The quest for the exquisite birds at Kaeng Krachan National Park has been a life goal to many foreigners and Thai citizens alike. The availability of the most wanted residential and migratory birds are seasonal and that everyone must be able to get there on time. Fixing schedules and timings is a real educated chore or else one could end up with bad birding experience.
SEASON ENDING RUSH
The good doctor’s coming was a welcome delight; there is no way I could have said no to a friend’s request, Wins Tornado, he asked me if I could take care of Doc Ces just for one day. While we were brewing a bird walk, it ended up to be a three-days birding sortie at Kaeng Krachan National Park. The schedule was fixed, appointments were made, lodging was booked, target birds were prioritised, and we were ready to roll. After his conference, we scheduled a meet up at The Street, Ratchada at 7:00 p.m., July 5, 2017.
While waiting, I bought all the food stuff, toiletries, and everything that we would need up to July 8, 2017. I took a nap for an hour and I was refreshed to negotiate the long drive ahead that night, three hours of pavement. I would have risked the thought of picking him up from Pratunam area but it would have been a horrible traffic experience driving through the city with a truck. So we met, we shook hands, got his gear and luggage at the back of the truck and we navigated through Ratchada traffic to Charansanitwong and out to Prapinklao, headed straight to Nakhom Pathum route to Kaeng Krachan National Park.
We arrived in Kaeng Krachan National Park at 11:00 p.m. and I drove straight to Baan Maka where we had a reservation for that night. We checked in, cleaned up, got our gear ready, slept, woke up 5:00 o’ clock, had breakfast, then we walked around Khun Gun’s property for our first morning birds. We had the first morning star, the White-rumped Shama. We then found the Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, Green-billed Malkohas, Bulbuls, and some other new birds for him. After a short morning bird walk, we headed to the Loong Sin’s for the Blue-winged Pitta. We stayed there until noon time, it was a fantastic experience for Doc Ces, watching the Blue-winged Pittas feeding their chicks and there were four of them. He watched and observed carefully the process of feeding and then how the chicks respond to the call. He also filmed the Pittas looking for worms and as they delivered the food. We ate our lunch in the truck as we parked by the roadside just outside the Pitta hide. Then I took him at Baan Song Nok for the afternoon coffee. He was so impressed about how the coffee was brewed and that he thought it tasted better than Star Bucks. We shot some birds while we were having coffee. The excitement of going inside the national park was already building up, so we had our last sip of coffee for the day and went in to find lifers that birders just need to have.
We entered the national park and went straight to the Black and Red Broadbill location but I couldn’t find the nest. So we went to Bang Krang and asked for help from an awesome park ranger who gladly showed me where. We stayed there for awhile but the bird, apparently, shows up only in the morning. So we returned to Km 9, we stopped for a short birding introduction and we got for ourselves: Dollar Birds, Green-billed Malkohas, Common Tailorbird, Black-thighed Falconets, Pied Hornbills, Greater Flameback, and some other birds. There was still light, I drove quickly to the Second Stream to look for the Orange-breasted Trogon and the Silver-breasted Broadbill. The light was very low and we were teased by the Ochraceous Bulbuls, we had no choice but to leave and wait for another day.
We ordered our supper and we pitched our tent on the floor of the porch of the park rangers’s station and it was a delightful sleep.
THE BLACK AND RED BROADBILL
Dr. Cesar’s target birds included the Broadbills and it really got me freaked out since it was the very tail end of the season. It was impossible to find them, at least we should have come a week earlier. Luckily, we had late nesters. The Black and Red Broadbills, male and female, nested on a branch overhanging a small pond where all kinds of animals have a drink.
We were setting up our hides at about 7:00 o’ clock as a pair perched on a branch of a tall tree. We just had to stop what we were doing and started shooting and then three Japanese birders joined us together with their fantastic guide Khun Sompong Paan Nuamsawat. When they have left, we got into our hide for more serious stable and comfortable shooting.
When we thought we had enough of at least two thousand shots plus videos, we decided to go out and head for km 18. As we were keeping our gear, Brian Hewitt showed up with a client, we showed him where the Black and Red Broadbills were and shared some bird locations and other possible alternatives for both of us to bring our guests.
After our brief meeting and sharing of intels, we drove up to the Third Stream hoping to find more birds along the way. We stopped at the Second Stream, I started calling for the Orange-breasted Trogons, they were answering the calls but we had to walk for at least a hundred meters back to where Khun Paan and his clients were also calling them out. We found them, it was another Lifer.
We decided to get out of the park after lunch since it was getting difficult, though we managed to see some skittish woodpeckers and I even saw one Silver-breasted Broadbill and yet it did not stick around. After lunch, we stopped by km 9 again and we took more great photographs of the Pied Hornbills, Greater Flamebacks, Greater Yellownape, and there were more birds.
After another fantastic after-lunch birding, we went back to Baan Song Nok where we ordered the same coffee, we stayed longer and then the beautiful flying friends of Paa Ek showed up. It was another fantastic experience for Doc Ces. The Orange-bellied Flowerpecker showed up at very close range, both male and female, Golden-fronted Leafbirds, Sooty-headed Bulbuls, the Greater and Lesser Necklaced Laughing Thrushes, and other regulars. it was a great delightful afternoon. To end a great day, we decided to eat at the lake side where we could enjoy the lake view, great food, and finally internet.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BERNIE
We woke up July 8, 2017 at Baan Maka, Doc Ces surprised me with a birthday gift of a camouflage neoprene pouch which I could use to keep a lens or other photographic equipment safe and secure. We ate our breakfast at 5:30 a.m. and we went straight back to Loong Sin’s for the final hours of our birding trip. We went inside and waited for the Kalij Pheasants to show up. There was nothing from 6:30 to 8:00 o’ clock, there were birds but not the ones that we wanted, the Mouse Deer showed up, Brian Hewitt and his client also joined us in the hide. Just when the decision was almost made to leave and call it a day, we decided to stick around a little longer. The Kalij Pheasants showed up at around 9:30 a.m. followed by the Scaly-breasted partridges, squirrels, shrews and more birds. it was an exciting end.
After taking a shower, we paid our bill and checked out from Baan Maka. I had to be at the airport two hours before the good doctor’s flight. We stopped for some snacks and refuelling; our trip back to the city was smooth and we made it on time. The experience I had with Dr. Cesar Ramon Espiritu was a great one and I will always remember it until the next time we meet. Birding is a passion and it is a joy.