shall we go"? was the natural question when it was decided
to include a camping/birdwatching trip in the boys' curriculum during
school-break. As we live in a communal situation, there are always
many factors to add to the equation, and it wasn't until the night
before departure that our final destination crystallized. As the
rainy season and most breeding had already taken place, our anticipation
was on the moderate side. "How many life birds do you think
you will see, Uncle Peter"? someone asked. My answer was that
I'd be happy if I could tick off 2 , seeing this would be our 3rd
visit to Nam
Nao National Park.
The park is
located a good 5-6 hours' drive on roads from Bangkok. (480 km to
headquarters). Its highest point is around 1200 m but most birding
is done around 800-900 meters altitude. The park's main attraction
is its rather large stands of pine. The campground is beautifully
scented with pine and not normally too crowded. As the name "Nam
Nao" (cold water) implies, the water truly is cold here, and
one will go through bathing procedures rather quickly. Though eating
facilities are available, caution should be taken in regards to
the cleanliness standard. Cooking your own food is always safest.
Staff at the park are very friendly and helpful. The visitor center
is informative even including a library.
As opposed to
our last trip to Kaengkrachan park this one went without too much
adventure except for a few cuts and scratches. Boys will be boys!
Our first bird
going in from headquarters entrance to the campground was a Racket-tailed
Treepie, followed by the abundant Sooty-headed
Bulbul and the ever present Ashy Drongo.
While pitching our tent, the highly successful, in terms of having
populated both Europe and Asia, Eurasian Jay,
with its harsh call and delightful colors made itself known. In
the background, the Great Barbet sounded
of its ringing sound which I always somehow associate with pristine
wilderness. My first lifer came at the dirt road leading to Dong
Baak pine stands. Brown Prinia was
to be ticked off. The forest here is rather open, and though mainly
pine trees are seen, many broad-leaf trees are also interspersed.
Other common birds here are Scarlet
and Small Minivet, Common
Flameback and Orange-fronted Leafbird.
A Collared Falconet flew in to a nearby
tree. Beautiful bird! A Black Bulbul
with its brightly red beak and feet entertained us in the tree tops.
Another life bird. A gentle and peaceful Mountain
Imperial Pigeon flew up from the ground to let us have close
looks while it was sitting still on a branch unafraid.
Back at headquarters
there is a very productive nature trail right behind headquarters.
Here the forest is moist and evergreen as it runs parallel to a
stream winding its way through the landscape. Having taken the attitude
that we'd look at every bird we'd see and not think that "we
already know that one," we were already feeling good about
the turnout. Then excitement shot up my veins as a little bird hopped
up from the trail path perching on a small branch. Not being aware
that Orange-headed Thrush is a breeding
visitor in this part of the country, I mistook it for some sort
of a flycatcher at first. The field guide Birds of Thailand helped
me rectify my mistake, and I realized it was a young bird discovering
the world. Wow! Lifer number 3! Later on, we had such exciting tropical
birds such as Red-headed Trogon, Silver-breasted
Broadbill, Buff-breasted Babbler,
White-bellied Yuhina, Grey-headed
Flycatcher and Slaty-backed Forktail
in the stream. To top it of, another life bird, the very exciting
Golden Babbler, swiftly worked its
way through the foliage.
A visit to another
area with tall pine called Poo Koom Kao, driving the 14 km long
dirt road also turned out to be very good. Lifer number 5 -- Oriental
Turtle Dove -- was feeding on the road, providing us with
a good look. Large Cuckoo-Shrikes were
very fairly easy to spot with their peculiar behavior of lifting
their wings one by one while perching. Here also, the Indochinese
Cuckoo-Shrike and Large as well
as Common Wood-Shrike (lifer number
6) were spotted. The latter sort of made me think of a Brown Shrike.
All the birds we saw are resident except for the Orange-headed Thrush.
Unfortunately, fires rage through these tall pine stands at the
end of the road every dry season so not much growth except for grasses.
Here a Changeable Hawk-Eagle was so
kind to let us get real close. It had rained, and it was pruning
its feathers. Lifer number 7! All in all, after our first full day
we had over 60 species and were enjoying ourselves thoroughly. We
had decided to take a good look at every bird coming our way, having
decided to not to think "this one we know already". This
method helped us to relax and be happy for what we got.
The next morning
started out with our regular time of prayer and some spiritual input.
However, we were in a bit of a hurry and so didn't focus as much
as we should have. This left me feeling a bit uneasy, and sure enough,
birding was on the slow side. Going down the dirt road to Poo Koom
Kao I suggested that we stop for a more whole-hearted prayer, determined
to get a little more mileage out of our inspirational reading. When
we were done, I asked the boys: "Do you think God is concerned
about birds?" "We're not sure", the boys replied.
So I said, "Well, He wants us to be happy right? Seeing more
cool birds is what we want, so I'm sure He does care". We got
in the van, drove for 10 seconds when the distinct call from the
Large Scimitar-Babbler penetrated my ears. I know this call from
Tony Ball's excellent tape Birds of Thailand being played over and
over while traveling. Here around 3 km into the road the forest
is a rather thick deciduous type. I decided to follow the bird through
the thickets as it would be another lifer for me. I did manage to
catch a glimpse of the rather elusive fellow. Then, something marvelous
happened! The BIRD OF THE TRIP -- a pair of White-hooded
Babblers -- feeding in the middle storey. They have a peculiar
habit of sort of falling and making their way up again. I spent
at least 5 minutes taking in this breath-taking view. I made my
way back out to the boys who meanwhile had been busy watching Lesser
Yellownape, White-bellied Woodpecker
and Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch. They
could tell I was excited, and we all went back in after the Babblers.
We managed to catch another look whereby one of the boys profoundly
exclaimed "It sure pays to pray!" Right after that, no
sooner had we gotten back in the van, when someone yelled out; "Look,
an eagle in the tree!" Yes, a young Crested
Serpent-Eagle was posing quite oblivious to our picture taking.
Later on down the road another lifer: Blue-breasted
Quail along with Barred Button-Quail
were along the road side. Chinese Francolin was heard calling from
a tree with its harsh nasal sound. On the way back, a Black-hooded
Oriole flashing its bright yellow colors crossed our way
as did Large Hawk-Cuckoo.
On the way back
to headquarters, we had Lesser Necklaced
and White-crested Laughingthrushes
in a mixed flock noisily moving about. The Asian
Fairy-Bluebird were singing from a tree top. Yellow-crested
Mynas flew in. Blue-throated Barbet was heard calling, and
Hill Mynas added to the symphony.
our belongings, a Velvet-fronted Nuthatch
came to look at us. Plain Flowerpecker
fed in the tree above our heads, and a Green-billed
Malkoha with its elegant tail came to say goodbye.
Of course many
more birds were seen such as the drongos, bulbuls and some flycatchers.
Contact me for more details.
So, who is to
say when birding is good or not? We sure had a good time, and after
75 species and 10 lifers all we can say is: "We'll be back