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).