With the delights of the "party train" fading from our travel befuddled minds, we picked up a new hire car at Chiang Mai station and headed out of this rather touristy, if quite attractive city, down avenues packed with western tourists and tidy canals, lined with greenery.
A misguided drive up Doi Suthap took us vertically through several tortuous and impossibly narrow hairpins to where all the tourists spend their time when not sampling the delights of Chiang Mai.
Clearly on form, we followed this up by spectacularly failing to find the agricultural college birding site outside Chiang Mai (on the upside I saw four people on one moped, which remains my personal record).
Beating a hasty retreat, we drove on towards Doi Inthanon, Thailand's highest mountain and the next stage of our birding odyssey.
We stayed at the Inthanon Highland Resort, which was by far the swankiest place we've ever been allowed into, it was like an American Country Club, although their rather bizarre habit of shutting the bar/restaurant at 20.00 each night meant they were spared the worst excesses of the unit.
Plenty of good garden birds to enjoy in this tremendously peaceful spot (that's our house!), from the Rufous Treepie at the top of this entry, to the more predictable Taiga Flys and Oriental Magpie Robins.
Even tried to photograph a few as I quaffed a Chang or two by the ornamental lake.
Obviously the subtleties of "big boy" photography are beyond me, and I resolved stick to digiscoping in the future...
Despite the usual nocturnal shenanigans, we were up well before dawn and Neill/Trops drove us skillfully up to the top of Doi Inthanon, so that we were pulling up at the summit ahead of the crowds and the morning light by about 0645.
Surprisingly nippy, even given the fact we were at 2,565m, as we headed to the Ang Kang boardwalk and hidden marsh at the top of this groovy mountain - got onto the boardwalk long before any daytrippers and had a remarkable few hours as the bone-numbing cold gradually gave way to typical Thai heat and the birds got correspondingly more active.
These scene shots don't really convey the special atmosphere of this place - branches dripping with moss and Sunbirds, Phylloscs zipping all over the place and a wonderful Yellow Bellied Fantail, almost as good as a Yankee wood warbler.
Mrs Gould's and Green Tailed Sunbirds were common, and Hume's, Buff Barred Leaf Warblers showed very well.
As the day slowly warmed up, more species began to turn up, from lovely Chestnut Tailed Minlas and several species of White-Eye to more familiar Common Rosefinch.
Neill got me onto a cracking Blue Whistling Thrush - the first of many.
Dark billed winter migrants join the yellow billed resident race at this time of year - a bit like Blackbirds at home (but much bigger).
Lovely Dark Backed Sibias and Chestnut Crowned Laughing Thrushes melted out of the shadowy moss covered branches of the elfin woodland.
I could have stayed on the boardwalk all day, but it began to get busy and we pulled out before 1100, driving back down the mountain to the two Chedis at Km41, where Rufous Bellied Niltava, Flavescent Bulbul and Orange Bellied Leafbird were just dandy by such a dramatic backdrop (see pic at top of entry).
With the day racing by and heating up, we called into the "Jeep Track" a fine, if narrow trail heading deep into the forest just beside Checkpoint 2, catching up with plenty of characterful Slaty Bellied Tesias, Grey Chinned Minivets, Blyth's Leaf Warbler, and even Brown Throated Treecreeper, Chestnut Vented Nuthatch, Golden Babbler and White Browed Piculet.
Really good jungle trail.
From there we went back to the famous "Mr Daeng's", where White Browed Shortwing, Rufous Bellied Niltava and Blue Whistling Thrush all fed under his balcony, lured in by an odd system of pipes which deliver mealworms to the birds below.
Good grub and beer too.
In his grassy car park we picked up a nice Banded Bay Cuckoo, when not being distracted by the hordes of Tree Sparrow (commonest bird in Thailand?) and Spotted Doves.
With the afternoon racing towards evening, we headed out into the farmland around the Inthanon Highland Resort in a fruitless quest for Blossom Headed Parakeet.
Despite all the gen, apparently early morning is now the time to look for this elusive species here.
A stonking Blue Throated Redstart and an Asian Barred Owlet made up for the squawker no-show.
Pied Bushchats, Brown Shrikes and Siberian Stonechat haunted the narrow agricultural terraces as the sun went down.
Up bright and early on January 22nd, and we were back in the national park and birding Wachiratan Waterfall by 0700 - gorgeous Slaty Backed Forktails, Blue Whistling Thrushes and Plumbeous Water Redstarts in a hugely atmospheric environment - shame the coffee joint hadn't opened by the time we left....
The stunning forktails were too quick for a digiscoper like me, but I managed a few blurry shots of the female Plumbeous Water Redstart as she preened beside the rushing waters.
We checked a succession of fast flowing waters where the road allowed for the rest of the morning with limited success, and with the temperature soaring, decided to head up into the dry diptocarp woodland.
Punishing in the heat, but a fine Crested Goshawk displayed overhead as compensation.
Beside the main park road between Km14-15 we finally came across a Collared Falconet - one of the species I'd really wanted to cnnect with.
A tiny wee thing, little bigger than a Starling, it sat up in the trees above us, scouring the undergrowth for prey, but never quite showing well through the branches.
A walk along the road at Km32 gave us Fire Breasted Flowerpecker, the strange, grey form of Great Tit that lives in these parts and Dark Throated Sunbird.
From there we went back down to Checkpoint 2 and birded the road there, which was great fun, as we hit feeding waves with some regularity, despite the heat.
White Browed Shrike Babbler, Mountain Bulbul, Greenish Warbler, superb Spectacled Barwing, and drongos galore in the foliage.
Another look in the farmland around the Inthanon Highland Resort late afternoon again failed to provide Blossom Headed Parakeets, but we saw the owlet again and had one flowering tree positively dripping with Purple Sunbirds.
Scaly Breasted Munias were round the rice paddies and the white headed "leucopsis" form of White Wag were mighty diverting.
Chestnut Tailed Starling here, and Neill managed a Ruddy Breasted Crake by one of the irrigation streams.
Excellent part of the world.
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies....
Doi Inthanon list
Taiga Flycatcher, White Rumped Shama, Olive Backed Sunbird, Black Collared Starling, Yellow Browed Warbler, Spotted Dove, Sooty Headed Bulbul, Oriental Magpie Robin, Coppersmith Barbet, Brown Shrike, Indian Roller, Green Bee-Eater, Barn Swallow, Rufous Treepie, Mrs Gould's Sunbird, Green Tailed Sunbird, Chestnut Tailed Minla, Hume's Warbler, Japanese White-eye, Chestnut Sided White-eye, Buff Barred Warbler, Common Rosefinch, Black Crowned Bulbul, Chestnut Winged Fulvetta, Blue Whistling Thrush, Chestnut Crowned Laughing Thrush, Dark Backed Sibia, Yellow Bellied Fantail, Flavescent Bulbul, Orange Bellied Leafbird, Rufous Bellied Niltava, Ashy Drongo, Slaty Bellied Tesia, Grey Chinned Minivet, Brown Throated Treecreeper, Blyth's Leaf Warbler, Striated Bulbul, Grey Cheeked Fulvetta, White Browed Piculet, Chestnut Vented Nuthatch, Golden Babbler, White Browed Shortwing, Banded Bay Cuckoo, Oriental Magpie Robin, Tree Sparrow, Chinese Pond Heron, Blue Throated Redstart, Asian Barred Owlet, Asian Koel, White Wagtail, Slaty Backed Forktail, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Dusky Crag Martin, White Breasted Waterhen, Black Crowned Bulbul, White Browed Shrike Babbler, Scarlet Minivet, Common Jay, Blue Throated Blue Flycatcher, Golden Fronted Leafbird, Crested Goshawk, Collared Falconet, Maroon Oriole, Fire Breasted Flowerpecker, Great Tit, Dark Throated Sunbird, Large Cuckooshrike, Short Billed Minivet, Flavescent Bulbul, Large Niltava, White Browed Fantail, Dark Backed Sibia, Buff Barred Warbler, Spectacled Barwing, Greenish Warbler, White Breasted Kingfisher, Red Collared Dove, Siberian Stonechat, Scaly Breasted Munia, Ashy Woodswallow, Green Bee-Eater, Plain Prinia, Ruddy Breasted Crake, Purple Sunbird, Chestnut Tailed Starling, Pied Bushchat, Verditer Flycatcher, Pale Legged Leaf Warbler, Cattle Egret, Indian Roller, Common Iora.