Saturday, March 16, 2013

Brown Wood Owl, Ultramarine Flycatcher and Spot-winged Grosbeak

After a busy week, I finally found time to do some serious birding at Chiang Dao, I spent from dawn until mid afternoon birding the Checkpoint Road (Muang Khong Rd) behind Malee's. At around 7 kilometer past the checkpoint a Brown Wood Owl flew over the road, and landed in a large tree overhanging the road, though the light was still very poor I did manage some excellent views before a noisy pickup truck came along and the bird disappeared off into nearby forest. A little further along the road a pair of Bar-backed Partridge flew from the roadside.

After this I drove straight up to the pine forest parked at kilometer 17 and walked to kilometer 19 and back to 15, birding along the roadside and the various trails which led off it. After hearing some unfamiliar calls I  eventually tracked them down to nine Spot-winged Grosbeaks in a dead pine just off the road. In the same pines was a Giant Nuthatch, with plenty of suitable habitat and the right elevation in the area I had always suspected it should occur here, but despite over a dozen visits until today had never seen any. Nearer kilometer 19 the forest became drier, birds were few here, but the star bird of the morning for me was a stunning male Ultramarine Flycatcher a species I seldom see. Also in the same area were half a dozen Small Minvet, two Large Woodshrike and many Common Iora. In roadside scrub and bamboo a Aberrent Bush Warbler showed well and another two were heard and a male White-bellied Redstart was also seen. Also present along the highest parts of the road, were two Grey-chinned Minivet, at least 6 Japanese Tit, 4 Large Cuckooshrike, six Oriental Turtle Dove, Little Pied Flycatcher, 3 Blyth's Shrike Babbler, 4 Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Lesser Yellownape, Grey Bushchat, three Buff-throated Warbler, several White-tailed and Cluadia's Leaf Warbler and a Marten's Warbler. Two very raucous Chinese Francolin were heard in one of the fields but typically not seen.

Several stops on the way down produced few birds, but plenty of butterflies. I then spent several hours birding and butterflying around the checkpoint. The butterflies were amazing with clouds of blues many skippers, nawabs and birdwings, more of these in a later post when access to a quicker internet is available to upload photos. Birding highlights at the checkpoint were a pair of Sultan Tit, a Large Hawkcuckoo and a pair of very confiding Black-backed Forktail the third species of forktail I have seen in the area during the past few days.          

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