Doi Inthanon Roadtrip

On quite short notice I joined my friends for a trip to Doi Inthanon. The main target was Wood Snipe as it had been seen again last week. I knew the odds were slim, so I didn’t expect to see it and to get to the point, we didn’t seen it. The days were super foggy and rainy on the mountain and it was like being back in the UK at some points. The first morning it was drizzling, foggy, around 14c and I was drinking a hot Earl Grey tea at the summit.

Female Himalayan Shortwing gathering nesting materials.

On the way to Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, we left Bangkok at around 21:30 and we were at the summit by 8am or earlier. My friend Lek did all of the driving which was quite a task! Big thanks to him for doing the hard work. It’s a nice feeling to leave the capital at night and be at the highest point in Thailand by the morning. The poor sleep, not such a nice feeling though.

Doi Inthanon is one of, if not the only, site for Ashy-throated Warbler in Thailand.

Since I had only been to Inthanon once before, earlier this year – for the same target bird. I’m still new to the area which allowed me to gather nearly 20 lifers on this trip, very close to the southern trip’s total a couple weeks ago! So, for me it was a very productive and enjoyable trip without the Wood Snipe.

Doi Inthanon Sunbird, this is the masterpiece I name: “Angkapoopsis”

It was around 2 days around Doi Inthanon and then the 3rd day we had to make the long drive back to Bangkok. This was the 13th which was eBird’s Global Big Day 2023, so the drive was juggled with stopping at birding sites whilst there was still sunlight.

Chestnut-tailed Minla is super abundant around the summit.

I will link the trip report of the 3 days which contains all the bird photos. On the 2nd night I joined Lek for some light herping and we got lucky to find the Chiang Mai Crocodile Newt right at the resort, and we eventually found Trimeresurus popeiorum. In terms of non-birds the trip was also super productive with many cool beetles, butterflies, damselflies and more. I post all of the photo to my iNaturalist account.

Streaked Spiderhunter at around 1,500m ASL

The trip was of course a great success, if you drop the notion of Wood Snipe which I had done long before we left Bangkok. To summarise the trip, it was birding, birding and then birding for Global Big Day whilst heading back to Bangkok on the 13th of May.

Two pairs of Silver-eared Laughingthrush were performing courtship displays at the summit.

The most memorable day was of course the drive back with global big day in mind. We started near the top of Inthanon, trying to get as many birds as possible. I got a handful of new birds including Mountain Bulbul and Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrush. It was another rainy and very foggy day but it eventually cleared up closer to lunchtime.

My first Mountain Bulbul.
My first Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrush. This female was perched beside the road, the photo was rescued from thick fog which engulfed the bird.
Female Small Niltava.

Our second stop lower down the mountain was less productive for birds, I did glimpse the Black-backed Forktail but that was pretty much it. There were plenty of insects around and it was cool seeing around 15 Green Snout Lanternflies.

Green Snout Lanternfly. If I made the name it would be blue-snouted.

At the bottom we stopped for the classic northern dish of Khao Soi and got to do some more lowland birding. It was a good time. We were heading for the Bang-Hong Non-hunting area in Lamphun province. On the drive across we had a handful of stops, one of which was this stunning Peregrine Falcon.

Ernest’s Peregrine Falcon. (Falco peregrinus ssp. ernesti)

After we arrived at the Non-Hunting area it wasn’t long to find our target of the endangered and native Green Peafowl. It was a relatively brief stop but we got amazing views of this species, we left as thunder was heard.

Green Peafowl was the bird of the day.
Not long after the Green Peafowl we made a quick stop to see these Crested Treeswift on the roadside wires.

We weren’t competitive for Global Big Day as we needed to drive a lot of the time. But, I also think taking it too seriously is no fun and isn’t birding at all. Our next main stop was a promising looking spot I found whilst we were nearby in the car. It was around 1 hr till sunset so we had to stop somewhere to get a few more species. The spot was Nong Cham in Tak province. It has an impressive 124 species in only 32 checklists. We managed 50 species in 52 minutes and was way better than expected. It was a beautiful agricultural area surrounded by mountains. The incoming rains and sunset made it stunning.

Yellow-eyed Babbler is always appreciated!
Long-tailed Shrike was a good indicator for the quality of habitat.
First heard then seen. Golden-headed Cisticola is a cool bird with a fun call and song.

You might be able to tell but I really enjoyed the birding there, it was my comfort zone. We managed to reach 98 total species after our brief stop here which was a nice total for the day! As the sun set, the skies also opened and it began pouring down. We set-off on the long road home. I eventually got home by 2:00am a big thanks to Ajarn and Lek for this super trip! The trip report with species/photos is HERE. I could have fleshed out the birding on Doi Inthanon but after the southern trip write-up I didn’t want to make anything too long.

The next day I was out again checking Phuthamonthon because the past few days has had many incredible reports late into spring migration. 2 days ago there was a Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo, but the day prior it wasn’t seen. Luckily for me, I discovered it again when I arrived in the mid-afternoon. It was a lifer for me, and I also got my first good pictures of Chestnut-winged Cuckoo and enjoyed the patch tick of Blue-winged Pitta.

Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo was an incredible welcome back to central Thailand.
You couldn’t make a more stunning bird… Chestnut-winged Cuckoo.
The very beautiful and equally cute Blue-winged Pitta.
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