does one go birding in the South
of Thailand? The most obvious answer is Khao
Nor Chu Chi and Gurney’s Pitta. Then what? The mangroves
at Krabi are pretty good
but something more exotic filled with Hornbills and exotic tropical
rain forest species would be nice. The obvious answer is Hala
Bala. However, the current problem with that excellent site
is the imminent danger to life. Should one risk their life for the
thrill of some of the superb birds to be seen there? To me, the
answer is most obviosuly no. The bloodshed in the southernmost provinces
is astonishing with brutal killings taking place every day. So,
I have wanted to visit Krung Ching waterfall at Khao Luang National
Park in Nakorn Sri Thammarat for a long time and this was my opportunity.
is a sub station placed at the very northern tip of Khao Luang national
park and one either has to get to Surat Thani or Nakorn Sri Thammarat
before driving towards the park.
I had some business
to take care of in Phuket and PhangNga and decided to head to Krung
Ching afterwards. I made a call (075-460000) to reserve a bungalow
(600Baht/night) at Krung Ching and arrived at 6 pm after a long
drive. No food was available as it was a weekday but a small store
offered dried Mama noodles which formed my staple diet for the next
4 meals. (I made up for it once back home).
It was very
invigorating to see the rather massive mountains in this part of
the country; something I hadn’t seen before. The highest peak
in the park is over 1800 meters and holds some good montane birdlife.
centreat Krung Ching is surrounded by greenery and has a few ponds
stuffed full of fish and a female adult Buffy Fish Owl and her offspring
made the most of this bounty, showing really well and allowing close
approach. Javan Frogmouth is apparently fairly common here but although
I heard it several times I failed to connect with it. Another wanted
bird often seen is Wallace’s Hawk Eagle but unfortunately
I also dipped on this one.
So what did
I see then? First of all I must say that it is such a nice change
to simply listen to the sounds of the southern forest as it is rather
different from the central and northern region. The very distinct
calls of Green Broadbills rang clearly and the birds responded well
to playback; what a cracking bird it is!
On my first
morning walk I discovered a flock of at least 6 White-crowned Hornbills
in a fruiting tree with the songs of Dark-throated Oriole, Red-throated
Barbet and Gold-whiskered Barbets filling the air. The trail to
the waterfall is 3700 metres long and starts out quite steeply after
a couple of hundred meters. Once this initial climb is done it is
easy walking and the trail goes through some very attractive forest.
A couple of Scarlet-rumped Trogons sang in the early morning and
one showed well and several types of Babblers naturally were around:
Grey-headed, Chestnut-winged, Scaly-crowned being just a few. Black-and-yellow
Broadbill was common and pretty easy to see and a flock of Dusky
Broadbills were unmistakable. Several Rufous-winged Philentomas
also showed well. I only walked about halfway along the trail before
heading back to the start and I came across a nice male Banded Pitta
on the trail but didn't get any photos.
The forest here
at about 3-400meters level was quite healthy with many large trees
and the canopy is actually very high and hard to see through. Once
outside of the forest I had views of Silver-rumped Needletails,
Glossy Swiftlets and even a few Germain’s Swiftlets.
I was only able
to stay for a day and a morning but it was well worth the long drive
I had from Phuket town. Still, I managed to drive all the way back
to Bangkok on the day of return (some 800 km).
So, was the
birding here as good as Hala Bala? Certainly not, as it is difficult
to beat HB, but for me it was a pleasant learning experience despite
the fact that I didn’t add any new species to my Thai list.
My photographic exploits and identifying what I saw kept me entertained.
(To see all
of Peter's photographs from Krung Ching and many other bird photographs
take a look at his photo galleries: Krung
Ching Bird Photos.)