In 2019 I declared that I’d focus on having more balance in my work-life schedule. Now I found that God reads my blog because he answered by issuing the Coronavirus which effectively puts me in a position where … I may not have a job any more. So thank you for my life back, and if you are still reading, is this a good time to bring up the million dollars I asked for a while back? (Heh heh …)
With mandatory leaves looming on the horizon I decided to take the opportunity to get two days off work and visit Cheio Laan Lake with David and Margret from Australia.
We started the first day at Sri Phang Nga where my good friend Khun Narong has been dutifully keeping tabs on the movement of birds in the park. With the dry season coming early this year, nesting is now in full swing and a good thorough check of all the trails should lead to some excellent opportunities for bird photography.
We started out birding along the road where we picked up some usuals such as Coppersmith Barbet, Blue tailed Bee Eater and Grey rumped Treeswift as well as a handsome Greater Racket tailed Drongo.
Once at the park we headed straight for the blinds which Narong had erected at the former Javan Frogmouth site. Chinese Blue Flycatcher and Orange Headed Thrush were the first to show followed by a pair of White rumped Shama. The Queen of the forest, the ever-beautiful female Banded Pitta, refused to come down to the clearing, harassed by the annoying Orange Headed Thrush.
Outside the hide I found a pair of Red bearded Bee Eater, only this fellow had a pink beard. –Has anyone else noticed that as well or is it just me?
At the clearing we encountered a male Banded Pitta who posed very nicely for us and stuck around, completely ignoring our presence.
A short walk to Ton Aou waterfall produced another male Banded Pitta, a Crimson Sunbird, Grey throated Babbler, Chestnut winged Babbler and distant views of the Chestnut naped Forktail.
From there we moved to Klong Sok where we searched unsuccessfully for the River Lapwing. All we found were two Red wattled Lapwing roasting in the midday heat.
At another river site we finally found a pair of River Lapwing were pleasantly pleased to find they were breeding! The female was obviously incubating eggs as every so often she would go down to the river, wet her belly in the water and return to cool the rocks and eggs.
A Purple Swamphen was briefly seen crossing the river with three chicks in tow.
From there we made the long drive to Cheio Laan lake, arriving at around 3 PM. After boarding the boat we made our way through the infamous Little Gulin and off to mouth of Kong Ya.
We found ourselves a fruiting tree and discovered a Great Hornbill feeding in the boughs of the tree. Wreathed Hornbill was seen flying overhead and we also encountered three Bushy Crested Hornbills in the distance.
Raptors were active as well with Lesser Fish Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Osprey and White bellied Sea Eagle.
That evening we headed out on the lake in search of the Buffy Fish Owl. We located one but the fellow was far too high in the bamboo to get some good photos.
That night a juvenile Buffy Fish Owl parked itself at the back of the bungalows and whined for mommy from 3 in the morning until dawn. Sadly, it moved on instead of staying to roost all day, perhaps out of fear as I was determined to capture a mugshot of the murmurer!
The next morning we started the trip with a visit to Tum Jia. Raptors were plentiful with Lesser Fish Eagle, Rufous bellied Eagle, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Osprey, White bellied Sea Eagle, Oriental Hobby and a possible Bat Hawk spotted.
Nesting season for the hornbills is in full swing and it was evidenced by a sighting on a male Great Hornbill scouring a dead tree for food for its mate.
Another male Wreathed Hornbill was also seen.
Two Lesser Fish Eagle took to flight and I observed strange behavior between the two, possibly a show of dominance between two males.
After lunch we walked the nature trail and found evidence of sunbear and fresh taipir footprints and droppings. Sadly we did not encounter the beast. We did find Chinese Blue Flycatcher, Great Iora and Golden bellied Gerygone. Black and Yellow Broadbill was our constant companion but it was impossible to locate in the myriad of trees.
In the afternoon we headed back to see a pair of guar which were reportedly seen near the river mouth but arrived too lake.
That night we faced some engine trouble which delayed our arrival at Klong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary until 10 PM.
The next day we woke up to a delightful 14 degree morning with mists and calling birds and gibbons. After a quick breakfast we headed down the river in search of mammals and birds.
Water levels were extremely low and the once mighty river had given way to wide expanses of rolling knolls and short grasses. Evidence of mammals was everywhere yet none were seen.
White Bellied Sea Eagle, Lesser Fish Eagle and Peregrine Falcon were spotted and Great, Pied and Plain pouched Hornbills were seen in flight.
A gang of Dusky Broadbills came by and I was able to lure two out into the open for better looks.
Other birds seen in the area included Blue Winged Leafbird and Red bearded Bee Eater.
From there we moved on to the second river, Klong Ya where we searched for the Grey headed Fish Eagle. Water levels here were far lower than expected and the eagle was nowhere to be seen.
We were pleased to find a troop of Spectacled Langars in one tree, the highlight being a little baby that seemed intent on giving mom multiple heart attacks with its daredevil behavior.
By 11 AM the sun was high above and the forest had grown quiet so we bade farewell to the park and returned to civilization.
A total of 76 species were seen on the trip. Thank you David and Margret for putting up with me and hope you enjoy your trip throughout southern Thailand.