23 Dec 2011

Mai Po Boardwalk - Winter Birds

Daytime high tides are often not high enough to cover the mudflats of Deep Bay in the middle of winter.  

(Summer high tides, on the other hand, cover the mudflats most days in April and May, making good conditions for viewing migrant waders.)

This morning I went out to the furthest boardwalk hide, opened by WWF Hong Kong only a couple of years ago. The hide was built so that more birding would be possible in winter.

This morning the new hide was closer to the water, but - as expected early on - the tideline was still very distant. 

There was a fair amount of activity, firstly in the form of a Black-capped Kingfisher which - like a mini cruise missile - tried to assert Air Supremacy over any other bird occupying what it clearly considered to be its' own muddy territory. 

Black-capped Kingfisher  Halcyon pileata

It saw off a few waders, including these rather startled Marsh Sandpipers….

 It  then had a go at another halcyon kingfisher, the White-breasted….. 

Closer to the hide, a few winter birds started to show quite well, especially as the tide came up. 

Eurasian Curlew - Numenius arquata

Temminck's Stint - Calidris temmincki

Kentish Plover - Charadrius alexandrinus

Grey Plover - Pluvialis squatarola

Saunders's Gull - Larus saundersi

A "macronyx" Yellow Wagtail

A "leucopsis" White Wagtail

It's that time of the year again… Merry Christmas !

21 Dec 2011

Cambodia - Part III "Siem Reap and Angkor"

Heading south from Stung Treng, we had a short stop at Kratie for a boat trip to view a few of the rare river dolphins....

Siem Reap is the city that has grown up adjacent to the World Heritage Site of the ruined temples of Angkor.  The most famous individual historic monument is Angkor Wat - described locally as "the biggest religious monument in the world". 

And there are many other temples and ruins nearby - dating from the days of the Khmer empire which held sway in southeast asia from the 9th to the 14th centuries.

Visitors must get a pass to view the main temple area, US $20 for one day, $40 for three days, or $60 for seven days.  Tuk-tuks can be hired by the day or half-day.  There is accommodation for all tastes and budgets in Siem Reap and restaurants and bars as well.  Very touristy, but very pleasant. 

For serious birders, there is the Sam Veasna Centre in town, from where trips to northern Cambodia (Preah Vihear Province) for Giant Ibis and White-shouldered Ibis can be arranged.

But we'd already seen the endangered Ibises in Stung Treng Province, thanks to Birdlife international, so we mainly concentrated on the temples near Siem Reap.

It is actually a bit like a Treasure Hunt around the temples as hundreds of photographers trek around keenly looking for the perfect angle, or some overlooked fragment of stonework they can photograph.  The trouble with all the "great angles" is that thousands of photos of them have been taken already.  

Still, I'm not afraid of the odd photographic cliche, as regular readers will know !

"Hey, that Guy's taking the same shot as me !"

Palm Swift over Angkor Wat

Paddyfield Pipit, Angkor Wat

"Vertigo ? - It's a town in Italy, isn't it ?"

Some of the more atmospheric temples have  still not been fully cleared of the jungle that has grown up in and around them.  The presence of the trees means that there are a few birds to be seen as well.

Hill Myna, Banteay Kdei Temple

Black-headed Bulbul

Lineated Barbet

Black-naped Oriole, Banteay Kdei

Black-naped Oriole, Banteay Kdei

Red-breasted Parakeets, Angkor Wat

Some kind of funnel spider ?

This should be called a "Fire-tailed Skink"

Man-made habitat for Blue Rock Thrush

We really liked Cambodia - we'll go back !

17 Dec 2011

Cambodia - Part II "Giant Ibis"

Literally and metaphorically, Giant Ibis is the "Big One"; - the bird that visitors to the dry forests of Northern Cambodia have made the journey to see.

On the morning of our first full day in the Western Siem Pang "Proposed Protected Forest" we headed off to a trepeang (forest pool) about forty minutes from the guesthouse at Siem Pang town.
And yes, we were probably lucky, but there were no fewer than four of these almost-mythical birds foraging in the mud at the waters' edge.

Giant Ibis - Pseudibis gigantea

At the trepeang

Giant IbisPseudibis gigantea

The Birdlife Cambodia people operate a "Vulture Restaurant" with a hide overlooking it.  All three species of vulture to be seen - White-rumped, Long-billed and Red-headed - have become Critically Endangered due to the use of diclofenac (an anti-inflammatory drug) in cattle, especially in India which used to be the great vulture stronghold.

Red-headed Vulture - Sarcogyps calvus puts the boot into Long-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris

Red-headed Vultures - Sarcogyps calvus

Fine dining at the "Vulture Restaurant"

The "Vulture Restaurant" hide

During three full days in the forest near Siem Pang we found a number of other interesting birds, some of which are shown here:

White-rumped Falcon - Poiloheirax insignis

Crested Treeswift - Hemiprocne coronata

Lesser Adjutant - Leptoptilos javanicus

Yellow-crowned Woodpecker - Dendrocopos mahrattensis

Large-tailed Nightjar - Caprimulgus macrurus

Yellow-footed Green Pigeon - Treron phoenicoptera

On the evening of the third day we went back the "Giant Ibis pool", and even though the sun had set, we had decent views of four Giant Ibises again. (But I couldn't get more than one into a semi-decent shot !)

Giant Ibis  Pseudibis gigantea with Cattle Egrets Bubulculus ibis

Which pretty much set the seal on our short visit to this very special area, Western Siem Pang Proposed Protected Forest.