Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Prek Toal 20-23 February 2013

After the big duck I spent a few days working at Prek Toal. The pond herons were starting to become identifiable, this one is clearly turning Chinese:

Whilst this one is probably going to become a Javan:

Prek Toal supports the only breeding colony of Black-headed Ibis is SE Asia.

Look! I took a sharp photo! Juvvy Indian Shaggy:

Visitors to Prek Toal are legally obliged to take photographs of trees heaving with large waterbirds. Here are mine:

Simon Mahood

White-winged Duck in PVPF

I spent a night with Ashish, Sony and the Community Management Committee in Okoki at Preah Vihear Protected Forest in the hope of seeing White-winged Duck. On the way in we saw a family of Eld's Deer. During the night we heard Bay Owl, Blyth's Frogmouth and an endless chorus of Brown Hawk Owl.

A 4Am start saw us hiding behind a blind of woven leaves overlooking a trapeang (forest pool) well before dawn. We ignored a calling Banded Broadbill in an attempt to stay quiet and wait for the ducks to come in, but by 7:30 it was starting to get hot and the constant White-breasted Waterhen parade was getting a little tiresome...at 7:45 we heard a quacking and looked up to see a single White-winged Duck flying overhead! Awesome to see the bird, but better views were required. Sony walked off to the other trapeang where one the community members was keeping watch...over a White-winged Duck! He ran back, fetched us we enjoyed this massive duck in the early morning sunlight. Later we taped in a calling Banded Kingfisher for poor views and saw some old elephant footprints.

 Simon Mahood 18 February 2013

Monday, February 25, 2013

Masked Finfoot marvel

Between 19th and 22nd February 2013, Rours Vann, Richard Hillard and myself, Rob Martin, visited various sites in Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary. Vann and myself visited the Stung Memei at An Til where the community has begun enforcement of a protected stretch of the river for the health of fish stocks and to benefit a rather marvellous avian inhabitant of the place. Two and a half hours of sitting and waiting overlooking the river drew a blank, so we stayed overnight on the bend of the river and took an early morning stroll along the riverbank on 20th. Walking as quietly as possible we soon saw White-breasted Waterhen, Stork-billed Kingfisher and multiple Junglefowl along the margins, and heard at least a couple of Green Peafowl calling from the east. Then, at 07:15, we climbed up a small rise which revealed a clear view of a good length of the river. Partly submerged logs crisscrossed the channel, and perched on one of these was a fat, ovoid lump of a bird. "Finfoot!". Vann had previously only seen immatures or females and was somewhat amazed by the excess size of this stonking adult male. It slipped into the water and cruised off, pausing briefly to peck a few insects from some overhanging leaves but despite our attempts to head it off further upstream it managed a quite astonishing vanishing act as soon as it disappeared round the first corner. What a beast!

An adult and immature Grey-headed Fish-eagle were also hanging around, and we are hopeful that the community will protect this stretch and it may be possible to take tourists there in the future.
Other sights at other sites in KPWS included at least three Bar-bellied Pittas on trails in an evergreen patch (sadly inside a concession) and a group of 9 Green Peafowl close to Prey Veng. Rufous-bellied, Streak-throated, Grey-headed, White-bellied, Asian Spot-breasted, Grey-capped Pygmy, Great Slaty, Black-headed, Heart-spotted Woodpeckers all seen as well as both flamebacks.
No White-winged Ducks unfortunately, despite trying at two separate roost sites.

Rob Martin

Friday, February 22, 2013

Svay Rieng survey

On 17-20 February, Thomas, Lisa and Fredbaksey conducted an exploratory visit to the birder-neglected Svay Rieng province, as well as a few stops in adjacent Prey Veng province. We recorded just over 100 species and had some good finds. We ended up birding in nice pagoda groves, forested ancient temple, degraded scrub/grasslands and even unsuspected remnant of dry deciduous forest. All being small islands in a populated and cultivated landscape, with still a good deal of natural wetlands, such as the sprawling lake around Svay Rieng provincial town, where an Oriental Darter was at ease.

Recent colonists House Sparrows and Zebra Doves have, quite expectedly, largely invaded both provinces, but the widespread presence of Golden-bellied Gerygone was more surprising, and clearly linked with ubiquitous water-edged Eucalyptus plantations. Chestnut-tailed Starling was boldly nesting in a street lamp in central Svay Rieng town!

Bird of the trip was a very pleasing Large Hawk-cuckoo, showing itself in full exposure, front and back for a few minutes at the Prey Bassac temple. Other nice fellows there were Black Baza, a tentative Grey-faced Buzzard, and a calling Greater Flameback.

Spot-breasted Woodpecker was seen at two sites, and a lone Common Hill-Myna in a provincial town pagoda was an oddity. Indochinese Bushlark was also found at various places. Best relic forest, at the northern tip of the province, yielded Red-breasted Parakeets, Spotted and Asian Barred Owlet and a Flameback sp.

Nothing special amongst the waterbirds, just the classical cortege of waders, walkers and swimmers, apart perhaps that Collared Kingfisher was quite common.

Perhaps as revealing is what I expected to widely find and was not found at all: Jungle Crow, Red-wattled Lapwing, Shikra, harriers. Blue Rock-thrush was also a miss, only god knows why...

Several lifers for Lisa, one for Thomas and... I let you guess.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Soft opening of the PPBClub

This morning birding at Prek Ksach (Ly Yong Phat area), Senlim, Puthy, Buntha, Nigel, Thomas and I recorded a good 63 spp, a solid harvest for the soft opening of Senglim's Phnom Penh Bird Club.

Most notable were:
* a decent flock (15+) Small Pratincoles, quite sensitive, and probably gearing for nesting on a sandhill there
** an air-attack on the above by a Peregrine Falcon
*** a Kentish-like Plover which could turn out to be something else after Senglim sends his photos around
**** Blue-tailed Bee-eaters prospecting and digging nesting holes anywhere there was a decent artificial sandfill!!


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Purple-backed Starling at Wat Atwea, Siem Reap

Having bumped into an acquaintance from Norwich, Steve Jones, randomly along the riverside in Siem Reap we arranged to go birding so he could get to grips with some Cambodian species. On Tuesday 12th February I took him to Phnom Kraom, but decided to stop at Wat Atwea en route. While locating a vocal Black-naped Monarch a small starling appeared in my binoculars, which was clearly Purple-backed. I immediately noticed the very dark isolated eye peering out from a rounded head, giving a cute appearance to the bird. We managed to locate three individuals, but more may have been present.
Having been vainly trying to find this species for several months with the groups of White-shouldered Starling that litter the scrub around Phnom Kraom I suddenly realised my folly. Obviously this species has a different preferred habitat to White-shouldered, like pretty much every species! Purple-backed likes nice big trees, especially like this massive fruiting Banyon tree in front of the Wat itself.
We proceeded down to Phnom Kraom, where there was a single Temminck's and 4 Long-toed Stints, 4 Marsh Sandpiper and a superb Grey-headed Lapwing. Unfortunately the Greater Painted Snipe nest has been ploughed.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Northern Pintail and Wigeon at ATT

With the Coot safely counted Fred and I continued with the small boat across a wonderfully serene and unexpectedly high Ang Trapeang Thmor on the 28th January 2013, clearing a path through a large number of Black-backed Swamphen as we did so. With the despondent honking pleas echoing all around some unseen disturbance in the far distance scattered many duck. We clocked a group of Comb Duck and the vast majority were the expected Lesser Whistling Ducks, clear even at this range. I soon noted another group that were obviously different, about 150 dabbling ducks flying extremely fast. Being so distant but having some impression of greyish about them I figured they must be part of the Garganey flock, which numbered 2160 when I counted them, not far from this area, the previous day. Still, I took four photos of the group just for the sake of it, or maybe my subconscious was kicking in. 
So it was actually a group of about 119 Pintail and, if you look closely, 1 Wigeon.
Eurasian Wigeon, male, more or less in the middle
Can't believe my duck radar is that rusty! I've only been away from the UK since September. Still, Ang Trapeang Thmor is the place in Cambodia to see these species, with recent counts of 157 on 28th January 2009 and 150+ on 6th February 2010. Wigeon is much rarer, but recent records include 4 with other dabbling ducks on the former date, so were presumably with Pintail on that occasion as well. More recently five were seen at ATT on 12th February 2011. 

Rob Martin

Phnom Kraom early February

Field full of Asian Openbills in front of Phnom Kraom

Painted Storks

Noticed a switch in the birds at Phnom Kraom at the start of this month. The Oriental Pratincoles have reappeared, and Asian Openbills have decided that this is the place to be. 480 of the latter were feeding on the introduced apple snails in the wet season rice paddies on 5th Feb, and 85 Painted Stork were counted on the 4th. And the waders are back, mostly due to the habitat becoming suitable I suspect. 16 species so far in February, including Temminck's Stint (3 on 3rd and 1 on 5th), up to 9 Long-toed Stint every visit, 9 Grey-headed Lapwing on 3rd, 10 Kentish Plover, 5-8 Marsh Sandpiper, around 80 Wood Sandpiper, 160 Black-winged Stilts and I managed to find a nesting Greater Painted Snipe.

Phnom Kraom January sightings

Having spent more time at the SVC office in Siem Reap since the New Year I've been heading out to the rice fields and lotus wetlands just north of Phnom Kraom more regularly. Best bird for me was undoubtably Chestnut-winged Cuckoo on two dates, 15th and 20th January. I suppose the Eurasian Coot seen with Simon Mahood on 25th may also be good! January species totalled 104, from 7 visits.

Coot. This is called 'putting the bird in a landscape context'.

Comb Ducks

Ducks have been sporadic, flocks of Comb Duck (13 on 15th and 15 on 25th Jan) and a maximum of 20 Garganey with the ever present Indian Spot-billed Ducks, Cotton Pygmy-Geese and Lesser Whistling Ducks, A Grey-headed Fish-eagle on 3rd January was perhaps expected given that the world's highest density breeds just over the Tonle Sap at Prek Toal but it's an impressive beast on the local patch. Other raptors included Osprey and Common Kestrel on 15th and Peregrine on 10th. Waders were a bit thin on the ground, Wood Sandpiper and Black-winged Stilt regularly noted but just one group of stints, 8 Long-toed Stint seen on 25th January, plus a couple of Greenshank. Numbers of Asian Openbill were increasing through the month, but only to 40 by 25th and there was only a single Painted Stork (15th).

Osprey, 15th January

White-shouldered Starlings
Regular stuff runs to Watercock and Greater Painted Snipe, over 100 Pheasant-tailed and a few Bronze-winged Jacanas, Black-backed Swamphens, Yellow and Cinnamon Bitterns. White-shouldered Starling are seen most days, with a maxima of 60 on 3rd January. One White Wagtail was present on 3rd January and a Red-throated Pipit passed over on 25th. A couple of Richard's Pipit were present at the start of January, but haven't been seen since the 6th.
In addition, Thick-billed Warbler, Siberian Rubythroat and Lanceolated Warbler are all birds guaranteed to quicken a British birders' pulse that I often bump into down t'marsh.
Oriental Darter
Rob Martin

Friday, February 1, 2013

Record count of Coots at ATT

During the AWC at ATT on 27-28 Jan, Rob Martin spotted very distant black floating ovoids he readily and confidently IDed as Common Coots. We took a boat to approach and soon we found ourselves in the middle of a flock of 72 coots! Adding the 4 birds seen elsewhere on the reservoir, 76 individuals is by far the largest number recorded in Indochina to the best of my knowledge.

This morning with Amaury and Michel, found a good spot near Phnom Kraom, with emergent aquatic grass (next time shall I khmer name!) hosting 5 duck species including 5 Comb Ducks.