A while back, while contemplating how in the world
I would be able to get out in the woods during the month of September,
I received an e-mail from Steve Goodbred, an assistant professor
of marine life at a university in New York. Steve was inquiring
about the possibilities for birding during a stopover in Bangkok
on his way to Sri Lanka. I explained to Steve that I’d love
to take him to birding hot spots such as Khao Yai or Kaeng Krachan
but due to responsibilities at work and pressing financial needs
(I work with handicapped people, orphanages and drug addicts etc.
in a Christian volunteer work), I probably only could free myself
if there was a sufficient contribution towards our work. Steve was
very happy to contribute and so we agreed to meet up.
I somehow made
it out of bed and met Steve at 4 a.m. at the Airport hotel. The
drive to the park took less then 2 hours and we arrived at the gates
before 6 o’clock. This is still the rainy season and heavy
monsoons have wrecked havoc in many parts of the country causing
flooding. However, like an answer to prayer, we had mostly clear
skies throughout and pleasant temperatures. As a matter of fact,
I had to turn off the air-con in the van as a sudden cool front
had set in and the temperature had dropped to a lovely 17 degrees
The first bird
was a beautiful songster, the White-rumped
Shama, which quickly disappeared into the bushes with its
harsh alarm call. Next a small party of Black-crested
Bulbuls were sounding off their fluty little melodies from
the wires along the road side. The race found here in Eastern Thailand
has a red throat patch which makes it even more attractive then
its Western counterpart.
The road winds
its way upwards in a steep climb. Exciting roads signs such as ‘Elephants
crossing’ and ‘Cobra area’ help to set the atmosphere
.We next stopped at a look out point, viewing rolling hills clothed
in a cover of tropical vegetation. An early migrant, the Blue
Rock-Thrush entertained us on the roof of a nearby rain shelter.
White-rumped Munias roamed through
the bushes. Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike
fed in the trees and Asian Fairy Bluebird
sang from a treetop. (This bird seen in good light is simply gorgeous
with its shimmering blue colors). All the while Ashy
Drongo was doing acrobatics in the air.
While munching on ham sandwiches with homemade pickles we drove
towards headquarters -- the prime target area for the day. Here
Steve got his first ‘adrenaline rush’, as a gorgeous
bird -- the Blue-winged Leafbird --
came in full view. Red-headed Trogon
kept calling but gave no views. Abotts Babbler
sang and gave good looks as we traced it down. Mountain
Imperial Pigeon flew overhead. A flock of Thick-billed
Pigeons were roosting in a tree and a Japanese
Sparrowhawk, newly arrived from colder grounds, flew in to
perch on a branch. Walking towards the beginning of trail 6, Stripe-throated
Bulbul and Lesser Coucal came
in view. Small Fire-breasted Flowerpeckers
kept dashing around and a flock of noisy Pied
Hornbills added to our list.
as soon as we stepped inside of the muddy and slippery trail . Birds
are harder to see here and binoculars get used a lot less. This
is however where the real feeling of ‘anything can show up’
sets in. Just knowing that birds like Eared
and Blue Pittas, Coral-billed
Ground-Cuckoo, Banded Kingfisher,
Silver and Siamese
Pheasants, Red-headed and Orange-breasted
Trogons as well as Banded and
Long-tailed Broadbills regularly are
encountered here raises the level of anticipation. Unfortunately
being Sunday morning a noisy bunch of students had decided to take
the same route and so evidently we were somewhat hampered by their
The most exciting
bird we saw in here was a Buffy Fish-Owl
who considering its great size does a great job of finding its way
through the many trees. Golden-spectacled
Warbler also was noteworthy. We did see something large and
grey run across the trail but didn’t dare to tick off the
Ground Coucal as we didn’t have good looks. The trail leads
to a monstrous sized fig tree with buttresses double the size of
a man, supporting its huge trunk. Good place for a snap shot.
this point the trail divides and following the left route soon leads
to open grasslands and the road back to headquarters. We decided
to take the other loop towards Nong Pak Chee watchtower knowing
that it was getting late and more quiet no matter where we’d
go. It is a rather easy walk along a ridge for most part but leads
to a wide stream that required some undressing and wading in waist
deep water to get safely across. How lovely to feel the cool fast
flowing rain waters washing of all the dirt and reinvigorating our
In here we had
close looks at Moustached Barbet and
Dollarbirds. The latter a much sought
after bird for Steve. Also a family group of singing White-handed
Gibbons beautifully swung their way through the treetops
sometimes stopping to give us long looks. A female and later on
a male Hill Blue Flycatcher with splendid
colors held our attention for a while. Green-billed
Malkoha with its guttural sound at first had us thinking
we had a Blue-throated Bee-eater at hand. And of course Puff-throated
Bulbuls warning all forest inhibitors of our presence were
grasslands to the watchtower in eager anticipation of a delicious
Thai lunch was next on the menu. Here we climbed up the tower, enjoyed
the breeze, watched a Barking deer in a salt lick and examined our
feet. I had purchased leech socks at a little shop by headquarters
but Steve hadn’t so he turned out to be the biggest ‘blood
donor’. These inexpensive socks were so effective that I actually
didn’t get a single bite.
high priority on Steve’s list and aside from Red-whiskered
Bulbul and Brown Shrike in the
grasslands, a majestic Wreathed Hornbill
flew across with heavy wing beats.We also saw 3 Crested
Honey-Buzzards circling the air in search for prey.
Besides a diverse
variety of bird species Thailand is renowned for its much varied
We sampled some famous Tom Yum soup, freshly fried vegetables in
oyster sauce, beef curry in coconut and sweet and sour chicken.
A long walk serves as an excellent appetizer!
We then took
a tour to Heew Suwat Waterfall, which had an abundance of water
cascading into the pool below. Here is where most tourists gather
and even the regular Blue Whistling Thrush
couldn’t be seen.
afternoon we went to the road leading up to Khao Kew, the highest
point in Khao Yai. Here we searched the roadsides for Siamese
Fireback but to no avail. Instead we were rewarded with another
of Steve’s wanted birds; 4 Dusky Broadbills.
Also Dark-sided Flycatcher kept snatching
insects taking of from the wires along the road. First time I had
good looks at this bird.
sight Khao Yai has are the Brown Needletails.
These fast flying creatures feed over the forest canopy but will
swoop down in literal combat style for a drink of water in any of
the several ponds in the park.
Going down the
mountain at dusk produced the 3rd Hornbill. This time it was Great
Hornbill who definitely deserves it name. A pair of Hill
Mynas perched in a treetop letting, us hear their pierce
whistle. As usual the roadside was dotted with Pig-tailed Macaques
hoping for a hand out.
we heard and seen were Collared Scops Owl,
Collared Owlet, Puff-throated
Babbler, Greater Flameback,
Grey Wagtail, Common Kingfisher,
Asian Palm-Swift, House
Swift, Barn Swallow, Common
Iora, Spotted Dove, White-crested
Laughingthrush and Scaly-breasted Partridge.
I was able to
drop off Steve at the airport around 8 p.m. and drove home for much
Bangkok? Drop me a line!