October 4, 2015: Mount Victoria, Myanmar — At 10,000 feet in western Myanmar, the forest feels cozily like home. Pines, oaks, and rhododendrons are surrounded by patches of wildflowers and laced with cool, enveloping fog. Green-carpeted ridges stack out to the horizon whenever the mist lifts for a moment. Might as well be back in Oregon, I was thinking this morning, when a Chestnut-headed Tesia suddenly popped into view and the illusion vanished. Ah, right, this is Myanmar.
Gideon and I were up at 3:15 a.m. to keep a date with a Hodgson's Frogmouth near our lodging, halfway up the slope of Mount Victoria. We then sat for a fried-rice breakfast at 4:00 a.m. and were grinding up an unbelievably muddy Jeep track by 4:30. Gideon wanted to be near the mountain's summit before sunrise to take in the dawn chorus, which turned out to be an excellent idea. As dawn broke this morning, we stood listening to laughingthrushes, warblers, fulvettas, woodpeckers, minlas, bullfinches, and bulbuls wake up all around us. I've always wondered what it must be like to rise each morning with an overwhelming urge to belt out songs for half an hour—definitely not my usual mindset when I roll out of bed! Leave that to the birds.
This was my first taste of higher east Himalayan habitats and the majority of birds I saw today were lifers. Adventurous birders spend four or five days on a visit to Mount Victoria (usually between November and March) to properly cover the pine, oak, and broadleaf sections, but Gideon and I just had today to do the place justice. To make the most of it, we stayed out from dawn to dusk, ate lunch standing up, and took short tea breaks.
Luckily, the marquee birds weren't difficult to find. Mount Victoria is associated with the White-browed Nuthatch, a little bird which is found only on this one mountain, and we saw several of them today. We also encountered the distinctive subspecies of Black-browed Tit and Chinese Babax which may someday be recognized as Burmese endemics. Some days, it's hard work to add birds one by one, but today it was more like dozen by dozen—heck yeah!
New birds today: 42
Year list: 4645