Wong National Park, 5th May 2000
so had it that I had to travel to a city several hours away from BKK.
Having contemplated which route to take, the possibility of taking
a "little detour" to the "much longed for" National
Park of Mae
Wong in Kampaeng Phet province, started to crystallize
in my mind. According to "the book", road signs would be
easy to follow, and all in all it would only be about a 5 hours drive.
Well, even though road signs do exist, they are not always that easy
to detect, and we found ourselves spending at least half an hour asking
the local people, including the highway police for road 1242 towards
the park. No one were aware of the park. We later found out that the
local population relate much better to Klong Lan Park which is closer
to town and includes easy accessible waterfalls. This park is not
far from the road to Mae Wong, Mae Wong being another 20 minutes drive
straight westwards. Well, we were forewarned that we might encounter
continual rains of the more temperate type (those of you from northern
Europe should know what I am talking about) and not heavy tropical
downpours. Such was the case, as it kept drizzling until early evening.
obtained permission at headquarters to drive up the road towards Chong
Yen (Cool Passage) where the campground is located. We had very little
time, so decided to give the area around headquarters a miss, in spite
of the possibility of seeing Crested Kingfisher. (Apparently the bird
requires one to wait for a considerable amount of time.) We drove
up the road and soon caught up with a slow moving convoy of mountain
bikers in their fancy 4 wheel-drive vehicles going up the hill. This
area truly looks like the much talked about "hills of south-east
Asia" and is very beautiful in spite of the fact that most of
the hills are denuded and original forest long gone. Apparently, the
road was built in order to evacuate hill tribe people from the park
a few years ago and thus be able to preserve the park as a watershed
for low-lying areas. One can only imagine what it originally must
have looked like. Indeed, further up there are untouched hill slopes,
and the majesty of the tree coverage as a warm blanket covering the
slopes fills your heart with sentiments of wonder.
campground is located at an altitude of 1360 meters and is indeed
a very windy place. It felt for a moment as if I was back in Scandinavia
on a summer's day. This is hot season in Thailand, and to feel the
temperature drop to 18°C is nice indeed
undecided whether to set up tents or not (it rained continuously),
I walked around carrying an umbrella. The only bird in sight was a
brave White-throated Fantail roaming
around the foliage, so much the like its cousin, the Pied Fantail
back home in Bangkok. Well, finally the rain stopped and we set up
camp. Unfortunately, rules of behavior and conduct at these National
Parks are not always adhered to, and some very noisy individuals did
their best to keep everyone awake. (Try to avoid weekends and holidays.)
same noise that kept us awake greeted us to the morning. Seems like
most people got up around 5 a.m. waiting for sunrise and going about
their business. While later on around 9 o'clock, upon leaving the
area, most of the same people were still in their tents talking away.
Yes, the people are getting out of the city and in to the parks, but
now the city has to get out of the people and the people into the
woods as well!
at 6:30, I started my morning walk. No rain today, only a bright sky.
The road continues on from here but is closed off to traffic, thus
allowing some regeneration to take place. However, I read that a real
healthy primary forest does not occur until the end of the road, another
15 km from campground. I was eager to see what this area would produce
as I had read about more northern species dwelling here, including
such exciting birds as Rufous-necked Hornbill
and Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler. I didn't get to see any of these
but many other noteworthy birds.
road for the first 2 km from campground held patches of evergreen
broadleaf forest, grasses, bamboo and stands of wild banana. I had
hopes for more common birds but still unseen by myself, such as Long-tailed
Sibia, White-browed Shrike-Babbler, White-browed Piculet, Grey Tree-pie
and White-necked Laughingthrushes. It was still shady in this area
as the suns rays were on the eastern side of the mountain. I had to
wait a while for some thing to happen besides the ever present Flavescent
Bulbul. It sure paid off as a splendid Long-tailed
Broadbill came in full view. This bird looks almost like a
Disney character out of some animated movie, almost unreal. Then a
splendid specimen of a female Red-headed Trogon
perching and feeding from middle storey woodlands allowed me to have
equally good looks. Things started to pick up, and especially Babblers
started to sound off along the road side. Drongos such as Bronzed,
Ashy and Lesser
Racket-tailed Drongos were easy to spot.
around a bend, I heard a dry chuk, followed by a loud musical tune.
First recalling Black-throated Laughingthrushes in appearance, I quickly
realized that it was a pair of White-necked
Laughingthrushes, my first life bird for the day. Then the
loud sounding Grey Treepies came by in
a smaller flock, lifer number 2. A large flock of Grey-chinned
Minivets filled up the canopy while a pair of Green-billed
Malkhoas hopped around lower in the trees.
long after this, I had the peculiar experience of having both Golden-throated
as well as Blue-throated Barbets in the
binocs feeding in a fruiting tree. The Golden-throated must have been
a younger bird as the golden throat hadn't developed yet, only its
golden two head patches were present. Then Yellow-cheeked
Tit and Black Bulbul flew in to
confirm that I was in the more northern regions of Thailand. Next
was Crimson Sunbird feeding in a banana
flower. Surprised to see this bird at this elevation. The violet head
was shimmering along with its bright red upper body as it hovered
like a Hummingbird searching for nectar. No sights of Hornbills. This
should be the beginning of breeding season, I believe, and perhaps
they are taking to other ground and habitats to find solitude and
birds such as Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike,
Verditer Flycatcher, Brown-cheeked
Fulvettas, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
and White-tailed Warbler filled up my
time, but still I was wondering if the Piculet would show up or not.
Then a Mountain Imperial Pigeon came
real close, and I was able to get some pictures at close range.
projected 2 hours were now coming to an end, and I had to quickly
walk back to campground. Then suddenly a White-browed
Piculet flew in and sat still for a moment, only 5 meters in
front of me! So I got my 3rd lifer for the day, and satisfaction filled
my inner being. This was not the end though. A magnificent example
of a Maroon Oriole with a harsh and loud
warning call came close. The iris of the bird really stands out, as
does the maroon colored rump and tail. Then a pair of Stripe-breasted
Woodpeckers of the genus Dendrocopus appeared in a tree right
by and in typical woodpecker manner started drumming away.
at the campground, the convoy of mountain bikers were getting ready
to take off to where I was coming from. Ideal timing! We packed
our tents, had a cup of coffee and started on our way back down.
Red Jungle Fowl along the roadside
and Crested Serpent Eagle soaring on
high along with regularly perching White-throated Kingfishers were
all we had time to look at. Surely it had been worth the "little
detour" we had taken, and another wonderful experience in God's
glorious garden was added to memory.
Ericsson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information on Mae Wong