Birding at Khao Phanoen Thung

The final day visiting Kaeng Krachan National Park started with the usual early wake-up. The nocturnal sounds of the forest still loud, mainly the repeated notes of Large-tailed Nightjar with the occasional hooting of Collared Scops-Owl. The plan for the day was to visit the high elevation section of the park, and stopping off at the paddy fields near Pak Thale before heading back to Bangkok.

Ratchet-tailed Treepie is the bird of Kaeng Krachan, the only place to see it in Thailand is in the higher elevation sections of the national park. So, naturally, it was the bird atop of my to-see list for the day. We started our journey, aiming to reach Khao Phanoen Thung before its too hot.

First sighting of the day was a Crested Serpent-Eagle perched on the roadside. Not long after there was an Asian Barred Owlet, I’ll admit I wasn’t too bothered with the owlet since I see them all the time at Sirikit Park. The only other stop on the way up was at the stream crossings, where we witnessed around 15 Silver-breasted Broadbills in the trees above our heads.

Crested Serpent-Eagle. Not sure what prevented a good picture, lowlight isn’t a problem, maybe it was the early morning moisture. 2nd February 2022.

We weren’t lucky enough to see Gray Peacock-Pheasant on our ascent, only seeing a few Kalij Pheasants but the highlight would be a brief glimpse of the rare Fea’s Muntjac. I believe I missed it, so probably not a highlight for me.

Upon reaching Phanoen Thung campsite, we were immediately greeted with a Great Barbet. Unfortunately, the summit was rather busy and the birds were quiet. Although there was still plenty to see. Bulbuls were plentiful with Black-crested Bulbul, Flavescent Bulbul, Ochraceous Bulbul, Ashy Bulbul and whatever they are referring to as Olive Bulbul at the current time.

Flavescent Bulbul foraging on the ground. 2nd February 2022.
Ashy Bulbul foraging from this plant. 2nd February 2022.

Alongside the Bulbuls there were plenty of Barbets, Minivets, my first sighting of Black-throated Sunbird and Mountain Imperial-Pigeon. The views from the top were beautiful, overlooking the clouds, and forest below. The soundtrack that echoed through the mountains was that of Gibbons.

Mountain Imperial-Pigeon enjoying an undoubtably breathtaking view.
2nd February 2022.

We spend just over an hour at the campsite before deciding we might have better luck walking down. The descent was quiet for a good while, with only the sound of cicadas. Fortunately we stumbled across a flock of Great Hornbills eating from a tree bursting with berries. This was the first sign that our luck was going to switch.

It wasn’t long after this when we heard the sound of Ratchet-tailed Treepie. Seconds after hearing them, a flock of at least 4 came into view. Two of them perched on the same branch within a few metres of us. We stayed in their presence for around 10 minutes. They were very vocal and flew back-and-forth across the trail before going back into the obscured forest.

Two Ratchet-tailed Treepies. 2nd February 2022.
Ratchet-tailed Treepie. 2nd February 2022.
It was amazing to get such good views of this sought after species.
2nd February 2022.

At this point I was very satisfied with the trip to Kaeng Krachan. Continuing on our walking descent of Khao Phanoen Thung the bird activity was high. We glimpsed a tricky-to-see Rufous-browed Flycatcher, and there was a large flock of birds foraging which included a Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo and a pair of White-throated Fantails.

Rufous-browed Flycatcher. 2nd February 2022.

Just before we got into the car to ride the rest of the way out of the park, we heard Red-headed Trogons calling nearby. After careful searching we were rewarded nice views of this stunning bird. A fantastic ending to the journey to the higher elevations of Kaeng Krachan National Park.

A male Red-headed Trogon. 2nd February 2022.

All images © 2021 – 2022 hamsambly

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