The forest, wildlife and the weather all have a mind of their own. This is one of the delights and one of the curses of any trip. I had a day off mid week and wanted to get out of the city so I headed off to Kaeng Krachan National Park with a days rooting about in the forest for arthropods in mind.
I was in place, in one of my favourite spots, by 7 a.m and tucking into a hearty forest breakfast after leaving Bangkok just after 4 a.m. Breakfast finished I was off into the wilds around Baan Krang, working the animal tracks and paralleling the streams looking for the signs of assassins, hoppers and mantids amongst others.
Two hours passed and I had seen..... nothing. This is actually more common than one would think for the budding "arthropoder". Some days the planets are not aligned and try as hard as you want, you get that sinking feeling its all in vain. A few of the usual suspects were about in the margins by the road - butterflies, common spider species, grasshoppers. But I was in search of fare a little more exotic. I headed back to the car to refresh myself and pick up some additional gear and then was off again. Two more hours later.... nothing.
The conditions were just not good, it was windy and the sun was struggling to penetrate the rainy season's heavy foliage cover. Not good for spotting insects inside the forest. What to do? I would normally solider on but it had been a tiring month and I thought - why not just sit in the forest and relax, no stress, no hassles, just unwind. And so it was, I grabbed my stool, a bottle of water and decided to head up the valley from KM 18
to sit on the creek's edge and dip my toes in the stream. I grabbed a camera body as well, my 80-400 and a flash just in case I happened on anything the forest. One never knows.
It was mid week so there was nobody about at all and I did not have to venture far to find a suitable spot for solitude and peace. And so started a glorious late morning's doze by the creek. With my proverbial toes in the stream.
My doze came to a pleasant end and I sat on the bank admiring the serenity of the scene. The babbling of the creek, the dappled light on the forest floor and the stream catchlights. I had been aware of bird calls of one sort or another all morning. Not knowing anything at all about birds, they had not really piqued my interest, I had just enjoyed the sounds. The oneness of it all.
But now with my eyes open I was aware of a very interesting looking bird in front of me. A hooded pitta (Pitta sordida). I was obviously on his turf because he happily went about his business of collecting food without any real concern for my presence. He was delightful to watch and I watched him for a full 10 minutes before deciding to grab my camera and attempt a few frames with flash as he kept to the shadows.
Whilst photographing him I became aware of a very small bird that flew past in front of me and down the creek bed. It was a kingfisher of some sort, but very very small. I gave it no thought until about an hour later when it returned and perched by the stream just 3 meters in front of me.
An Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca), also known as the Black-backed Kingfisher or Miniature Kingfisher. The smallest kingfisher species and what a beautiful creature. After just a couple of quick frames from the camera he was off, not to be seen again that afternoon. I studied the image on the camera screen, how spectacular nature can be. Beautiful.
The weather ebbed and it darkened over, a group of brown hornbills had been making a racket close-by as they invaded a fruiting tree and fought for annoying call/noise supremacy with a giant black squirrel. They were all suddenly silenced by the arrival of an eagle who ruled to roost for a while before heading off later in the afternoon.
And my day was over, I had a great relax, and saw some great birdlife - even for a non-birder such as myself. The clouds parted once again and the sun returned and I contemplated a return to the car when I caught a glimpse of something in my peripheral vision. I turned my head slowly, and in the creak not more than 5 meters from me stood a female Fea's Muntjac (Muntiacus feae) and fawn. They had no idea I was sat so close in the shadow of a tree. I lifted the camera very slowly. The mother stopped and took a drink, the fawn continued towards me. They were too close, I had to move the lens barrel all the way to 80 mm as the fawn, closest, was exceeding the frame. Less than 4 meters at most from me now, I knew I had to press the shutter soon. His head shot up. I pressed the shutter.
All three of us were now staring at each other trying to work out our next moves. He stared at me, I stared back. She stared at me, wanting to bolt but not to leave junior. She was rigid, in anticipation of flight. None of us seemed quite sure what to do.
Then he calmly moved backwards slowly. Just enough time and distance for me to get a couple of shots off.
......... and then they were gone, hurtling through the undergrowth to "safety".
A thoroughly delightful and unexpected day. The forest, the wildlife and the weather all smiling on me, for once.