Silver Pheasant, Vivid Niltava, Doi Pui, February 26th

The perfect bike for getting from Huay Tung Tao to the Doi Pui campground, the difficult way (10km of steep dirt tracks and woodland paths).
The perfect vehicle for getting from Huay Tung Tao to the Doi Pui campground – the difficult way (10km of steep dirt tracks and woodland paths).

After a successful early morning at Huay Tung Tao lake, I decided to head to the Doi Pui national park. In most vehicles, this would involve a journey of about 35km on sealed roads. However, for those in the know and with suitable wheels, it is possible to get there on dirt tracks and woodland roads – it’s about 10km straight up the mountain, with some seriously steep sections and a lot of loose sand and rocks to contend with.

On arrival at the campground, I decided to hike to the summit – I had never actually been to the top of the 1,685m-high Doi Pui, and I reckoned there should be some birds to see along the way. It’s about a 4km round trip hike to the summit from the campground, the narrow trail passing through some excellent montane broadleaved forest, with some pines and slightly more open forest near the top.

As is often the case with birding, I didn’t see either of my “targets” – the rather tricky Green Cochoa and Long-tailed Broadbill, both of which I have seen before in the park. I did however make some excellent observations. Early in the walk, patience and persistence finally resulted in good views of an Eyebrowed Wren-Babbler foraging in the leaf litter, and a small flock of Eyebrowed Thrushes was also good to see. At the top, literally directly above the summit sign, a male Vivid Niltava was unusual in that it was a South-East Asia tick for me, but not a year tick (it’s a common montane bird in Taiwan but it’s the first time I’ve seen it in Thailand, where it’s a scarce winter visitor).

Heading down the mountain via a slightly different route, I had brief views of a pair of Silver Pheasants on the trail ahead of me. The male is stunning, almost pure white on the back and tail. Forest pheasants in Thailand are generally scarce and very shy, so this was a real star bird to see. A Scaly Thrush flushed from the trail and later seen perched on a low branch was another bird I never tire of seeing.

Finally, nearing the bottom of the trail, I not only saw a pair of Clicking Shrike-Babblers (year tick and only the second or third time I have seen this species), but I also found their nest – a really nice way to round off a very productive and enjoyable morning.

South-East Asia Tick: Vivid Niltava (total 650). 2015 Year Ticks: Eyebrowed Wren-Babbler, Silver Pheasant, Clicking Shrike-Babbler (total 416).

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Red Avadavat, Rufous Treepie, Huay Tung Tao, February 26th

Most visiting birders in northern Thailand concentrate on mountainous areas – and with good reason, for the mountains are where most of the special birds of the region can be found.

However, after focusing your energies on finding birds at high altitudes, you can often find that some relatively common lowland birds are missing from your list. The lake of Huay Tung Tao, just a few kilometers north of Chiang Mai city, is a good place to catch up with some familiar lowland birds, as well as offering the chance of a few specialities of its own.

Shortly after dawn is an excellent time to visit this site – the day trippers haven’t arrived yet, and the air around the lake is cool and peaceful. One of the first birds I saw was a mid-sized Acrocephalus warbler in some bushes near the lake. After quickly eliminating the common Thick-billed Warbler and Oriental Reed Warbler, I was left with a choice of various extremely similar species to ascribe it to. In all likelihood it was a Blunt-winged Warbler, a regular winterer in Thailand and the most likely candidate.

Mystery warbler aside, the best birds this morning were: a Rufous Treepie (one of Huay Tung Tao’s specialities), a Lesser Coucal preening in full view in the morning sun, a Thick-billed Warbler, and a small flock of Red Avadavats including a male moulting into breeding plumage.

2015 Year Ticks: Grey-breasted Prinia, Rufous Treepie, Lesser Coucal, Red Avadavat (total 413).

Grey-sided Thrush, Hume’s Treecreeper, Banded Bay Cuckoo, Doi Inthanon, February 23rd-25th

The ever-beautiful Vachirathan Waterfall at Km 20.5 on Doi Inthanon - even in the dry season it probably qualifies as one of the more impressive waterfalls in Thailand.
The ever-beautiful Vachirathan Waterfall at Km 20.5 on Doi Inthanon – even in the dry season it probably qualifies as one of the more impressive waterfalls in Thailand.

Nine years after my first visit to Doi Inthanon, this flagship site for birding in Thailand still has the power to deliver a lifer or three. It’s an impressive national park, notable for not only containing Thailand’s highest mountain (altitude 2,565m), but also providing some extremely varied and interesting birding across a number of altitudes and habitat types.

I spent an afternoon, a full day, and a final morning here, varying my birding locations in order to maximise my chances of seeing as many year ticks as possible.

Base camp of operations was – as usual – Mr Daeng’s excellent B+B, a few hundred yards along from the Doi Inthanon visitor center at approximately Km 31. Mr Daeng’s place goes from strength to strength, with the food getting better with every visit – and the rooms still priced at a very reasonable 500 baht per night.

I saw about 80 species on the mountain, a slightly lower total than previous visits, but this one was by far my best in terms of quality.

A short breakdown of the bird areas I visited this time:

Km 13: a dry and very hot area of deciduous forest, often seeming quite birdless but several key species are here.

Km 20.5: Vachirathan Waterfall, the largest falls in the park and worth a look for redstarts and forktails.

Km 24: Sirithan Waterfall, much less visited than Vachirathan and another spot worth trying for river species.

Km 30: Siriphun Waterfall, campsite, and the hills beyond – a side road through the village of Khun Klang leads to several good birding areas.

Km 34.5: excellent trail through broadleaved evergreen forest and bamboo.

Km 37.5: pristine evergreen forest, tough birding but some good species are in here. Also a roadside stakeout for several retiring species attracted to photographer’s bait.

Km 45-47: roadside good for warblers, sunbirds etc.

Km 47: the summit and Ang Ka nature trail/boardwalk, a unique (in Thailand) Himalayan sphagnum bog, good for many of Doi Inthanon’s special birds.

A thick carpet of fallen leaves at the deciduous forest at Km 13. This site gets very hot from about 9am onwards and is best visited in the very early morning.
A thick carpet of fallen leaves at the deciduous forest at Km 13. This site gets very hot from about 9.00am onwards and is best visited in the very early morning.

Highlights:

  • Grey Nightjar – one over the road at dawn at approximately Km 44.
  • Black-tailed Crake – heard on successive evenings at the campsite marsh but not seen (therefore not included on my list).
  • Grey-sided Thrush – excellent views of a male at the summit marsh.
  • Dark-sided Thrush – at least four birds at the summit marsh early morning.
  • Rufous-throated Partridge – just one at the summit marsh.
  • White-browed Shortwing – three males seen at the summit marsh, plus a female at the roadside at Km 37.5.
  • Lesser Shortwing – female behind Mr Daeng’s.
  • Hume’s Treecreeper – pair at Km 34.5.
  • Banded Bay Cuckoo – a pair showing very well in a bare tree at Siriphun Waterfall, the male in full song.
  • Black-headed Woodpecker – at least 5 at Km 13
  • Blossom-headed Parakeet – one at Km 13
  • Rosy Minivet – pair at Sirithan Waterfall.
  • White-capped Water Redstart – one at Siriphun Waterfall, a real stunner.
  • White-headed Bulbul – several along roadside, on Khun Wang road 6.5km from the intersection.
  • Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher – a real surprise was a pair showing extremely well along the steps to the Sirithan Waterfall, the male in full song.
  • Snowy-browed Flycatcher – three males along roadside between Km 46 and Km 47.
  • Small Niltava – female by the roadside at Km 37.5.
  • Large Niltava – several at Km 34.5
  • Pygmy Wren-Babbler – pair at the summit marsh.
  • Slaty-bellied Tesia – abundant along the Km 37.5 trail but hard to see, one eventually showed fairly well.
  • Ashy-throated Warbler – common at the summit, isolated population on Doi Inthanon is the only one in Thailand.
  • Blyth’s Leaf Warbler – several at the summit marsh, to my knowledge the only place in Thailand where this subtle species can be seen.
  • Two-barred Warbler – one at Km 34.5.
  • Siberian Blue Robin – male behind Mr Daeng’s.
  • Ashy Woodpigeon – at least four between Km 45 and Km 47.
  • Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon – one at Sirithan Waterfall, and one at Km 34.5 trail on successive afternoons.
  • Common Rosefinch – five at the summit marsh.

Lifers: Grey-sided Thrush, Hume’s Treecreeper, Banded Bay Cuckoo (total 1,808).

2015 Year List Total: 409

Blue Whistling Thrush at Doi Inthanon summit. This is the yellow-billed race, a common winter visitor to the area.
Blue Whistling Thrush at Doi Inthanon summit. This individual is of the yellow-billed race, a common winter visitor to the area – the dark-billed resident race is less often seen but is also present here.

Hodgson’s Frogmouth, Himalayan Cutia, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Sapphire Flycatcher, Doi Lang, February 19th and 20th

White-gorgeted Flycatcher, Doi Lang, February 19th - one of seven flycatcher species seen at the site.
White-gorgeted Flycatcher, Doi Lang, February 19th – one of seven flycatcher species seen at the site.

It’s only been accessible to the general public for a few years, but in that time Doi Lang has achieved the status among birders of being possibly northern Thailand’s premier birding location. Literally straddling the Myanmar border, about as far north and west as you can go, in winter this mountainous area holds several Himalayan species that are seldom or never found elsewhere in Thailand.

It’s a fascinating place, for several reasons. First of all, it’s a true frontier zone, lying in a sensitive area with a disputed border. Chances are, at some points along the road, you are technically in Myanmar. The Thai army strictly controls the road, and at the time of writing it isn’t possible to complete the loop from Fang to Tha Ton because a 5km-long stretch of the road is completely out of bounds.

Second, the birding is fantastic, especially early morning and late afternoon. The open pine/oak forest on the western approach road contains all the birds one would expect in such habitat, for example Mrs Hume’s Pheasant, Giant Nuthatch and Grey-headed Parrotbill, with the added bonus of abundant wintering flycatchers and extremely sought-after species such as Himalayan Cutia.

I spent an afternoon and a morning along the western approach road, totalling about 7 hours birding, with the following highlights:

  • Hodgson’s Frogmouth – one roosting in a tree close to the road.
  • Himalayan Cutia – three.
  • Ultramarine Flycatcher – one male.
  • Sapphire Flycatcher – at least one male.
  • Slaty-backed Flycatcher – one male.
  • White-gorgeted Flycatcher – one.
  • Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher – one.
  • Large Niltava – one female.
  • Mrs Hume’s Pheasant – one male on road.
  • Mountain Bamboo-Partridge – two on road.
  • Giant Nuthatch – one seen plus others heard.
  • Grey-headed Parrotbill – two flocks.
  • Himalayan Bluetail – two.
  • Siberian Rubythroat – two showed well.
  • Rufous-backed Sibia – several parties.
  • Dark-backed Sibia – common.
  • Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler – common.
  • Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush – two.
  • Large Cuckooshrike – two.
  • Black-winged Cuckooshrike – one.
  • Indochinese Cuckooshrike – four.
  • Cinereous Tit – two.
  • Short-billed Minivet – common.
  • Slender-billed Oriole – several.
  • Golden Babbler – one.
  • Common Rosefinch – one male.
  • Lemon-rumped Warbler – one seen well and heard calling.
  • Bianchi’s Warbler – several seen well and heard calling.
  • Asian Stubtail – one.

Several of the birds – for example, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Hodgson’s Frogmouth, and one of the Siberian Rubythroats – were well staked-out by photographers. The latter bird was coming to mealworms right out in the open, most uncharacteristically for such a skulking species.

For me, it was hard to beat the spectacular Himalayan Cutia. This is not only a great-looking bird, but not often seen even here. Several overweight middle-aged bird photographers broke into a run when news reached them of what we were looking at. The icing on the cake was that it was a lifer for me – the Cutias I saw in Vietnam in 2006 have now been classified as a separate species, Vietnamese Cutia.

It would be hard to top such a wonderful morning, and so it proved. After lunch in Tha Ton, I attempted to ascend Doi Lang by way of the infrequently-used eastern road. Rainfall here is higher so the habitat differs markedly, and potentially offers some different and highly desirable species. North Thailand Birding gives excellent directions on how to find the road, which runs along the Myanmar border. The army controls the road, and you must fill in a form at the entrance and supply ID – and the road is technically out of bounds between 5pm and 7am.

The eastern road is in truly terrible condition, and due to deep potholes and steep gravelly ascents would be impossible to navigate in a saloon car. It pushed my Honda maxi-scooter (and its rider) to the limit. I made it only as far as the concrete bridge before giving up. I saw few birds, but did make an interesting stop on the way back, where I walked a narrow path for several hundred meters into Myanmar. It would have been possible to continue to a hill tribe village, which was flying an unfamilar flag (the Shan state flag?), but I thought I had better not given the sensitive nature of this border area. I saw an Aberrant Bush-Warbler along here – nice to get the Myanmar list underway with such a quality species.

Lifers: Hodgson’s Frogmouth, Himalayan Cutia, Sapphire Flycatcher, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Slaty-backed Flycatcher (total 1,805).

Sunset at Doi Lang.
Sunset at Doi Lang.

Black-breasted Thrush, Spot-winged Grosbeak, Black-headed Greenfinch, Doi Angkhang, February 19th

Two male Black-breasted Thrushes, Doi Angkhang Royal Project, February 19th (one bird is partially albinistic).
Two male Black-breasted Thrushes, Doi Angkhang Royal Project, February 19th (one bird is partially albinistic).

Having added very little in the way of new birds at Chiang Dao, the stars aligned for me in just the right way during an excellent 90 minutes at the Doi Angkhang Royal Project early this morning.

I had heard of a spot where a Rusty-naped Pitta was coming to mealworms provided by photographers. I didn’t need the pitta, but decided to check the spot out anyway, just in case any thrushes were also hanging around. It’s not been a good winter for thrushes in northern Thailand, but I figured I had at least a sporting chance of the semi-regular Black-breasted Thrush.

The Royal Project is an odd place, where hordes of Thai and Chinese tourists descend in mid-winter to experience the cold temperatures, see the fruit-growing orchards and gardens, and buy locally grown agricultural produce. It can be really busy (and noisy) here in December and January, but fortunately things have tailed off a little by mid February. I paid my 50 baht entry fee at the gate and – following the directions of some American birders at my hotel – I quickly found the photographers blind behind the bamboo garden. The only birds in evidence at this very early hour were two male White-tailed Robins and a skulking Eyebrowed Thrush. I decided to wander around a bit and come back later.

The trees around the restaurant have traditionally been the best area for scarce wintering birds, and on arrival in the area I was quickly treated to a succession of year ticks: Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Silver-eared Mesia, Dark-backed Sibia and Hill Prinia. Best of all, though, were four Spot-winged Grosbeaks high in a tall tree, and close by, a lifer in the form of two Black-headed Greenfinches – these two species are very scarce and hard-to-find in Thailand.

At around 8.00am, I returned to the blind to see if anything was happening. It was. As soon as I got there, I was treated to another lifer – two male Black-breasted Thrushes hopping around in plain view on the ground. Over the next twenty minutes – and with the help of some mealworms provided by a Thai photographer – the handful of assembled birders were treated to a roll call of colorful birds at a range of just a few feet, including Siberian Blue Robin, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Hill Blue Flycatcher and Blue Whistling Thrush. A short while later, a movement on the forest floor revealed itself to be the star of the show, a handsome Rusty-naped Pitta. I had excellent views from my standing position, but the seated birders were unable to see it. Their accompanying guide promised the pitta would soon appear in front of the hide, but it never did, preferring to remain skulking at the back – in full view for me but no one else. I quietly left the hide – hopefully the other birders managed to see it in the end.

My final stop for the morning was the trail system at Km 21, where I had spent yesterday afternoon. I added a few new birds to the year list here, namely Yellow-cheeked Tit, Davison’s Leaf Warbler, Radde’s Warbler (both warbler species were heard but not seen yesterday), Long-tailed Minivet, and Rufous-backed Sibia.

Lifers: Black-headed Greenfinch, Black-breasted Thrush (total 1,800).

Scarlet-faced Liocichla and Spectacled Barwing, Doi Angkhang, February 18th

Doi Angkhang summit.
Doi Angkhang summit.

1,928 meter high Doi Angkhang may have fallen from grace among birders in the last few years due to the increasing accessibility and popularity of nearby Doi Lang, but it remains one of my favorite birding spots in Thailand.

The area feels remote, lying on a dead-end road next to the Burmese border. It can get seriously cold here in winter – lows in January/February frequently drop to 3C (37F). Birding can be tough, with many of the specialities both scarce and elusive. I remember clearly my first visit in May 2006, when it took me nearly three days to find Scarlet-faced Liocichla – luckily this beautiful species is somewhat easier to find in winter.

My day started before dawn at Chiang Dao, where I heard four species of owls (Mountain Scops Owl, Collared Scops Owl, Brown Hawk Owl, and Asian Barred Owlet), but saw none of them. However, two splendid male Siberian Blue Robins near one of the temple buildings made up the lack of owls.

After breakfast, I drove the 90km “back way” to Doi Angkhang, via Arunothai and the Burmese border. The road is in fairly bad shape these days, but still it’s an enjoyable drive, with the mountains of Burma forming an unforgettable backdrop. As one nears Doi Angkhang, the Chinese Cemetery is an essential stop, as it’s a reliable site for one of the local specialities – Brown-breasted Bulbul. I scored with several of them, despite it being late morning and there being little else around.

After checking in at the Angkhang Nature Resort (my splurge after three nights in bare-bones accommodation at Malee’s in Chiang Dao), I headed uphill once again to the trails near Km 21. I love birding this area, as it brings back many fond memories from visits past. As soon as I entered the forest today, nearly the first birds to greet me were several inquisitive Scarlet-faced Liocichlas. They were in nearly the same spot when I finally connected with them for the first time in 2006, when I sank to my knees with joy after nearly 25 hours in the field looking for them.

The summit of Doi Angkhang has one of the finest views I’ve ever seen, and it’s a proper mountain summit, a pointed peak at the top of a ridge surrounded by big drops on all sides. It’s well worth the heart-busting 20 minute near-vertical climb to get there.

Year ticks added in the summit trail area this afternoon: Scarlet-faced Liocichla, Silver-eared Laughingthrush, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Mountain Bulbul, Black-throated Sunbird, Mrs Gould’s Sunbird, Claudia’s Leaf Warbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Mountain Tailorbird, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Little Pied Flycatcher, Spectacled Barwing, Golden-throated Barbet and Pygmy Wren-Babbler (total 346).

Collared Scops Owl, Chiang Dao, February 17th

Sunrise at Chiang Dao.
Sunrise at Chiang Dao.

Today started in auspicious fashion, with a lifer safely under the belt before it even got light. I took a walk up to the forest temple while it was still dark, accompanied by the calls of Mountain Scops Owl, Collared Scops Owl and Asian Barred Owlet. Following up on a Collared Scops Owl calling close to the temple car park, I was surprised when I actually managed to locate it in my spotlight. This is a bird I’ve heard on many occasions, but now it can finally go onto the life list.

The day was spent in the Chiang Dao temple area, and later in the afternoon around the town and rice paddies in the valley. Apart from the Collared Scops Owl, my early morning haul around the temple comprised Oriental Pied Hornbill, Bay Woodpecker, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, and – finally – views of both Great Barbet and Blue-throated Barbet. The latter two species can be heard almost constantly in the area, but seeing them can be tricky as they are invariably perched in the canopy of very tall trees.

Late morning, I headed to a temple near the Chiang Dao cave, where a patch of bamboo forest was formerly a stakeout for a Blue Pitta. This is also the only place I have even seen Violet Cuckoo, on a previous visit. No pittas or cuckoos showed today, but several Black-hooded Orioles were nice birds to see. Near the entrance gate, lots of warblers in the grass and scrub included single Thick-billed Warbler and two Greenish Warblers, with two Dusky Warblers in low vegetation nearby.

After lunch, I checked out the area near the Muang Khong road checkpoint – and added a nice Asian Fairy Bluebird, a Purple Sunbird, and several Grey-eyed Bulbuls in a flowering tree.

Finally, I spent the last few hours of the day in the rice paddies near Chiang Dao town. This is a staple location for birders searching for Grey-headed Lapwing and Wire-tailed Swallow, both of which I saw without difficulty. The fields themselves were fairly quiet, with Pied Bushchat new for the year list, and some other common birds including three pipit species (Richards, Oriental and Red-throated), and Siberian Stonechat.

My favorite site in the area is a section of the Ping river just to the south of the rice paddies – at times, this can be a good place to watch starlings and mynas coming to roost in the reeds. Top birds here today comprised a Ruddy-breasted Crake in constant view on a muddy backwater of the river, two Green Sandpipers, two White-breasted Waterhens, a fine Long-tailed Shrike (these look completely different here compared to Taiwan and are a potential split), and best of all a Wryneck in low scrub near the river.

Lifer: Collared Scops Owl (total 1,798).

Sunset at the Ping River, south of Chiang Dao.
Sunset at the Ping River, south of Chiang Dao.

Rusty-naped Pitta, Giant Nuthatch and Grey-headed Parrotbill, Chiang Dao, February 15th-16th

Pond near the DYK substation in the Doi Chiang Dao national park - a regular site for Black-tailed Crake.
Pond near the DYK substation in the Doi Chiang Dao national park – a regular site for Black-tailed Crake.

Now in northern Thailand, but it’s been a mostly quiet week for birding, and a busy one for eating and drinking in Chiang Mai. My dad and I rented a car for a couple of days, driving the Samoeng loop where a notable sighting was Red-billed Blue Magpie. A lunch stop in Chiang Dao produced just a few common species for the year list.

Dad flew back to England yesterday, so I hopped on a rented motorcycle and returned to Chiang Dao. As usual I’m staying at the tranquil Malee’s Nature Lovers Bungalows, an ideal base for birding excursions in the area (and usually one or two other birders are in residence, too).

A late afternoon visit to the temple and gully was excellent, with the highlight a Rusty-naped Pitta, glimpsed briefly very close to the entrance of the gully trail. Naturally, it hopped away into thick cover and could not be refound. This is a regular spot for this sought-after species, but the first time I have seen it here (my only previous sighting in the area was on the summit trail).

Other highlights included two Asian Stubtails, and a Streaked Wren-Babbler at the temple steps, as well as some of the expected local species for the year list.

Ten points for spotting the Hoopoe ....
Ten points for spotting the Hoopoe ….

The next morning, I made a very early start for the familiar ordeal that is the drive up to the DYK substation. It was all the harder today because of my highly unsuitable wheels – a 300cc Honda “maxi-scooter”. It’s a very large and heavy automatic scooter, completely unsuited to a 20km-long, sandy, rocky and steep dirt track. On the plus side, it did have plenty of power for the ascents!

I abandoned my scooter before the steep switchbacks near DYK, and walked the remaining 2km to the substation on foot. Bird activity was high, and I saw a lot of the expected specialities of this mid-altitude, open forest. As it was getting light, on the drive up the mountain, several White-crowned Forktails were on the road. Further along the road to DYK, a Hoopoe showed well, with another two later near the substation. This is a regular bird here – the only site in Thailand I have seen this familiar European species.

The best birds in the DYK area today were: a male Daurian Redstart (a very scarce bird in Thailand), a female Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, a single Giant Nuthatch (one of the two top specialities of this site), a Scaly Thrush, two Grey-headed Parrotbills, both Rusty-cheeked and White-browed Scimitar-Babblers seen well, an Indochinese Cuckooshrike, both Maroon and Slender-billed Orioles, Stripe-breasted Woodpecker, and a small flock of Chestnut Buntings.

It was a little disappointing not to get a lifer – such birds as White-bellied Redstart, Slaty-backed Flycatcher and Black-tailed Crake are all possible here and regularly seen. I also missed Hume’s Pheasant, probably the top target for most birders at this site, but I’ve seen them several times in the past here so it wasn’t too crucial to connect with this one today.

With 42 birds added in the Chiang Dao area so far, my year list is currently at 312 species.

The road up to the DYK substation - definitely not suitable for maxi-scooters!
The road up to the DYK substation – definitely not suitable for maxi-scooters!

Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Siberian Blue Robin and Hainan Blue Flycatcher, Angkor Temples, February 8th

Male Hainan Blue Flycatcher, Banteay Srei, February 8th.
Male Hainan Blue Flycatcher, Banteay Srei, February 8th.

Another “non-birding” day around the Angkor temples, which nonetheless produced several very interesting sightings.

First up was Preah Khan, where an identification headache was immediately provided by a female-type green pigeon, very high in an enormous dead tree. Its position meant that views of anything other than its undercarriage were impossible. Some very grainy and distant photos, which when combined with a thorough look at possible confusion species on the internet later, confirmed my suspicions that it was a female Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon. The literature suggests that this bird is uncommon at lower altitudes.

I wandered into some rather good lowland forest to the side of the main entrance track, where a Pale-legged Leaf Warbler eventually gave itself up for some diagnostic views – and its habit of feeding low down near the ground is also distinctive. Nearby, I could hear an even better bird calling – a female Siberian Blue Robin – which again I eventually managed to see. This species is a bit of a skulker but with a very distinctive habit of shivering its tail.

Also at Preah Khan: a small flock of Hill Myna and a White-rumped Shama.

Next, we traveled a considerable distance to the wonderful temple of Banteay Srei where a male Hainan Blue Flycatcher (see record shot above) was the star. This species is regular in forest around the Angkor temples. Marshland close to the temple held a Bronze-winged Jacana, but attempts to identify a briefly-glimpsed small cuckooshrike (I suspect Black-winged Cuckooshrike) were thwarted by the persistence of small children selling postcards.

Finally, Banteay Samre temple produced nothing unusual in the heat of the day, but I did see a few common species including Taiga Flycatcher, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Common Tailorbird and Yellow-browed Warbler.

Year ticks: Hill Myna, White-rumped Shama, Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, Siberian Blue Robin, Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Hainan Blue Flycatcher (total 258).