Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Forest and frontier


The huge and impressive Great Hornbill was one of four members of its family logged today in the forest.
After a couple of days of very successful shorebirding on the Gulf of Thailand coast, it was time to head west to Kaeng Krachan National Park for a change of pace and some forest birding. When Thais create national parks they do the job properly - this one is the size of Wales, and in a day we couldn't begin to appreciate the scale of it.

An Orange-breasted Trogon adds a dash of lemon-curd colour to a shady forest glade.
With the alarm going off at 3.30am we left in plenty of time to arrive before dawn, even taking in a hitch-hiker briefly along the way - a stunned Barn Owl which glanced against the van in the dark, but which we released seemingly unharmed a short while later. We entered the park as the first shafts of light began to illuminate the night sky, revealing Great Eared Nightjars hawking high over the canopy and, in the shady margins of a drinking pool, a Common Palm Civet running for cover.

A number of Palearctic migrants during the trip included great views of Dusky Warbler.
One of my personal highlights of the day was walking up a Blue Pitta from the leaf litter of a damp roadside ditch, but highlights come in all shapes and sizes, from Sultan Tit and Asian Barred Owlet to Greater Flameback and the always impressive hornbills (today represented by Great, Wreathed, Rusty-cheeked and Oriental Pied). Mammals were equally eyecatching, from territorial White-handed Gibbons to the mighty Gaur, a beast you would not want to aggravate without good reason and a quick means of escape.

Creature of the night: a Large-tailed Nightjar at dusk in Kaeng Krachan NP.
Also noteworthy was the fact that we almost came within a stone's throw of the Burmese border. The forest knows no bounds here, extending in a huge swathe across what is to the natural world an entirely artificial boundary. Rumour has it that species such as Gurney's Pitta are umpteen times more numerous on the other side, where forest still covers 49 per cent of the country, but for now I'm happy not to give my tourist dollar to the military junta in Rangoon. I'll take a chance of connecting with this global mega in the south of Thailand, where we fly tomorrow.

A fitting end to a day's birding in Thailand: Brown-headed Gulls fly to roost across a setting sun.

3 comments:

  1. Wow. What a fantastic trip. Bet you can't wait to get back to Rainham Marshes...

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  2. Although the birds are obviously the main reason for the photos, some of these images are also beautiful and dreamlike. Thanks for sharing them.

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  3. Funnily enough, Factor ... seriously, it will be hard to beat the experiences from the Thailand trip for some time, but reality beckons, as do gulls on the Thames (and one in particular), so I will indeed be back at Rainham in the near future. Hope all is well with you and yours. And thanks for your comments, too, Joe - still getting to grips with the camera, but it can produce some nice results.

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