One of the coolest things I did in Thailand (we were just on holiday there), and undoubtedly one of the coolest things I have done since getting in to digiscoping, was to spend a day with Alex Vargas in a bird photography blind in Thailand’s Kaeng Krachan National Park – Kaeng Krachan is part of one of the largest forest complexes in southeast Asia, and is a favoured haunt of many local birders (and when Tu says it is THE place to bird in Thailand, then I believe him).

For much of the morning, we were entertained by a rather bold Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher (Cyornis tickelliae) and a young White-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus). Actually, that is not completely true. There was also the gorgeous Red-legged Crake (Rallina fasciata) that made an appearance and danced for us 3 times!

Around lunch-time, the morning mists and drizzle had lifted and then the hide really started to get going as all the forest birds came from near and far to drink and bathe at the water hole. One of my personal favorites were the White-crested Laughingthrushes (Garrulax leucolophus). Just as the Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush (Garrulax erythrocephalus) in Doi Inthanon National Park had taken me completely by surprise, these White-crested Laughingthrushes took my breathe away once again for their crazy communal jumpiness, cool colours and completely different nature to the Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush.

 I took a whole pile of photos of the White-crested Laughingthrushes both because I found them absolutely fascinating and because they really are pretty little birds. But besides a few images, I feel I kinda missed really capturing the essence of the bird. In that respect I think the video does a much better job, it paints them as they are: hyperactive, energetic, and chattery. It has something of the look of a Great Kiskadee, the movement of an Arrow-marked Babbler, but the demeanour of a White-crested Helmetshrike.

White-crested Laughthrushes with a Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher in the foreground and a Red Junglefowl in the background. This is exactly how I remember the experience: dark forest with little dapples of sunlight and crazy birds everywhere.

The last bird of the day was another stunner: the Racket-tailed Treepie (Crypsirina temia). This velvet-clad marvel came in a wave, showing off its wonderous coat, pastel-blue eye ring, and crazy tail. There is not much to say about it, it simply was stunning. But now I am drifting off in to hyperbole…

Quote from Wikipedia: “It almost always feeds in trees (arboreal) never feeding from the ground”. mmm, I guess we cheated with a couple of mealworms, hey?

Black Racket-tailed Treepie with a young White-rumped Shama in the background.

check out that crazy tail, it is a foot long!


All photos digiscoped with a Swarovski STM80 HD, TLS800 and Canon 5D mark II.

I had no time to do any editing or cropping (except for the really wide treepie which got its top and tail chopped). One day I will get some time to sort through all my images and collect out the good ones and post-process them as they deserve to be treated…

You can read A Bird Photo Hide in Thailand (part 1) here.

Happy digiscoping,

Dale Forbes



Written by Dale Forbes
Dale grew up in the forests and savannas of South Africa, developing a love for nature from a young age. After studying Zoology and Wildlife Science, he moved to Central America to continue his work in conservation biology. He is a member of BirdLife International’s Advisory Board and is Swarovski Optik’s Head of Strategic Business Development.