To: <>
Subject: Cambodia
From: "Dion Hobcroft" <>
Date: Tue, 6 Feb 2007 11:28:39 +1100
Hi All,
I thought I might post some birding travel reports this year as my year
unfolds. This is for fun so I hope you enjoy.
It is New Years Day, and I awake in the city of Siem Reap, the home of
the famous Angkor Wat temples of the the Khmer empire. We are off in a
convoy of landcruisers to visit the remote village of Tmatboey. This
village is participating in a conservation project to protect the
critically endangered Giant Ibis (rediscovered in 2000) and
White-shouldered Ibis. While most Australians consider ibis conspicuous
often urban scavengers there are a whole suite of rare forest ibis-these
two amongst the rarest birds in Asia. Our drive on dusty roads take us
past the jungle temple of Koh Ker. We stop here and there and pick up
several excellent birds ranging from Orange-breasted Green Pigeon,
Rufous-winged Buzzard, the spectacular Black-headed Woodpecker and the
sought after White-rumped Falcon-a pocket-sized female with an orange
Now ensconced in the village and supporting the women's co-op
(especially the icy cold drinks) we get to sleep and before you can
blink it is 4am and we are off to search for the ibis. Crane-like
bugling calls reveal the presence of the Giant Ibis but the local guides
believe they are too distant to track down. We make a bee-line through
the dipterocarp woodland that reminds me of the Northern Territory.
Hours slip by and the sun gains strength then we get a break through.
Crouching in tall grass our guide locates a group of four birds-they are
enormous, larger than male Australian Bustards. Highly wary they take
off on disturbance but perch in a nearby dead tree and we enjoy great
scope views. Our guides are as happy as we are-they are paid only if
visitors see the birds. This may sound a bit tough but it is a key
incentive to prevent hunting. It is handled very fairly and the program
is a success. The village now has a well saving long distance return
hikes carting water: proceeds from the Giant Ibis enthusiasts.
In the afternoon we visit a White-shouldered Ibis at a nest. The adult
sits forlornly in the baking heat essentially shading the egg from
roasting. Nests located are protected and the outcome monitored. Another
great bird especially enjoyed after I spent three days searching forest
swamps in Dac Lua in Vietnam unsuccessfully several years ago. The
woodlands are alive with birds: flocks of Blossom-headed and
Red-breasted Parakeets, a single Hoopoe, walking through grasslands we
flush up Burmese Bushlarks, Barred Button-quail and King Quail.
We venture south to the grasslands of Stung: home of a population of
Bengal Florican, a small black and white bustard that leaps skyward in
display mode. One person gets lucky and spots a male in flight but it
hunkers down in tall grass never to be seen again. The birding is
especially good. Sarus Crane, Black-necked Stork, Pied Harrier are a
pleasure to watch while the damp grass is alive with the tacks and
churrs of hidden warblers and crakes. We journey south again to the
Mekong River adjoining the border of Vietnam. We enjoy great views of
the Irrawaddy Dolphin, like diminutive grey Beluga. Our boat man
negotiates currents and hidden debris to take us in close to islands of
vegetation-home of the Mekong Wagtail. This dapper black and white bird
remained overlooked for many years until discovered by Cambodian
ornithologist Sam Veasna. It is one of the most recently described birds
in Asia but locally common here in its preferred microhabitat. We finish
in Pnom Penh flying out to Bangkok. It has been a real eye-opener on my
first visit to this country. Great to see so many big wetland birds that
have disappeared from virtually the rest of Asia including thousands of
Spot-billed Pelicans, hundreds of Comb Ducks and mixed storks including
lesser numbers of the really rare birds like Greater Adjutant. We have
listed 220 species in 10 days. My year list is off and running.

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