Hornbill study at Khao Yai National Park, Thailand (9-16 December 2014)

posted in: Conservation, Hornbills | 8

“I went to Khao Yai National Park (above) with Uncle Ghalib (Narong Jirawatkavi) (below: Mark left, Ghalib right) and stayed with Uncle Aod (Phitaya Chuailua).

Day 1 – “When I arrived at Uncle Aod’s house in Patchong near Khao Yai National Park in the afternoon on 9th December, he showed me the house and introduced me to his mother (I called her Grandma), Aunty Nid (his wife) and Pheipeng (his daughter). After that, I was introduced to the dogs and they could get used to my scent by smelling me. Plei (his son) came home and we played football and badminton. Dinner was rice with pork cooked with beans and cucumber and edible flowers. They had spicy stingray but I could not eat that. After dinner, I read a book and went to bed at 8pm, sleeping under a mosquito net.

Day 2 – “I went to the Khao Yai National Park with Uncle Aod, Uncle Ghalib and Plei to check the phenology of plants in Khao Yai. At a location inside the forest, Uncle Ghalib stopped the vehicle and we walked into the forest. After a while, we came to a clearing and we hung our bags on a tree. We then went to check a study plot for young plants, flowers, fruits and seeds under the nest tree of hornbill. We took photographs and recorded species of plants. We went to a second plot and repeated the same thing. A few hours later we went back to the car and brushed off leeches and/or ticks. We went back to Uncle Aod’s house and had late lunch. After that I played with Plei (below: Mark left; Plei right with harness).

Day 3 – “I went to the market in the morning with Uncle Aod and Uncle Ghalib. Pheipeng and Plei were at school. Aunty Nid went to work and Grandma always stayed at home. They bought fruits, vegetables and meat. Then we went to a bookstore and finally to a stall for noodle and soup. We went back to the house and I helped to sweep the floor and walk the dog. When Plei got home, we played badminton and football. I also cycled around the neighbourhood. After dinner, I read a book for a while before sleeping.

Day 4 – “I didn’t feel well as I was sick with cold and fever. I had to take some medicine that tasted awful and rested for most of the day. I did not like being sick as I could not do anything. When I heard that I had to take medicine while there, I was very sad.

Day 5 – “I had to stay back again as I was still recovering. I felt better today and could play with Plei. I was told that I could climb trees the next day and I was very happy.

Day 6 – “I woke up early so that we could get to the forest to climb the tree. When we reached the Khao Yai National Park’s visitor centre, I saw Aunty Nid working there. When we reached the location of the hornbill nest tree, Uncle Aod (above: Mark in harness; Aod left, at nest hole) shot a sling with ropes up and pulled in the stronger rope. Afterwards, we put on our safety harness and Uncle Aod climbed up before taking us up. It was not very high only 6m but still it was quite tiring to get up as we had to use a lot of power in our legs. Getting down was a easy. It was fun to be dangling in mid air.

“We inspected and cleared the hornbill nest hole. Uncle Aod said that the hornbill abandoned this nest because it was clogged with soil. The entrance of the nest is 17cm (width) and 9cm (height). The chamber is 100cm (height), 105cm (length) and 30cm (width). After we cleared the nest hole of excess soil (so that one of the hornbill species can reuse again), we went back home. I had time to fly a kite before dinner.

Day 7 – “We went to check phenology at two of the nest sites again. For the first plot we had to cross some grassland. The sun was beating down on us and it was very hot. This plot was quite easy to get to as it was on level ground. The next one was very hilly and tough to walk so I was very slow. When we got back, I did my chores, played a bit and after dinner went to bed.

Day 8 – “We went hiking in the forest and walk the KM33 trail. It was quite a good trek but tough in the end as we had to climb to a cliff called Phadiaodie and to a few other scenic spots. We stopped for lunch and then left Khao Yai National Park. This was the last day of my study trip at Khao Yai National Park. When I arrived at the house, I packed my bag and took some pictures of the house. Later we went to pick up Pheipeng and Plei from school and went to a Winter Festival event in town. It was really crowded there.

Hornbills of Khao Yai National Park
“There are four species found in the park:

“Wreathed Hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus) – saw twice once flying and once observing a nest (above, image courtesy of Thailand Hornbill Project).

“Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) – saw a pair flying over (above, image courtesy of Thailand Hornbill Project).

“Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) – saw once flying over (above, image courtesy of Morten Strange).

“White-throated Brown Hornbill (Ptilolaemus austeni) – did not see this time.

Hornbill nest trees
Dipterocarpus sp. (Dipterocarpaceae) – the number one nest tree for hornbill, winged fruit is dispersed by wind. Distinguishable by bark which is flaky. Most common species is Dipterocarpus gracilis.

Cleistocalyx sp (Myrtaceae) – also a hornbill food tree, it has indehiscent fruit/ fleshy fruit.

Phoebe sp. (Lauraceae) – also a hornbill fruit tree, an important food during the non-breeding season. This is the tree that I climbed.

Hornbill food plant that I saw
“Cinnamomum sp. (Lauraceae) – the fruit is a small black berry. Has strong cinnamon smell on the bark or the leaves.

Platea sp. – a small wrinkled brown coloured fruit

“Ficus spp. (Moraceae) – the most popular hornbill food, usually small round fruits. Species range for small shrubs to large tree.

Phoebe sp. (Lauraceae) – Its fruit is in the shape of a black berry.

Livistona sp. (Aracaceae) – a tall palm with 3m long leaves. Fruit is oval shaped and black in colour when ripe.

Cleistocalyx sp. (Myrtaceae) – also a hornbill nest tree

Beilschmiedia sp. (Lauraceae)– a small oval shaped black fruit.

Animals that I saw
“Pig-tailed macaque – I saw 5 troops of various sizes from about 4 to 10, 1 macaque was seen checking a drink can (below).

“White-handed Gibbon – saw 3 individuals, 2 were swinging from tree to tree and 1 sitting on a branch.

“Sambar deer – saw twice, 1 male and 1 female along the road.

“Barking deer – only heard their call.

“Blue Rock Thrush – a single solitary bird perched on a rock.

“Ashy Wood Swallow – perched on a grass and calling in the grassland.

NOTE: Phenology : the study of stages of the plant; young leaves (yellow, orange, light green), mature leaves , flowers, young fruit and ripe fruit.

“My study was supervised by Dr. Pilai Poonswad, Narong Jirawatkavi and Phitaya Chuailua. I would like to thank them for teaching me and looking after me.” You can book here for more exciting tours like this and have an amazing time with your friends and family.

Mark Wen Strange
Singaporean (12 years old)
3rd March 2015


8 Responses

  1. Daisy O'Neill

    Dear Mark,

    You are an extremely lucky young lad to have a Dad to learn the ropes of the field at such a tender age and exposed into the inner circuit of ornithology.
    I dearly wish you well in your aspirations to become the next generation of birders/photographers with all the passion you have been seeded in.

    Well done and keep safe always!

    Daisy O’Neill

  2. Bravo Mark! A very well-documented trip to Khao Yai National Park. Keep up the good work!

  3. Dear Mark

    Lovely write up; well done!

  4. Edna Alvarez

    Dear Mark –

    Sitting here in Los Angeles, California, on a Saturday morning and reading your report. It was very interesting, indeed, and so well written. I was just in Botswana where I saw 4 species of hornbills. I saw my first hornbill in Singapore. I was stunned when I saw it as I was unfamiliar with that family of birds.
    There were two parents and two juveniles and they were quite visible. I watched them for a long time.

    I hope that you keep up your studies and again thank you for the great report. You will surely be an important contributor to the world of knowledge in whatever field you ultimately pursue.

  5. Thanks for comments. We will send Mark for 2nd part of his study in June. He will then be able to study the hornbills when they are breeding.

    Bee Choo (Mark’s mother)

    • I am looking forward to the second part… and the third… and the fourth…

  6. Dear Mark
    Very informative and well written report. I am very proud of being your aunty.

  7. Auntie SL

    Dear Mark

    Well done! Very interesting report, looking forward to your 2nd part of study.


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