Tag Archives: Violet Cuckoo

Khao Yai Revisited

I first visited Khao Yai National Park in the mid 1990s in between my business trip there. Pat Komol was the one who took me there. The one sight I still remembered was a bare tree near the Visitor’s Center, all yellow, covered by Black-crested Bulbuls. There must be 200 of them. I have been back a few times to enjoy the great birding there. There were always new species to see like the Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo.

Blue Pitta

Early this year, photos of the Blue Pittas were posted on Facebook by Sree and Millie Cher. This was enough for me to make a short trip up there with my wife in late February. The Blue Pitta is one of the more common resident species in Thailand. Khao Yai is one of the easiest place to see them at their stake outs. Kaeng Kra Charn and Khao Sok are the other national parks where they are locally common.

The old Don Muang Airport is the better airport to use. AirAsia flies there. I rented a car from the Eurocar and use goggle maps to get me to the Terrazzo Resort outside the park. It was an easy drive on Highway 1 and 2 and a new road to Pak Chong at the northern part of Khao Yai. Guide Rittichai who lives in Pak Chong knows the park like the back of his hand having been running tours there for over 20 years with his company Green Leaves Tours.

Puff-throated Babblers

We went for our target first thing next morning setting up our hide by 7 am. Puff-throated Babblers, White-rumped Shama, Orange-headed Thrush, Siberian Blue Robin and a Hainan Flycatcher entertained us. I was ready for a long wait based on the experience of my friends that came earlier. But Rittichai said that will not be long. Then without funfare the Blue Pitta appeared twice before 8 am. What a elation! Now we have the rest of the day to go and look for other species.

Siamese Fireback Male

Driving along the quiet forested roads in the morning, you are always on the look out for something surprising. This morning a male Siamese Fireback was our surprise. It stayed by the roadside and gave us a few wing flaps for good measure. It was a lifer that was not expected but most welcome.

Patch of Scandal Wood trees

Sandalwood Trees at the entrance to the Haew Narok Waterfall were infested by caterpillars.


They in turned attracted the cuckoos. A few local bird photographers were already there when we reached the place, excitedly pointing out a friendly Orange-breasted Trogon perching nearby.

Violet Cuckoo

Violet Cuckoo Female

Both the male and female Violet Cuckoos were in a feeding frenzy. These are winter visitors to Thailand. I would not want to pass up shooting a deep purple male at eye level close up even though I have some shots taken at Jurong Eco Gardens a few years back.

Asian Emerald Cuckoo Female

A female Asian Emerald Cuckoo was spotted. We had only one record of this species in Singapore. So this is a good chance for me to get some shots.

Banded Broadbill Male

Just as we were about to leave, Rittichai heard the calls of the Banded Broadbill from the forest edge. Lucky for us it was curious and came out. I photographed this broadbill at Panti Forests in the 90s. It was the only available photo of this hard to find broadbill then and was used for a bird guide on birds of SEA. I had to wait almost 20 years to get my camera lens on it again. This unexpected find really made our day.

Limestone Wren Babbler

My second target for the trip is the Limestone Babbler. I saw this at Cuc Phong National Park more than 10 years back but was not able to photo it due to bad light and skittish behavior.

Limestone Krast at Saraburi 2

The limestone krasts at Saraburi has a small population and this is only an hour drive from Khao Yai. This particular babbler was a prize catch when it was first discovered on another part of Thailand. Its habitat is so unique among the bare limestone rockery where food sources seem non existent. How do they survived?

Finding the exact spot took Rittichai a bit of driving around but once we got to the place inside a wat, a short playback was enough to get these inquisitive babblers to show. You have to love their streaky brown and buff plumage. Mission accomplished and now we can concentrate on enjoying the rest of Khao Yai and all the new attractions that sprouted in the past few years and the food. Many thanks to Guide Rittichai for taking us around at such short notice.

Ref:  Boonsong Lekagui, Philip D. Round. The Birds of Thailand  1991.



Birding Kent Ridge Park


View of the Western Anchorage from Kent Ridge Park Lookout Point.


The cuckoos were feeding on the fig tree facing the toilets. Photo: Geoff Lim.

Kent Ridge Park at the western end of the Southern Ridges is often overlooked as a birding site. But it was the richest birding park in the 1990s based on a 1993-95 survey by Angus Lamont. (Link). Over a 3 years period he recorded a total of 151 species at the park, a remarkable diversity for an urban park. A national first, the Green-backed Flycatcher, Ficudela elisea, and the Blyth’s Hawk  Eagle were recorded here.


A family of Red-whiskered Bulbuls is doing well at the Park.

The park has a hillside view point overlooking the Western Anchorage and Pulau Bukom. I am not sure if the fig trees below the view point were planted with the intention to attract birds. But when they fig, pigeons, bulbuls and other frugivores come to feed. In the mornings with the sun behind you, this is one of the best places to shoot birds at eye level.


An unusual leucistic plumage for a bulbul. The rest of the bulbuls avoid mixing with it.

This morning (6 April 2016),  I was there with Keita Sin to look for the Thick-billed Pigeons. But they did not show up. Instead a family of Red-whiskered Bulbuls were the first to fly in to feed on the remaining figs. We counted six of them. One was a leucistic bird, a plumage common among mynas but this is the first time I seen it among bulbuls. Keita Sin told me that he photographed a male Violet Cuckoo here last week and sure enough one was heard calling behind us. It flew down to the valley but Keita that it will come back.


Banded Bay Cuckoo quietly feeding away at the caterpillars on the fig tree.

He was right. It flew back and perched on the Golden Showers tree. It was a female. It then flew into the big fig tree and started to preen itself. While we were trying to get a better angle, another cuckoo came into view. It was a Banded Bay Cuckoo, a cuckoo that can be hard to find when you need one. It must be the moth caterpillars  that are attracting them there. We saw both of them finding and eating the caterpillars. Can we expect to see more cuckoos here in the coming days? Maybe the Austral migrant Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo even though it had not been recorded here before. Two nice cuckoos on one tree is not a bad morning of birding.


Violet Cuckoo Female joining in the caterpillar feast at the fig tree.

Reference. Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah & Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist Guide to the Birds of Singapore. John Beaufoy Publishing Ltd 2013.