Later we headed along the banks of the Mekong River, where water levels were very high, stopping briefly at the Golden Triangle, the point where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos come together. Known locally as Sop Ruak, this is where the Mekong meets the Ruak River and was once the centre of one of Asia's main opium-producing areas. We then headed to Fang, our base for the next three nights.
June at the Golden Triangle
Buddha statue at the Golden Triangle
Enjoying a drink beside the Mekong River
The border town of Mai Sai showing the country's favourite form of transport
After checking into Wiang Kaew Resort, mid-afternoon we headed out to some nearby rice paddies, where despite light rain and plenty of mud, we eventually found both of our target species, Horsfield’s Bushlark and Chestnut-eared Bunting. It was interesting to see and differentiate between Common and Pin-tailed Snipes but unfortunate that only one of us saw a Barred Buttonquail that was flushed but quickly disappeared into the rice stubble.
The following day was also cloudy and damp as we headed up the western slope of Doi Lang but it did eventually manage to brighten up a bit later. There was a brief view of a Mrs Hume’s Pheasant on the way and a decent selection of species once we were out of our vehicle and walking the road, among them Giant Nuthatch, Wedge-tailed Pigeon and Crested Finchbill. Doi Lang is a favourite venue for Thai bird photographers and there are a number of ‘stakeouts’ where they routinely deploy mealworms to entice species such as Siberian Rubythroat, White-bellied Redstart, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Rufous-gorgeted & Ultramarine Flycatchers and Silver-eared Laughingthrush. At one point there was a line of pop-up hides projecting half across the road! At the army checkpoint near the top of the mountain, only a stone’s throw from the border with Myanmar, we watched numerous Dark-backed Sibias and several stunning male Mrs Gould’s Sunbirds in a flowering tree.
Roadside birding on Doi Lang
Roadside lunch on Doi Lang
Mrs Gould's Sunbird
There was a second trip up Doi Lang the next morning and at last there was some real sunshine! This time there were much longer views on the way of Mrs Hume’s Pheasant, a male and two females. We drove as far as the army checkpoint and then walked along the road. A Collared Owlet was very vocal and quite close but unfortunately remained unseen but a Spot-breasted Parrotbill, regarded by Neil as one of the star birds of the whole trip, was much more obliging.
After a brief break at the resort, mid-afternoon we headed to the rice paddies at That Ton. A short walk here produced a few Chestnut-eared Buntings and a quail that was flushed twice but remained unidentified – it was probably Japanese Quail but could possibly have been a Rain Quail. We were delighted to see a group of Small Pratincoles flying over the nearby Khok River, a new charadriiform for both of us! They landed some way off but we had decent scope views.
Hot springs at Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park
Before breakfast the following morning we headed to nearby Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park, where once the thick fog had cleared, we quickly found our main target, a small flock of Spot-winged Grosbeaks, which apparently feed on minerals deposited on trees by the hot springs. After breakfast we headed to Chiang Dao, where Malee Nature Lovers Bungalow our base for the next four nights, held the promise of soft, comfortable beds that would be a welcome relief after the hard beds of the previous three nights!
More to follow…