Thursday, May 8, 2014

A birding visit to Cambodia (Part II)

Kampot saltpans, 11 and 12 April PMs with Rob Overtoom, Nigel Eustace and Neil Furey

The habitat mosaic of the saltpans just east of Kampot town provided very pleasant birding grounds.

Best amongst the series of usual shorebirds was an Asian Dowitcher, although a glimpse just before dusk was a rather frustrating lifer. Nice were waders in near-breeding plumages such as Pacific Golden Plovers, Red-necked Stints and Curlew Sandpipers.

Bokor NP, 12 April AM with Rob Overtoom

A relatively productive birding visit for that time of the year, with 48 species harvested. The foothills were full of calling Blue-winged Pittas, a nice Blue-bearded Bee-eater a little further up, dipped on the Spot-bellied Eagle Owl (too late perhaps) and at mid-altitude, two wished species -- Large Scimitar Babbler and Banded Kingfisher -- were calling but could not be brought into views. On the plateau tea farm area, a Black Eagle granted us with repeated appearances (once really close) and a study of a white-eye concluded on the first record of Everett’s White-eye since the specimen collected in 1927 at the same site by Delacour and Jabouille. Lifer and bird of the day!

Prey Nup mangrove, 13 April with Rob Overtoom, Nigel Eustace and Neil Furey

Tuktuk and kayak birding, along the mangrove/cultivation edge and in the mangrove creeks respectively yielded 51 species. Crippling view of a Ruddy Kingfisher, two male Little Bronze Cuckoos ruffling over a mate, and a last-minute treat of wonderful views of a male Copper-throated Sunbird (lifer) were the highlights. The mangrove was really bird poor, and mostly enliven by an unmatched density of Pied Fantails.

Kampot river estuary, 13 April PM, with Rob Overtoom, Nigel Eustace and Neil Furey

High tide was just over, and starting to recede when we reached the estuarine mudflats at the day’s end. Small groups of a few regular species, although Cambodian firsts for me were 8-10 Common Terns (ssp longipennis) and a single Little Tern. Three Ruddy Turnstones were also hanging around.

Prek Ksach, 15 April, with Roland Seitre

Compared to my visit two weeks before, the big disappointment was that the Asian Golden Weaver colony had been overtaken by House Sparrows! Five Chestnut Munias were spotted though, so the site is probably the best bet to see that rare species in Cambodia. Of note was an active nest of Pied Bushchat: a straw-made cup nestled/lodged under a ploughed soil lump!

Sen Monorom plateau and Dak Dam, 16 to 20 April, with Roland Seitre and family, and Senglim

I spend the last week of my trip with wildlife photographer and major handbooks' contributor Roland Seitre, who I had met in Cambodia back in 1999. Birds everywhere were absurdly shy and nearly always 'unphotographiable', with the relative exception of our guest house compound, touristic parkings and Seima headquarters!!

Many species were busy breeding and I don’t list them here. Of distributional or status interest were a Bar-backed Partridge heard at the border post, Pale-capped Pigeon and Grey-headed Parakeet found fairly common around Sen Monorom, Speckled Piculet at O’Ramis and near Dak Dam, one Maroon Oriole near Dak Dam and calls matching those of Ratchet-tailed Treepie heard at two occasions but birds never showed for confirmation. A grey morph Black-headed Bulbul was also noteworthy. Unexpected was a Streaked Wren Babbler (ssp rufiventer) near Sen Monorom, the 2d record for the northeast. Local subspecies included klossi Blue-throated Flycatcher (widespread), germaini Black-throated Laughingthrush (O’Ramis), johnsi Black-throated Sunbird (O’Ramis) and possibly the first confirmation of nigricapillus Burmese Shrike, and supposed peracensis Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo (racket extending up to mid-shaft). The form of Ashy Bulbul looked more like the hildebrandi than the expected (based on distribution given in Robson’s guide) remotus subspecies.

Best lifer – and the bird of the trip – was a pair of gorgeous Silver-eared Mesias near Dak Dam on 16/4. The birds responded to playback on two subsequent visits, but did not want to show, to the great dismay of my companions.

Seima PF, 20 to 22 April, with Roland Seitre and family, Senglim and local guide Thoang

Time remaining was short to properly cover Seima PF, and unstable weather (rain or threatening sky in PM and even once in early AM) further shrunk our birding walks. The much sought-after and tricky Orange-necked Partridge gave me an UTV (untickable view) on the ONP trail after call playback on 21/4 PM. Nice consolation price was an at libitum and short-distance observation of a pair of Siamese Firebacks (they did not detect me!). The next morning on the O’Pam trail, several looks at Pale-headed Woodpeckers gave me trouble matching them with the Robson plates. Five other species of woodpeckers were around, including a family of Great Slaty Woodpeckers. ONPartridge was also heard calling.

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