About 60 km S of Bangkok lies a salt production area called Khok Kam.
Like the saltfields of South Australia and elsewhere it is a shorebird
Mecca. The man on the ground is the very likeable Mr. Tee and he has
probably shown Spoon-billed Sandpiper to more souls from more nations
than anybody. We had already visited this site in very late December
before jetting on to Cambodia. While the Spoonie had remained elusive
despite our combined efforts it had been a super morning. Broad-billed
Sandpipers and Long-toed Stints mingled beside each other whilst a
Slaty-breasted Rail put on a great performance.
Now we were back again but we headed even further south to Lam Pak Bia.
The workers piling salt into baskets and arranging them in neat piles
made for surreal images of the white and blue and shimmering heat. Mr.
Tee spotted the first Spoon-billed Sandpiper from about one kilometre
range in a strong heat haze. We pushed gently closer intent on not
flushing the feeding flocks. This is a great bird to appreciate up close
and our slow approach works a treat. We have 5 Spoon-billed Sandpipers
in view to a distance of 50 metres, unconcernedly stirring through the
shallow salt substrate intent on invertebrates. An amazing experience
for any fan of the shorebird.
Mr. Tee was then straight onto a Nordmann's Greenshank at another
roosting site. It is always impressive to see talented locals on their
patch. After a tasty chilli extravaganza lunch we invite Tee to join us
for the next three days of jungle birding in the famous Kaeng Krachan
National Park. His excitement is palpable and after a few calls on the
mobile he is part of the team.
Kaeng Krachan is the largest rainforest area left in south-east Asia
contiguous with a large unprotected block in Burma. It is home to over
350 species with a lot of the big stuff that has been hunted out
elsewhere. There is a single main access road and timings going up the
hill and down are controlled to prevent unnecessary reversing at odd and
often slippery angles. Like all jungle areas it can be deceptively slow
before all hell breaks loose. It is the forest lottery and its
unpredictability makes it so exciting.
Day one and a good start. A Black-thighed Falconet, a falcon the size of
a starling is king of the castle on a dead rainforest giant. The morning
peak hour passes and as the day heats up I opt to explore at a higher
altitude. In the back of the pickup looking mostly in the trees one of
our passengers brings my attention to an animal wandering on the road- a
******* Leopard. A smallish female, dusky golden with the black rosettes
balefully turns and looks us straight in the eye from 20 metres before
nonchalantly continuing her stroll down the road. After hearing them,
smelling them, tracking them and finding their kills, dipping on them by
minutes my jinx cat is laid to rest.
Day two and my morning is a bit akin to pulling teeth, slow and painful.
It is amazing how one bird can turn events around as I spot a Blue Pitta
flushing across the trail. Ever so delicately tip toeing the group up to
beyond the big tree it disappeared behind, we freeze for a couple of
minutes and then bang, there it is- a male with the flame orange hind
crown, royal blue wings and scaled underparts. Always a megabird and
nearly the whole group get to see it. It is a celebration. Things pick
up as Great Hornbills land overhead, a Speckled Piculet cruises past
like a butterfly, and Asian Paradise Flycatchers bring oohs and aahs.
Mixed flocks cause panic as exotic bird names are shouted out with
complex directions. Post lunch and a flock of White-hooded Babblers work
the bamboo thickets, cartoon like Black and Yellow Broadbills call with
the boiling electric kettle sputter and a trio of Great Slaty
Woodpeckers-the largest in the world put on an awesome wing waving
display overs some territorial dispute. There are sightings of
Elephants, Grey Peacock Pheasant, Bar-backed Partridge, King Cobra,
hordes of leaf monkeys, superb Spot-necked Babblers and dozens of other
rainforest gems. I love this location. It is something special. Mr. Tee
has had an extraordinary time too. We are both like kids in the candy
Sadly it is time to leave, head back to the Land Down under for some
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