Sunday, December 23, 2012

More Small Pratincoles

This morning, 23 December, Howie Nielsen and I were at the ever changing Ly Yong Phat development over the Tonle Sap River north of Phnom Penh, aka Prek Ksach. 

Most interesting to me were the numbers of Small Pratincoles. On September 2 Simon Mahood, Rob Martin and I saw a single Small Pratincole sat on a large deposit of sand recently dredged from the river, at the far east of the development, and I was interested as it was the first I'd ever seen away from the major rivers. Today there were 36 in exactly the same place. I'm guessing this might be the same place mentioned by Robert van Zalinge in his Nov 18 blog post "although the 50 or so Small Pratincoles were still around on 18 Nov." How many did you see and exactly where and when Robert? These are certainly the largest numbers ever seen away from the rivers. I'm assuming these birds will soon return to the Mekong as the river drops, but I wonder if they might stick around and try to breed? We also checked the old River Lapwing site in the west, but that has now grown over quite a bit and those birds appear to have definitely gone.

Here is a link to a google map, with what is now the "pratincole sand-hill" marked as #1 if anybody else wants to check it out. And below from my snappy camera is a competitor for the worst photo ever placed on the blog, which shows a portion of the flock:

We also found a newly dyked area in the north-western part beyond the golf course that was good for waders, with 4 Wood Sand, 1 Green Sand and 2 Greenshank along with the Little Ringed Plovers and Common Sands. Another area worth checking again and marked on the map as #2 in case anybody is going.

There were just 6 Oriental Darters and some Little Cormorants in the usual roosting area (marked #3 on the map). I assume most are in back in Prek Toal and other breeding areas around the Tonle Sap by now, but it also looks like the scrub in the area is dying back and may not be so suitable for these birds for much longer. Other than that there was the usual cast of waterbirds around the site, including good numbers of Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas and an Osprey.
Colin Poole

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bird Merit Release at Phnom Penh Riverside

Occassionally I go to check the cages where birds are held for merit release at a small temple along the river, opposite the Royal Palace. I did so today and although I did not find anything particular unusual I thought it would be good to post a blog about this practice. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of birds are sold every year (see article by N van Zalinge in Cambodia Bird News No.2). Lots of birds do not survive this ordeal, especially the insectivores like Barn Swallows, which starve to death in the period from capture to eventual release.
Many are in such a weakened state that they are hardly capable of flight and catching food after their ordeal. In order to see it better I had this Sand Martin removed from a cramped cage full of hundreds of Barn Swallows and when released it was barely able to gain enough lift to fly up in to a tree.

I saw hundreds of Scaly-breasted Munias being kept today (along with a few White-rumped), hundreds of Barn Swallows (and the single Sand Martin), plus a mix of a hundred or so Baya and Streaked Weavers. Among these birds were also 3 Blue-tailed Bee-eaters.


The main depot from which birds are transferred to smaller mobile cages to sell individual birds to temple visitors.

Blue-tailed Bee-eaters with nothing to eat.

I hope that I am not the only one who sees this commercialisation of a religious ceremony with originally good intentions as twisted and cruel. What merit can be obtained through involvement in this business? Can a wish be granted through the purchase and release of a bird especially caught by traders for that purpose?

It is even possible for avian influenza to cross from bird to person by kissing the birds before release, as is the custom.

See and for more information


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Rous Van informed me that Finfoots were being seen in Steung Memai near Antil village. Richard Hillard, Van and I went on a trip to verify reliability of sightings. Waited for the bird 22nd for a whole day starting 6 am in the morning. Saw..

 Then at 5pm as I was about to call it a day, saw this object gliding on the water from the corner of my eye. Looked at it more carefully and there was the Masked Finfoot!! It was eating insects on the leaves  hanging over the water. It slowly swam past me.

Rous Vann saw another group with juveniles about 50 mts upstream, while Richard thought he saw another bird. The bird moved too quickly to be clearly identified and was very shy.  Next day Richard and Van visited the only Greater Adjutant nest in KPWS, and I waited by a waterhole for the Coral-billed Ground-cuckoo. No luck but photographed
a pair of  Blue-bearded Bee-eaters (pair not shown in photo)
 One White-browed Scimitar-babbler
 One White-throated Rock-thrush. Then it started to rain! rained the whole evening, barely managed to reach the village. Next day everything was flooded!! Quaint village roads became rivers.. but reached Tbeng.

Rours vann driving motorbike on the village road in Choamsrey.

Ashish John