Thursday, February 10, 2022

A Gift of Thrushes

 I was going to post these photos on Facebook as I've been doing lately but I wanted to present them as a group yet be able to give a few details about each of them so I decided to make a short blog post. We saw some of these birds in Kaeng Krachan NP in the south of Thailand and others up north, in Doi Pha Hom Pok NP. On those trips we saw many birds and perhaps a dozen new species, a few of which I have been wanting to photograph since I started doing this back in 2019.

These birds, Laughingthrushes, are in the thrush family which for various reasons are special to me. They're fairly large birds, about twice the size of a American Robin or Varied Thrush, mostly feeding on the ground where they root around looking for bugs or other delectables. I poked around the Internet and eventually found a site that gives the names of groups of birds. It didn't have a word for a group of thrushes but seeing as thrushes are related to the American Robin and one of the words for groups of robins was "gift", I titled this post A Gift of Thrushes.

I love this first photo because both Laughingthrushes are looking up as though a friend is calling from above, or maybe it's some sort of bird god up there? I have photos of this bird already but I feel the composition of this image is special. Also, due to the shallowness of the depth of field it was impossible to have them both in sharp focus in the same frame so I shot two images and combined them, focus-stacked them, in Photoshop. One image had the foreground bird in sharp focus and the other the rearmost bird. The resultant image is the composite you see below. They're from our trip to Kaeng Krachan NP in early January. One afternoon we visited a local fellow named Neung who has a large blind on his property. I paid him a few bucks to sit inside and wait for birds to come, and they did, lots of birds.

White-crested Laughingthrushes — Kaeng Krachan NP

Back in 2019 I photographed a Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush using my little Canon M50 with its mediocre 200mm telephoto lens but I was pretty excited about it at the time. Ever since then I've been really wanting to see another in order to photograph it with my upgraded equipment. We hit the jackpot at Neung's blind. Below are two images of Necklaced Laughingthrushes, the Greater and Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush. Both images were captured at same blind near Kaeng Krachan NP. There were other interesting birds to see that afternoon but these guys had my complete attention.


Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush

Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush

Fast forward three weeks and Nut and I are up north of Chiang Mai in beautiful Doi Pha Hom Pok NP near Fang. There is a paved road that extends eight or nine miles into the heart of the park, the Doi San Ju Road. Just after the park entrance the road ascends to a north-south running ridge about 5,000 ft above sea level and follows the spine of that ridge through a lovely mixed hardwood-pine forest. And when I say ascends, I'm talking about grades of 30% to 35%. That means for every 3 meters of forward motion you're also gaining 1 meter of elevation. Our little 2-liter Honda CR-V struggled to make the climb but once on top you have entered a birding paradise. Mountain peaks are visible through the trees to the west and those belong to Myanmar because this road and the international boundary practically share the same ridge top.

To complete this Gift of Thrushes, here are images of two more.

Silver-eared Laughingthrush — Doi San Ju Road

White-browed Laughingthrush — Doi San Ju Road

This road is popular with birders, as you might imagine, and my first photos of a very popular bird, a Mrs. Hume's Pheasant, were taken while crouching behind someone's portable blind. Four photographers had set up a feeding station complete with four portable bird-blinds right on the road. I didn't feel comfortable intruding on their scene even though they were almost blocking the road but I just had to snap a few images before retreating to the car. I'll close with this one. It's not a thrush but it was occupying the very same neighborhood and it's a "lifer" for me.

Mrs. Hume's Pheasant

I hope everyone is doing well and that you enjoyed my little Gift of Thrushes.