A year ago I twice visited Kaengkrachan specifically to try to see White-fronted Scops Owl, a sought after bird with a restricted range.
On both occasions there were 4 of us with torches surrounding the calling owl for a couple of hours only to walk away empty handed.
(The problem with Kaengkrachan and owling is that one has to stay over night at the campground and thus ‘missing out on yummie Thai food and drinks after a long days birding. Most folks I assist in the field opt for the comfort of the hotel (and air-con) as opposed to the hard ground inside a tent. )
I arrived at the park at 4 pm. I had seen a number of pictures of the WFSO posted on Thai websites of late and knew there was a known day roost around the 1st stream.
The 3 hour drive to the park I spent contemplating all the little details that had to come together for the ‘miracle’ to happen. I felt a bit helpless and in the end simply decided to take it to the Lord in prayer: ‘Dear Lord, please make things happen, make it flow, make it easy!’
Once at the spot there were a few guys there already and it didn’t take more than a minute before I laid eyes on 2 birds roosting next to each other in the thick foliage. Finally, my desire was granted!
I hung around for some time and by 5:30 the birds moved to a clean branch but still in the dark. However, this made better opportunity for some shots of the whole bird.
Feeling quite satisfied I went back to the campground and set up my tent. Next to come was regular owling. Weather was a little gloomy and no owls calling. I started playing a number of calls, mainly Brown Hawk Owl ( I need a picture) and Oriental Bay Owl. The latter a bird every birder wants to see and though it is wide spread in the region, still hard to see. Here in Thailand most people see it in the South but for some reason I had never really had a chance to give it a proper try.
Then the owls started calling, first Collared Scops Owl. Not too hard to see but not a priority. Then WFSC with its low ‘rumbling motorbike’ call. Well, I had seen it, so no need to go after that one again.
Then Oriental Bay Owl started calling and not too far away. Very encouraging! I kept using playback and soon realized I had to abandon all reason and crash into the dark jungle.
I remembered how Dave Farrow finally got it as a lifer a couple of months back in the same place and how he said he had to ‘go after it’. I had also met Hans Metheve who said the same so I knew I had no choice but to face my fears and ‘do the walk’.
There are elephants in this area as well as leopards, snakes and the occasional tiger so it can get a little eerie in the dark.
Anyhow, armed with my flashlight I made it across the stream , found the trail and started walking. The call was coming closer and closer, good sign, then when I was about 10 m from the bird, my flash light started blinking. ‘Oh, no, batteries are dying’…..had to let go of the bird before the batteries went dead and soon found myself back at campground. Here I met Puwish Lenwaree and his wife. Puwish is a very keen bird photographer who has been practically everywhere in Thailand with his camera. I told him about the owl and he said ‘I have been trying this one for a long long time’. So, since he had a couple of torches the 3 of us went back in.
Once we had made it near the bird it was a matter of finding its perch. One time the bird actually flew so close to my head that I could feel its wings almost touching my ear. Eventually, we saw it and got to enjoy prolonged views of this totally awesome bird.
During the whole encounter it kept swaying its head sideways, something I captured on video.
What a day it had been!
The night was rather tortuous as it was very hot and humid. Laying there dripping in sweat I kept telling myself ‘it was worth it all’!
Morning chorus began at 5:30….I got up quickly, grabbed a coffee and walked around (yes, I did shower). I then spent the day sort of relaxing but with the goal of seeing Ferruginous Wood Partridges, a bird that had eluded me for so long.
I came across Blue Pitta, Blue-winged Pitta, Long-tailed Broadbill, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Green Magpie, Crimson-winged WP, Streak-breasted WP, Greater Flameback, Rusty-cheeked Hornbill and Orange-breasted Trogon to mention a few.
Finally at around 16:00 a pair of Partridges shot across the trail like rockets. Their striking color clearly giving them away. They didn’t go far and for the next half hour a duet between my Ipod and the birds took place. They never came in full view but I did see one of their heads bobbing behind a fallen tree trunk. Good enough encounter for a ‘tick’ but still in need of more satisfying views.
So, some exciting 24 hours it had been!