Birding Without Borders

Day 302: Staving Off Bloodsucking Leeches

Noah learns first hand why high socks are all the rage in Thailand's wild woods.

October 29, 2015: Khao Yai National Park, Thailand — Panuwat “Par” Sasirat, Kampol “Tui” Sukhumalind, and I spent the day at Khao Yai, Thailand’s third-largest national park. Khao Yai was the country’s first park to be declared, in 1962, and it’s home to waterfalls, green forests, wild and aggressive elephants, and, of course, lots of birds. It’s also full of little slimy creatures, as I discovered first thing this morning.

As we reached our first stop at a fruiting fig tree, Par said, “You’ll want to put on your leech socks. We will wear them all day.” I thought, finally! I’ve been carrying these things for months with barely a chance to put them to use.

I saw some leeches in Madagascar, India, and Myanmar, but today’s leechiness kicked it up a notch. When we walked into the forest, the critters would start inching up our shoes as if climbing a castle wall. My leech socks are knee high and bright baby blue—designed to be worn over your regular socks and pants but inside your shoes, with cloth too dense for leeches to penetrate. It’s an interesting fashion statement (especially when you wear them into a restaurant, as we did for lunch today) but quite effective against the onslaught; after spraying the socks with insect repellent, not one leech got a taste of my blood.

My favorite bird today was a Banded Broadbill which Par picked out this morning, but a close second was the Siberian Blue Robin we found skulking on a dark embankment. The robin looked incredibly similar to a male Black-throated Blue Warbler even though the two species are unrelated and live in different hemispheres - convergent evolution or just coincidence?

This evening, while looking for owls, we stumbled across a pair of porcupines and an Indian civet (a type of spotted, cat-like animal). There are still wild tigers in Thailand and bears, too. These are wild woods indeed.

 

New birds today: 22

 

Year list: 5042

 

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