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Carl-Johan Svensson | profile | all galleries >> Birds >> ::Trips:: >> Khao Yai, 14th to 16th of October 2008 tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Khao Yai, 14th to 16th of October 2008

A 3 day trip to Khao Yai, just to check what birds are around. We know about a pair of Blue-beared Bee-eaters at the Boonsong Lekagul's campsite and they became our target birds.

The first day at the Pha Gluay Mai campsite it came appearent that there weren't many birds around. A pair of Blue Rock thrushes and several Red-throated Flycatchers was pretty much it, except from the local flowerpeckers and barbets. The big fig tree at the center seems to be fruiting as well as several other smaller fig trees. After putting up the tent we went to the Boonsong campsite and we saw the two Blue-beared Bee-eaters there. We set up the hides and waited but they never came down in sight. For the evening we went to the viewpoint at km30 and was hoping some hormbills would come by. At around 17:30 we heard some Great Hornbills further up the hill and they came flying just before dark, but not close enough for some pictures.

The next morning a flock of 30 Pied Hornbills came in at first light and occupied the big fig tree at Pha Gluay Mai campsite. Under grating but cheerful voices, as only Pied Hornbills can, they quilckly reaped the tree from the best figs. Then they moved over to a tiny little fig tree with only 3 branches close to our tent. Poor little fig tree having all these hornbills clinging on to it. I thought it should break at one moment. It wasn't big enough for more than 10 hornbills at a time and several fights broke out over these delicious figs. Anyway here was my chance to grab some pictures, which wasn't easy due to the low light. After another 10 minutes of feasting they all suddenly went away and left a certain emptyness behind them. The scene wasn't the same without 30 noisy and entertaining hornbills, so to speak.
Around the campsite there were not too many birds in the morning. We did saw two Blue Rock Thrushes, Common Green Magpies, Blue-beared Bee-eater and several Red-throated Flycatchers, plus the usual flowerpeckers, barbets, drongos. Some Wreathed Hornbills were seen flying over the trees not too far away.
Then we moved on the Boonsong Lekagul campsite and set up hides and waited for the Blue-beared Bee-eaters. This time they came down in sight for the camera but they were a little too far away to get some really good pictures.
In the evening we went to the TAT pond to see the "Little hunters of the sky" coming down and drink. At 16:30 a flock of Brown-backed Needletails came flying in formation, circled around the pond a couple of times and swooped down and grabbed some water in flight. A beautiful sight really and a good place to photograph these fast birds. Later some House Swift followed and some more Brown-backed. At the campsite just before the light goes out comes the Great-eared Nightjar. With slow wingbeats they ride the sky looking for insects. 3 of them came this evening and this is a bird I wanted to picture for a long time but the light level is just too low to capture any details. All I get is shadows of this magnificent bird. Anyway they are great watching and it feels like the day isn't over until you seen the Nightjars fly.

There's nothing like waking up in the early morning by the calls of tropical birds all around you. This morning I knew exactly what's going to happen and this time I will be ready. I put together the best setup to photograph the show that was soon to be on display. The light will be scarce so I went for the 1DmkIII and the EF 500/f4 with no extender. This would enable me to shoot at f/4 and iso3200. I walked around for a while and looked for the best location considering the direction of light and the background. When I found it I put my tripod there and said to my self "Let the show begin". And as if the hornbills had heard me they came flying in to the big fig tree. The Oriental Pied Hornbill is a beautiful bird in flight with its white border around the
whole wing and tail, but I knew the light was too low to even try capture them. Instead I just stood there and watch the show which followed the exact same plot as yesterday. When they were down in the big fig tree they came over to the small one right in front of me. I had measured the light and it was 1/60s at iso3200 and f/4. That's not much and I knew it would be difficult to get any good ones. Anyway I started shooting and after just a few minutes the light improved and shooting in manual mode I had to adjust the settings accordingly. After just 15 minutes the birds took off and was gone as fast as they came. One of the best shows nature has to offer was over.
Next we drove up to Khao Kieow, the highest part of Khao Yai at 1200m. This drive usually reveals some nice sightings but there wasn't much this time. At the soldier camp at the top it was foggy and not much to see, except for the usual Blue Rock Thrush around the buildings. Then we went down to the viewpoint just below which had strong winds and not many birds around. Anyway it's a beautiful place with a great view. We did saw a small flock of Wreathed Hornbills coming from over the mountain and making some spectacular dives to loose height. On the walk back to the car we run into a small flock of White-bellied Yuhinas, quite high up the trees. Photographed Thai species #400. On the drive back a Slaty-backed Forktail and some White-crested Laughingthrushes flew over the road.
Back at the Boonsong childrens camp we saw a Blue Rock Thrush which had made the toilets his own. He was sitting in the window and other places around the building. Instead of waiting for the Bee-eaters we put up the hides to capture this little cute bird. After a while he came to the window and we grabbed some frames. Those Rock Thrushes likes to chit-chat with themselves when they sit there and glean for insects. Can't wait until I get video and microphone capability in the DSLR's to capture this. We did see Blue Rock Thrushes on many places throughout Khao Yai by the way.
In the evening we went to the TAT pond again where I saw a White-throated Kingfisher perched on a stick on the other side of the pond. We put up the hides and waited 2 hours but he never came. Well that's photography.

In the evening we drove back home and on the way we encountered a big male elephant on the road walking towards us. Taking no chances, after seeing the video of an elephant charging a car here at Khao Yai, I drove backwards until we past a salt lick. The elephant walked into the salt lick and we could pass. Puh!
Blue-bearded Bee-eater
Blue-bearded Bee-eater
Oriental Pied Hornbill (male) @ ISO1600
Oriental Pied Hornbill (male) @ ISO1600
Oriental Pied Hornbills
Oriental Pied Hornbills
Oriental Pied Hornbill
Oriental Pied Hornbill
Oriental Pied Hornbill (male) @iso3200
Oriental Pied Hornbill (male) @iso3200
Oriental Pied Hornbill (male)
Oriental Pied Hornbill (male)
Whreated Hornbills
Whreated Hornbills
Great-eared Nightjar
Great-eared Nightjar
Great-eared Nightjar
Great-eared Nightjar
Great-eared Nightjar
Great-eared Nightjar
Brown-backed Needletails
Brown-backed Needletails
Brown-backed Needletails
Brown-backed Needletails
Brown-backed Needletail
Brown-backed Needletail
Ashy Minivet
Ashy Minivet
Black-crested Bulbul
Black-crested Bulbul
Red-throated Flycatcher
Red-throated Flycatcher
Blue-beared Bee-eater
Blue-beared Bee-eater
White-rumped Munia
White-rumped Munia
Thick-billed Flowerpecker
Thick-billed Flowerpecker
Unknown
Unknown
Blue Rock Thrush
Blue Rock Thrush