In early March, 5 members of the Butterfly Circle went up to Kaeng Krachan NP, in Petchaburi Province, Thailand, for a short visit.
This is an interesting location as it is situated just north of the supposed divide between the Sundaland fauna (South), and Indo-Burmese fauna (North). I was therefore hopeful that I would come across a few species not seen on or near my Samui home. I was not disappointed.
The park is the third largest in Thailand, situated on the southern border of Thailand and Myanmar (Burma), and home to many of the larger mammals of Thailand. We stayed at a small resort just outside the Park boundary, and it is used primarily by bird-watchers, as this park is a well-known mecca for this activity.
The park office is about 15Km inside the boundary, and the road to it starts of paved, but halfway along reverts to the more normal dirt track. At the office, there is also a restaurant, and camping facilities. To travel further, there are strict times when vehicles are allowed either up or down. This is because after 3Km. the road is single track, very steep in places and with no passing areas. Only 4-wheel drive vehicles are allowed after the 3km point. As a group, we did not venture past that point, but before my friends from Singapore and Malaysia arrived, Antonio and I did venture up to the top of the mountain (1035m). It gave very pretty views, but was not rewarding, butterfly-wise.
The best areas for butterflies were 3 areas where the road from the office to the 3Km. point were crossed by small streams. I have never seen so many puddling butterflies in such a small area in my life. It certainly never seems to happen further south on the peninsular. The pictures below can only give a poor idea of the true numbers seen at these locations at any one time.
These huge conglomerations made it difficult to isolate single specimens to get decent photos, but we still managed it to our satisfaction, though some species seen were never co-operative. In fact, there were so many that I missed several species which, although previously photographed by me were of a different subspecies, which I had not come across before. There was one species which I had dismissed for the first couple of days as Papilio memnon, common on Samui, and so had ignored it. Only on the third day did I discover that the undersides were different and it was a new species for me, The Spangle (Papilio protenor euprotenor).
One of our main objectives had been to photograph the Great Nawab (Charaxes (Polyura) eudamippus eudamippus), and a few happily turned up. This species is one of many that we saw that are at close to the southernmost part of their range.
Another of the species, which only appeared on the first day, so Ellen, Nelson and LC all missed it, was this Blue-striped Mime (Papilio slateri slateri).
A true jewel of the forest is the Paris Peacock (Papilio paris paris), which was seen on most days, it is stunning! It is also not found further south.
I had hoped that I might find a species, the Blue Helen (Papilio prexaspes andamanicus) known once from Samui, but for which I am still lacking a photo. The species was there, but it was the wrong subspecies, P. prexaspes pitmani, which immediately told me that I would not find my goal here as two subspecies can not live in the same area.
Below are other species found in the open, near the road, which were new to me. As far as I can see, some of these photos may increase the known range of the species southwards.
There are a few short trails off the main ‘road’, and these produced different species, which prefer to stay in the undergrowth.
Because of the overwhelming number of butterflies around, I spent little time looking for other forms of insects, but we did come across this particularly beautiful Long-horn Beetle.
This National Park is a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year, though the road up to the mountain is closed during the rainy season for safety reasons. However, it is very remote, the nearest petrol stations and ATMs are about 30Km. away and credit cards are not universally accepted! Be warned.
For all the species and subspecies new to me from this trip, please go the ‘Expeditions’ section and click on Thailand-Mainland.