A Morning At Doi Lang
Red-faced Liocichla - photo by Sujan
March 22nd. 2008 - Doi Lang is a mountain and part of the Doi Phahompok range on the Burmese border in north Thailand, the Thai army was in charge of that border road but they were fairly laid-back and friendly, which isn’t always the case. This latter mountain is the second highest in Thailand at 2,285 metres and at its highest Doi Lang is 2,100 metres. We got as high as 2,047 metres (courtesy of John’s GPS thingamabob) and searched for that elusive 53 metres but they were nowhere to be seen. ‘We’ included my pal John Moore. When I said a morning at Doi Lang, it wasn’t that easy as it is a three and a half hour drive from Chiang Mai and it makes sense to stay at least one night. We stayed at the Garden Home Nature Resort for the night (tel. 053 373015) but I couldn’t tell you what it looked like because we arrived in the dark and left the next morning, also in the dark. The rooms were excellent, very clean, airconditioned (600 baht) and if you needed entertaining the rooms come with cable TV. We had dinner in the very pleasant riverside restaurant and the food was good and incredibly cheap, no dish over 100 baht and most of them just over half of that.
But on to what we went for. This was my first visit to this particular area and bird-wise I was very pleasantly surprised. We documented 78 species during the morning and four of note were the Crimson-breasted Woodpecker (male) which was a new bird for me and it’s not very often that that happens to me nowadays. The other three were Jerdon’s Bushchat, one male, a Red-faced Liocichla which obliged us by singing its heart out and we obliged it by recording its song for posterity. Then there were the Crested Finchbills , they were everywhere in the higher reaches of the mountain, if a bird flew across the road it was invariably a finchbill. We also got some recordings of this birds call but it was a battle against the persistent shrieking of Cicadas and they came out even louder when I was editing the calls. But I managed to salvage a recognisable version in the end. This is one of the best times of the year for recording birdcalls as all the male birds are proclaiming their readiness for breeding.
The only thing that clouded the trip was the poisonous air created by the ‘slash and burn’ by the local villagers. In the dark the mountains were covered in ring fires, semi-circles of fire (some a kilometre long) obviously created by humans. So some of the more spectacular views were spoilt by the smog that resulted. All this after the horrendous fires last year and nobody is doing anything about it, Thaton should be declared a disaster area! But, having said that, it was well worth the visit – many birds were still active later in the morning than is usually the case anywhere else. At this time of year the hot weather would put most species into siesta mode around 9.30 to 10am.
Another disappointment was the fact that the border road at one point was impassable due to a landslide and the soldiers at the checkpoint didn’t think it would be removed any time soon. We had planned to do the return trip all along that mountain road to Chiang Dao but instead had to backtrack to Thaton and return along the busy Fang road (route 107).
I have to end on a happier note and say that even the ‘slash and burn’ didn’t spoil our enjoyment and the results made it all worthwhile.