An extremely pleasant (and not too strenuous) day hike, the ascent to the summit of Doi Chiang Dao must rank as one of the most enjoyable and scenic walks in northern Thailand. The route also offers the chance of some excellent birds, as it passes through a variety of habitats including limestone crags, pockets of broadleaved evergreen forest, and open grassland.
On the drive up to the trailhead, while it was still dark, I had to swerve to avoid an Asian Barred Owlet in the road. The first section of the walk itself is a steep hour-long ascent to a ridge – the trail is a little tricky in places so I was mainly watching my feet instead of the birds, but nonetheless spotted a Burmese Shrike on a treetop.
The second stage of the hike passes through the bowl of the mountains, and is comparatively level, with areas of bamboo, grassland, mature broadleaved forest, and several old banana plantations. Investigating scraping sounds coming from the forest floor produced excellent views of a Rusty-naped Pitta, a small group of Bar-backed Partridge seen briefly, an Asian Stubtail, several Silver-eared Laughingthrush in the forest pockets, and a small flock of Crested Bunting in a grassy clearing.
At the intersection with the trail to DYK substation, a Siberian Rubythroat hopped along the trail, and both Rusty-cheeked and White-browed Scimitar-Babblers were seen.
Higher up, the terrain becomes more open, and higher-altitude birds such as Brown-breasted Bulbul, Crested Finchbill, Mrs Gould’s Sunbird and Dark-backed Sibia began to make an appearance. Finally, at the campsite just short of the summit, I flushed a pair of Mountain Bamboo-Partridge – the first time I have seen this species anywhere on Chiang Dao mountain.
Other interesting records from this visit:
Rusty-naped Pitta – yet another bird seen, at dusk beside the temple steps – making a grand total of 4 for this Thailand trip.
Dark-sided Thrush – one in damp gully below monk’s restaurant at the temple.
Silver Pheasant – male at start of summit trail.
Long-tailed Broadbill – one at start of summit trail.
Large Woodshrike – two at start of summit trail.
Rufous-winged Buzzard – one in dry area a couple of kilometers past summit trailhead.
2015 Year List Total: 425