Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Khao Yai Part II

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
Khao Yai National Park 26.03.12

Monday we spent as a family day but went into the park nonetheless, encouraged by the good facilities and abundant wild life we had seen the previous day. Before we had left our resort we had a very obliging Taiga Flycatcher watch us eating breakfast. Wayne managed to shoot it with his handy 400 - 100 mm lens.
Black-crested Bulbul ssp johnsoni
Pycnonotus melanicterus johnsoni
Khao Yai National Park 26.03.12
 Photo credit © Wayne Hodgkinson

It was essentially a non-birding day and I am happy to say our non-birders enjoyed the day in the park and saw some nice wildlife, birds, trees and plants. We took the boys on a very expensive but enjoyable  elephant ride before entering the park.We even enjoyed a pleasant lunch in the main HQ cafeteria. Wayne and I decided that we would book Isara to guide us on the following day.

Taiga Flycatcher
Ficedula albicilla
Pak Chong 26.03.12
 Photo credit © Wayne Hodgkinson

Tuesday morning we picked Isara up bright and early and entered the park just after its 06:00h opening time. Isara recommended we should proceed to a site for Eared Pitta and off we went and en route we saw a very prickly Porcupine cross the main road. An amazing spectacle. We didn't manage to get sight or sound of the pitta which didn't altogether surprise me as I know these pittas are not exactly drive-by birds that show on demand. Au contraire! We decided then to head back to Km 33 to check out a site for nesting hornbills. This involved a hike along the trail we had started to walk on Sunday. We got a brief glimpse of a hornbill flying off and nothing else other than the sight of a nest in a tree. We spent too long here and drew a blank as the hornbills didn't return. As we waited we had views of a Hair-crested Drongo, Crow-billed Drongo, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Black-naped Oriole, Black-throated Laughing-thrush and my colleagues even managed to sight a Large Scimitar Babbler, which I missed out on. So after a couple of frustrating hours we gave up on the hornbills. This was a bit disappointing.

White-rumped Shama
Khao Yai National Park 27.03.12

However as we walked along the trail things began to get interesting. Isara sighted two Siamese Firebacks ahead on the path. I missed them other than for a brief glimpse of them disappearing into the scrub but I can hardly make any claims. Wayne had a great view. Then soon after Wayne called a Red-headed Trogon, perched almost at eye level about 20 m in front of us. We tried to get closer to it but couldn't really do so. The trogon was Thai lifer ⌗326. How I wish I could have got a shot of this fellow.......a true visual feast for the eyes! A Black-rumped Shama posed a little for us soon after and put on a great sound display. There are no prizes for working out why this fellow is called "white-rumped"!

Soon after I got very excited with a small bird with a long white supercilium which was cavorting on the ground; this remains an unidentified species at the moment but as I was watching it I got very excited by a bigger bird also sporting a very prominent supercilium which was also on the ground and moving around rather playfully. "Eared Pitta" I said. That is all I could think as I looked at it. We didn't flush it and as a result we were able to take a good long look at it and it became quite clear it wasn't a pitta and must be a babbler; a prominent streaked breast being its other noticeable feature . We have subsequently agreed  it was a Puff-throated Babbler, Thai lifer ⌗327. As we walked back to the truck we saw Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike and some barbets. I certainly felt much happier having got a couple of decent species in the bag after the morning's earlier debâcle.

Blue Rock-thrush
Khao Yai National Park 27.03.12

We had agreed that we would restrict our birding to half a day in order to be in position to meet our various work obligations the following day and allowing for the fact that I had a 4 our drive to get home. So we headed to the park headquarters area to finish off. There we were met by a very obliging Blue Rock-thrush perched on a dormitory roof. After we went in pursuit of Slaty-legged Forktail but drew a blank. Wayne and Isara however got very close to a Crested Serpent Eagle and Wayne got some good shots of it. I opportunistically dropped behind thinking that the forktail would likely be very skittish and would move as soon as it sensed movement. So I waited thinking it might fly down the river to where I was standing! Sadly this did not work but it did allow me to pick out a Hainan Blue Flycatcher which very inconveniently sat in front of a branch which has disguised some of its face. Dave Sargeant has confirmed the ID so it goes in provisionally as Thai lifer ⌗328. Mark Fowler on Birdforum has also made some interesting comments for which I am grateful.

I have to say I had a bit of a mental battle with myself during this trip. Part of me felt we should have done more and added more species to our list. But that is simply the obsessive, driven, crazy part of me coming out. It was never planned exclusively as a birding trip; it was always our plan to take it easy in order to be able to spend time with our families. I am glad to say we achieved this. I think the truth is Khao Yai is huge containing a lifetime's birding and this can't be rushed. When I return next time I will hit the trails. That's what I will do differently. But I will be back and I think this is going to be a very rewarding area in years to come. In effect this trip was like a bit of a reconnoître and I feel now as if I really know my way around the the park a lot more than I did before this trip.

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