Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Back from a 12-day trip to Thailand's national parks

Bar-tailed Godwits feeding at noon (Pak Thale)
Made another trip to Thailand. This round saw me going south from Suvarnabhumi to Pak Thale for a quick stop to help friends look for the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpipers that winter in the salt pans.

Uncle Sin tending to his pond (KKC)
Then it was off to Kheang Krachang National Park where we stayed for the next 5 days. Three of which were spent sitting in hides all day waiting to see what surprises would drop in at the watering holes. We spent two days at Loong Sin's (loong is uncle in Thai) pond. Uncle Sin is an ex-hunter who used to go into the national park to hunt. 
These days the smiley man embraces eco-tourism, photographers can book his site for the day, and he'll come in the morning to tend to the ponds and also lay out fresh goodies for the wildlife.
In addition, to Uncle Sin's we also visited another two watering holes to see what wildlife dropped in. It was my lucky day as we had a King Cobra drop in for a drink. At the other site, high up in the mountains of Kheang Krachang, I sat 5 hours in a cramped hide to wait for the shy Mountain Hawk-eagle and Grey Peacock Pheasant to drop in. At the end of 5 hours only the Grey Peacock Pheasant showed up as the natural watering hole was drying up in the dry season.
It's either camp in the open or renting this spare accommodation at Chong Yen, Mae Wong
Then I went on to Mae Wong National Park to rendezvous with pittas. Lucky for me the Rusty-naped Pittas came back after over a week of not visiting the stream. In addition, we saw a Blue Pitta feeding by the road side on our way up to Chong Yen (1340km above sea level) to keep my appointment with the rusties.
Bung Borapet
From Mae Wong, I headed to Bung Borapet Marine Sanctuary, the largest source for freshwater fish in Thailand. This lake is also a fantastic habitat for wildlife including migratory birds during November to March. 
Huai Kha Kheang
Then it was off to Huai Kha Kheang Wildlife Sanctuary (a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site) alongside the western international border with Myanmar.
After which it was off to Khao Yai National Park before heading home. Overall, I saw and photographed nearly 123 species of wildlife including a rather shy Binturong.

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