Yesterday I returned to Thailand after leading a successful tour to Cambodia to see a number of mainland Southeast Asia’s most endangered species on behalf of Zootherabirding alongside Sophoan Sanh of the Sam Veasna Centre. We enjoyed great views of a very high proportion of our target birds including a point-blank encounter with a pair of Chestnut-headed Partridges on the penultimate day but preceded by Greater Adjutant, Lesser Adjutant, Giant Ibis, Sarus Crane, Bengal Florican, White-shouldered Ibis, Manchurian Reed Warbler, Cambodian Tailorbird, Mekong Wagtail, Woolly-necked Stork, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Black-necked Stork and many others.
A full trip report will be published soon but for now I will post some photographs with accompanying notes.
Angkor Wat by Nick Upton
Bayon Face by Nick Upton
Our trip began with a visit to Cambodia’s most famous landmark, the World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat and associated temples. These impressive ruins are fascinating and tell the story of Cambodia’s ancient history featuring some really impressive engineering works; we tried to imagine how many labourers it would have taken just to dig Angkor’s enormous moat never mind to construct the temples themselves. The surrounding woodlands also provided a nice morning’s birding with our only sightings of the trip of Hainan Blue Flycatcher, Forest Wagtail, Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, Common Hill Myna, White-throated Rockthrush and Large Hawk Cuckoo.
Sarus Crane by Nick Upton
Greater Adjutant by Nick Upton
Woolly-necked Stork by Nick Upton
Oriental Darter by Nick Upton
Many species of large wetland birds have disappeared throughout Southeast Asia but still survive in Cambodia and some of these were main target species of the trip. We saw large numbers of Painted Stork, Oriental Darter, Asian Openbill, Great Cormorant and Spot-billed Pelicans and we also had good views of much rarer species including a flock of over 20 Sarus Cranes, Woolly-necked Stork, Black-headed Ibis, White-shouldered Ibis, 2 juvenile Black-necked Storks as well as a wonderful dawn encounter with 3 Giant Ibis calling from their roost site. Seeing Greater and Lesser Adjutants side-by-side at Prek Toal was another memorable moment.
Horsfield’s Bushlark by Nick Upton
A visit to the “Florican Grasslands” was a pleasant experience. Having breakfast out in the field, watching the sun rise and several male Bengal Floricans strutting around was something I am sure everyone will remember for a long time. We had excellent views through binoculars and telescopes but we did not attempt to get too close to this critically endangered species at a time when they are displaying so as to minimize disturbance. The grasslands were productive for other species too including Oriental Skylark, Oriental Pratincole, Small Buttonquail, Manchurian Reed Warbler, Eastern Marsh Harrier and Horsfield’s (Australasian) Bushlark.
Chinese Francolin by Nick Upton
Neglected (Burmese) Nuthatch by Nick Upton
Rufous-bellied Woodpecker by Nick Upton
We spent quite a lot of time in lowland dry dipterocarp woodland looking for the many specialities which occur in this habitat and it was in this that we made several sightings of both White-shouldered and Giant Ibis, both critically endangered species. This habitat was excellent for Woodpeckers and we found Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Freckle-breasted Woodpecker, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Greater Flameback, Common Flameback, Lesser Yellownape, Greater Yellownape and White-bellied Woodpecker – all wonderful birds. We also found most of the other species that are associated with this habitat including Indochinese Cuckooshrike, Neglected Nuthatch, many Chinese Francolins, Rufpus Treepie, Common & Large Woodshrikes, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, White-rumped Falcon, Collared Falconet and many others.
Irrawaddy Dophin by Nick Upton
Mekong Wagtail by Nick Upton
At Kratie we took a morning boat ride on the Mekong river. Although there were not many birds we did obtain really good views of a a couple of pairs of the regionally endemic Mekong Wagtail, including the above male collecting nest material. There were also several Small Pratincoles, Little Ringed Plovers and some Indian Spot-billed Ducks as well as huge numbers of Little Cormorant. A small group of Irrawaddy Dolphins performed for us but how much longer they will hold in here is in doubt due to the construction of several dams on the Mekong river in Laos in addition to the ones already built in China; the already much-diminished ecology of the Mekong river looks like it will soon be completely wrecked by these projects.
Cambodian Tailorbird by Nick Upton
We visited a site for the recently described endemic species – Cambodian Tailorbird – just outside of Phnom Penh. We had excellent views of this attractive species as it called from various bits of vegetation but unfortunately due to its fast-moving nature I only managed this one, heavily-obscured photograph. Judging by the amount of development around Phnom Penh this species is likely to be under threat from habitat loss in the near future.
Chestnut-headed Partridge by Nick Upton
Birding at Bokor National Park was difficult due to thick forest habitat but we added quite a few species to our trip list here including Red-headed Trogon, Banded Kingfisher, White-browed Scimitar Babbler and this wonderful Chestnut-headed Partridge. This is another regional endemic and when you consider that the subspecies that occurs in nearby Thailand is very different, this bird is virtually endemic to Cambodia and being able to watch two of them at a distance of just a few feet away for more than half an hour was a fitting way to end our trip to Cambodia.
In total we recorded 263 species in Cambodia including an impressive 8 species of Owls seen – Brown Fish Owl, Oriental Scops Owl, Spotted Wood Owl and Brown Wood Owl being the highlight species. Anyone who is interested in a birding trip to Cambodia in the future can contact me – firstname.lastname@example.org – as it is highly likely that I will take another group there in the not too distant future.
The full trip report can be read here – Zootherabirding Cambodia Trip Report, March 2016