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DAY TRIP to KHAO YAI June 2008

DAYTRIP

Throughout the year I receive a fair amount of emails in regards to birding in Thailand.
One category of visitor is the businessman coming through on a tight schedule.
The question that follows is: ‘Where and how can I squeeze in some birding?’

Well, aside from the city parks of Lumpini Park, Suan Rot Fai and Suan Loang there are actually some very tangible day trips that can be done.

My favorite places for such endeavors are:

1. Khao Yai – an excellent park, covered in tropical broadleaved forest. The park holds more then 300 species of birds and is a great place to see mammals as well.
Normally it means leaving from Bangkok at a little before 5 am.
I have had a number of people who were not even bird watchers coming out of Khao Yai after a few hours simply saying: ‘that was Heavenly, such a wonderful place with all those sounds, smells and sightings of wonderfully colored birds!’

2. Bang Pra – this is about an hours drive (100km) from town. A fresh water
reservoir with adjoining grasslands and stands of open woodlands make for a very birdie visit. In sheer numbers this is a good site to ‘knock off’ many species often not seen within the National Parks since the parks often are forested and on higher grounds.

3. Petburi saltpans – in winter this place is simply fabulous. It is teeming with waders, seabirds and many other species taking to the secondary growth in the area. Many rarities such as Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Nordmann's Greenshank, Black-faced Spoonbills are regularly found here.


To sample what one can see in a day I would like to recount my day with Exley Steward on the 3rd of June 2008.

A business trip often happens rather abruptly. So it was for Exley. I got his email on Saturday, he got in on Sunday, gave me a call and we agreed to settle for Tuesday.

I picked him up at Inter Continental at Ploen Chit road. Thankfully so, traffic is not that bad in the early morning. We left from the hotel at 5 am as agreed and arrived at the gate of Khao Yai at 7 sharp. We managed to stop and have a look at some Red-breasted Parakeets found near the entrance. These birds are active, loud and colorful and always a delight to observe. The nicely colored Plain-backed Sparrow (not a fitting name) was another first for Exley who prior to his visit had done birding in Singapore, KL and Hongkong where he now resides with his wife.
A colorful Coppersmith Barbet showed well. This is another bird the first time visitor oohs and aahs over. The scope comes in handy with this bird as it often perches up high.
Lineated Barbets were singing and the many White-vented Mynas added to the music.

A quick drive to the look out and our first views of tropical forest covered mountains.
By this time all migrants are gone, most resident birds have already bred and it is generally considered a quiet time of year. We were blessed with a pair of massive looking Great Hornbills perched nearby. There simply is nothing to be compared with these ‘Kings of the forest’ as they swoosh their huge wings in flight while sounding like a smaller airplane. Exley was very pleased.

The sounds of a Red-headed Trogon kept coming. Then another one answered. It didn’t take long before this brightly red colored bird flew across the road a couple of times.
A pair of beautiful Blue-winged Leafbirds roamed around in the area. A Great Iora showed well (this bird isn’t that easy as one may think). A flock of Hill Mynas flew by.
Asian Fairy Bluebird sang its heart out on top of a tree. In the background Gibbons were singing (and anyone who hasn’t heard a Gibbon sing yet you have something really incredible to look forward to). Little green bullets kept buzzing by (Velvet Hanging Parakeets).

We slowly drove further into the park listening for birds. One stop produced a very vocal flock of White-crested Laughingthrushes. These are often mixed with Neck-laced and Black-throated Laughingthruses as well as Large Scimitar Babbler so they are well worthy of a close check up. This flock had a White-browed Scimitar Babbler with it.
Greater Flameback with its high pitched staccato filled the air.

So, on it went throughout the day. Lots of little stops here and there kept adding more species to the list. A couple of minor walks on trails were mostly rewarded with leeches but the nature trail behind the visitor centre was quite lively. Best event was a Mountain Hawk Eagle being chased away from its perch by a flock of Pied Hornbills.
Abbott’s Babbler and Greater Flameback showed well in there as did the Racket-tailed Drongo, another remarkably looking creature.

Not far from campground an obliging Rufous Woodpecker called for attention. Lovely thing it is and not that often seen. A lone male Wreathed Hornbill crossed the road over our heads adding our 3rd Hornbill for the day. An adult Crested Serpent Eagle soared over the canopy while letting out its long reaching noise.

In some grass lands we saw the iridescently blue Indian Roller, a Bright-headed Cisticola in breeding plumage, Plain Prinia, Ashy Wood Swallows and Paddyfield Pipit.

On top of Khao Kaew look out other things showed well. Mountain Imperial Pigeon, White-bellied Yuhinna, White-tailed Leaf Warbler (resident and rarely seen in summer), Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike, a pair of very vocal Black-throated Laughingthrushes and a Moustached Barbet.

Sure, we missed a lot which is quite normal but add some stunning looking Scarlet Minivets, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, White-rumped Shama, Green-eared and Blue-eared Barbets, 4 species of Bulbuls, Buff-vented Flowerpecker, Black-throated and Olive-backed Sunbirds, Striped Tit Babbler, the very colorful Thick-billed Pigeons in a tree with several Barred Cuckoo Doves and you are starting to get a picture of all the amazing sights seen in only a few hours at Khao Yai.

Top it off with a Black Bittern and many Openbills along the highway coming back and you will know why it was a very content Exley I saw off at the hotel for a late supper.

If you are coming to Thailand and need someone to take you out why not drop me an email. It will be a cherished memory!

Peter

A great place for more info is
http://www.thaibirding.com/
http://www.travellingbirder.com

pkknjj@yahoo.com



Moustached Barbet
Moustached Barbet
Blue-bearded Bee-eater
Blue-bearded Bee-eater
Great Hornbill
Great Hornbill
Red-breasted Parakeet, male
Red-breasted Parakeet, male
Scarlet Minivet, male
Scarlet Minivet, male
Orange-breasted Trogon
Orange-breasted Trogon
Greater Flameback, female
Greater Flameback, female
Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo
Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo