Photos with this report (click to enlarge)
Doi Inthanon Area Map
Doi Chiang Dao Substations Area Map
From my base in Chiang Mai I was able to make several very productive birding trips to local national parks.
Transport was by rented motorcycle, a 125cc Honda Dream from “A” Rent-a-Car along Moon Muang Road, just north of the Tha Pae Gate. There are many similar outlets in the area and competition is tough, particularly in the low season, so I was able to negotiate a rate of just 700 baht per week (about GBP 1.50 per day).
A motorbike is certainly the cheapest and most convenient form of transport. Riding can be a little hair-raising in Chiang Mai city but once out on the open road the traffic rapidly diminishes. It was also very useful for reaching the substation area of Doi Chiang Dao along a very rough track which would not be passable in a 2WD car.
Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand (alt. 2565m) lies south-west of Chiang Mai, about an hour and a half by motorbike from the city. To get there, follow route 108 as far as Km 57, then turn right onto route 1009. Take the right-hand fork after 8km onto the summit road, and purchase your entrance permit from the checkpoint, 200 baht per foreigner plus an additional fee of 20 baht for your motorcycle.
The main birding sites and distances along the summit road are shown on the map above (not to scale).
I stayed at the Karen Eco-Lodge, clearly signposted at Km 26 along the summit road. Although the posted price was 400 baht per night for a basic bungalow, they gladly accepted 200 baht as the place was almost empty. Other accommodation options include bungalows at the Park HQ which were way beyond my budget. Even renting a tent and bedding to use at the campsite would have come to nearly 300 baht per night. The cheapest option is to bring your own tent.
As mentioned in many previous reports, Mr Daeng’s restaurant at Km 31.5 does indeed serve excellent food, and Mr Daeng himself and the logbook at his restaurant provide all the latest info on birds seen in the area.
The weather was distinctly chilly on the summit in the early morning, as low as 10 degrees Celsius. By contrast, lower areas, particularly the Km 13 trails, were very hot by late morning. Heavy showers occurred daily, particularly in the afternoons.
I concentrated on birding the main sites shown on the map above, as follows:
21st April : Summit area early morning, Km34.5 trail late morning, Km37.5 trail afternoon.
22nd April : Km34.5 trail morning, Km20 waterfall afternoon.
23rd April : Km37.5 trail morning, Km13 trail early afternoon, Km34.5 trail late afternoon.
24th April : Summit area early morning, Km37.5 trail late morning, Km34.5 trail afternoon.
25th April : Km13 trail early morning before heading back to Chiang Mai.
In addition some interesting species were seen along the summit road, around the Karen Eco-Lodge, and at the Royal Gardens reached by turning left at the road fork in the village.
Sightings by area :
1) Summit and Summit Marsh trail
A fairly limited range of species but some of the birds found here were seen nowhere else on the mountain. This area is best on weekdays and in the very early morning before the hordes of Thai tourists arrive.
Yellow-bellied Fantail – 1, summit marsh
Green Cochoa – 2 seen twice in trees beside boardwalk at summit marsh
Snowy-browed Flycatcher – 1 male, summit marsh
White-browed Shortwing – common
Ashy-throated Warbler – common
Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush – common around summit in early morning and very confiding
Chestnut-tailed Minla – common
Green-tailed Sunbird – common
Also around summit, summit marsh and last 2km of summit road : Golden-throated Barbet, White-throated Fantail, Blue Whistling Thrush, Verditer Flycatcher, Mountain Bulbul, Mountain Tailorbird, White-tailed and Blyth’s Leaf Warblers (not all phylloscs seen were identified but both species were certainly present), Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Dark-backed Sibia.
I was disappointed to miss Chestnut Thrush, two of which had been reported near the warden’s kitchen at the summit. I saw no other wintering thrushes and concluded that they had probably already departed by the end of April.
2) Km 37.5 “jeep track” trail
This trail starts just after the second checkpoint as you ascend the summit road, on the right hand side of the road almost directly opposite the road junction. There are marker posts every 100 metres along the trail to help with locating the birds mentioned in Mr Daeng’s logbook! There were many birds in here but the forest is very tall and it was frustratingly difficult to obtain good views – many more species were heard than seen. After the primary forest ended, the trail became pretty overgrown and I didn’t explore any further.
Bay Woodpecker – 1 at trail entrance
Red-headed Trogon – 1 at 600m
Orange-breasted Trogon – pair at 500m
Short-billed Minivet – 2
White-tailed Robin – male at 150m
Yellow-cheeked Tit – several
Slaty-bellied Tesia – 2
Streaked Wren-babbler – pair, 400m
Golden Babbler – several with bird-waves
Grey-throated Babbler – 2 pairs
Black-throated Sunbird - 1
Others seen : Golden-throated Barbet, Lesser racket-tailed Drongo, White-throated Fantail, Blue Whistling Thrush, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, White-tailed Leaf Warbler, Rufous-winged and Grey-cheeked Fulvettas.
3) Km 34.5 “jeep track” trail
This was by far the most productive and easiest to work trail. It often seemed better in the afternoons than the mornings, in fact even on my fourth visit late on the afternoon of the 24th I managed to see five new “trip ticks”. The first 1km or so before the track junction was the best area, but I also saw some interesting birds along both trails after the junction and also in the area of the tower near the entrance to the trail.
Stripe-breasted Woodpecker – pair in tower area
Great Barbet – 1 seen plus others heard
Red-headed Trogon – 1
Besra – 1
Long-tailed Broadbill – 1
Maroon Oriole – male seen plus others heard
Grey-chinned Minivet – 2
Short-billed Minivet – 2
Asian Paradise-flycatcher – 1
Green Cochoa – 2 on the ground at the corner just before the large fallen tree
Large Niltava – fairly common
Yellow-cheeked Tit – 2
Greenish Warbler – 1 in pines after track fork
White-browed Shrike-babbler – 2
Black-eared Shrike-babbler – 1
Chestnut-fronted Shrike-babbler – 1
Blue-winged Minla – 2
Rufous-backed Sibia – 2
Silver-eared Mesia – several flocks seen especially in scrub below tower
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker – several
Black-throated Sunbird – 3
Others seen : Greater Coucal, House Swift, Bronzed Drongo, Lesser racket-tailed Drongo, Ashy Woodswallow, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Grey-headed canary Flycatcher, Blue Whistling Thrush, Red-throated Flycatcher, Verditer Flycatcher, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Asian House Martin and Red-rumped Swallow (both over valley viewed from tower), Oriental and Japanese White-eye (in scrub below tower), Flavescent, Red-whiskered and Mountain Bulbuls, Hill Prinia (around tower), Mountain Tailorbird, White-tailed Leaf Warbler, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Streaked Spiderhunter, Olive-backed Pipit, White-rumped Munia.
The only major disappointment here was missing Purple Cochoa. Given the numbers of birds here, I reckon this trail would be the best area to look for it.
4) The summit road between Km 45 and Km 20, the Royal Gardens behind the village at Km 30, the Karen Eco-Lodge area at Km 26 and the waterfall at Km 20
Freewheeling slowly down the road on the motorbike allowed many interesting birds to be seen.
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater – pair at Km 23
Oriental Honey-buzzard – over the road at Km 35 and Km 26
Rufous-winged Buzzard – 1,Km 26
Grey-backed Shrike – 1, Km 33
Large-billed Crow – 1, Km 26
Little Pied Flycatcher – male at Km 39
White-capped Water Redstart – 1, Km 20 waterfall
Grey Bushchat – common around Km 43 to Km 41
Striated Bulbul – 3 at Km 44
Hume’s Warbler – 1 showed well with phyllosc flock at Km 43
Yellow-bellied Warbler – 1, Km 20 waterfall
Spectacled Barwing – 1, Km 36
Silver-eared Mesia – several flocks
White-bellied Yuhina – 4, royal gardens
Plain Flowerpecker – 1, Km 43
Others seen : Plaintive Cuckoo, Greater Coucal, Shikra, Blue-winged Leafbird, Ashy Drongo, White-throated Fantail, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Blue Whistling Thrush, Oriental and Japanese White-eye, Black-crested, Flavescent, Red-whiskered and Mountain Bulbuls, Hill Prinia, Mountain Tailorbird, phylloscopus warblers, fulvettas, Dark-backed Sibia.
5) Km 13 “ridge trail”
This trail was best in the early mornings as the relatively low altitude meant it got very hot after 10am.
Black-headed Woodpecker – 1, 1km along ridge
Greater Yellownape – 1, same area as above
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker – 2, same area as both above species
Mountain Hawk Eagle – 1
Collared Falconet – 1 in trees beside river
Others seen : Lineated Barbet, Asian Barred Owlet, Shikra, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Greater racket-tailed Drongo, Black-naped Monarch, Black-headed, Black-crested and Sooty-headed Bulbuls, Rufescent Prinia, Dark-necked Tailorbird.
Total species seen on Doi Inthanon : 100
DOI CHIANG DAO
Doi Chiang Dao lies due north of Chiang Mai. From the city take route 107 north for approximately 73km, as far as the town of Chiang Dao.
There are two main birding areas here:
1) The Temple area and temple trails
The Temple lies along a minor road, 2km beyond the well-known tourist attraction of Chiang Dao cave. There are two ways to get there from Chiang Dao – either turn left in the centre of town towards the cave and “Malee’s”, or alternatively take the almost-completed Chiang Dao by-pass and turn left at the first major crossroads after the incomplete section.
Detailed maps and information on this area is already available in the log book at Malee’s bungalows, and in other trip reports, so I have not provided a map or instructions. I spent relatively little time here, a total of one afternoon in the Gully near the Temple, and one morning walking the Gully and North Trails.
2) The substations area
I make no apologies for giving very precise directions and providing a detailed map below, as I found very little good access information for the substation, either on the Internet or in the bird logbook at Malee’s.
From the cave road/main road junction in central Chiang Dao, drive back towards Chiang Mai for 5km. Look out for a green bus shelter on the left, standing in the corner of a field by the road. Opposite this is a concrete road with a sign in Thai. Proceed through the village along this paved road. The road then crosses a stream and continues through rice paddies. 3km from the main road junction, the paved road ends. Bear left on the unmade track as it starts ascending the mountain. This track is rough in places although there are a few concreted sections. It continues through forest and then passes two small villages.
Approximately 12km from the start of the unmade track, 15km or so from the main road, you arrive at a checkpoint. Almost immediately afterwards the track forks :
The RIGHT FORK goes to the Den Ya Khat (DYK) substation. The route passes along a ridge with mature pines (the best area for Giant Nuthatch), and then climbs up some steep hairpins (Mrs Hume’s Pheasant in the open forest) before arriving at the DYK substation approximately 5km from the track fork.
The LEFT FORK ends up at another substation, which I have imaginatively entitled substation 2. To get there, continue along the main track from the junction, remaining on the higher trail and ignoring tracks branching off to the left and right. Shortly before the substation, you pass an area of well-maintained bungalows on a ridge to the right of the track (is it possible to stay here?). 100 metres or so further along, 3km from the track fork at the checkpoint, there is an obvious open grassy area and group of buildings to the left. I left my motorcycle here and continued along the track on foot for another 4km, seeing plenty of birds including some species that are rarely or never reported from DYK.
Many birders worry about the state of the access track and opt to hire a 4WD vehicle and driver for the day from Malee’s. This option was outside the scope of my budget so I had no choice but to attempt the climb on an ordinary 125cc motorcycle. I really needn’t have worried, as even after several days of heavy rain the track was easily passable. It probably wouldn’t be so easy in a 2WD car ; ground clearance could be an issue along some of the rougher sections.
The rough map at the beginning of this report, showing the access route to the substations, may be helpful.
3) Other information
I stayed at Malee’s Bungalows, 1.5km beyond Chiang Dao cave, for 250 baht per night for a simple room with shared bathroom. Unfortunately, 100 baht dormitory accommodation is no longer available. Excellent food is served communally in the evenings so it’s ideal if you’re on your own. The logbook provided plenty of information about bird sightings but had not been updated since March. There was also some good information in the log about Doi Angkhang for birders proceeding to that area after Doi Chiang Dao. Malee’s is within easy walking distance of the Temple and its birds.
These are available from the forestry headquarters a short distance along the road from Malee’s to the Temple. A permit is needed to access the substations beyond the checkpoint, and also to proceed along the road beyond Malee’s, but is not required to visit the trails around the Temple. The cost is 200 baht for foreigners, but it is valid for as many days as you want (mention at the office that you want to go to the substation and specify how many days you would like). Despite dutifully buying my permit it was never checked, but if the guards decide to do so at the substations checkpoint it’s a long way to come back and get one!
Mrs Hume’s Pheasant – male showed superbly in the open forest between the hairpin bends, near the DYK substation
Speckled Piculet – 1, 50m before substations checkpoint
Stripe-breasted Woodpecker – common beyond substation 2
Greater Yellownape – 2 on North Trail
Bay Woodpecker – 2 along track before substation 2
Hoopoe – 3 along DYK ridge
Blue-bearded Bee-eater – several near the small villages along access road to substations, also 1 on North Trail
Himalayan Swiftlet – flock over road behind Malee’s, beyond checkpoint
Crested Treeswift – 3 around temple on two dates
Brown-backed Needletail – 5+ over DYK ridge
Mountain Imperial Pigeon – 1 on North Trail, 1 along substations access road, many others heard
Oriental Turtle Dove – 3 singles along track beyond substation 2
Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon – 3+ in fruiting tree along Gully Trail
Pin-tailed Green Pigeon – 1 with above birds
Emerald Dove – common along access road to substations in the early morning, also seen along Gully Trail
Black Baza – 2+ along North Trail
Silver-breasted Broadbill – 1 along track before substation 2
Orange-bellied Leafbird – 2, DYK ridge
Grey Treepie – seen in several places along the tracks to DYK and substation 2
Slender-billed Oriole – 2, DYK ridge
Maroon Oriole – 1 along track before substation 2, 2 along DYK ridge
Black-headed Oriole – pair frequently seen at the start of the track to the park headquarters
Black-winged Cuckooshrike – 2 singles along DYK ridge
Grey-chinned Minivet – 2 pairs, DYK ridge
Asian Paradise-flycatcher – fairly common
Large Woodshrike – several flocks along DYK ridge
Dark-sided Flycatcher – 1, just before DYK substation
Little Pied Flycatcher – 2 along DYK ridge but it was very common in the pine forest beyond substation 2
Pale Blue Flycatcher – 1 pair DYK ridge and 1 pair beyond substation 2
Hill Blue Flycatcher – common
White-crowned Forktail – pair and 1+ juveniles in Temple Gully, 1 near small villages along track to the substations
Giant Nuthatch – pair with juvenile along DYK ridge and 1 further single bird near the hairpins, also 1 in mature pines just before the substations checkpoint
Chestnut-vented Nuthatch – almost all sightings were beyond substation 2 where it was very common
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch – common
Striated Bulbul – 2 beyond substation 2
Crested Finchbill – 1 in scrub along track close to substation 2, a species rarely recorded along the DYK track
Greater necklaced Laughingthrush – flock of 6+ including juveniles on North Trail
Buff-breasted Babbler – common along Gully and North Trails + nest found
Spot-throated Babbler – 1 beyond substation 2 just beyond first track junction
Rufous-fronted Babbler – common, North Trail
Grey-throated Babbler – temple steps
Puff-throated Babbler – temple steps and along road outside Malee’s
Striped Tit-babbler – fairly common
Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler – 4 in scrub close to substation 2
White-browed Scimitar-babbler – fairly common beyond substation 2
White-browed Shrike-babbler – common
Chestnut-fronted Shrike-babbler – 1, DYK ridge
Blue-winged Minla – several along DYK ridge and also beyond substation 2
Silver-eared Mesia – 3 beyond substation 2
Striated Yuhina – common
Grey-headed Parrotbill – 4, DYK ridge
Black-throated Parrotbill – 2 in bird-wave beyond substation 2, a species not previously mentioned in the log book at Malee’s
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker – several beyond substation 2
Thick-billed Flowerpecker – 1, North Trail
Purple Sunbird – 1 at end of Malee’s drive
Black-throated Sunbird – several beyond substation 2
Ruby-cheeked Sunbird – seen several times in temple area
Streaked Spiderhunter – several
Little Spiderhunter – regularly seen near temple
Other species (including a brief visit to rice paddies near Chiang Dao) :
Red Junglefowl, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Blue-throated Barbet, Great Barbet, Plaintive Cuckoo, Green-billed Malkoha, Greater Coucal, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, House Swift, Asian Barred Owlet, Spotted Dove, Crested Serpent Eagle, Shikra, Chinese Pond Heron, Blue-winged Leafbird, Common Iora, Scarlet Minivet, Bronzed Drongo, Ashy Drongo, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, White-throated Fantail, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Black-naped Monarch, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Verditer Flycatcher, White-rumped Shama, Great Tit, Oriental White-eye, Japanese White-eye, Black-crested Bulbul, Black-headed Bulbul, Flavescent Bulbul, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Sooty-headed Bulbul, Black Bulbul, Puff-throated Bulbul, Mountain Bulbul, Grey-eyed Bulbul, Rufescent Prinia, Hill Prinia, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Common Tailorbird, Mountain Tailorbird, Blyth’s Leaf Warbler, White-tailed Leaf Warbler, Yellow-bellied Warbler, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Olive-backed Sunbird, White-rumped Munia, Scaly-breasted Munia.
Total species seen at Doi Chiang Dao : 110
DOMINIC LE CROISSETTE 19th May 2006