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Mae Wong National Park visit September 2013

25 Sep 2013 19:16 - 01 Oct 2013 06:56 #1407 by onflipflops
Mae Wong National Park visit September 2013 was created by onflipflops
After my visit to Huai Kha Khaeng, I decided to explore Mae Wong national park.
I had read about it prior my visit and was prepared for lots of deforested hills. Actually when I arrived at the first camping/ bungalow area, Khun Nam Yen, with very friendly/ helpful hosts, I was thinking it was not as bad as I had read.
However, the next day did the 28km drive to Chong Yen, the top/ end of the road. And slowly the scenery changed, not positively. Only the last few kms before reaching Chong Yin are ok-ish, with some variety of trees, but most of the road is worthless for wildlife. Quite a bit of scat on the road near Chong Yen. There was a lot of it all along the road to the top. And the ranger there told me that most of it is from Hog Badger, which in a way is interesting, because I've only seen this mammal once in Khao Yai.

Did a 1.5km hike at the top, which was surprisingly rough. It took too much energy to keep focussed on spotting any wildlife. I did not see a single mammal. Quite a few birds, but well, that did not get me excited (sorry, birders). I did not spend much more time there, even though I would have loved to see the Rufous-necked Hornbill. Maybe another time...

The ranger at the top was a friendly guy and when I answerred his question about what I was looking for, with: mammals and reptiles, he seemed to be a bit surprised. I think he was expecting me to name a couple of rare bird species. It was too late to follow the 'old road' to Umphang. Though I walked the first 100m, which is also part of the 1.5km trail. It has turned into a small track, and right after the 1.5km trail branches off, it was quite overgrown. I have read in a birders report that to get to true primary forest you need to continue another 15kms, hmmm bit too much for a one-way trail. But getting as far as you can before turning around could be interesting. I did not have the time that day to try, and was not excited enough to return.

The ranger told Yellow-throated martens, and palm civets are sometimes seen near his station. And most remarkably he had seen a tiger just 10 days before, on the road, somewhere halfway between Khun Nam Yen and Chong Yen. He was on his motorbike driving down when the animal was just around a bend in the road.

The ranger offered me to stay at Chong Yen and do a night drive with him, but I didn't take the offer as I had all my stuff at Khun Nam Yen, and even ordered food in advance.
Not sure if he provides the spotlight, but you have to drive your own vehicle. I believe he told it's possible to start at about 20:00. Not sure what the costs are, how long it takes, but being the only one out there on the road is quite interesting, too bad the forest along most of the road is in such a poor state, otherwise it would be fantastic. I did drive back down when it just got dark and did see a Malayan Porcupine. He mentioned that in the right time of year he sometimes sees Leopard Cats. And I guess you have a chance to see a Hog Badger. From another report I read somebody saw a Slow Loris, and a Binturong! at night, but described it as having a whitish face, and a large brown body, hmmm.

I decided to do a walk the next day from the lower camp ground, Khun Nam Yen. The trail starts across the wooden bridge behind the new toilet buildings. The sign indicates it's 4km. And the basic trail map shows you need to cross the river near the end of the trail and then you will get back onto the main road. The girl at the visitor centre had told me you need a ranger to walk, because too many people got lost.
I am stubborn, and decided to do it on my own. Even though I almost made it, I couldn't find the track just before reaching the river. I had not much time left and decided to turn around. I was close to the river, but did not see any bridge, and was not even sure if there was any. The water was quite rough this time of year, so no way I could cross without a bridge. I did find two trails when driving on the main road that could be the end of this trail. But I decided to head back home. Enough jungle for me. Time to rest.

Without a GPS you'll definitely have no chance to find your way, don't even think of attempting it.
I found little wildlife tracks. There were some Sambar tracks. And when following a trail that turned out to be not the official trail, I found what appeared to be the pad of a large pug mark of a big cat (read: tiger or leopard). It was not very convincing. But not much further, I did find a deep scratch in a tree of only 2 nails. It more or less proved for me that the pug mark just found was indeed likely one of the big cats.

The area contsists of mostly large bamboo stands, with an occasional large tree. Even though shaded, you have a good view and can see quite a distance away. Even though it's not even close to the best trail I've ever walked, I just have the feeling that it's a place where surprises are possible. The girl told me there should be a saltlick, but I haven't found it, apart from a very small mud pool
More or less the only interesting live animal I've seen was a Spot-bellied Eagle Owl. A new species for me, and quite impressive as it posed well not too far from me. That was cool, even for a non-birder like me.

If I ever do return, I guess I will ask a ranger to show me around this trail.
And actually the area I'm really interested in, is the trail that leads deeper into the interior of Mae Wong, starting from the main road, just before you reach Khun Nam Yen. The girl told me they organize 3 - 5 day treks there in the dry/ winter season. It's possible to visit some waterfall and/ or the highest peak, Mu Ko Chu (or something like that.). I'm not truly interested in either climbing this mountain or the waterfalls, but if the forest is in a reasonable state, I guess it's a good place for large mammals, judging from the topographic map.

Another interesting option might be to enter from the substation along the Mae Wong river. Apparantly they offer rafting there, not sure if you can hike in the area, but I guess it is interesting to follow the Mae Wong river deeper into the park.

All in all, I'm not impressed, but I will give it another try if I'm ever in the neighbourhood again. The fact that there are 9 different tigers known from camera traps. And of course the proximity to Huai Kha Khaeng makes it an interesting location, only to get into some interesting forest is not so easy. Hopefully the area will get time to return to a more natural state.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Paul T, Bagheera, Me too

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25 Sep 2013 19:21 #1408 by onflipflops
Replied by onflipflops on topic Mae Wong national park visit September 2013
I forgot to mention that on the 1.5km trail at the top they have 2 species of leeches. The brown ones like in Khao Yai, and a rather pretty one with a green chain-like pattern which not only stay on the ground like the brown ones.
There were lots of tiny ones that seem to get into everything, so despite a good pair of leechsocks I still had some bites. I don't care about it, but thought I should mention.

But worse are the 'Khun' (Thai name). Some kind of biting flies/ sand flies. The bites don't hurt, but it starts to itch and leaves a strange biting mark.

I tend to stay far from insect repellents, but almost considered using it.

Mosquitos were quite bad as well, but that was the same in Huai Kha Khaeng in some areas.

Just so you know...

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26 Sep 2013 09:07 #1409 by Paul T
Replied by Paul T on topic Mae Wong national park visit September 2013
Great writeup thanks! What a fantastic looking owl.

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26 Sep 2013 11:39 #1410 by onflipflops
Replied by onflipflops on topic Mae Wong national park visit September 2013
Thanks Trekker, and it's a big guy. According to my bird book they are 63 cm from head to tail. That's a big bird. Sadly I did not get good shots when it flew off due to bamboo blocking my view and confusing the autofocus. The wings are huge.

He gave me a lot of time to look at it. And even allowed me to move around to get an unobstructed view and reduce as much as possible the overexposed sky in the background.

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30 Sep 2013 20:18 #1415 by Bagheera
Replied by Bagheera on topic Mae Wong national park visit September 2013
What a funky looking Owl!! He is beautiful, great photo man congrats on that!!

The relative size of his eyes to his head would be like humans having eyes the size of oranges, incredible!!

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30 Sep 2013 21:37 #1417 by onflipflops
Replied by onflipflops on topic Mae Wong national park visit September 2013
Haha, it would definitely increase our vision at night!
It looked like the eyes could fall out any moment.

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