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Kaeng Krachan & Tung Bang Jak; A 2-Day Trip 4-5th July 2008
 
 
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Introduction
Earl Harrison was invited to give some lectures at Mahidol University's Salaya campus and as he was keen to fit in a couple of days birding I joined them for a 2 day trip to Kaeng Krachan. Earl and his wife were staying in the University's own hotel so after collecting them we made very good time to Kaeng Krachan, arriving at the park gate at 6.20am, a little after first light. Once again I got a very good
low-season deal on a deisel Toyota Fortuner from Thai Rentacar making for better fuel economy in these times of rapidly rising fuel costs.

Notes
At Kaeng Krachan we stayed at Ban Maka where we paid 1200 baht for 1 night's accommodation; one single room and one double room. The food was excellent and very reasonably priced and the owner, Gunn, was helpful in supplying information on birds and refuelling the vehicle when we were short of petrol late at night. Packed lunches were supplied in reuseable containers and cold water was supplied in recyclable glass bottles and a cooler was provided.

The park entrance fee for Kaeng Krachan, at the time of writing, is 200 baht per person (for foreigners) and 30 baht per car; if you are camping within the park you will only have to pay the fee once, but it is collected every day if staying outside the park as we did. I always purchase tickets at the park gate for speed of service.

Even though we were at Kaeng Krachan on a Saturday the traffic was quiet at this time of year; birding along the road at the weekends in the dry season can make be quite unpleasant due to lots of cars and dust.

The campsite at Ban Krang is a simple affair with toilets and on this occasion simple but tasty food was available from the staff: don't rely on this though as sometimes they run out of food.

Toyota Fortuner is an extremely comfortable vehicle for birding along the rutted road at Kaeng Krachan and it also copes well with the very bumpy highway at high speeds without having to worry about safety. Although the dirt road was surprisingly dry for the time of year, as always, a car with good ground clearance is essential for getting beyond stream 2. However, the large Fortuner was rather thirsty on fuel, and in 2 days 2700 baht was spent on diesel. At the time of the trip diesel was 43 baht per litre.

Field Guides
1. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand by Craig Robson
2. Guide to the Birds of Thailand by Philip D. Round & Boonsong Lekagul
3. Raptors of the World by James Ferguson-Lees & David Christie
4. A Guide to the Large Mammals of Thailand by John Parr.

Daily log

4th July : Collected earl and his wife from their hotel and headed towards Kaeng Krachan arriving at the park gate at about 6.20am.

Usually a few common forest birds can be seen at the park gate whilst paying for the tickets, but on this occasion an ominous sign was a complete lack of even the most common species.

Making a few stops along the access road at spots which are usually reliable for a nice variety of forest species turned up very little; a few Stripe-throated Bulbuls, lots of Common Tailorbirds with young, Striped Tit Babblers and an Olive-backed Sunbird. Usually the first few hours of light are the most active for the birds, but on this day the weather was very cool and cloudy with little insect activity which often makes for slow birding. Despite a very quiet first few hours we eventually made a couple of productive stops with a pair of Red-and-black Broadbills seen nicely, 4 noisy Great Slaty Woodpeckers watched on dead trees for 5 minutes or more, a Black-thighed Falconet and later a family group of Collared Falconets - all very nice birds.

As the sun began to come out at about 9.30am things picked up and we added Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Bronzed Drongo, Scarlet Minivet, Ochraceous Bulbul, Sultan Tit and Crested Serpent Eagle to the list of sightings but it wasn't until reaching Ban Krang campsite that we had our first mixed flcok of birds. Here a small group of photographers alerted us to a small bird wave in which we had superb and very close-up views of Blue-winged Leafbird, Great Iora, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Sultan Tit, Large Woodshrike, Silver-breasted Broadbill alongside more Striped Tit Babblers and Ochraceous Bulbuls. An hour here was well spent and as we were heading to the canteen for some lunch I spotted a Banded Bay Cuckoo sitting on a stump - this is a bird I don't see too often and it was very interesting to see that it was a juvenile and being fed by a pair of Common Ioras. These birds gave us very confiding views at a distance of just a few feet and presented earl with plenty of photo opportunities.

Lunch gave us a well-earned rest and the chance to look at the nice collection of bird photos that the staff keep in an album.

At 1pm the gate for going uphill opens and we drove the short distance to stream 1 where we stopped the vehicle and continued on foot. Although it was warmer and more humid by this time it was still surprisingly bearable and whilst birding was still releatively slow, we continued to pick off new species. A pair of tiny Black-backed Kingfishers was a highlight as they fed their almost fully grown young at a spot just beyond stream 2. Another excellent bird was a White-browed Piculet that performed for us as we were watching a Leaf Monkey drinking from the stream and a calling Eared Pitta was too far away to locate but was very vocal a short distance after stream 2.

A calling Blue Pitta lured us down a side trail but despite being within 20 feet of it on 3 occasions we, frustratingly, got not even a glimpse of the bird. However, this side trail, which is on the right between streams 2 and 3, produced some other good birds and is worth exploring; we saw 3 Crested Jays along here, a species infrequently encountered, 2 Lesser Necklaced Laughinghtrushes and several Greater Racket-tailed Drongos.

With the day drawing to a close we began to head back to the car but the remarkable sight of a Green Magpie repeatedly attacking Leaf Monkeys made us stop a little longer and this also gave us time to take in 2 Red-bearded Bee-eaters. A stop at Ban Krang gave us a superb view of a Great Hornbill flying past and 3 Oriental Hornbills gathering to roost and one last stop along the access road revealed a single Common Flameback.

Back to Ban Maka for a well-deserved dinner although a complete absence of Large-tailed Nightjars where they had been abundant just 6 weeks before was a little disappointing.

5th July : A good breakfast and packed lunch was prepared for us and we were in the park by 6.15am. Another relatively cool day resulted in some of the slowest birding I have witnessed at Kaeng Krachan with few sightings in 4.5 hours of walking in the Ban Krang area. Few birds were calling and even fewer were viewable. The most notable species seen was a Banded Broadbill before stream 1 and a group of 7 Wreathed Hornbills flying overhead. Other species that we added to our list were Rufous-fronted Babbler, White-bellied Yuhina, White-rumped Shama, Green-billed Malhoha, Puff-throated Babbler and Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher.

Sometimes this is how things go when birding in the forest in Thailand, however, even in these conditions patience and persistence is rewarded although a keen ear for the bird's calls is required. With this being Earl's first trip to Thailand nearly all birds were lifers and with this in mind we took the decision to head to nearby Tung Bang Jak for the afternoon where a large number of species could be easily seen compared to the slow birding at Kaeng Krachan.

After our packed lunch we found ourselves at Tung Bang Jak at around 2.15pm and surrounded by birds. Very quickly we found all three Thai species of Weaver easily viewed at their nests as well as Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great Egret, Javan Pond Heron, Yellow Bittern, Cinnamon Bittern and Black Bittern. This wetland birding is far easier than the forest and this was an afternoon well-spent in terms of finding a large number of species in a short time. Moving along a little we had nice sightings of several Brahminy Kites and a Purple Heron which landed in a tree.

At one spot we stopped at in order to look at some Baya Weaver nests we were joined by some young lads from the nearby village. We gave them a look through the telescope at some doves and a White-throated Kingfisher much to their delight - they couldn't believe how far away they could see.

We continued to add nice birds to our tally, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Long-tailed Shrike, Pied Fantail, Plain-backed Sparrow and many other fairly common wetland and open-country birds. However it was our last stop, at some fishpools, that really gave us some nice birds. We found 2 beautiful Pheasant-tailed Jacanas and a number of Bronze-winged Jacanas, one with 3 tiny chicks in tow. As we stood in the area waiting for the last light a pair of Greater Painted Snipe landed and gave us great views as the colourful female led the dull-coloured male into the reeds. A number of Lesser Whistling Ducks came in and a single Oriental Pratincole flew past. A good strategy at this time is to just stand and watch birds as they head to their roosting places and this was very productive for us.

At about 6pm we found somewhere to have a good dinner and headed back to Bangkok which took about 2.5 hours.

Nick Upton (nickupton@thaibirding.com)
 
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 Species list with sites and notes
Kaeng Krachan: KK
Tung Bang Jak: TBJ

1. Red Junglefowl: A number of groups at KK.
2. Silver Pheasant: 1 male Crawfordi at KK.
3. Lesser Whistling Duck: A few small groups at TBJ.
4. Little Grebe: 1 at KK & 1 on a nest at TBJ.
5.
White-browed Piculet: 1 at KK.
6. Common Flameback: 1, KK.
7. Great Slaty Woodpecker: 4 seen feeding along access road, KK.
8. Coppersmith Barbet: 6 in a tree near Ban Maka, KK.
9. Oriental Pied Hornbill: Several seen, KK.
10. Great Hornbill: 3, KK.
11. Wreathed Hornbill: 2 flyover groups of 3 and 7, KK.
12. White-throated Kingfisher: 1, KK, several TBJ.
13. Black-backed Kingfisher: A group of 4, K.
14. Red-bearded Bee-eater: 2, KK.

15. Blue-bearded Bee-eater: 2 at KK.
16. Green Bee-eater: Several, TBJ.
17. Blue-tailed Bee-eater: Several, TBJ.
18. Lesser Coucal: Several on the drive into KK.
19. Greater Coucal: 1, TBJ.
20. Banded Bay Cuckoo: 1 juvenile, KK.
21. Asian Koel: 2 females, KK.
22. Green-billed Malkoha: 2, KK.
23. Indian Roller: Abundant, near KK, TBJ.
24. Dollarbird: 4, KK.
25. Germain's Swiftlet: A few, TBJ.
26. Asian Palm Swift: Common, KK, TBJ.
27. Brown-backed Needletail: A large flock over the pond near park entrance, KK.
28. Grey-rumped Treeswift: 2, KK.
29. Rock Pigeon: TBJ.
30. Spotted Dove: KK, TBJ.
31. Red-collared Dove: Abundant, TBJ.
32. Peaceful (Zebra) Dove: Abundant, TBJ.
33. Emerald Dove: 2 flypast, KK.
34. White-breasted Waterhen: 1, KK & 1, TBJ
35. Greater Painted Snipe: A pair, TBJ.

36. Pheasant-tailed Jacana: 2, TBJ.
37. Bronze-winged Jacana: 8, including 3 small chicks, TBJ.
38. Black-winged Stilt: Many, TBJ.
39. Oriental Pratincole: 1, TBJ.
40. Red-Wattled Lapwing: 1, KK, several, TBJ.
41. Brahminy Kite: 4, TBJ.
42. Crested Serpent Eagle: 1, KK.
43. Black-shouldered Kite: 1, TBJ.
44. Collared Falconet: 4 in a family group, KK.
45. Black-thighed Falconet: 1, KK.
46. Little Cormorant: A few, TBJ.
47. Little Egret: 1, KK, common at TBJ.
48. Great Egret: Common, TBJ.
49. Cattle Egret: Common at Ban Maka & TBJ.
50. Purple Heron: 8-9, TBJ.
51. Javan Pond Heron: Common, TBJ.
52. Black-crowned Night Heron: A few, KK.
53. Yellow Bittern: Several, TBJ.

54. Cinnamon Bittern: Several, TBJ.
55. Black Bittern: 2, TBJ.
56. Asian Openbill Stork: Very common, TBJ.
57. Black-and-red Broadbill: A pair, KK.
58. Silver-breasted Broadbill: Several pairs, KK.
59. Banded Broadbill: 1, KK.
60. Blue-winged Leafbird: A few, KK.
61. Asian Fairy Bluebird: A few at KK.
62. Long-tailed Shrike: 2, TBJ.
63. Black Drongo: 2, TBJ.

64. Ashy Drongo: 1mouhoti, KK.
65. Bronzed Drongo: Common, KK.
66. Spangled (Hair-crested) Drongo: 5 or 6, including several juveniles, KK.
67. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo: A few , KK.
68. Large-billed Crow: 2, TBJ.
69. Crested Jay: 3, KK.
70. Green Magpie: 1 attacking Leaf Monkeys, KK.
71. Scarlet Minivet: 2 males, 1 female, KK.
72. Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike: 2, KK.
73. Pied Fantail: 2, TBJ.

74. Common Iora: 2, KK.
75. Great Iora: 4, KK.
76. Black-naped Monarch: 2 pairs, KK.
77. Large Woodshrike: 1, KK.
78. Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher: 1, KK.
79. Oriental Magpie Robin: A few, KK, TBJ.
80. White-rumped Shama: 1 juvenile, KK.
81. Ashy Woodswallow: Common, TBJ.
82. Asian Pied Starling: Numerous, TBJ.
83. Common Myna: Common, TBJ.
84. White-vented Myna: Common, TBJ.
85. Sultan Tit: 3, KK.
86. Barn Swallow: A few, TBJ.
87. Sooty-headed Bulbul: A few near Ban Maka.
88. Stripe-throated Bulbul: Several, KK.
89. Streak-eared Bulbul: A few, KK & TBJ.
90. Grey-eyed Bulbul: A few, KK.
91. Ochraceous Bulbul: Many, KK.
92. Plain Prinia: Many, TBJ.
93. Common Tailorbird: Abundant, KK.
94 Lesser-necklaced Laughingthrush: 2, KK.
95. Abbott's Babbler: 1, KK.
96. Puff-throated Babbler: 1, KK.
97. Striped Tit Babbler: Common, KK.
98. Rufous-fronted Babbler: 4, KK.
99. White-bellied Yuhina: 2, KK.
100. Ruby-cheeked Sunbird: Several, KK.
101. Olive-backed Sunbird: 1m, KK.
102. Indochinese Bushlark: 1 near Ban Maka, 2 at TBJ.
103. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
: Many,TBJ.
104. Plain-backed Sparrow: Several, TBJ.
105. Streaked Weaver: Several nesting, TBJ.
106. Baya Weaver: Common, TBJ.
107. Asian Golden Weaver
: c10, TBJ.
108. Scaly-breasted Munia: A few, TBJ.

Nick Upton can be contacted at nickupton@thaibirding.com
 
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