Friday, June 29, 2012

On the Dhole

I spent yesterday afternoon with my friend Nang in the extreme north east corner of Khao Yai National Park.  Nang is a bird guide (link here) who lives close to Khao Yai, and  for a number of years I've been meaning to get her to take me to look for Gaur in the National Park. Whilst she occasionally sees Gaur in the parts of the park most visited by tourists, the areas she took me to are more regular stake outs.

The first place we went to was National Park sub-Station 4, where one of the National Park staff accompanied us to a watchtower overlooking a couple of salt licks.  He told us that the Guar come out of the forest in the last hour or so of daylight to feed and make use of the salt lick. However, soon after we got up into the watchtower our chances of seeing any Gaur where rapidly diminished by this lot turning up...

This group of five Dhole (also known as Asian Wild Dog) mooched about in the clearing, and one of them proceeded to use the salt lick as a giant litter tray!  Larger groups of Dhole are known to hunt Gaur, and we were told that with so much Dhole scent in the air it was highly unlikely that we'd get any Gaur.  I don't visit Khao Yai all that often, but I have seen Dhole on at least two previous occasions, so I think that the National Park must have quite a healthy population.

We were advised to try National Park sub-Station 2 as a another possible site for Gaur, and on arrival there just after dark we were told that there had been a Gaur seen on the previous couple of evenings.  One of the National Park staff here was kind enough to take us back along the road, and sure enough a few minutes later we were watching a heavily pregnant female Gaur standing just a few feet away!

This is actually a bit of a cheat, and not really how I was expecting to see my first Gaur.  It transpires that this female was rescued as a calf when her mother was killed by poachers.  She was hand-reared by the National Park staff and was released into the wild when she was old enough to fend for herself.  She disappears into the forest for long periods of time, but has been seen in the company of male Gaur close to the sub-Station.  Each time she has been heavily pregnant with a calf she has reappeared at the sub-Station, seemingly because it gives her some "sense of security" and has given birth each time in the vicinity of the sub-Station, then when the calf is strong enough they wonder back into the forest. She even has a name, "Malee", but the fact that this is also my mother-in-law's name is a complete coincidence.

I'll have to make another trip to this part of Khao Yai sometime soon to see some truly "wild" Gaur, as I'd ideally like to see some of the massive males that live in the National Park.  The animal that is thought to have sired Malee's latest calf is estimated to weigh a 1,500 kgs!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cinnamon Bittern

Did Suan Rot Fai early this morning, for the first time in a few weeks .  My mission was to try to find some of the species that are perhaps more widely available in the wet season - I had in mind Vinous-breasted Starling and two of the bitterns: Black and Cinnamon.  All of these seemed to be outside chances, so I was pleased to find a male Cinnamon Bittern flying over Lilly Lake.  Cinnamon Bittern  seems to be an irregular visitor to the park,  with the only other records I am aware of being two last year;  one that I found in November  and one that Graham Gordon saw in April. 

The Park was otherwise rather quiet, with the only other highlight being a flock of perhaps 20 Cattle Egrets overhead .

Monday, June 11, 2012

A name change and a new URL

I'd been thinking of changing my blog's name to something that's a bit more descriptive of what it contains, rather than Electric Birding, hence the move to Bangkok City Birding (you can conveniently ignore the fact that most of my birding during the wet season will actually be outside the city).

After a bit of fiddling with Blogger I've worked out that its damn easy to do...but I promise not to do it again!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Doi Lang, Chiang Mai province

Spent this weekend birding the excellent Doi Lang in the company of Chiang Mai birder Dave Sargeant (

It was my first visit to this site, having only been to Doi Inthanon and Doi Chang Dao on past visits to northern Thailand, so I had a few targets. Some of these seemed impossible at this time of year (eg Crested Finchbill), whilst others require a lot of luck (eg Himalayan Cutia, various Parrotbills).

However, what we did see in just a weekend gave me a good introduction to the site, and Dave's extensive knowledge and experience at the site (this was approximately his twentieth visit to Doi Lang) gave me inspiration to return and visit for longer.

New birds that I connected with  included a single Crimson-breasted Woodpecker (Doi Lang is the only  known site in Thailand); Red-faced Liocichla in  several locations including at the upper army camp where two or three birds fed on rice and fruit in the company of three Spectacled Barwings, and several Silver-eared Laughingthrushes; Also Whiskered Yuhina, which is very range-restricted in Thailand but seems quite common on Doi Lang; Black-throated Bushtit (one flock seen several times) and Rufous-fronted Babbler (not a rare bird but something I had failed to see elsewhere).
Crimson-breasted Woodpecker

Red-faced Liocichlas

Black-throated Bushtit

Whiskered Yuhina

Rufous-fronted Babbler

Other goodies included Rufous-throated Patridge seen once and heard several times, Cook's Swift on both days, a pair of Blue-bearded Bee-eaters, both Blyth's and Black-eared Shrike-Babblers  seen several times, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler, and a Slaty-backed Forktail seen along the road.

Burmese farm seen from Doi Lang (the road up the mountain marks the border)

Spectacled Barwing

Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler

Yellow-cheeked Tit

Large Niltava

Another highlight was getting good views of an inquisitive Yellow-throated Marten on the road on our first morning.