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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Doi Angkhang, 30th May to 1st June 2006,
This three-day trip completed my visits to the three “Doi’s” over the last 6 weeks (see previous trip reports on this site for my accounts of Doi Inthanon and Doi Chiang Dao).
Before visiting Doi Angkhang I referred to several trip reports on the Internet, mainly those by Peter Ericsson. Another invaluable resource was Nick Dymond’s detailed map of the area which is available in two places - the logbook at Malee’s at Doi Chiang Dao, and the logbook in the café in the village at Km25 at Doi Angkhang.
2) Transport and Accommodation
I travelled from Chiang Mai by rented 125cc motorcycle, as I did to the other two “Doi’s”. From Chiang Mai to Doi Angkhang is about 155km which took roughly three hours. It would be quicker by car but not much, as the road is very twisty in places.
Doi Chiang Dao is located at the halfway point between Chiang Mai and Doi Angkhang and many birders combine the two sites in one trip.
The approach road to Doi Angkhang is clearly signposted from route 107, about 16km south of Fang. After a while this road climbs steeply, passing close to the summit of Doi Angkhang mountain before descending to a village, 25km from the junction with route 107.
Most birders stay in the plush Amari Resort on the outskirts of the village at Km25. This was way too expensive for me – despite the place being almost empty, the lowest they would go on price was 1,800 baht per night (about GBP 26). This was lower than any pre-bookable rate I saw on the Internet so if intending to stay there in low season, you will probably do better just showing up and negotiating a price.
Instead I stayed at the Angkhang Hill Resort in the village. They let me have a 500 baht room for 300 baht but it still represented poor value - common to all the “Doi’s”, there appeared to be a distinct lack of budget accommodation. There is another bungalow operation right next door which I didn’t try. Others have stayed in the resort at Ban Luang village, or in the forestry bungalows themselves at Km24.
To really save money the best option is the campground at Km24 (bring your own tent). It was cold, wet and deserted there and I didn’t fancy it!
There are several cheap local restaurants in the village. The one with the bird log is on the second street back, on the corner, with a sign in English reading “foods and drinks”. I also treated myself to dinner at the Amari one night, which although relatively expensive was superb and excellent value considering the high level of service and Western-size portion.
3) Birding at Doi Angkhang
Of the three “Doi’s” visited, Doi Angkhang provided by far the most challenging birding. I saw only 81 species here, compared to 100 at Doi Inthanon and 109 at Doi Chiang Dao. Of the 81, 14 were exclusive to Doi Angkhang and not seen at either of the other two sites. Birds at Angkhang, particularly the specialities, were scarce, generally wary, and hard to see in the abundance of thick cover.
I was probably not helped by either the time of year or the weather. Being so late in the spring, the birds were not particularly vocal. Some were feeding young and newly fledged juveniles of several species were also observed. The weather over the three days was generally cloudy, with frequent drizzle and occasional heavy rain. Due to the altitude the higher trails were often shrouded in cloud and visibility was very restricted. The exception was the final morning when the sun shone for a time and I was able to observe my first large raptors of the trip.
Another consequence of the abundant recent rainfall was that the vegetation was very lush and several trails were overgrown. I could not find either the Link Trail or the Pipe Trail, presumably for this reason. The Ravine Trail was negotiable only for 100 metres or so before it petered out among shoulder-high plants. Due to the number of leeches already encountered along there I didn’t fancy proceeding any further!
My only major disappointment was missing White-browed Laughingthrush, although there were a few “outside chances” that I also failed to see, for example Red-tailed Laughingthrush and Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbill. These were compensated at least in part by superb and unexpected views of a pair of Spot-winged Grosbeaks.
Red-faced Liocichla, one of the prime specialities of the area, proved to be extremely hard to connect with. I spent more than 25 hours in the field, including visiting the first clearing on the Km21.5 Birder’s Trail about 10 times, before finally seeing a pair there.
4) Trail Maps
I made a sketch copy of Nick Dymond’s excellent map of the area (see Introduction), which was very useful. My computer skills are not good enough to reproduce it here!
Briefly, the main birding areas can be accessed from two points. The trail at Km21.5 is signposted “exit from trekking route”, easy to find from the main road.
Approximately 30 metres along here, a path heads right. It passes some mature coniferous trees, then mixed scrub and small patches of broadleaved forest, before arriving at a path junction at the base of the climb to the Doi Angkhang summit. At this point, continue straight ahead for the Summit Trail, or turn left for the Scrub Trail. The Summit Trail emerges on to the main road again just below the Army Camp at Km19.9, where the path is signposted “trekking route”.
The Km21.5 trail arrives at a clearing - the famous “Liocichla clearing” - shortly after the turn-off for the Summit and Scrub Trails. The path then heads downhill and to the left, passing areas of scrub and small patches of forest. This is the Birder’s Trail. After a while it becomes the Ridge Trail, when it joins a firebreak which follows the crest of the ridge. The Ridge Trail climbs to a high point before descending very steeply to a stream and small dam – you have arrived at the far end of the Forestry Trail.
To access the Forestry Trail from the road, continue as far as Km24. Just below the Km24 milestone, there are two roads on the right, at almost the same point. The second road is signposted to some villages and actually goes to the Myanmar border. The first road descends for 100 metres or so before passing a small guard hut (disused). After this hut there is a junction – the left hand track goes to the Forestry HQ bungalows. Take the right hand track and follow the path past the hill tribe houses. Do not descend to the stream valley, stay on the same level. This path soon enters open woodland, then a variety of habitats including scrub, bamboo and damp stream forest. This is the Forestry Trail, which ultimately meets the end of the Ridge Trail at the small dam mentioned above.
Access to the Ravine Trail is halfway along the Forestry Trail, along a narrow path to the right if approaching from the Km24 end. As mentioned above it was seriously overgrown, and may be easier to negotiate in the dry season.
I spent most of my time on the Birder’s Trail at Km21.5, the Ridge Trail, and the Forestry Trail at Km24. I hiked up to the Summit once and walked the Scrub Trail twice but neither produced any species that I did not also see elsewhere. I also spent some time along the road mainly between Km24 and Km20 but once as far as Km15. The best area of all was the vicinity of the first clearing on the Km21.5 Birder’s Trail, and the section of path between here and the bottom of the Summit Trail steps.
Another spot which I found good was the deforested hill behind the dam at the end of the Forestry Trail, opposite the end of the Ridge Trail. Looking down onto the bushes and scrub below produced my only Spot-breasted Parrotbills of the trip.
Most older trip reports mention an old orchard at Km19.9 which used to be very productive for species like Red-tailed Laughingthrush. An Army Camp now occupies this area. You may not feel comfortable using your binoculars here and in any case, most of the habitat appears to have been cut down to make room for the camp.
Order as per Robson, “heard-only’s” omitted
Mountain Bamboo Partridge – 2 on hill behind Forestry Trail dam, 1 on firebreak near start of Ridge Trail
Speckled Piculet – 1 in bird-wave beside road at Km22
Stripe-breasted Woodpecker – common
Bay Woodpecker – 2 at first clearing on Km21.5 Birder’s Trail
Lesser Cuckoo – singing male showing exceptionally well on roadside at Km20.5
Blue-bearded Bee-eater – 1, Forestry Trail
Himalayan Swiftlet – common
Black Eagle – brief eye-level views of one from top of Ridge Trail
Long-tailed Shrike – pair seen daily on Amari resort fence at Km25
Grey Treepie – 1 from hill behind Forestry Trail dam, 2 on Scrub Trail
Maroon Oriole – male singing and showing well along Km21.5 Birder’s Trail
White-gorgeted Flycatcher – 2 seen and a total of at least 4 males heard singing along first 300 metres of Km21.5 Birder’s Trail
Little Pied Flycatcher – common
Hill Blue Flycatcher – one male at campground and others heard singing
Lesser Shortwing – one showed briefly but well in dense forest close to the bottom of the Summit Trail steps when approaching from the Km21.5 trail
White-crowned Forktail – at least 2 pairs seen on every visit to the Forestry Trail, with recently fledged young also observed
Slaty-backed Forktail – single seen twice near Forestry Trail dam
Chestnut-vented Nuthatch – several, Ridge and Scrub Trails
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch – 1 on Ridge Trail
Yellow-cheeked Tit – 1, Km21.5 Birder’s Trail
Striated Bulbul – 1, Km21.5 Birder’s Trail
Brown-breasted Bulbul – small numbers seen mainly along Ridge Trail but not especially common
White-headed Bulbul – an unexpected sight was a flock of 10 in trees beside the first clearing on the Km21.5 Birder’s Trail
Crested Finchbill – 3 showed very well at the far end of the Ridge Trail
White-necked Laughingthrush – flock of 4+ late one afternoon in trees near the Forestry Trail dam plus at least one recently fledged juvenile
Black-throated Laughingthrush – 1 in trees beside approach road to Forestry Trail
Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush – 2 seen twice between Km21.5 clearing and start of Summit Trail steps
Red-faced Liocichla – 2 in scrub beside first clearing on Km21.5 Birder’s Trail at noon on the third day, as described above a very difficult species to connect with
Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler – commonly encountered on Ridge, Scrub and Summit Trails
White-browed Scimitar-babbler – 2 beside road at Km 22 and 4 between the Km21.5 Birder’s Trail and the bottom of the Summit Trail steps
Spot-throated Babbler – 1, Km21.5 Birder’s Trail
Chestnut-capped Babbler – pair feeding young close to where the Km21.5 Birder’s Trail meets the Ridge Trail firebreak, according to Robson at a higher altitude than normally found
Yellow-eyed Babbler – 1 on hillside behind Forestry Trail dam
Spectacled Barwing – single(s) seen twice near the junction of km21.5 Birder’s Trail and the Ridge Trail firebreak
Rufous-backed Sibia – several seen along Km21.5 Birder’s Trail, Ridge and Summit Trails
Spot-breasted Parrotbill – 2 in low scrub below hillside behind Forestry Trail dam
Spot-winged Grosbeak – pair seen early one morning at the highest point of the Ridge Trail, a real surprise
Also of note was a singing Russet Bush Warbler at the highest point of the Ridge Trail which is not included in the above list as I did not manage to see it.
6) Others seen
Red Junglefowl, Blue-throated Barbet, Plaintive Cuckoo, Green-billed Malkoha, Greater Coucal, Fork-tailed (Pacific) Swift, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Oriental Honey-Buzzard, Shikra, Ashy Drongo, Bronzed Drongo, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Ashy Woodswallow, White-throated Fantail, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Verditer Flycatcher, Oriental Magpie-robin, Grey Bushchat, Great Tit, Barn Swallow, Striated Swallow, Japanese White-eye, Flavescent Bulbul, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Sooty-headed Bulbul, Black Bulbul, Mountain Bulbul, Hill Prinia, Mountain Tailorbird, Blyth’s Leaf Warbler, White-tailed Leaf Warbler, Grey-throated Babbler, White-browed Shrike-babbler, Blue-winged Minla, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Silver-eared Mesia, Striated Yuhina, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Black-throated Sunbird, Streaked Spiderhunter, Tree Sparrow, Scaly-breasted Munia, White-rumped Munia.
Total species seen : 81