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Doi Inthanon - The Highest Point in Thailand

Thai birding guide RachenStory and photos by Dave Williams.

I contacted Khun Patcharee of Nature Trails to see who she recommended to be my guide on this massive mountain. Though I am familiar with most of the birds in Southern Thailand, I wanted to take advantage of a skilled local birder. Khun Patcharee recommended I contact Khun Rachen. He does some guiding for their company when Khun Kamol is busy. Kamol is one of the top birders in the Kingdom. He’s also an artist and his drawings appear in many publications, most notably, "A Guide to the Birds of Thailand" by Lekagol and Round.

I arranged for Khun Rachen to pick me up at my riverside hotel in Chiang Mai at 6:00 AM on the 20th of September. I was early and so was he. Us birders are nuts about getting up early.

As we drove nearer to the mountain, the weather started changing. They actually get frost on the top of the mountain in the winter months. It was nowhere near that cold on this day, but there was a chill in the air.

Our first stop was at kilometer mark 13. We stood beside the road and within seconds started spotting birds. A Great Barbet was calling loudly in a nearby tree, but we couldn’t spot it.

We continued to the summit of the mountain. The rain continued as well. There is room for a lot of parking on the summit. I can only imagine the zoo that happens there during the touristy season. At this time however, we met few other people.

Doi Inthanon birding - Rufous-winged FulvettaRight off the bat, we saw a bunch of Rufous-winged Fulvettas. In fact, they were everywhere. They weren’t shy either. Some would land within a couple feet of us.

We walked around to the back of a building. While standing on trash, we saw the several Ashy Wood-Pigeons. These are easiest seen here on Doi Inthanon and the summit of the higher peaks in the north.

We walked around a bit and came to a place at the very peak of the mountain. Green-tailed Sunbirds and Gould’s Sunbirds were abundant. The easiest place to see a Green-tailed Sunbird in Thailand is on the top of this mountain. They have been recorded in the South on top of Khao Luang, the tallest mountain in the South.

Rufous-winged Fulvettas and a visit by a couple of Yellow-cheeked Tits made the experience something that I won’t soon forget.

There is a walkway over the peat bog across the road. As soon as we stepped into the jungle, we were greeted by a very vocal White-browed Shortwing. We were within a meter of this individual. Further on, we encountered a Snowy-browed Flycatcher, a Blue-winged Minla, a Dark-sided Flycatcher and a White-tailed Leaf-Warbler.

Though the day was rainy and cool, I still managed to add 22 new species to my Thai life list:

Ashy Wood-swallow
White-throated Fantail
Bronzed Drongo
Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo
White-browed Shortwing
Dark-sided Flycatcher
Snowy-browed Flycatcher
Yellow-cheeked Tit
Sooty-headed Bulbul
Flavescent Bulbul
Ashy-throated Warbler

White-tailed Leaf-Warbler
Chestnut-crowned Warbler
Blue-winged Minla
Rufous-winged Fulvetta
Dark-backed Sibia
Gould's Sunbird (M & F)
Streaked Spiderhunter
Green-tailed Sunbird (M & F)
Green Bee-eater
Great Barbet (heard only)
Ashy Wood-Pigeon