Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Chiang Saen, Fang & DAK

I spent 5th-8th February birding northern Thailand with Dave Sargeant, who's excellent and extremely comprehensive is an invaluable guide to many of the sites that we visited.

We started on Friday afternoon at Chiang Saen lake in the hope of connecting with a recently reported drake Baer's Pochard, so spent a few hours 'scoping distant ducks. We found no sign of the Baer's but did catch up with a splendid drake Falcated Duck hat had been seen over the past week and it was unite a novelty for me to spend time liking at ducks as we have few opportunities to do so around Bangkok. The most numerous duck on the lake were Indian Spot-billed, with other dabblers including c.50 Pintail, and c.15 Garganey. We grilled the diving ducks and got c.25 Ferruginous Duck, one Common Pochard and three Tufted Duck. Other notable species here included two Pied Harriers and several Great Cormorants.

During the late afternoon we checked various areas for flocks of starlings (including flocks of Chestnut-tailed which at very common here) which might hold rarities as both White-cheeked and Red-billed Starlings have been seen in this area in recent week, but the highlight was hearing several Black-faced Buntings that had already gone to their roost, and glimpsing one of them.

Saturday was dedicated to Nam Kham Nature Reserve in the hope of seeing the wintering Firethroat - Thailand's only record of this species, which was first seen last winter. Unfortunately despite spending a total of 6 hours in the tiny hide in from it's favoured watering hole the bird did not show, but it was difficult to be dissappointed when a couple of Siberian Rubythroats  offered multiple, fantastic photo opportunities as a form of compensation.  Dave meanwhile visited another hide and saw two Paddyfield Warblers (very rare in Thailand).

Sunday started around the town of Fang, where a visit to the Hot Springs produced a Grey-faced Buzzard and three Eye-browed Thrushes, but not the hoped for Spot-winged Grosbeaks.  Our luck too a major turn for the better however when we checked out an area of paddyfields nearby which Dave had seen Chestnut-eared Bunting last winter and sure enough we found one  of these cracking birds in a ditch between two paddies - making me very happy as this was a much wanted world tick! This area also held a couple of Bluethroats and two Pied Harriers.

later in the morning we drove up to Doi Ang Khang ("DAK") where the target birds fell into place very quickly with a superb Black-breasted Thrush at the Royal Project, coming to food in the company of a Large Niltava, White-tailed RobinSiberian Blue Robin and Streaked Wren-babbler.

Black-breasted Thrush

Siberian Blue Robin

Streaked Wren-babbler

White-tailed Robin

Slaty-backed Flycatcher

We checked into our accommodation and Baan Luang Resort where we added Crested Finchbill to the list (another tick for me, having missed them on oi Lang twice!) as well as Brown-breasted Bulbul. Visiting the KM 21 trail produced another target bird - Bianchi's Warbler, with no less than three seen.  We also connected with an Aberrant Bush Warbler in this area and then a huge mixed flock that included  a pair of Clicking Shrike Babblers and a pair of Blyth's Shrike Babblers, Chinese Leaf Warbler, Claudia's Leaf Warbler, Rufous-backed Sibia and Chestnut-sided White-eye.  This was followed by a visit to the Chinese Cemetary area which provided excellent views of a male Daurian Redstart plus Large Hawk Cuckoo and (resident Maurus) Siberian Stonechat.

Daurian Redstart

After a very cold and noisy night (it was Chinese New Year!) we spent Monday morning checking for a reported Grey-winged Blackbird that did not show up, but instead we secured views of Scarlet-faced Liocichla, White-browed Laughtingthrush, and Silver-eared Laughingthrush and this area also allowed me to get some nice images of Dark-backed Sibia.

Dark-backed Sibia

A visit back to the Royal Project gave us a lucky break as some bird photographers there had baited  an area with mealworms and the star of the show - a Rusty-naped Pitta - was happy to perform in exchange for a snack!

Another check of various points around DAK for Black-headed Greenfinch failed to produce the goods, but we ran into  three Pallas's Warblers, a party of Grey-chinned Minivets in one area and a group of three male Short-billed Minivets in another area, plus good views of a calling Yellow-streaked Warbler and several Grey Bushchats.

Pallas's Warbler

Grey-chinned Minivet

Yellow-streaked Warbler

We finished the trip with lunch back at the resort and an hour staking out the garden which held Grey-sided, Eye-browed, Black-breasted and Blue Whistling Thrushes, as well as an Amur Wagtail.

Grey-sided Thrush

Eye-browed Thrush

Grey-sided & Eye-browed Thrush

Brown-breasted Bulbul

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