Winter's here

asian dhole khao yaiDespite some large storms erratically wandering the landscape these last few days I think we can now safely say that "winter" has arrived in Thailand.


The forest is drying quickly, leaves are falling and the air and light now have that special "Thai winter" feeling to it. And my very own acid test - the "3 a.m. one sleeping bag is not enough" test - has been passed. Yes, that strange feeling when you wake at 3 a.m. in the forest and think "hell" and you huddle into a ball trying to make sure no parts of one's aging carcass are exposed to the cold crisp night air. 

Its a time to try and sort the rear of my aging pickup again and try and create some order to the chaos that is piled unkempt camping gear, photo gear and musty forest gear. The detrious and aftermath of the wet season. It gives me both dread and anticipation to think about what odd bits of unused or forgotten dirt encrusted gear lurk under the piles of my more commonly used gear that holds place on the top of the pile. But as its a time of year I will stay in the forest more than any other, it just has to be done. From chaos should come order.

Its also a time of year to re-think ones intended photographic "prey". To try to take adavantage of the seasonal change as the different forest life forms change their habits, hang outs, routes and behaviour to counter for what is the start of hardship period for some forest dwellers. Indeed its a time of year when I, myself, get ready to concentrate on mammals again. There's currently a little too much foliage about for getting good light onto the forest floor but the open areas are now yielding impressive shutter speeds for those lucky encounters. And the ever important water sources are drying up already and creating nice margins by rivers and streams to spot some of the forest's mammalian inhabitants.

dhole wild dog

I always like to set each new "photographic season" with a quest, something that has eluded me or proven difficult. This dry season i plan to try some of the forest's squirrels. Try may be the operative word as I have found them incredibly difficult to photograph in the wild to date. Always elusive and scurrying, hidden by branches and twigs - but one has to have a plan! What's yours?

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onflipflops's Avatar
onflipflops replied the topic: #3237 22 Nov 2015 11:41
Were these Dholes the result of a new season's unsuccessul squirrel-hunt?
Or digged up from the archives?
Either way great sighting & pics.

For me winter had arrived when I discovered 40 - 50 ticks stuck to my skin after the first night walk after the closing season around Ban Krang camp in KK.
From that moment I longed for the next leech season.
Oh, but wait, leech season had not finished yet. So this time of year it's double fun.
Or should I say triple...
Because for the third time in my Thai jungle travelling carreer, worms had travelled with a leech and started their quest for... uhhhm I don't know what their quest is.
The first two cases a year or more ago happened after leech bites on my feet, and that time I was not convinced that the worms had travelled with the leech. This time however, the bite was under my belly button, and from the beginning, the bite itched more than usual.
A day later I was fearing it would be a worm infection, and the second day it was sure. Worms were crawling under my skin leaving a redish trail starting from the leech bite, the itch is as annoying as the itch from the tiny ticks.
The previous two worm infections I solved by freezing the worms with nitrogen ice available in certain ice cream shops that use it as package material. But the ice burns the skin, leaving ugly scars, that take very long to heal.
One of the gibbon researchers in Khao Yai who had experienced the same worms from a leechbite, told us last year that he had used Albendazole tablets and managed to get rid of them. So I tried that this time, and after the 3 days of taking this medicine, the worms died.

Even despite risk of a worm infection, I prefer leeches over ticks. From the hundreds of leech bites over the years, only 3 carried worms, so not exactly something to worry about.

About the ticks, and especially the incredible itch, a medicine containing Hydroxyzine and Dihydrochloride helps very well to stop the itch. At least, it does for me.

Back to the jungle trip, another way to tell winter had not fully kicked in yet, was the fact I found 6 snakes that night. And that was just a short walk around the forest edge around the camp ground. A surprising result.

Good luck with the squirrel hunt, some are indeed hard to photograph.
Paul T's Avatar
Paul T replied the topic: #3238 22 Nov 2015 12:31
Wow that sounds horrible - I had no idea you could get a parasitic worm from a leech. Very interesting to me though because I have a set of leech bites that have not healed for a couple of months - I thought it was just me being old and overweight :+) Maybe a trip to the doctors for me.

50 ticks - that would be my worst nightmare - I hate the bloody things. When I get bitten - which I have to say is not very often - the bitten area seems to retain a memory effect and I can just start "phantom" itching in the same spot months later.

You have my sympathy big time!

The pics are from my "archives", a couple of years ago in Khao Yai - I moved over to Lightroom (from Aperture) a few months ago and am finally going through older stuff - deleting all the things I thought I may need one day - all the dross that cluttering up my HDD. But I have found a few things which I overlooked and am processing them.

After my first squirrel hunt the score is .......squirrels 1 - me 0.
onflipflops's Avatar
onflipflops replied the topic: #3239 22 Nov 2015 13:28
Hi Trekker,

Thanks for your sympathy, but I have taken the medicines and that means I have no itch and the tick bite marks are nearly all gone.

Not the prettiest image ever, but I guess I just add it anyway, because it could help others. This is the worm infection from the leech bite. This image was made a couple days after the bite, but now after taking medicine it has faded and is looking much better already.

The actual leech bite is pretty much straight under my finger, and you can see the trails of the parasite.
I know of at least two gibbon researchers in Khao Yai that got the same, I know a guide in Khao Yai that has had the same, I got it twice in Khao Yai, and this time I got it in Kaeng Krachan, and one of the rangers at Ban Krang might have had a similar thing, though his case seemed to look slightly different, but maybe it was because he neglected it too long. He got his infection before the closing season, and now 3 - 4 months later he is still not walking properly!

It sounds horrible, but honestly, I am not so worried about it. I know it's easy to cure, either by freezing it, or taking the Albendazole tablets. I guess the latter option is the best ;-)
But the case of the ranger, if it was the same parasite, shows that you should not neglect it.

I know what you mean with the phantom itching. The medicine I mentioned in my previous post has done the job for me. The first time I tried this, was when I had 120+ ticks last year November. My personal record, haha. Not something to be proud of, but anyway. I knew how bad they itch, but never had such an incredible number. So that time I decided to go to the doctor. This medicine is readily available in pharmacies so now whenever I have like 10 - 20+ bites, I will use this. Because it gets unbearable.
Tiger balm helps a bit, but when you get too many bites it is not exactly pleasant to use this too much.

I am still not sure what species of tick this is. In Thai they call them Hep Lom, which means something like Tick of the Wind. But I actually think they are first stage ticks that hatch in huge numbers on a leaf where their parent has left eggs. I think they will grow bigger at some stage. After hatching these ticks will be waiting all together on a leaf until a host animal or person walks by, and then you get them on your clothing, that's the reason why you can get so many bites at once. They walk quite fast. Start to spread and look for exposed skin. And before you know it, you will be covered. It seems like they prefer rather dry low bushes (at least that's my experience). I did a second night walk with my wife and a friend around Ban Krang, the night after. We cut it short when my wife noticed she had a bunch on her pants. Turned out all three of us had them all over our pants. Because we discovered it on time, we managed to get rid of most of them before getting them on our skin. But they are SO tiny, it's hard to spot especially if you wear dark camouflage clothing.

I am not sure if these first stage ticks carry diseases, or if they need to get it from a host animal first. But it's unbelievable how such a tiny creature can cause so much discomfort.

Mosquitos are fine, leeches are OK, but these ticks can make venturing in the Thai jungles a very unpleasant experience.
Nothing seems to work really. One thing does kill them, flea/tick spray for dogs which contains permethrin. But being one of the ugliest poisons around, I don't like to use it. They say that even after washing your clothes multiple times the permethrin will still be there. If it gets into water, it kills everything.

Anyway, I don't let these ticks chase me out of the jungle ;-)
This week was amazing. 3 days Huai Kha Khaeng, and 3 days Khao Yai, with lots of great sightings including two Asian Black Bears, Gaur, Banteng, Elephant, mixed familie of Pileated & White-handed Gibbon, 3 civet species, Burmese Hare, 4 deer species, wild boar, some cool owls, even a Brown Wood Owl which was a first time for me in Khao Yai (so far I had only seen it in KK), King Cobra, various other snakes, a huge South East Asian Softshell turtle, and lots of other small critters. Not a hundred ticks can ruin that ;-)

"Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius." > Edward O. Wilson

"An understanding of the Natural World and whats in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment." > Sir David Attenborough

“Climb up on some hill at sunrise.  Everybody needs perspective once in a while, and you’ll find it there.” > Robb Sagendorph


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