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Kaeng Krachan, Thailand


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pault

I visited three hides during my December and April visits. There are more, mainly because one hide is actually a set of three. they are all on private or military-owned land and (with the exception of Ban Song Nok) remote, seemingly unattractive places you would never visit in a thousand years if the hides were not there. All my visits were booked far too late and so I had to take what was left over. I had no idea what to expect at each as I deliberately did no research, to preserve a little mystery and surprise. 

 

I'll start with Lung Sin hide. This is not too far from Baan Maka and one of the staff can drive you there and pick you up for (I think) USD 5 (anyway not more than USD 7). Your booking is for the whole day and you can decide when to go and come back. Obviously the theoretical best times are earlyish to mid morning, and mid afternoon. There is action early and later in the day but you will have very little light at those times as if the sun is not high enough it cannot penetrate the canopy (when i say canopy, all of these spots have been logged out in the past so don't imagine it is like in the national park). However, everything is weather and luck dependent and you shouldn't really discount any time. There is also the fact that the busiest times may not be when you see the shyest and rarest birds. If you want to see mammals, 8am would probably be a good time to start, but I wouldn't expect too much unless you are a squirrel fancier. 

 

At Lung Sin (Uncle Sin) there is no phone reception, so you have to commit to how long you are staying when you arrive. The keen will take lunch and drinks with them and stay all day, but if it starts pouring with rain you are then in a tricky situation. In April it is not a problem as rain showers are generally short and the birds will start returning immediately afterward. At a wetter time of year (and I am returning next weekend when it is expected to be wet) just hope you make the right call and bring plenty of rain gear. The rain will not penetrate the hides quickly as there are tarps over part of the top, but it'll creep in over time. There are three hides here, each seating two people, and they are shared if full. I shared with one of a group of three Chinese birders (not the group I shared sightings in the park with).  Also, it is first come- first served for seats, and while all have a good view of the clearing, my view of part of the scene was obscured by a vine (you'll see it in one shot). Next time I come I'll get here earlier and get a spot on the right (as you come into the hides).

 

There are some brighter areas in the clearing here, but out of the sunlight (and you can see it pretty clearly in the photos, as it was harsh) mostly I was shooting at ISO 8000 - 12800 with f/4, although that did give me a generous shutter speed on 1/800s. Others whose cameras essentially top out at ISO 6400 or 3200 could go down to 1/400 or 1/200 on the tripod anyway - I just wanted to freeze motion and other days I used other settings; certainly this hide is fine to photograph from.

 

Other than that there is not a lot to say. You sit and wait and watch and hope. You also sweat a little and wish you had brought more water. I have used a monopod at a hide, but a tripod is much more convenient due to the amount of waiting involved - even though there is always something around, there are only so many shots you want of the same starlings. I really like the silence broken only by bird calls and the flapping of their wings - until the jungle fowl arrive, that is!

 

Starting with a common bird, but nevertheless one of my favourites.....  the black-crested bulbul

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Racket tailed treepie (the ratchet tailed treepie also occurs in Kaeng Krachan - only population in Thailand according to my bird book)

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These look like chestnut-necklaced partridges but when I google people identify them as scaly-breasted partridges and green-legged partridges. I think I got three birds in one! Anyway they (all of them) are common at the hides here.

 

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Large scimitar babbler

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Jungle fowl (the origin of our domestic chickens)

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The female junglefowl

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Cutest bird of the day - a black-naped monarch

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And the day's hit for the Chinese birders.... a green magpie (common)

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And a pair of what are locally known as kaiji pheasants, although in my English language bird book they are called silver pheasants

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A very shy mouse deer came down a couple of times for a papaya left out. My peripheral position didn't help with getting shots of it.

 

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And a tree shrew taking a drink

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Finally a squirrel and jungle fowl sharing food.... and that bloody vine!

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Of course there were a few more sightings, but shots from the other hides will better represent them. These were the highlights from 4 hours at Lung Sin's hide, despite the intermittent rain.

 

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monalisa

That black-naped monarch looks like it fell face first into a bucket of blue paint! Very cool!

 

Also just want to say that I appreciate all the photography tips along the way. I wish I could take pictures like these!

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janzin

This is all very interesting to me as we have been contemplating Thailand for birding...although we'd probably go on a tour, all the tours include Kaeng Krachan.  I think I'd avoid going in December, though! You did quite well despite the rain but it definitely puts a "damper" on things, for sure. :)

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We took a first trip to Thailand a couple years ago, and even though that was a non-birding trip we still saw some interesting ones. You had some amazing sightings, and they show how diverse, and to me, wonderfully colored the Thai birds are. 

We did not go to Kaeng Krachan mostly because of time and logistics, so if you could share some information on where you stayed, how you traveled from A to B, guide, etc. that would be very helpful for hopefully a future trip. Thanks.

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pault
9 hours ago, janzin said:

This is all very interesting to me as we have been contemplating Thailand for birding...although we'd probably go on a tour, all the tours include Kaeng Krachan.  I think I'd avoid going in December, though! You did quite well despite the rain but it definitely puts a "damper" on things, for sure. :)

 

December is the last month of the rains and rain should not be too bad by the end. The wettest place in Thailand (Ranong) is not too far away so rain is part of life there. 

 

It is is no surprise the tours include Kaeng Krachan and you will be happy they did. I wouldn’t have thought Thailand was in the top tier of birding destinations but if you go to the right places it is amazing what is here. 

 

 

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pault
On 4/28/2019 at 10:06 PM, xyz99 said:

 

We did not go to Kaeng Krachan mostly because of time and logistics, so if you could share some information on where you stayed, how you traveled from A to B, guide, etc. that would be very helpful for hopefully a future trip. Thanks.

 

I covered as much of this as there is in the first two posts @xyz99. I live here in Bangkok so both of these were A to B to A long-weekend trips. Baan Maka arranged everything for me and can do so for you. Games at Baan Maka there would be a very nice guide I think (have not used her for that but have had a number of interactions with her as she and her assistant Gan arrange all the trips, hide visits, etc.). My guide Piak also works regularly/ principally for Baan Maka in Kaeng Krachan and really knows where everything is.

 

You can arrange cheaper, especially if you can get on a tour (but be clear it is a birding/ wildlife tour - most Kaeng Krachan nature tours out of Hua Hin are heading for the waterfalls of Palu, which is pretty but developed for tourism and not an equivalent experience at all. The park gate to head for is the one near Kaeng Krachan town and the reservoir. 

 

 

Oops sorry that is Pala-U!

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janzin
12 hours ago, pault said:

 

December is the last month of the rains and rain should not be too bad by the end. The wettest place in Thailand (Ranong) is not too far away so rain is part of life there. 

 

It is is no surprise the tours include Kaeng Krachan and you will be happy they did. I wouldn’t have thought Thailand was in the top tier of birding destinations but if you go to the right places it is amazing what is here. 

 

 

Actually Thailand is often the first place Western (at least USA) birders go in Asia; I think because it is generally considered easier than some other places like Malaysia, etc.  Also easier for us to get too (lots of flights to Bangkok), and cheaper; and great food and culture to combine with birding. Also Spoon-billed Sandpiper is the big draw for many people. 

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pault

A few more pictures from the surrounding area, recovered from my first trip. Just for information - I am not claiming it is outstanding scenery.

 

A wider view of the giant monk.

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A local reservoir/ dam (not the one tourists visit)

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The monk statue itself is a minor bird magnet, but these two (one on shoulder) are not very exciting spots.

 

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The first hide I visited back in December was at Ban Song Nok (Birdwatching House, literally translated) which is at a small resort set up on the edge of a patch of forest near the (very small) town. The hide is set up out the back of the resort. It is probably last choice on the list of hides but due to me being so late to book it was what was left and it is really not bad, although lacking a real attraction (some of the other hides are famous for particular verbs, like the green magpies at Lung Sin and certain pitas at Nueng). They do get some great birds here from time to time though and at the standard $7 per day this is still great value for any birder when the more famous hides are not available. One weakness it has for many is that it is rather dark (the owner has actually installed a couple of weak and not-too-conspicuous lights to combat this, but they illuminate only a very small area) and so the hide has a rep as being poor for photography. However, if you can shoot at ISO 12800, f/4 and 1/160s (tripod will help obviously but first trip I only brought my monopod) you can get shots. Of course it was very overcast and there will be slightly better shooting conditions in good weather.

 

As the owners themselves (a lovely elderly couple from outside the area - this is their retirement) told me, things are better here in the dry season nowadays, as the numbers of the rarer birds are down with development in the area and they come mainly for the water, rather than the seed and corn left out. If there is fresh water deeper in the trees they often don't come out at all. They also have a little feeding station next to their "reception" but due to rain it was not active that day.

 

Despite seeing nothing special I had a really nice day, going back to Baan Maka for lunch and a siesta while the worst of the rain was on (there is a telephone signal here so I was able to call Gan to get someone to pick me up.

 

A treeshrew (no squirrels here that I saw, but they prefer earlyish morning and I was here a bit late, having been for a walk at Baan Maka after breakfast) 

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Stripe-throated bulbul

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Jungle fowl were regular visitors - both morning and afternoon.

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The noisy, chaotic greater-necklaced laughing thrushes dominate the place and in the morning were the majority of the birds. Some of the other birds do seem to wait until they move on to emerge.

 

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This visitor did not inspire confidence in the morning as our garden is full of them. However, the afternoon was much better. 

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As previewed the afternoon was much better, but it was LBJ hell in there.

 

Scimitar babbler

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This one has me stumped (it does not take much). It looks identical to a Tickell's blue flycatcher, but where is the red breast, and why so dark? Anyway, "An LBJ; probably some kind a flycatcher" may be good enough ID for some.

 

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But the presence of this male at the same time supports the identification - about all that does seeing as it is me making it.

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Except that this one showed up later - looks a lot more like a Tickell''s blue flycatcher's mate!  

 

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And around the same time as her, what's with him? He's not a Tickells, unless the orange paint ran! So I identified him as a hill blue flycatcher, but right now I have no certainty left at all. Try to help me if you can, although I think I will just give up and ask Games or Ian at Baan Maka, as I am going back this weekend to escape coronation weekend in Bangkok.

 

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Back on firmer ground.... a female black-naped monarch - got less dipped in the paint can than the male

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A siberian blue robin or I give up this bird ID lark (pun intended) forever.

 

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Bitch! I am not even going to try, although the definite white eye-ring does ring a slaty-backed bell, there are substantial amounts of black and white on the tail, so I give up. Still like the photo though. :)

 

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A scaly-breasted partridge visit and some jungle fowl ended the day. it was getting too dark to shoot and the mosquitoes were becoming rather ferocious.

 

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pault

The third hide I visited was Nueng hide, which is the most remote. Actually Nueng (I would have spelled his name Neung, but it is his name!) has three (or maybe four - rumour has it that there is a fourth hide that is very remote) hides set up - a very enterprising businessman and well-known to birders. No doubt as a later booker I was in the least interesting of the hides but I will never really know because the rain came and stayed for most of the afternoon (unseasonal - should not get this kind of rain until May, but Thailand has been having unusual weather recently). Since the hide is a couple of kilometers from even the nearest house and there is absolutely no phone reception out there, I had planned to do 2-3 hours in the morning as a recce and then to come back after lunch and stay until 6 or so. This was the most open hide and so rather too drenched in sunlight in spots, but I think it would have got really nice as the sun dropped in the sky. I will never no, as with no way to arrange an unscheduled pickup I did not dare return in a rainstorm and hope it cleared up. It is not even possible to say "if the rain doesn't ease up by 3 come and get me" as the rain pattern at Baan Maka and at Nueng hide could be completely different. 

 

So please do not take this a fair review of Nueng hide. Bar-backed partridges and various pitas are regularly seen there.

 

Here is a nice trip report by a much more dedicated birder than I am. Of course he doesn't know entirely what is going on, but he knows his birds and can give you an idea what you can find with mad devotion (not sure if they slept!).  and a focus on the spotting rather than the photographing - it goes here because there are a couple of visits to Nueng (and he spells it Neung, which is odd but I guess he knows someone else with that name) and he notes that there are different birds at different hides.

https://bllackwhitespot.wordpress.com/2019/02/19/kaeng-krachan-and-pak-thale-jan-2019/

 

The hide was very much squirrel hide in the morning. 

 

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And where there are squirrels there are treeshrews. You can see the problem with too much light between the trees here. this is not a rare white-tipped tailed treeshrew!  You can also see the corn laid out by Nueng.

 

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White-crested laughingthrush - much shier than their greater necklaced cousins, but equally noisy and boistrous

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A bronzed drongo I believe....

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A white-rumped shama (saw plenty of these at Baan Maka too)

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A racket tailed treepie took a bath here, giving me a nice, long sighting

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Emerald dove

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pault

Hopefully to be continued after my next visit this weekend.......... :)

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xelas

Some excellent photography, specially regarding the light situation. What about using a flash?

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pault

Before I proceed with a report on my third visit (two days in the park, one at Baan Maka, no hides) I need to make a correction. I see edits are still available, so I will use that function to correct the information where appropriate, to ensure information is as factual as you can expect with me.  But people who have already read it may not notice such changes. 

 

First, the reason my guide's name was Piak was because I speak Thai. There seems to be a crowd of Kaeng Krachan regulars and its cute but also nosey. So a surprising number of people wanted to know something about me - because I speak Thai fluently enough that I wasn't able to be classified as 'tourist'. I would like to think that it is because they thought I might be someone important, but it was just good ol' curiosity. So I heard a few times "he's with Piak" and on my first visit was even asked "Are you with Piak?". At that time I could not remember my guide's name but I was sure it wasn't Piak. So I answered "no" only to be told by another person "Yes you are. You came with Piak." So that evening I checked the guide list at Baan Maka and indeed Piak was listed and the price matched what I was paying. I was puzzled but thought not too much of it - maybe he had two nicknames or something. Anyway, it just never happened that I had to address him by name - or him me. I was his sole client so if I spoke it was pretty much always to him. If I had he would have explained (and I understand why he didn't want to immediately and if not necessary, although it was never intended to be a secret) that he was actually Robin to Piak's Batman - an apprentice, although one with a lot of experience for an apprentice. 

 

The reason the two guys themselves didn't want to stress it was because they felt it was a bit improper - although as you now know he was absolutely fine for what I wanted to do. The big difference is of course in-depth bird knowledge and knowing the names in English, which wasn't that much of a deal with me - as I wouldn't necessarily know the name anyway, and we would have just spent 5 minutes of every 30 working out whether my incomprehension was due to my ignorance, his pronunciation or a third factor!  Plus there is only a small chance you would get the real Piak at the short notice I gave (or so Piak told me!).

 

When people said I was with Piak, that is what they thought - I was with Piak's man so I was with Piak. 

 

So, I am glad to confirm for interested birders (i.e. people not like me) that The Real Piak  really knows his birds - forwards and backwards, their songs and their habits - and he knows the names in English*.  As a bonus, he's a great source of information on Thai birding and wildlife in general and I also think he might be the Godfather of Kaeng Krachan - but we'll do the idle gossip when I get to the report of my latest visit. 

 

* When I was with Piak,  even though he has worked with foreigners for decades, pronunciation could be difficult. I think this was partially because we mostly spoke Thai and so even though we used English bird names, Thai pronunciation came naturally. The reason for this is that Thai bird names tend to be vague and people actually know and use the English part of the name that defines a bird... so a black-capped kingfisher is "black cap" (pronounced almost "backap" by many) when talking to other birders, and then "kingfisher" in Thai added if the listener is puzzled by what backup you mean. :D  Oh dear, I am learning to be a Thai birder. 

(Also, if you are listening to my recommendations for a birding guide you are missing something vital... haha)

 

Latest visit was great - photos and stories coming soon.

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pault
On 5/6/2019 at 6:30 PM, xelas said:

Some excellent photography, specially regarding the light situation. What about using a flash?

 

That is certainly possible, provided you use a flash extender. Not sure what others would think of it, as they might feel you were scaring off the birds or spoiling their shots. But otherwise, nothing to stop you. 

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pault

Another visit over the weekend of the coronation here means I am continuing. I wonder how long this trip report will go on for? I am considering another visit towards the end of the month, but the rains are starting here and so am not sure I'll do it.

 

Of course I did some different things or it would hardly be worth posting. Baan Maka have a new offering - get dropped off and picked up from the park and hire a portable hide for the day so you can stake out some likely spots along with the other bird photographers - at the weekend it is not that difficult theoretically (you'll see why i use that word later) just to follow other people and see where they are stopping and ask them what for, So I got to Baan Maka at 9.15 am having left home before 6 (some roadworks make the journey a half hour longer at the moment) and was immediately ushered on my way by Ian, hide in hand (it folds up to the size of one of those screens for car windows, although it is a bit heavier) with the good news that part of the upper road might be open (this area referred to by mentioning the streams as there are four streams that you have to cross). It was always open via a path through the forest. but although that might sound better it is pretty thick and dark in there and difficult to see much - the opening cut by the road provides a much better chance of seeing things. My bag had rather more than I wanted in it due to the swift departure and because of the streams I had to wear my boots despite my broken toe. Sandals would have been fine normally but (i) I am not allowed to get the dressing on my toes wet and (ii) if the road was not open, sandals are not best for the path route, especially sandals that are deliberately a bit too big (to leave room for the dressing and the initial swelling) with an exposed, broken toe. This was the first time I had worn closed footwear since I broke it and it was really painful getting the boot on and quite difficult to avoid sharp pain walking - but possible at first.

 

It was a nice morning and when I got to the camp site about 10, and there was good news - the road from Ban Krang camp was open to walkers again (no cars) and the butterflies were everywhere. It was lovely walking  up the road through all the butterflies, carrying some with me. The bees were less lovely and I noticed there were a lot of them around. It was also less lovely walking down the road (rather than up) as that forced my toe against my boot and it was agony. I seriously thought about giving up, but I'd come all this way and it was only 2 km to the first of the four streams where the birding starts, so I slowed to a crawl and carried on. 

 

First stop was where there were a pair of kingfishers with a nest. I found it by asking someone coming back. In fact everyone I met was coming back as it had taken me an hour to do the 2km on one and a bit feet and it was 11 already. Fortunately I had a little seat with the hide and that appeared to be a lifesaver, as did the fact that the rangers had already set up a long strip of black mesh held up by poles as a hide at the kingfisher spot -  with holes cut in it for viewing...so I wouldn't be restricted to a tiny spot by my little hide. The cloud was gathering but it was still a  lovely day. There was one guy there at the hide when I arrived and he showed me shots of the kingfishers fishing (blue-eared) and also pointed out where they liked to land. Perfect, and he’d seen them 5 times in two hours so, although he warned me they were becoming less active, it was still promising. I set up my camera (monopod for the hike, as it is useful for getting quick shots of birds high in trees too and with a hide and seat a tripod seemed a step too far) and waited expectantly, but happy to be patient.

 

An hour later I was still being patient when a guy and his son showed up with their guide. Turns out they were also at Baan Maka but I did not know at that time. The boy was really keen for about 15 minutes but there were a lot of bees around now - I mean a lot. There was constantly one on my arm or face licking my sweat and they had even got up my trouser leg twice. I resisted any action as that would only lead to a sting - it would do neither of us any good. Anyway, after about 15 minutes the boy started asking this and that and although he was trying to be tough,  it really was a bit tough there and in the end he was fidgeting and talking too much. I wasn't upset as I did sympathise with him, but in the end his fidgeting did for him and a bee stung him. Ten minutes later they were gone as his father realised it was time - conditions were just a bit too extreme for the modern child. 

 

A little rain fell, but only a bit of drizzle and then it seemed to clear again. I was hopeful it would stay away and with the bees really swarming me as only sweat available it was a relief to get rid of them for 20 minutes. Finally the birds came, and with fish too - but not caught here unfortunately, not that there was really enough light any more to shoot them in flight.

 

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They hung on the log for about 30 seconds then flew off to feed their chicks. Shortly after I decided to go as my foot wasn't hurting and I wanted to find the next spot before everyone disappeared (finding them on my own might have been possible but I didn't have a map and wasn't mobile enough to walk and spot efficiently at the same time). Of course as soon as I stood up my foot was really sore. I was hobbling around and then, after surviving two hours without a sting, while I was packing up I got stung 5 times in a minute. It would have been comical if anyone had been there to see it. Those bees are small, but their stings are mighty and they stay sore unless you can get the stings out right away, which I could not as all were under my clothes (note to self: trousers in socks and sleeves buttoned next time).

 

Anyway, I managed to hobble out to the road, although it was much more difficult than coming in and the stream had risen a good few inches so there was rain somewhere. Left was back to the camp while right was the adventure. I knew I should go left but one bird did not seem like much of a haul for the day and I can be stubborn, so right it was. I saw some dusky leaf monkeys (langurs) high in the trees and managed to get a pretty useless shot or two, but for everything else I was too slow as I had too much weight for one good foot.

 

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I saw a big monitor lizard, a pair of kalij pheasants and some of the less notable birds, but I was always a second or two late - just shots of the edge of the forest with them already gone. But it couldn't be far to the next site where I could sit and wait so I carried on over stream two and then stream three. I should have seen something by now. In fact i should have seen someone by now. Nobody else was here. I'd seen nobody for nearly an hour.  The weather wasn't looking too great when I got somewhere I could see any distance either, and then the first sounds of thunder came.

 

Uh-oh

 

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So I turned around and started trying to up my pace, ignoring the pain at first and then discovering that it was actually less painful to walk fast, as long as I didn't step on any stones. With the first drops of rain I put on my waterproof and my camera's waterproof too. As the rain got a bit heavier, the thunder got louder, and the number of stones stepped on increased I put away my gear in my bag and tried to up the pace even further. Only 4 km to go. Then the lightning started, the thunder got deafening and the sky just opened up. I sheltered under a tree for a few minutes to sort out what to do and how to keep my gear dry and worked out that my best chance was the hide! So I unpacked it for the only time that day, put my camera pack on my back and held the hide open behind me (it is a two-sided, 5-foot high hide) as an extra level of protection against the now torrential rain. Later Ian at Baan Maka said "Oh like a tortoise." when I described it but I was thinking I was like a butterfly - a huge butterfly, limping badly, but a butterfly nonetheless. Perhaps a moth after one too many visits to the light bulb would have been a more accurate analogy but with 3 km still to go, the lightning and thunder coming at the same time and every 20 seconds, and another, now possibly raging, stream still to cross, I was determined to stay positive.

 

To cut a long story short, the stream was just crossable in my state, the hide kept my gear from getting any worse than damp and although my shoulders and arms were hurting almost as much as my foot by the end (the hide is not heavy but there was wind) I made it back to Ban Krang camp about 3.30, soaked and sore but without any more drama. Saw a crab (yes), a snake and a huge black scorpion (never seen one so big) on the way back too. If would have been fascinating if I had been fit and pain-free, dressed like a fisherman (my rain gear is super-light stuff that doesn't really cut it in that kind of storm) and not worried about thousands of dollars worth of photographic equipment.

 

By about 4.30 the rain had almost stopped and after a good meal (very late lunch and first food since 5 am) and lots of friendly chats with people (you meet very nice people at the camp site) I was still very wet and very sore but ready to hobble around the camp grounds with my camera. I heard someone say what I thought was dusky leaf-monkey and hobbled after the others, only to find I had misheard and it was a white-rumped shama - a juvenile.

 

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I quickly learned that everybody is super-helpful and friendly at the campsite but you shouldn't just follow as they are very enthusiastic about everything, even it it isn't quite as exciting as you would think from the crowd. It is kind of the culture there. You spot and tell others, and it is up to others whether to react , but often they do out of politeness and so you get a crowd of 50 around a bee-eater high, high in a tree! A bee-eater I had seen two hours earlier (and I am sure many of the others did too). A social thing.

 

The blue-throated bee-eater - not quite as good a sighting as the last time! :P

 

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But I was glad for the heads-up when the dusky leaf monkeys did arrive at the camp at about 5.15 (they apparently usually do) despite it involving a very painful walk down a hill.

 

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They are fun to watch and this group are well used to being observed by the humans around camp so you can get reasonably close to do so. So agile - look at how this one turns on the branch about 30 meters above the ground.

 

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I was picked up by arrangement at 5.30 and had all my clothes and gear outside drying by 6.30. A hot shower has never felt so good. Despite my day, and the state of my foot, I decided to stick to the plan of returning next day with a guide. 

Edited by pault
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michael-ibk

Sorry to read about your toe Paul, good healing!

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pomkiwi

@pault I must apologise as I am late to this report. Lovely images (as ever) in adversity. You have my sympathy over being stuck in a storm (I’ve been to Alaska)  and 8 hope you broken toe heals quickly.

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pault

@pomkiwi and @michael-ibk

 

Thanks. Unfortunately this trip was not very good for healing. :mellow:  Frankly, I agree with the doctor that I do not deserve healing!

 

Alaska would be worse - at least I was never cold!

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pault

Next morning (Sunday), after managing to get my boot on against the odds and hobbling down in the dark to get some coffee and toast and meet up with my guide (the Real Piak this time, although the Guide Formerly Known as Piak was also there with him, waiting for a guest, causing some awkward conversation at first but no lasting damage) we managed to get off at just after dawn. It became immediately obvious things were going to be slightly different with Piak because we were birding before we even got out of Baan Maka and it continued all down the road. It was barely light and we wanted to get to the park quite early  so we didn't stop that often, but I did take a few photos. That I can remember offhand there were also a koel, a hoopoe, a fork-tailed drongo, a junglefowl hen with chicks, a different shama (can't remember which), a group of 10 cattle egrets in breeding plumage at an intersection. There was more though, but as I keep on saying I am not a birder.

 

A dollarbird in flight

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I was sure this was a drongo cuckoo when I took the picture, although little detail was viewable against the cloudy sky. But it has no banding on the tail that I can make out. It doesn't look at all like an Asian Koel at all, or anything else I can find in 15 minutes, so drongo cuckoo is still my ID. Anyway it is probably something in that category of "birds significantly more interesting than a common mynah but not really unusual if you pay any attention to the BB/BJs (big black/blue jobs - a Thai variation on little brown jobs used I think only by me - so far! Black/blue because of course you can often see the blue only in certain light).

 

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A birder newly arrived in Thailand would have been thrilled, although that birder would not have got to the park until after 8, which would have been a mistake.

 

We stopped at the reservoir just inside from the main park gate (this is actually HQ I have found out, and the buildings at Ban Krang camp are "something else" - really, that is all I could get out of anyone - but Ban Krang is still HQ for us tourists - there is nothing at the gate, really.) to see what was there as the larger mamals sometimes come down to drink in the morning. It was very quiet though - just a couple of open-billed storks and this pond heron (Chinese I think) in breeding plumage flying past. 

 

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Piak wanted to know what I had seen the day before so I could photograph something different today. His job was made a lot easier than he had expected when I told him. A pair of black-backed kingfishers, a white-rumped shama and a blue-throated bee-eater left a lot of birds unchecked! He was a bit contemptuous of that (in a nice way) and probably thought me pathetic, but revised his opinion to incompetent after I told him I had hobbled all the way to stream three and back and got caught in the storm on the way back. "That was quite a bad storm." he told me, in case I had missed the worst of it - I hadn't. His opinion of me did rise slightly over the course of the day and I think I am probably in the popular "slightly less than competent but easy to please" category now. 

 

Since there were a number of good targets remaining on the upper road for the vaguely competent birder, we decided to head up there first and then play it by ear. There were some nice new birds on the lower road too if things weren't happening up top.

 

So we went fairly rapidly up the road this time, although we stopped to check for a kingfisher that sometimes shows at this time of day (not today) and for an eagle spotted above the road in a tree.  I think it is a mountain hawk-eagle, with the crest not visible, but I cannot definitely remember what Piak said. Not a nice photo, but you get a lot of these in Kaeng Krachan with the really tall trees - learn to love it or go home. ;)

 

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A couple of re-wattled lapwings on the road

 

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We got to the camp and it was pretty busy. There was one parking spot left near the start of the upper road, which seemed unusual even for a holiday. We did not know, but we had not seen anything yet. 

 

Walking was worse than at the beginning of the day before, but nowhere near as bad as at the end of it, so we made decent progress now I knew walking slowly did not help at all. 

 

First sighting of note was a snake, but since it had been killed by a bird according to Piak, it was a bird-related sight so okay. I cannot identify the snake unfortunately, although Piak knew (and which bird had killed it, but not to eat). 

 

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Today there were no ominous clouds but up there the fog was still rising. There is a famous viewpoint at the top (not accessible until the road is completed) where you can camp to catch the fog filling the valleys below you in the morning, but on the lower parts of the road, even partial viewpoints are quite uncommon - this one looks like trees were felled for a path at some time in the past.

 

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Walking with Piak I quickly learned he considered the butterflies pleasant but a bit of a waste of good birding time. He also wasn't keen on me spending time taking photos of these mushrooms on dung, although I assured him they would look quite good. In the end we agreed a minute with the mushrooms but no butterflies. Birds were waiting and there were quite a few people out today, meaning it could get a bit busy (busy here is like 10 people at a sighting but still the quantity of traffic can make the birds less keen to show themselves.

 

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A fellow photographer.

 

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First target of the day was a banded kingfisher - the most desirable kingfisher in the world for me - if only there had been a pair!  This was a "wait near its nest tree" one and we fortunately did not have to wait long. It was very shady and there was seems to be some haze (although I did not notice it at the time - I'll have to check if all my photos at this location are like this) but it's a lovely little bird. This is a great time to have chicks of course because there are so many insects around. For that reason it is also a good time for birding (bar the heat, humidity and those bloody insects).

 

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After walking further down the road we turned off the road and took a short path down to the stream, which runs very close to the road for some significant distances and is well worth exploring if you have no tips and aren't seeing what you want from the road.  

 

Our target here was a pair of silver-breasted broadbills, who had built their nest hanging over the stream. A lovely spot so it was a pleasure to wait for them. But first we had to wait for a troop of noisy leaf monkeys to finish feeding on the tree next to us and leave the area.

 

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Soon after the leaf monkeys left the broadbills arrived,  both with food for their chicks.

 

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Wow, that was nice!!!! So nice we decided to wait for a second round.

 

Some other wildlife, while waiting....

 

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But oh, what is that above our heads? One of them was sitting directly above us! 

 

Watching me, watching you.... 

(by the way, the bright leaves are reflected in its lovely blue eye - it is not some eye disease!)

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Sick of them yet? I wasn't.

 

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After that it was time for a black-backed kingfisher.... this required a hide (actually I didn't because there were two hides already there so I just hid behind the hides and it worked fine) as the branch was right next to the road. It was rather dark but the light was pleasant and it was a really easy view.

 

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Birders come, birders go... although many people were out just enjoying nature, these two were definitely into the birds - I remember meeting them both a number of times over the day.

 

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To be continued as I have to work again.

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xelas

Wow, that is a true dedication ... a broken toe and still out there, birding! Fantastic photos and sightings are good for a healing process.

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Soukous

Lovely TR @pault great to see so many birds that don't often - if ever - get posted here. I especially liked the kingfishers, Banded and Black-backed.

Sorry to hear about your injury but I do admire your determination. If I had  broken toe I'd be staying at home demanding sympathy and room service. :unsure:

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Kitsafari

wow you got the banded kingfisher! a gorgeous bird but one we missed when we were in southern thailand last year. Definitely a bird worth waiting for. n the black-backed kingfisher also known as the dwarf kingfisher is a tiny rare gem - much sought after in Singapore. 

 

Hope your toe has improved vastly despite you putting it to tough work during the coronation weekend. 

 

As always, much enjoying your TR. definitely you've put KK on my list but not for this year. 

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pault
8 minutes ago, Soukous said:

Lovely TR @pault great to see so many birds that don't often - if ever - get posted here. I especially liked the kingfishers, Banded and Black-backed.

Sorry to hear about your injury but I do admire your determination. If I had  broken toe I'd be staying at home demanding sympathy and room service. :unsure:

 

 Talking of black-backed, I wrote the first kingfisher on the day of the storm was black-backed for some bizarre reason. I am useless with bird names but that was a weird one, as I was already identifying another kingfisher the same way. Corrected to blue-eared now.:P

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pault
Just now, Kitsafari said:

wow you got the banded kingfisher! a gorgeous bird but one we missed when we were in southern thailand last year. Definitely a bird worth waiting for. n the black-backed kingfisher also known as the dwarf kingfisher is a tiny rare gem - much sought after in Singapore. 

 

Hope your toe has improved vastly despite you putting it to tough work during the coronation weekend. 

 

As always, much enjoying your TR. definitely you've put KK on my list but not for this year. 

 

Thanks for the second name for the black-backed (sounds like beck-beck in Thai-English). I recently found this useful "where-to" guide if you are a kingfisher fan. I never knew some of this.

https://www.thaibirdspot.com/blog/my-kingfishers-of-thailand

 

 

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pault

Walking the road above Ban Krang camp I could not help but note how many people knew Piak. More interestingly, people were pretty deferential to him. If I had been watching on I would have guessed he was the park director or something (although he looks nothing like you would expect a park director to look). At that black-backed kingfisher spot I am quite certain that if a hide had been necessary he would have got one from someone. Even if he had to tell one of the other guides to get his guests out of their hide for a while so I could use it, I can't help but think he would have done it and there would have been no arguments. :P  I don't want to go too far with this as of course 99% of the time he was just doing his job like every other guide, but if I ever get into any bother in Kaeng Krachan I know I'll just say "Hey, I'm with Piak." 

 

Actually Piak was a bit annoyed that day - not by his barely competent guest but by the huge numbers of people who were showing up. As we walked back down the road to Ban Krang camp to get a rest and some lunch and discuss what to do in the afternoon, his face got gradually darker as more and more people appeared on the road (and not the birding regulars - these folks would not, with respect, know a pita from a tortilla). They were going to scare off the birds, he opined. I thought he was being a bit grouchy and misanthropic, but he later told me that in his decades in the park he had never seen anything like this many people - and of course with a lot of the upper road closed off there was limited space for them. It was a shock for him .... but I had no expectations, as some other parks regularly get this busy. We don't know if the butterflies were on TV or some celebrity had posted from there on Instagram, or what. I would imagine the campers were most shocked - suddenly there were hundreds of people gawping at their washing on the clothes line! 

 

They were there for the butterflies - some allegedly dressed more appropriately than others but all having a nice time. 

 

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Since we were out of the peak birding area I made up an excuse about colour patterns and sneaked a few shots of butterflies myself, without annoying Piak too much.

 

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Patterns my ass...  I was photographing density (shhhhh...)

 

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After lunch we had a nice chat and he told me how he got into birding (initially as young truck driver who knew wildlife and Kaeng Krachan well he was hired to drive for a scientific group organized by Philip Round or one of those bird experts who has been in Thailand forever and then mentored by said expert and others before working his way up to guide and where he is now) and explained his favourite place to bird (Kaeng Krachan of course, although he admitted you'd want to spend some time in the north as well) and that he had no real concept of a holiday - he wasn't sure if he had ever had one because if he had plans and one of his clients wanted him at that time he would just have to cancel anyway. He also explained how the Guide Formerly Known as Piak was being mentored by him and was a very promising guide and a good spotter, but still at the superficial level as far as bird knowledge went. I thought that a bit harsh, but what would I know? 

 

After lunch Piak decided we would avoid the crowds by birding across the river (the streams turn into what you'd have to call a small river here) along a road that was closed to the public. I wondered if this was allowed but, looking at Piak, the ranger we met told me it was absolutely not a problem. So we had our own private birding road, although it was very dark there. We were after different birds now. This was a different type of forest here - more uniformly evergreen, with a lower, but thicker canopy and very dark and quiet on the ground. 

 

We had decent views of a blue-winged pita and a barbet I had never even heard of before (technical term) but I couldn't get photos as they kept of flying off quickly. The problem was that it was too dark (and bright in spots) to just focus and shoot in a single movement. Focus had to be quite deliberate or you'd just catch some shiny leaves or grass and absolutely no bird for sure - I certainly tried. Frankly it was great area for bird spotting but pretty rotten for photography. That was just as well as half an hour into this walk I found out that the second battery in my camera was just about dead. Something must have gone wrong with the charge the night before. Maybe it was because of damp or maybe I just turned off the wrong switch on the wall (I had 3 things charging). Anyway, I had maybe 2 shots, maybe 50 left. Battery was officially empty, running on fumes. 

 

We did find a banded broadbill deep in a tree's branches. Just a couple of angles gave any view at all. Murder to focus on given how small it was in the frame but we got there in the end. It is still shouting to the banded broadbill that Piak keeps in his pocket. 

 

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Piak told me to use up one of my few remaining shots on this, hoping it would turn round. It didn't and I do not know what it is. The colouring is common enough for a cuckoo but the bright yellow splash confuses things in my books. Worst thing is that it is familiar from somewhere.

EDIT: Oh, it is a trogon!

 

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As it was looking like rain, I wanted  to maybe get a bit of a charge on my battery and snap a few pictures around Baan Maka at sunset, and Piak wanted to bird a little on the way out of the park, we decided to head off about 3.30 or so. About a km down the road we found an old friend, but this was a different pair of black and yellow broadbills.

 

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And with that my camera battery died.......... 

 

We continued looking for birds but for once I am glad to say we did not find anything interesting on  the way back. If my battery had not died we would have parked up on the road and waited for the birds to fly over in the evening, although it was getting a bit too cloudy.

 

I'll finish off with some birding at Baan Maka. Nothing spectacular but a minor triumph for me personally.

 

 

 

 

Edited by pault
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xelas
52 minutes ago, pault said:

And with that my camera battery died.......... 

 Could it be that you only had one?! I hope there is a way to recharge the batteries while at the lodge.

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