A change of vehicle was called for today, since we were to spend the whole day in the Kaeng Krachan park, and apparently some of the tracks are too rough for the van. So our driver for the duration was Mr Samarn, with Tui from the bird camp as main bird guide. The day was largely to consist of some known spots for certain species, with others picked up along the way. However, a bit of a kerfuffle preceded the main birding very early on, not long after we had passed the park gates. After rediagnosing Hill Myna as the correct and less common Golden-crested Myna, we were stunned by the visage of an Indian Elephant heading towards us. This is apparently an unusual occurrence in the morning, since they are almost always seen in the evening. It turned off the track into the bush, where we quickly relocated it. A second Elephant could be heard in the bushes behind us, and it duly came out into the open. We were all stood up in the back of the truck for images, but the driver didn't check on this, putting his foot down with Tui and myself tumbling out of the back and on to the ground. No noticeable scratches later, but a quick check on two items was a little disturbing. One, the microphone section of my video camera had sheared off (so that's why I burdon my luggage with a smaller spare!). Two, the elephant was now between us and the truck. We made our way slowly in reverse, while the elephant showed more interest in the vehicle, leaving us with plenty of time to be picked up a few minutes later.
So excitement over for the day over? No chance! Both mammals and birds were of quality as the day moved on. A stop just before the elephant incident had pinned down a small group of Wedge-tailed (perhaps expected) & White-vented (scarce in this part of the country) Green Pigeons, with a couple of Black-naped Orioles flung in for good measure. A Great Hornbill flew over, and a Heart-spotted Woodpecker found with the relocated pigeons. First stakeout was right next to the road, next to a stream, where a known nest of Brown Hornbill resided. While waiting, the first of many Ochraceous Bulbuls made an introduction. Even more evocative was the growing chorus of gibbons elsewhere in the forest - this could only be improved on by the sight of them in the trees! We must have waited for almost an hour, before the parent hornbills marked their entrance noisily, and fed the imprisoned chick for a few minutes each. We had already passed the spot for a known hangout for White-fronted Scops Owl, but came back after the hornbills due to other people being in the area. The owls were duly located, only a few metres above our heads, and again in trees adjacent to the track. Third stakeout before lunch was the one that didn't produce the expected, in this case nesting Great Hornbill. We spent an hour and a half trying, but to no avail. Bonus was a flying lizard which glided in to a tree nearby, and brief Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, and more Ochraceous Bulbuls.
We headed back to the camping area we had passed on the way in for lunch. On the route, we stopped at a stream running through the track which held hundreds of butterflies of varying species, many segregated into their own little cliques. Presumably after the minerals from the stream edge, they almost carpeted parts of the muddy edge. Yet another bonus or two here. First was passing a Blue-bearded Bee-eater on the way to our portable nosh. Second was eating our delicious rice and chicken out of cartons, watched over by a group of Dusky Leaf Monkeys in the adjacent tree. Dinner finished, and a Lar Gibbon was spotted loafing around, trying to pinch the fruit laid out on a picnic area. Apparently this particular individual is one of a local troupe, but has found easy pickings amongst the visitors in the holiday season. Even so, it impressed with its natural arboreal skills when it tired of theft and slowly took back to the trees.
Two more stakeouts then followed with varied results. The first was another hour at a second Great Hornbill nest, with the same vacant activity as the one this morning. The overflying bird early doors was certainly looking good now. We then stopped off at the part built nest of Long-tailed Broadbill. Mr Sarman had been trying to tape them into view without much success along the track, but a few minutes at the nest site unearthed the stunning builder. It spent only seconds adding dead vegetation at a time, but did decide on an extended rest in a nearby perch in between times. Result!
Last stop was supposed to be a 10 minute lounge around at the restaurant area at the highest point of the park. This turned into an excellent hour of brilliant birding, with an almost constant variation as time elapsed. The building has a rather useful view at the rear over the valley, where many of the birds were spotted, such as Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Dark-sided Flycatcher, a roving gang of Swinhoe's Minivets, Indochinese Cuckooshrike, Moustached Barbet, and a flypast of Wreathed Hornbills. The bushes and trees around the building were probably even more productive, and this was easy birding, where we picked off one bird after another without breaking sweat. More Minivets were added to the family tally (Ashy, Short-billed & Scarlet), with 2 species of new Bulbuls (Flavescent & Mountain), 2 of Leafbird (Blue-winged & Orange-bellied), Streaked Spiderhunter, Blue-throated Barbet, and Common Green Jay amongst one or two others I am sure to have missed out. The driver fairly flew down on the way back, even though he was already far later than the allotted exit time, but we did have a minute on the way to stop for a troop of Banded Surilis.