I read already years ago on Nick Upton's very useful website Thaibirding.com that "A few birders have been lucky enough to see Crested Kingfisher as it makes its way along a river close to headquarters" and "The campground a short distance along the road from HQ is a very pleaasnt spot and provides an opportunity to see a number of species. Crested Kingfisher is reported to fly along past a swimming spot which I assume is located here, although I may be wrong". I decided then, that I had to go there, and give it a try. For several reasons (especially me becoming a father), I did not make it until this year. We (me, my wife and our 2 year old daughter) rented for five days a bungalow with a balcony overlooking what I believed to be the right stream.
I decided that my best chance to see the bird would be early morning, when the rest of the family was still asleep. The first morning I was on the balcony from around 5.30 mostly photographing moths attracted to light during the night. At 6.28 I hear a kingfisher-like sound, turns around and see a Crested Kingfisher fly by. I am glad, but more wants more, so the following morning I change from the macro-lens to the long zoom around 6.20. I am not totally ready, as I have to change back, finding an interesting moth, that I did not see at first, the long zoom is back at 6.35 and I am just in the process of adjusting ISO setting, when the bird appear, settle on a rock in the stream just in front of the bungalow, so I manage to shoot once at the sitting bird and once as it flies off at ISO 1100, which was far to little and both exposures are badly blurred, though easily identifiable. At 7.12 the bird flies by, but I do not get any shots. I show the pics to one of the local rangers, who informs me, that the bird is very rarely seen. This makes me even happier about the observations, but also more annoyed at my fumbling with the camera. Later that day I meet two professional bird guides (Thai) and their two customers from Hong Kong. I tell them of the observations, and they inform me that the bird has not been seen at the site for 3 years! All 4 wants badly to see the bird (one of the guides tell me he seriously has considered a 3 day trek to the only reliable spot for it in the country which is water fall further inside the park...). My 3rd morning dawns, and the 4 are on an observation platform not far from our bungalow. Unfortunately this morning has heavy cloud cover and some rain, but the bird appears a bit later than the other days and using ISO 6400 I am able to get a few usable shots (including this one). The others have better lenses and get somewhat better results. One of the guides (Tony "Eagle Eye")uploads a photo to his Facebook profile on the spot within 5 minutes, but without disclosing the locality, as they worry that too many eager photographers will come and scare the bird away just when the have reappeared in the area. On my fourth morning it becomes clear that Tony has underestimated peoples interest in the bird and also their knowledge of the site, as around 10 Thai bird-photographers have arrived during the night and are now in position, no doubt they recognized the rock in Tony's uploaded picture! Most have drive through the night from Bangkok (5 hours). They inform me that it is not 3 but 4 years since the bird was seen at the site!
This morning (a Sunday) is clear with bright sunshine, but unfortunately the bird does no appear at all. It seems to have Sundays off...
Later that day a big group from BirdLife Thailand (about 20 person in 3 minibuses) arrive. They are here on a long planned outing but get really excited after seeing the pics. One of them photographs my pic from the cameras display for putting online and will make a small news release at their website about my sightings - this is where I start to think that it is good, that I did not know the bird was no longer here, else I might not have looked for it. They call the bird "a legend here" and claims it is actually 5 years since it was seen!
At my last morning at the site my luck has run out: It is again sunny, half the twitchers/photographers from yesterday have opted to take a day off and are still there. At 6.40 the bird flies by without settling and I get not pics. I stay on the balcony until 7.30, when my daughter wakes up and demands attention. 5 minutes later the bird appears, settles on the rock in excellent light, I am carrying a child not a camera, so I am reduced to admiring the perfect shots obtained by the Thai photographers, who are naturally very satisfied.
Nikon D800 + Nikkor 80-400, F/5,6, 1/320s, ISO 6400