In the end it really was pretty simple. In fact it became a twitch. Fortunately the two White-fronted Scops Owls were perched at their expected location near the second stream just above Ban Krang camp at Kaeng Krachan National Park. The presence of a handful of photographers meant not even a perfunctory search was required. However the wet weather and the birds’ position made for a very difficult shot and I am actually delighted with this offering which has been cropped and tweaked a little. This really was drive-in birding at its easiest (and best!).
Initially I had planned to camp. As I progressed into the park from the entrance, however, it started to rain, not the heaviest downpour by any means but constant and enough to damage cameras and make photography difficult. Dreich, you could say, a great Scots word that once upon a time I used so much more regularily.....like most days of a Scottish summer! I resolved to get to the owls and not stop until I had them. A few Grey Wagtails were really the only birds that showed on the way in so I am not sure I missed much by taking this targeted approach.
The owls obliged though could hardly have chosen a more awkward position for their day roost. Tom Backlund had warned me that they would be too close for digiscoping and for sure, the shot was not easy. I ended up collapsing the tripod and sitting on the wet floor of the forest and shooting from a very uncomfortable position. However this enabled me to fit one of the owls at a time into the frame. Moreover the fact that these owls were roosting meant I could shoot with a 1/5 second shutter speed which helped me overcome some of the light issues; in real terms a much too slow shutter speed. In the end I got a few usable shots. My squatting efforts caused me to inadvertently stand on my spectacles, which unbeknownst to me had fallen to the ground, and in doing so I broke one of the arms.
Not much else on the bird front: a female Banded Kingfisher being the only other notable bird perched high up in the trees. I saw lots of beautiful butterflies and a couple of new dragonfly species. Once I had my shots of the owls I wasn’t prepared to run the risk of getting my camera or telescope wet. So I hung around hoping for the rain to end but alas no, it didn’t stop.
Now having seen my bird the prospect of a night in a tent in damp to wet conditions really didn’t appeal to me. More to the point a night in the company of my good wife and kids in any conditions will always be much more appealing so I decided to head home. I dropped by at Ban Song Nok but the good lady who runs the show said the rain meant no exotic visitors today.
So in effect my afternoon become a successful twitch with White-fronted Scops Owl becoming Thai lifer #363. I count myself fortunate because the park closes at the beginning of August. This therefore was my last chance of seeing the owls before closure.