once before experienced the thrills of Doi
Inthanon, the time had come for another exciting trip.
This year Thailand
has experienced some unusual drops in temperature with even a slight
fraction of under 10 degrees Celsius here in Bangkok. So we all
had to scramble to find enough warm clothing for our adventure up
ahead. Temperatures of below zero had been recorded at the summit
of DI around New Year.
We pulled out
of Bangkok before 6 am taking the new nice expressway out of town.
Estimated 8-9 hours travelling before arriving at DI. About 100
km outside of Bangkok thick fog rolled in over the highway and we
were forced to pull our van over by the roadside as it was virtually
impossible to go on driving. This was a real test of everyone’s
patience as we all were ‘dying’ to get going. After
a little over an hour we slowly started driving again. Meanwhile
we had watched many screeching ghostlike vehicles come roaring by
in the intense fog. We figured ‘an hour lost on earth is better
than a life lost for eternity’ and so had to bid our time.
After only a few hundred meters there was a big pile up of smashed
cars and after another few hundred meters there was a gigantic earthmover
overturned right over a pick-up truck. This had happened about the
time we would have been passing so we were all very thankful for
our Heavenly protection.
The long ride
went fine. Upon arrival we found out the whole park would be shut
down for visitors shortly as the Queen of Thailand was coming to
inaugurate her new residence. We spent a couple of nights at the
regular campground by headquarters but then decided to move on to
the campground at Huay Sai Luang waterfall. This is located a 6
km drive off the road from km 37. It’s a winding road through
beautiful stands of pine (planted I believe) for the first part.
Then a graveled bump road (not suitable for normal passenger car)
leads down to an estimated altitude of 12-1300 meters. Here the
forest is mainly deciduous broadleaf. The campground is located
next to a stream and here one can be guaranteed of long and spectacular
sights of female Plumbeous Redstart
feeding from the boulders in the stream. Two individuals were present
the whole time we were there, about 100 meters a part from each
other. Slaty-backed Forktail can readily
be seen here as well and Great Tit
is also rather common. (Somehow seems out of place here in the tropics!)
as cold at this campground but due to the presence of the stream
the air was moist and one can easily get a little chilled.
A further 500m
from campground took us to the waterfall, Mae Baan. To get their
we had to walk through some more moist shady area and here we encountered
Pygmy-Wren Babbler, Long-tailed
Broadbill as well as Speckled Piculet.
Other birds along the way were Orange-bellied
Leafbird. (This bird has a beautiful song it likes to sound
off), Rosy Minivets as well as a pair
of Velvet-fronted Nuthatches. Then
comes a crossroad leading either down or up the fall. We chose the
way up as a pair of tourists was going the way down. This proved
to be a correct decision. Our goal, besides refreshing ourselves
in the cold waters, was to find the famous River
Chat and male Plumbeous Redstart.
About 200 meters
after the road divider we took a peak down the fall. The waters
have carved out rather steep banks down along its course and the
waters were rushing towards lower ground. There on a branch next
to the waters a River Chat were perching
in splendid colors. It drew lots of ‘aahs and oohs’
from the boys! Only a few feet away the male Redstart were faithfully
feeding from the low-lying boulders.We tried to approach the birds
a bit closer slowly moving down the banks. However this attracted
their attention and they went further down the fall. On top of it
I dropped my camera resulting in a broken flash. Then after having
refreshed us in the cold waters up above we took to the bottom of
the fall and fought our way back up along the banks. This led to
more views of the birds.
A visit to Mr.
Daang’s restaurant filled us in on the latest. He told us
that Red-throated, Chestnut
and Dusky Thrush were present at the
summit. These birds are very irregular visitors at the top of the
mountain flying in from as far away as Siberia. Also Blue-fronted
Redstart, he said, were present. Naturally we tried to get
these birds but somehow never saw any. Many other birders confirmed
their presence though. We did see Scaly Thrush
at the summit and large flocks of Eye-browed
Thrushes around km 37. Dark-sided Thrush,
a resident bird, was also present in the bog.
Right next to
Mr. Daang’s shop a little feeder had been put up. Here the
Rufous-bellied Niltava allowed for
long views and photography. Very colorful bird! Also female Blue-throated
Flycatcher used the feeder as food provider along with Blue-whistling
Well, back up
the summit we didn’t encounter anything different from the
previous year. Woodcock was not seen
this year. The Sunbirds were small in numbers as a result of the
frost having had a detrimental affect on the rhododendrons that
normally attract the birds. While we were there the temperature
went down to 3 degrees one morning. Experiencing frost on the ground
was a new experience for some of us. However we did have an amazing
encounter with a group of Rufous-throated
Partridges. These ground dwelling birds were almost tame
and got as close as 1-2 meters from us. We felt like we could have
picked them up in our hands. My experience with Partridges in general
is that all you get is a quick glimpse of them and then it is all
At the jeep
track we had two life birds. Small
and Large Niltavas. Deep blue colors
appearing black if not enough light. Black-eared
Shrike-Babbler was here again and Green
Magpies were seen high in the canopy but generally this part
is rather quiet. I was told by regular visits to the park that the
most productive part of the track is the first few hundred meters.
It is a very tranquil and lush forest though and most worthy of
the road there was more activity with the most interesting birds
being, Spectacled Barwing, Silver-eared
Mesia, Mountain Tailorbird,
Striated Bulbul, Rufous-winged
and Grey-cheeked Fulvettas as well
as Chestnut-backed and Black-headed
Sibia. Stripe-breasted Woodpecker
flew across the opening (a lifer) and Maroon
Oriole kept to the canopy of some taller trees (also a lifer).
A flock of Wedge-tailed Pigeons calmly
occupied another tree and Ashy-throated Pigeons
could at times be seen dashing through the trees. Here we also saw
Vivid Niltava perching from a treetop.
Its behavior being different from other flycatchers which prefer
middle or lower storey.
We skipped the
lower elevations this time as the main attraction is the higher
grounds. Many more life birds could probably be produced if we’d
had more time but all in all it was satisfactory and we hope to
be back again sometime.