These days I don’t get to Khao Yai National Park as often as I used to, so I was pleased to be spending 3 days there in the company of John Plampin from 14th-16th January. After picking him up at La Residence in Surawong Road, Bangkok the journey to the park gate took only about 2 hours or so; although waking up early is painful it is really nice to drive to Khao Yai with almost no traffic on the road.
John had been birding a few times in Thailand before so we didn’t need to spend lots of time looking at all the bulbuls, drongos and other common birds that slow down the hunt for the difficult species such as pittas. This was quite interesting for me as it gave me the chance to track down some interesting birds: it is very hard to justify spending hours searching for hard-to-find species with visitors who can easily rack up 20-30 ticks in the same time due to the fact that they have never been to Thailand before – and I mostly go birding with people in this category.
Over the course of 3 days, John and I spent considerable time stalking along forest trails and sitting at stakeouts waiting for key birds. Frustratingly, we struggled to get good views of a number of our target species although we did get excellent, if fairly brief, views of Blue Pitta on the trail from Pa Gluai Mai campsite and Haew Suwat waterfall. We did also get excellent views of some other tricky forest interior species such as Red-headed Trogon, Orange-breasted Trogon and Silver-breasted Broadbill as well as all too brief glimpses of a number of other Blue Pittas, a very nervous Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo and a Siamese Fireback Pheasant that ran away before giving us a proper chance to see it.
Over the 3 days a number of birds stood out as highlights. These included White-crowned Forktail, Slaty-backed Forktail, Rufous Woodpecker, Orange-breasted Trogon, Great Eared Nightjar, Grey Nightjar, Large-tailed Nightjar, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Red-headed Trogon, White-crested Laughingthrush, Great Hornbill and Wreathed Hornbill.
Silver-breasted Broadbill by Alex Vargas
The stakeout behind the toilets at Pa Gluai Mai campsite is well-known for attracting a variety of species including the very hard-to-find Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo. Unfortunately for us this species was not performing well and there was no sign of it at all on 5 long visits to the stakeout. On our 6th visit I saw it dash away into the undergrowth!
However, there were still an impressive assortment of smaller birds visiting the stakeout and we got very vlose-up views of a lot of them. The species we saw at the stakeout included Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Puff-throated Babbler, Abbott’s Babbler, Siberian Blue Robin, Plain-tailed Warbler, Radde’s Warbler, Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, White-rumped Shama, Blue Pitta, Red Junglefowl and Orange-headed Thrush.
Puff-throated Babbler by Alex Vargas
All in all we had a great trip to Khao Yai, although the temperature was much colder than either of us had anticiapted with the temperature reading 10C at park HQ early in the morning. Even outside the park it was cold at night and I had to ask for extra blankets at our accommodation.