltavas, Large, Small and Vivid.  Perhaps the most enjoyed species of the morning were the striking and cooperative Spectacled Barwings.  Later after lunch we returned back to Chiang Mai.

Departing for Mae Tang the next morning we encountered a number of species.  These included Ruddy-breasted Crake, the resident jerdoni  subspecies of Little Ringed Plover, Common Snipe, Racket-tailed Treepie, Dusky and Thick-billed Warblers, Crested Buntings (2), and Yellow-eyed Babbler.  Nearby in the paddies we found Grey-headed Lapwings, a Citrine Wagtail and a Plain-backed Sparrow.  After lunch at Chiang Dao we headed up Doi Ang Khang where at the Royal Project before dinner we found a nice variety of species.  These included two Orange-bellied Leafbirds, a Streaked Spiderhunter, a male Black-breasted Thrush, and most notably ten Spot-winged Grosbeaks.

Our two full days were certainly enjoyable.  Our first morning was spent at the army checkpoint where White-browed Laughingthrushes and the stunning Scarlet-faced Liocichla were much in evidence.  Wintering Buff-throated Warblers were also close-by.  Just a little down the ridge we were treated to excellent views of Giant Nuthatch, appropriately named for the World’s largest nuthatch species.  At the two blinds we had nice views of a male White-tailed Robin and both male and female Grey-winged Blackbirds along with Black-breasted, Eyebrowed and Grey-sided Thrushes,  and then at dawn on our final morning a pair of striking Rusty-naped Pittas appeared in the dim light.

After breakfast we headed back down the mountain and head north towards Tha Ton.  We stopped at Fang Hot Stream.  Highlights there included several Black Bulbuls and a pair of Slaty-backed Forktails.  We birded a bit in the late afternoon along the Kok River. 

We arose very early the next morning for our trip up the southwest side of Doi Lang.  Our first stop was in open pine forest where we found both Grey-capped Woodpecker, Giant Nuthatch, Large Cuckoshrike,  a pair of Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrushes, and Slender-billed Oriole.  Our best sighting was an adult male Ultramarine Flycatcher, here returning for its second winter.  The species occurs only rarely in Thailand.  Just up the road we came across a caravan of cars and mini-buses, and blinds!  Although we were largely blocked from view, we were able to see a Mountain Bamboo Partridge along the side of the road. Hume’s Pheasants had been present just before our arrival.  Laurie Dann very likely got a quick look at one of the females.  In the herbage along the roadside were several Spot-breasted Parrotbills.  Eventually we carried on around the back side of the mountain, stopping at several blinds along the way.  We encountered a number of Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babblers and found a male Slaty-blue Flycatcher along with a couple of Siberian Rubythroats.  Several other flycatcher species were also present, notably Rufous-gorgeted, White-gorgeted, and a lovely male Sapphire Flycatcher, another rarity, and perhaps the same bird we recorded at this site two years ago.  At the army checkpoint we took a short hike and found several Crested Finchbills. 

On our last morning we birded a bit but didn’t add to much that was new, a single Bluethroat  and two Pin-tailed Snipes were perhaps our most notable sightings.  Then we headed south for the long drive back to Chiang Mai, stopping for ice cream at Chiang Dao Resort along the way.  We had another delicious buffet dinner at the Novotel after our flight back to Bangkok. 

Updated: n/a