Friday, 29 March 2013

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper, Certhia americana

    On a drive through Waterloo County this afternoon, primarily to check for the arrival of Eastern Bluebird, Sialia sialis, we were surpised to see this Brown Creeper feeding from a block of suet. In my experience this is not a species one associates with feeders and it was the first time I had observed such behaviour. And the bird returned frequently, it was not just a one time visit. We did not locate a bluebird in the usual places we see them, but I am sure they will be back to brighten our lives any day now.

Singapore and Malaysia Trip Report


Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia
23 – 28 February 2013

23 February 2013
Siem Reap, Cambodia – Singapore

We touched down at Changi Airport in Singapore at 16:00 and were on our way to the hotel by cab at 16:45.
We had booked on line at the Changi Village Hotel for the first two night's stay and the night before departure. Due to a slight change of plans, we now needed to stay an extra night and had no trouble booking it at the same price.
When we got to our room we were pleased that we overlooked an area with numerous large trees, and birds were flying around. Unfortunately the window was so dirty it was hard to get a good view. The species that we were confident about were Red-breasted Parakeet, Common Myna, Javan Myna, Barn Swallow, Oriental Dollarbird, Tanimbar Corella, Yellow-vented Bulbul and Grey-rumped Treeswift.
                                                            Common Myna

Our room was quite acceptable but the hotel is starting to show some wear. There was a little mould around the bath tub and there was debris on the floor that had been missed by the cleaning staff. Curiously, there was not a single picture on the wall, the first hotel where this has ever happened in my many years of travel, not that it made the slightest difference of course.
For dinner we walked to the Hawker Centre, a mere five minutes from the hotel, where there were many places to eat a wide variety of food – all at very reasonable prices. We went to Mr. Teh Tarik Eating House, where Miriam had Mi Wonton and I had Mi Laksa, both prepared right in front of us at the Sedap Noodle counter. The food was very good indeed.
We went back to the hotel where Miriam soaked in the tub to try to ease the itching from bites on her leg from Angkor Wat.

All species in Singapore 23 February – Tanimbar Corella, Red-breasted Parakeet, Grey-rumped Treeswift, Oriental Dollarbird, Barn Swallow, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Common Myna, Javan Myna.

Accommodation: Changi Village Hotel Rate: Canadian $185.00 per night Including taxes Rating: Three and a half stars.

24 February 2013
Changi Village – Pulau Ubin – Bidadari Cemetery – Pasir Ris Park – Lorong Halus Wetland

Our Singapore guide, Lim Kim Seng, picked us up at the hotel at 06:45 and we immediately went for breakfast. It was raining lightly as we walked to Guru's Banana Leaf Cuisine for our first taste of a traditional south Indian breakfast.
We all chose Thosai, a pancake made from rice batter and black lentils. It was served with a fried egg and tiny, whole fried anchovies. Thosai is offered in a variety of options – Kim Seng's was plain, Miriam's with eggs and onions and mine masala. They were all delicious! We had hot, sweet coffee to wash it down.
Even sitting having breakfast we were joined by birds, including a Red-breasted Parakeet at a nest hole in a tree.
We went to the ferry terminal at 08:00 to catch a bum boat over to Pulau Ubin, a small, relatively unspoiled island a short distance from the main island of Singapore. We waited until twelve passengers were available to board and quickly made the short crossing to Pulau Ubin. A bus took us to the mangrove boardwalk where the birding was spectacular. The first bird we saw was a White-bellied Sea Eagle patrolling above the water looking for a breakfast a little larger than the anchovies we had enjoyed! We heard Red Junglefowl and ultimately saw one. Kim Seng explained that it is believed that these birds (and other species like hornbills) found their way across the straits from nearby Malaysia. We had marvellous close-up looks at Straw-headed Bulbul and there were numerous Whimbrel, a very common winter migrant, Grey Plovers and both Little and Black-naped Terns.

                                                     Olive-winged Bulbul

Pacific Swallows perched close to us and a Stork-billed Kingfisher wowed us with its huge bill.
                                                            Pacific Swallow

                                                                        Stork-billed Kingfisher


We very much enjoyed three Oriental White-eyes, a species that has become wary of humans since it is so favoured for the cage bird trade due to the quality of its song. The same is true for White-rumped Shama,
I don't think that for our entire stay in Singapore/Malaysia we were ever without the company of swiftlets, but Kim Seng said that they were impossible to identify in flight. He referred to them as Edible Nest types and said that the surest way to know the species is to find the nest, where the colour of the nest and the amount of light in the preferred nesting location, differentiates Black-nest Swiftlet from Germain's Swiftlet.
Although we encountered Crimson Sunbird often, we were the beneficiaries of a dazzling display by a male, recalling the iridescence and beauty of the hummingbirds of the Americas; indeed sunbirds are their old world counterparts.
Before taking the boat back to the mainland, Kim Seng invited us to try coconut water drunk directly from the shell. It was really quite delicious and the thick green husk provided enough insulation that it was pleasantly cool. We then scraped out the flesh with a sharp-sided spoon and it too was very tasty. Kim Seng explained that as a child growing up on a farm he used to shinny up coconut palms to get coconuts for his mother. Many kids would take up a machete to cut off the fruit, but he watched how the monkeys twisted the fruit until the stem snapped and that is how he released the fruit.
We took the boat back to Changi and went for lunch to the Hawker Centre, to the Sarah Rose Restaurant. Miriam had Nasi Lemak Ayam (chicken) and I had Nasi Lemak (fish filet). All was excellent and we had an ice cold Sprite to drink.
We then went to the Bidadari Cemetery, a long established Muslim cemetery, with expansive grounds and large trees, but the birds were very quiet.
Kim Seng suggested that we move right away to Pasir Ris Park to see if we could do better there. The highlight of this location was a pair of Spotted Wood Owl perched very visibly in a tree overhanging the path. It really was quite remarkable.
                                                   Spotted Wood Owl


We also saw a Golden-bellied Gerygone busily involved in nest building. This bird was truly industrious. It would fly to a large bough on a nearby tree and strip off thin layers of bark, or perhaps it was lichens, and return to the nest under construction. This was done at a non-stop pace.
Moving along to a waterway in the park a couple of Striated Herons hunted along the banks and were joined by a Black-crowned Night-Heron, two Grey Herons, a dozen Little Egrets, two White-breasted Waterhens and a stunning Stork-billed Kingfisher. There were several large Monitors and numerous Mud Skippers.
                                                             Mudskipper

When we left the park, Kim Seng pulled over to the side of the road at one point where we could look at a Long-tailed Shrike he knew frequented the area.
Our final birding area of the day was the Lorong Halus Wetland, a very productive site. We had great looks at two Yellow Bitterns. Other notable species were our only Javan Pond Heron, and three Little Egrets in breeding plumage. There were a couple of Pacific Golden Plovers and one Common Greenshank. Two species of cuckoo, Chestnut-winged and Little Bronze, presented themselves very well.
We returned to our hotel and arrived there around 18:15. Miriam showered and changed and we went out for dinner around 19:00. We found an Indian restaurant where we each had a glass of watermelon juice the size of a rain barrel! Miriam chose Butter Chicken Masala and I had Mutton Masala. This was accompanied by a dish of rice called Gera Rice, new to us but quite delicious, and we were happy to have selected it.
We were back in our room before 20:00.

All species 24 February – Red Junglefowl, Painted Stork, Yellow Bittern, Black-crowned Night Heron, Striated Heron, Javan Pond Heron, Chinese Pond Heron, Grey Heron,
                                                             Grey Heron

Purple Heron, Little Egret, Great Egret, Crested Honey Buzzard, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea Eagle, White-breasted Waterhen, Pacific Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Whimbrel, Common Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Little Tern, Black-naped Tern, Rock Dove, Spotted Dove, Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Tanimbar Corella, Red-breasted Parakeet, Greater Coucal (H), Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Asian Koel, Little Bronze Cuckoo, Spotted Wood Owl, swiftlet sp., Oriental Dollarbird, Stork-billed Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, Collared Kingfisher,
                                                      Collared Kingfisher


 Common Kingfisher, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, Laced Woodpecker, Common Flameback, Golden-bellied Gerygone, Common Iora, Long-tailed Shrike, Black-naped Oriole, House Crow, Straw-headed Bulbul, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Olive-winged Bulbul, Arctic Warbler, Ashy Tailorbird, Oriental White-eye, Asian Glossy Starling, Common Myna, Javan Myna, Oriental Magpie-Robin,

                                                 Oriental Magpie-Robin

White-rumped Shama, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Brown-throated Sunbird, Crimson Sunbird, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Baya Weaver, Paddy field Pipit.

25 February 2013
Central Catchment Nature Reserve – Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve – A Golf Course – Kranji Reservoir – Singapore Botanic Gardens

Kim Seng picked us up at 05:30 so that we could drive to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and begin our walk through the forest in darkness. We arrived there at 06:15 and set off on our walk, looking for Brown Hawk-Owl and Sunda Scops Owl. We heard them both but were unable to see either species. It was a great sensory experience, however, to be in the forest as the sun came up, and to hear the progression of the dawn chorus. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo seemed to be king of the forest choir! We saw a variety of species, the highlight of which was very good looks at a Blue-winged Pitta, my best view ever of a pitta, in fact. Other notable species included Cream-vented Bulbul, uncommon in Singapore but common in nearby Malaysia, Purple-throated Sunbird, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker and Changeable Hawk-Eagle.
Just before 10:30 we headed out for breakfast and once again Kim Seng was about to introduce us to another local speciality. We stopped at a little strip mall with several restaurants and a supermarket, and went to Al-Ameen to eat. We all had Tissu Prata, which is a kind of paper thin roti. Miriam had hers plain and it is a wonder of creative cusine, sitting tall on her plate like a pyramid. I had mine with cheese and onion and it came with a dish of dipping sauce. Again we had hot, sweet coffee and sat and enjoyed a second cup before moving off again at 11:15.
Our next stop was Sungei Buloh Wetland, a gorgeous area. Here the birding was terrific and our first amazing sighting was of a Large-tailed Nightjar roosting on the forest floor.

                                                   Large-tailed Nightjar


It was a real pleasure for us to see fourteen Common Redshanks perched on a tree branch out of the way of the water at high tide. There were at least three hundred Whimbrel present on the mud flats.

                                                             Whimbrel


Kim Seng thought that one of the egrets didn't look quite “right” and in fact it was a Chinese Egret. Thank goodness he was there to guide us through the field marks of this rare winter visitor.

                                               Chinese Egret


Both Milky Storks (probably an escapee from the bird park) and Painted Storks flew overhead. The highlight, however, was a pair of Copper-throated Sunbirds, which we were able to observe at will. The male is simply stunning – and best of all - they were constructing a nest, and we were able to watch their cooperative nest-building activities. All sunbirds are achingly beautiful but the male Copper-throated may be, for me, the one that takes the crown.

                                     Purple-throated Sunbird

Copper-throated Sunbird


We took a late lunch at a country club, but I am not sure of the exact location. It was a fine place indeed, overlooking a golf course, with Yellow Wagtails on the greens. We all shared a pitcher of watermelon juice; Miriam and Kim Seng both chose Hokkien Mee in a dark sauce, served in miniature metal woks, while I opted for Yong Chow Fried Rice.
All of the food was of a very high standard. Throughout our entire trip Kim Seng's choice of places to eat was impeccable and we really enjoyed a variety of local cuisine, all of which was mouth-wateringly good.
After lunch we went to the Kranji Marsh, where we were greeted almost immediately by a rain shower. It was fairly brief, however, and didn't interfere too much with our birding. The highlight of this visit was a colony of Baya Weavers industriously working at their nests. We saw both Long-tailed and Red-breasted Parakeets and a Japanese Sparrowhawk was both a lifer and the only sighting of this species on the entire trip.
It was pretty noisy at this location as air force jets screamed overhead, engaged in some kind of military exercise we assumed.
In the wetland we saw Purple Swamphen, Common Moorhen, Watercock and Yellow Bittern. Blue-tailed Bee-eaters were flycatching from a nearby snag. On the way back to the car we saw two Scaly-breasted Munias.
Our final destination for the day was the Singapore Botanic Garden, a wonderful place to visit and enjoy. Unfortunately it started to rain and we were driven out fairly early, not before great views of Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots, however.
The rain got positively torrential and Kim Seng had difficulties at times seeing the sides of the road. It was awful to drive in. When he dropped us off at our hotel after about an hour we felt really sorry for him since he had to drive to the other side of the island to go home. He told us the next morning that he had pulled over to take a break but still had to resume under terrible conditions. He said that it was the worst drive of his life.
Since we had eaten both breakfast and lunch quite late neither Miriam nor I felt particularly hungry so we decided not to venture out for dinner. We had a cup of tea and an energy bar and that sufficed.

All species 25 February – Milky Stork, Painted Stork, Yellow Bittern, Purple Heron, Little Egret, Chinese Egret, Western Osprey, Crested Honey Buzzard, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Japanese Sparrowhawk, White-breasted Waterhen, Ruddy-breasted Crake (H), Watercock, Purple Swamphen, Common Moorhen, Whimbrel, Common Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Spotted Dove,

                                                  Spotted Dove

Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, Red-breasted Parakeet, Long-tailed Parakeet,

                                        Long-tailed Parakeet

 Chestnut-bellied Malkhoa, Asian Koel, Sunda Scops Owl (H), Brown Hawk-Owl, Large-tailed Nightjar, Grey-rumped Treeswift,swiftlet sp., Oriental Dollarbird, Stork-billed Kingfisher (H), White-throated Kingfisher, Collared Kingfisher, Blue-eared Kingfisher,

                                              Blue-eared Kingfisher

Common Kingfisher, Blue-tailed Bee-eater,

                                                 Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Blue-throated Bee-eater, Red-crowned Barbet (H), Coppersmith Barbet, Banded Woodpecker, Common Flameback, Rufous Woodpecker, Blue-winged Pitta, Common Iora, Pied Triller, Black-naped Oriole, Black Drongo, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Large-billed Crow, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Olive-winged Bulbul, Cream-vented Bulbul, Barn Swallow, Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Asian Glossy Starling, Common Myna, Javan Myna, 

                                                                Javan Myna

Oriental Magpie-Robin, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Brown-throated Sunbird, Purple-throated Sunbird, Copper-throated Sunbird, Olive-backed Sunbird, Crimson Sunbird, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Baya Weaver, Scaly-breasted Munia, Western Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail.

26 February 2013
Singapore – Panti Forest – Kota Tinggi – Panti Forest – Kota Tinggi

Kim Seng picked us up a little after 05:30 to leave for Malaysia. We had arranged with the Changi Village Hotel to leave our suitcases at the hotel since we would be returning on the evening of the 27th. So we had only a carry on with just what we needed for a one night stay at Kota Tinggi.
We crossed from Singapore into Malaysia at around 06:15. There was little traffic for us but a staggering number of trucks heading from Malaysia into Singapore.
Soon after daybreak we stopped at a roadside restaurant for breakfast. Here we all had Prata, a flour-based pancake cooked on a flat grill served with a lentil-based dipping sauce. It was really interesting to watch them being made. We each had one plain and one with egg; Miriam and I had coffee, Kim Seng had tea.
After breakfast we drove on to the Panti Forest, our birding destination. We entered via what has become know as Bunker Road, so named because of the two World War II bunkers marking the entrance. An imposing sign proclaimed “Suaka Burung Panti Bird Sanctuary.” 



There was an administrative office, impressive looking and new, with the word “Information” prominently displayed in the window. It was closed, however, and Kim Seng says that he has never seen it open, nor anyone there to provide information.
Of late there seems to have been a haphazard system of issuing permits and collecting a fee. On this visit there was no one at the entrance and we entered without any problem and without paying a fee. Even when a fee is paid the amount varies and most birders strongly suspect that the money is going into someone's pocket.
At the time of our visit there was a joint military operation taking place between the Australian and Malaysian armed services, but it didn't affect us at all.
We drove along the road, stopping to bird whenever Kim Seng heard something interesting. There were lots of great birds, including Cream-vented Bulbul feeding on the road on palm nuts spilled from trucks, Violet Cuckoo, Tiger Shrike and two magnificent and well-seen Scarlet-rumped Trogons. This clinched the bird of the day early in the morning!

                                             Scarlet-rumped Trogon

We had a pair of Grey-and-Buff Woodpeckers and another adult male with a fully developed red crest. Spectacular!
We saw two Raffles's Malkohas, two Lesser Fish Eagles, a perched Changeable Hawk-Eagle, three Bushy-crested Hornbills and both Orange-bellied and Crimson-breasted Flowerpeckers.
At 12:20 we left the forest to travel back to Kota Tinggi to have lunch and check into our hotel.
Kim Seng has a regular spot that he patronizes, but it was closed, probably as part of the ongoing celebrations for Chinese New Year. We found another restaurant, called Restoran Nurul Jasmin and had a great lunch there. Miriam had a Coke and I had soursop juice. Both Kim Seng and Miriam chose chicken briyani while I had Nasi Paprik (chicken and vegetables in a sauce served with rice). Miriam and Kim Seng had a side order of a salad of cucumber and carrot in a tasty sauce, and a curry sauce to accompany the rice. We were all well satisfied with our meals.
After lunch we checked into our hotel, The Rest Inn Hotel, quite new and very agreeable. We had a room with two single beds, a desk and chair, air conditioning, television, and a nice bathroom with a separate shower enclosure. Malaysia is a Muslim country, of course, and it was interesting to note an arrow on the ceiling pointing to Mecca. We felt that our room was superior to that which we had at the Changi Village Hotel in Singapore, at a fraction of the price.




We rested until15:30 when we rejoined Kim Seng to go back to the Panti Forest.
Birding was a little slower than it had been earlier in the day, but we saw many of the same species. A couple of fairly severe rain showers sent us scampering back to the car. On leaving we saw two Malaysian Eared Nightjars. It was almost 19:30 before we headed back to town.
We found a seafood restaurant for dinner and shared several dishes. We had shrimp fried in butter, Chinese greens, tofu with egg in a sauce with steamed rice and the highlight of the evening, a whole grouper covered in a wonderful sweet and sour sauce. It was absolutely delicious.
Miriam had Chinese tea to drink, I had a couple of Thai coconuts and Kim Seng had Coca Cola.
Well fed, we returned to the hotel and settled in for the night.

All species 26 February – Grey Heron, Lesser Fish Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Raffles's Malkhoa, Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, Violet Cuckoo, Malaysian Eared Nightjar, Scarlet-rumped Trogon, Bushy-crested Hornbill, Brown Barbet, Grey-and-Buff Woodpecker, Banded Woodpecker, Crimson-winged Woodpecker, Dusky Broadbill (H), Golden-bellied Gerygone, Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike, Green Iora, Ashy Minivet, Scarlet Minivet, Tiger Shrike, White-bellied Erpornis, Greater racket-tailed Drongo, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Grey-bellied Bulbul, Cream-vented Bulbul, Asian Red-eyed Bulbul, Black-headed Bulbul, Yellow-bellied Bulbul, Hairy-backed Bulbul, Buff-vented Bulbul, Barn Swallow,Arctic Warbler, Rufous-necked Tailorbird, Black-capped Babbler, Horsefield's Babbler, Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, Sooty-capped Babbler, Common Hill Myna (H), Javan Myna, White-rumped Shama (H), Asian Brown Flycatcher, Lesser Green Leafbird, Blue-winged Leafbird, Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Plain Sunbird, Purple-naped Sunbird.

Accommodation: Rest Inn Hotel : Rate: Canadian $33.45
Rating: Four stars.

27 February 2013
Kota Tinggi – Panti Forest – Kota Tinggi – Singapore Botanic Gardens

We met Kim Seng in the lobby at 05:00 and left after checking out to go to the same place as yesterday for breakfast. It was equally entertaining to watch the Pratas being made and they were just as good to eat.
We entered the Panti Forest in darkness, searching for owls, but we had no luck. Three Malaysian Eared Nightjars put in an appearance and we heard Large-tailed Nightjar also.
Shortly after daybreak we spotted a Black Hornbill and it perched in full view atop a tree, and stayed there for several minutes. Today was my seventieth birthday and I considered this as fine a present as I could wish for.

                                                    Black Hornbill

We saw a number of Glossy Swiftlets and it was pleasing to be able to record an actual species and not just swiftlet sp.
One of the target species for most birders visiting the Panti Forest is the strange, enigmatic Rail-Babbler. Kim Seng mentioned to us that he thinks the frequency of tape playing to lure in this bird is becoming clearly excessive. There are certain known likely locations and every guide makes a bee line to try to secure a view for his clients. Kim Seng played the tape once, and we heard the bird very clearly, sounding like the reverberating note of a piano tuner's fork, but we never did see it.
Most of the birds were a repeat of yesterday, which did not make the experience any less delightful.
Before leaving, we climbed an observation tower near to the non functional administrative office. The uppermost deck of the tower is at mid level, but it turned out to be a great observation point. There was a constant parade of birds and we had excellent, prolonged, repeated looks at Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker, Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker, Arctic Warbler, Purple-throated Sunbird, Grey-breasted Spiderhunter, Red-crowned Barbet, Streaked Bulbul,
Chestnut-breasted Malkhoa, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, Ashy Minivet, Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Green Iora and Eastern Crowned Warbler.
Just before 13:00 we got back into the car and drove back to Kota Tinggi for lunch. As we disembarked from the car, we heard the Imam issuing the call to prayer from the mosque, a new experience for us. We ate at the Restoran Baser, a favourite of Kim Seng and had roasted chicken, spiced rice, mixed vegetables, a kind of egg concoction resembling an omelette, a dish of chicken broth and chili sauce. There was not a scrap of food left on our plates! I had a fruity drink that tasted like chewing gum and was quite awful; Miriam had a can of “Outrageous Orange” which didn't taste much better!
When we left the restaurant at 14:00 it was raining quite hard, but we did not lose any time in heading for Singapore. We cleared the border at 15:00 and re-entered Singapore.
Before going to the Botanic Gardens we visited a bay facing Malaysia where Malaysian Plover is consistently found. Today it was not there, even though we waited for about a half hour. We had a great look at a Brahminy Kite however, as it patrolled the shoreline.
We moved on to the Botanic Gardens and did the tour of the orchid garden – a wonderful exhibit. We strolled around other areas and saw a variety of birds, but nothing new for the trip. It's amazing how common and how tame White-breasted Waterhens have become and we saw seven of them, including a couple of juveniles.
                                             White-breasted Waterhen
                           
It was back to the car at 18:45 for the drive back to the hotel. We bade farewell to Kim Seng, thanking him for a truly excellent guiding experience. We benefitted greatly from his sterling knowledge of the birds of the area.
Right after checking into our room we went out for dinner. Miriam had a prawn and noodle dish and I had Mi Wonton, the same dish Miriam had chosen on our first night in Singapore. We had a plate of fresh cut fruit for dessert.
We were back in our room at 21:15 to get ready to leave for home the next day.

All species 27 February – Grey Heron, Little Egret, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Booted Eagle, Brahminy Kite, White-breasted Waterhen, Rock Dove, Spotted Dove, Common Emerald Dove (H), Little Green Pigeon, Pink-necked Green Pigeon,
                                       Pink-necked Green Pigeons


Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, Long-tailed Parakeet, Chestnut-breasted Malkhoa, Banded Bay Cuckoo (H), Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo (H), Common Sandpiper, Malaysian Eared Nightjar, Large-tailed Nightjar (H), Grey-rumped Treeswift, Glossy Swiftlet, swiftlet sp., Scarlet-rumped Trogon (H), Oriental Dollarbird, Stork-billed Kingfisher (H), Common Kingfisher, Black Hornbill, Red-crowned Barbet, Blue-eared Barbet, White-bellied Woodpecker (H), Banded Woodpecker, Crimson-winged Woodpecker, Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike, Green Iora, Ashy Minivet, White-bellied Erpornis, Dark-throated Oriole (H), Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Large-billed Crow, Slender-billed Crow, House Crow, Rail-Babble (H), Yellow-vented Bulbul, Cream-vented Bulbul, Black-headed Bulbul, Hairy-backed Bulbul, Streaked Bulbul, Barn Swallow, Arctic Warbler, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Grey-headed Babbler, Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, Horsefield's Babbler, Asian Fairy Bluebird, White-rumped Shama, Javan Myna, Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker, Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Purple-naped Sunbird, Crimson Sunbird,

                                                       Crimson Sunbird

 Purple-throated Sunbird, Grey-breasted Spiderhunter, Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

Accommodation: Changi Village Hotel Rate: Canadian $185.00 per night Including taxes Rating:
Three and a half stars

28 February 2013
Singapore – Hong Kong – Toronto – Waterloo

We were up at 06:00 and had a granola bar and a coffee in our room.
We caught the 07:00 shuttle bus to the airport and arrived a scant twenty minutes later. For the first time ever our carry on luggage was weighed and we were both over the limit. However the check in agent was very good and allowed us to redistribute some of the contents and Miriam transferred some items to her back pack also. We were still over the limit but no charges were imposed.
Miriam had a coffee in the airport and I had a bowl of noodle soup. We boarded at 09:45 and were in the air by 10:35. The plane was not full so we had three seats between the two of us.
Our vegetarian lunch consisted of potato with onion, mixed bell peppers and spinach, a bread roll and a dish of fruit. Miriam had orange juice to drink, I had a glass of red wine.
We landed in Hong Kong at 14:10 and left for Toronto at 17:40. The plane was full so we had no extra space on this leg of the journey. During the fifteen and a half hour flight two meals were served, both fairly uninspiring.
Touchdown was at 20:30 and we quickly cleared customs and immigration. It was great to see Karen and John waiting for us in the arrivals lounge to whisk us home to Waterloo.

General Comments
We greatly enjoyed both Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore especially is a fabulous city, immaculately clean, and it runs like a well oiled machine. It is the only major world city where I did not see even one piece of graffiti. Despite having a population of around six million people on a relatively small island it is a very green city, although very little of its natural forests remain.
Malaysia is a Muslim country, but we felt absolutely welcome everywhere we went. We were never greeted by other than smiling, friendly faces and helpful people.
I would love to revisit both countries.

Our Guide

Lim Kim Seng might just be the best guide we have ever had, and he is a fine fellow to boot.
Having birded with Kim Seng, Nigel Collar was moved to remark: That day Kim Seng demonstrated to me that his knowledge of the Singapore avifauna was second to none.
We give Kim Seng our highest recommendation; if you are visiting Singapore hire him in the full knowledge that he will serve you well.

Field Guide

We used Craig Robson's A Field Guide to the Birds of South-east Asia which seems to be the de facto guide used by everyone in the region.
While certainly very helpful, we were not as enamoured of it as others seem to be, It suffers greatly from a lack of distribution maps and I found this to be a serious irritant. Furthermore, some of the illustrations are not especially well done, the drongos in particular being quite awful. There were other birds which we felt were not well depicted.

Taxonomy

IOC World Bird List 2012.

Further Information

Contact David M. Gascoigne or Miriam Bauman 519 725-0866, email: theospreynest@sympatico.ca

A spread sheet of all the birds seen with dates and whether they are lifers for David or Miriam can be made available on request.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Andean Condor

    The other day I was reviewing my trip to Chile last February and I was reminded of this poem by the 20th Century Irish poet, Padraic Colum. I find it very evocative indeed; perhaps you will too, especially if you have seen these magnificent masters of the sky in their Andean homeland. Ironically I cannot find any record of him ever having visited South America, but to write in such fashion, it would seem that he must have done so.

Condors

We watched the Condors flying towards the Moon,
A Moon that glimmered in the blue daylight;
Around us were the Andes, and beyond 
Andes the Ocean, empty like the Moon. 
I heard you speak in Atahualpa's tongue:
Then distances grew present; all the range
Of Condors' wings between my thought, your thought:
As though they had transcended need for wings,
We watched the Condors winging towards the Moon.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Noteworthy Quotes

Noteworthy Quotes

    It is fortunate, perhaps, that no matter how intently one studies the hundred little dramas of the woods and meadows, one can never learn all of the salient facts about any one of them.

                                         Aldo Leopold
                                         A Sand County Almanac


Sunday, 24 March 2013

Kitchener-Waterloo Naturalists Field Trip


Trip Report
Kitchener- Waterloo Field Naturalists' Outing
North Shore of Lake Ontario
23 March 2013

Leader: David M. Gascoigne

KWFN Members: Heather Bagg, Betty Brechun, Alice Buehrle, Roland Buehrle, Janet Carey, Shailin Drukis, Carol Nussli, Mary Voisin, Judy Wyatt

Guest: John Lichty

I had the great good fortune to lead the above group on a day-long jaunt along the north shore of Lake Ontario. Following is a summary of our various stops.

LaSalle Park and Marina
                                                                                    Trumpeter Swans
                         Photograph by Heather Bagg

I had arranged with Bev Kingdon, whose dedication to the Trumpeter Swan is a signal achievement in the pantheon of natural history activity in Ontario, to meet us at LaSalle to give us some background information on the swans and perhaps a little insight into the lives of certain individuals. We are extremely grateful to Bev for taking the time to come down to greet us, with her husband and other swan devotees, bringing buckets of corn to demonstrate to our members the method by which the swans are lured ashore to be banded, all the while providing a narrative about the history, challenges, disappointments, and thankfully in recent years, substantial successes with these magnificent creatures.
She told us about a plan before the appropriate zoning authorities to extend the marina in a very substantial way that would seriously affect the swan habitat. Boat owners pay taxes, swans do not, but surely we have left within us the understanding, and the compassion, that a little space has to be left for wildlife. God knows we have already gobbled up most of it. As Bev continues to represent every bird lover extant at the council meetings, she may need our support to carry forward the fight to protect the bay for the swans.
It was quite amazing to see Bev call to the swans and have them all swim rapidly towards her like an advancing benefaction of heavenly angels.
Let us not leave the topic of the Trumpeter Swan without paying tribute to Harry Lumsden, without whom there would be no Trumpeter Swans in Ontario. Harry is now ninety years old and it would be a sad testament to all of his work to have the very habitat everyone worked so hard to secure, destroyed by greedy, money-grabbing, seedy politicians seeking ever greater tax contributions.
                                                                  Wood Duck
Photograph by Heather Bagg

                                           American Coot
Photograph by Heather Bagg

There was waterfowl aplenty for everyone to enjoy, including a resplendent male Wood Duck hanging out with the ubiquitous mallards; no doubt with an eye on some available female! American Coots promenaded up and down and a couple of people mentioned that had never appreciated a coot's foot before! Many of the birds were very close and we had absolutely stellar scope looks at so many species. It really was a delight to have a leisurely examination of the sheer beauty of their plumage.
A walk along the woodland trail produced very little. It was very quiet, not a clarion call from a Carolina wren, not a nasal trumpet from a nuthatch, nary a whistle from a woodpecker. Other than Black-capped Chickadees looking for handouts and a minor army of House Sparrows we walked alone. Pleasant it was, however, and it was great to stroll along and enjoy each other's company.
Bev Kingdon had pointed out to us the hole in a tree wherein an Eastern Screech-Owl dwells, but it never came out to sun itself, much to our disappointment.

Sioux Lookout Park

Over many years this has been a location where I have always been able to have very pleasing, close-up looks at Long-tailed Duck, surely one of the most enigmatic of species within a world-wide family of dazzling beauty. We were not disappointed. The ducks were so close to shore one barely needed binoculars and they put on a show for us that was second to none. The water was so clear at this time of year (I presume that cold temperatures retard the growth of algae) that we could watch them as though looking through crystal glass as they swam effortlessly beneath the surface. I think it is safe to state that everyone was enthralled by this performance.
It was by now approaching noon, the sun was shining and it was six degree so we decided to have lunch there. We sat on benches, chatted, ate, looked at the wide vista of Lake Ontario stretching to the horizon, marvelled at the ducks and silently congratulated ourselves on the sheer pleasure of enjoying each other's company on so fine a day.

Paletta Park

I had planned to spend some time here, but there appeared to be events taking place and there was no parking available. We took advantage of clean, warm washrooms and moved on to Bronte Harbour.

Bronte Harbour

Bronte Harbour has achieved a certain renown in recent years due to the Red-necked Grebes that have taken to nesting there in the inner harbour. The area where the birds nest was still iced over but several grebes were present and we were treated to the spectacle of their courtship dance.
Before covering all of the harbour, and walking along the breakwater, we took a vote as to who wanted to stay and who wished to make the fairly long drive to Colonel Samuel Smith Park in Toronto to try for the Western Grebe which has been reported there for quite some time now. It was unanimous – on to Col. Sam!

Colonel Samuel Smith Park

As already mentioned, our target here was Western Grebe. The question was, where in the wide expanse of the waterfront, was the bird situated? We asked another birder and received directions which turned out to be wrong, but very productive nevertheless. Heather Bagg located a juvenile male Harlequin Duck among all the other waterfowl. Everyone was able to have very good looks at this enchanting western species. Kudos to Heather for her fine work in spotting this bird.
Following a revised set of directions, we headed out to another point to look for the Western Grebe. John Lichty took a long walk to an elevated headland, saw the bird, and was able to direct others to its location, where it was quickly spotted and enjoyed by everyone. It was a lifer for many and I think a first-time Ontario bird for the entire group. Interestingly this was the third grebe species for the day – Horned, Red-necked and Western – without having a Pied-billed as one of them.
This stop marked the end of our day's outing. It was a great day with a wonderful group of new friends. I am grateful to those who came and I hope to do it again.

List of Species

Horned Grebe, CS
Red-necked Grebe, B, CS
Western Grebe, CS
Great Blue Heron*
Trumpeter Swan, LS
Mute Swan, LS, SL, B, CS
Canada Goose, LS, SL, B, CS
Wood Duck, LS
Mallard,LS, SL, B, CS 
American Black Duck, LS
Redhead, LS, B, CS
Greater Scaup, LS, CS
Lesser Scaup, LS, CS
Black Scoter, LS
White-winged Scoter, LS, SL, CS
Harlequin Duck, CS
Long-tailed Duck, SL, B, CS
Common Goldeneye, LS, SL, CS
Bufflehead, LS, SL, CS
Common Merganser, B, SL
Red-breasted Merganser,LS, SL, CS 
Ruddy Duck, LS
American Coot, LS
Killdeer, B
Ring-billed Gull, LS, SL, B, CS
Herring Gull, CS
Iceland Gull, CS
Black-capped Chickadee, LS
Red-winged Blackbird, LS, CS
House Sparrow, LS

* seen by some while driving.

LS = LaSalle Park and Marina, SL = Sioux Lookout Park, B = Bronte Harbour, CS = Colonel Samuel Smith Park.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Cambodia Trip Report


Cambodia
16 – 23 February 2003

16 February 2013
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – Siem Reap, Cambodia

            We arrived at Siem Reap at around 16:55 and proceeded speedily through the airport even though we had to procure a visa on arrival.
            Our guide, Naran and our driver, Chiang, were there to greet us, and we were delivered safely to our hotel, the Neth Socheata. It was here that we were introduced to the Cambodian custom of removing one's shoes before entering the building, and even though we asked Naran the reason for this practice, he was unable to give us an answer. Our room was very clean and comfortable and we settled in before going out for dinner.
            At a restaurant bearing the same name as the hotel we enjoyed two Tiger beers, eight delicious, fresh spring rolls, pork stir fry, chicken curry with vegetables and two bowls of steamed rice – all for the princely sum of $12.00! And we had the pleasant company of a group of lizards (geckos?) scampering over the walls. Who could ask for anything more?

Accommodation: Neth Socheata Hotel Rating: Four stars.

17 February 2013
Siem Reap – Kampong Thom - Tmatboey

            We met Naran in the lobby at 05:30 and listened to the sound of loud music from a wedding party still going strong. We loaded our luggage into a fine Toyota Land Cruiser and headed out of Siem Reap.           
           About two hours later, close to the grasslands at Kampong Thom, home of the Bengal Florican, we stopped for breakfast, having travelled through an area of intense rural poverty. Chiang spread a mat on the ground and offered us tea or coffee. Breakfast was a boxed affair with two pieces of bread with jam, and a croissant. Naran and Chiang had rice and other good stuff which we thought looked far more appealing! Some of the local kids came to visit and we gave them all Canada flag pins and shared our breakfast with them.

                               Rural Poverty
            While sipping coffee an Eastern Marsh Harrier flew by and Black Drongos and Asian Palm Swifts were all around.
            Moving on to the grasslands we were met by two local guides and were glad to see some of the impoverished villagers able to earn an income in the protection of endangered species. Surely this is the ultimate key to successful stewardship of the birds of the world.
            It was at this point we realized that once again our guide had no scope, much to our dismay.
We took our shoes and socks off and waded through a stream to get onto the principal habitat of the critically endangered Bengal Florican. Almost right away we had a distant view of a female, and in walking through the grass I flushed a Yellow-legged Buttonquail. We had good looks at Red-throated Pipits, but a scope would have enhanced our experience. The same can be said of a Horsfield's Bushlark perched on a reed.
            Naran and I were walking together, with Miriam and the two local fellows close by, when we flushed a male Bengal Florican right in front of us. What a magnificent bird and what a stellar sighting. It flew quite a way, all the while in our binocular view, until it dropped back into the tall grasses to disappear again. I was truly elated at our good fortune.
            A male Siberian Stonechat was perched on a tall grass stem, moving in the wind, like a jewel at the end of a necklace. We had magnificent views of two Pied Harriers, as stunning a raptor as you could ever wish to see. The wetland contained fourteen Wood Sandpipers, an Eastern Yellow Wagtail and a Purple Heron. We saw about a dozen Red Avadavats, two Oriental Pratincoles, a Striated Grassbird and a Zitting Cisticola. There were two Indian Spot-billed Ducks and when we crossed the stream again a Pied Kingfisher entertained us by hovering, then diving, coming up with a fish. I have to say, it was far more efficient than the numerous fisherman trying their luck!

                                                             Nest of Spotted Dove with two eggs

            Just before leaving at 09:55 it was our good fortune to have three Sarus Cranes fly in.
            What a great morning of birding!
            And Naran said that he would try to meet up with one of the other guides and get a scope. Hooray!
            Heading down the highway, Naran stopped to buy fruit, a very agreeable habit and much to our liking, so we always had a little fresh fruit to snack on.
            Lunch was taken in Kampong Thom at a roadside restaurant. Naran left us to eat alone while he and the driver took their lunch elsewhere. Miriam chose beef and pineapple with vegetables and I had stir-fried vegetables; both dishes came with steamed rice and we found the food very enjoyable. To drink, I had coconut water directly from the coconut and Miriam had Seven-Up. The waitress was very perky, spoke good English, but strangely was wearing a sweat shirt with the word “Toilet” on the back.
            We continued on towards Tmatboey along a road which was under construction in numerous places and we had to detour around it quite frequently and it was slow going and bone-jarring at times.
                                                                                                Typical house

            It was dismaying to see the amount of forest being burned as we drove. This was not planned burning by competent authorities but random burning by local inhabitants. There was a constant odour of acrid smoke and basic houses were being constructed even as the forest still smouldered.
            At 15:00 we arrived at Tmatboey, the pilot ecotourism project developed in 2005 with the help of the WCS, enabling local villagers to participate in ecotourism, earn a living and promote wildlife conservation. The setting is dusty and the accommodation quite primitive, but it is a very commendable attempt to have residents of the area get involved in the protection of habitat and wildlife, while deriving economic benefit. It was not difficult for me to suspend my pampered western lifestyle for a few days in return for the enchanting wildlife we would see, but for Miriam I am afraid it was not quite so easy. She was not happy there.
            The rooms had a bare cement floor, two beds with a fan overhead, and a basic bathroom with a toilet and a barrel of water with a scoop for flushing, a shower head on the wall and a sink which directed the water over the edge and onto the floor.
                                                                                          
                                                                                         Beds at Tmatboey

                Bathroom at Tmatboey
                                                                                                              
            Aside from this, the dividing wall between the units was constructed from single strips of wood, rough cut, so there were gaps between each slat with no chinking at all. Thus there was no privacy and you could see the people in the next room moving around. Furthermore there was no sound proofing, and it was easy to listen to each other's conversations at normal sound levels. Whoever coughed shared the sound with everyone else, if one party had an early start then everyone was disturbed. Lights went on and shone through, every footstep was heard, doors closed, pee tinkled and so on.                                                                                                 
            At 16:00 we were introduced to our local guide and he turned out to be a great asset. We were unable to converse with him but it seemed to me that we got along famously and we really enjoyed his company. The closest phonetic approximation I can get to his name is Grrrimm.
            And – joy of joys – Naran had a scope!
            We left to go birding, driving over bumpy roads with myriad twists and turns. We parked and walked through some dusty rice fields and through burned out forests.
            In a small pond, or trapeang, as it is called locally, we came upon two Lesser Adjutants and three Wooly-necked Storks. By staying in the vehicle we were able to observe them for several minutes and it was a very rewarding experience. Once we left the vehicle, however, as quietly and stealthily as we could, to try to get in position for photographs, the birds flushed immediately. I suspect that this reflects a long history of hunting by villagers such as Grrrimm who now are happy to earn a living by protecting them.
                                                                                 Lesser Adjutant

                                                                          Wooly-necked Stork

            We saw a pair of Rufous-winged Buzzards mating. I found this raptor to be one of my favourites.
            Grrrimm took us to the nest of a White-shouldered Ibis; alas enveloped by smoke from the forest burning around it. In the days to come we would have much better views of this critically endangered species.
            A Rufous Treepie perched in full view and we appreciated this stunning bird very much. Other avian highlights were Spotted Wood Owl, Black-headed Woodpecker, Chinese Francolin and Oriental Pied Hornbill.
            We returned to the “homestay” at 18:30 and got ready for dinner at 19:00. We were served rice, fish and two vegetable dishes, with bananas for dessert. It was well prepared and very tasty. A cold Tiger beer apiece didn't taste too badly either!
            We were back in our room a little after 19:30 where we had the delightful company of several lizards (geckos?), one of which was quite large, and seemed to keep saying (and you will forgive my indelicacy) “Fuck you,” much to our amusement, and judging from the reaction of the two British birders in the next room, theirs too.
            The beds were comfortable, equipped with mosquito nets and we enjoyed a good night's sleep.

All species 17 February – Chinese Francolin, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Wooly-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, White-shouldered Ibis, Chinese Pond Heron, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Eastern Cattle Egret, Great Egret, Little Egret,  Little Cormorant, Eastern Marsh Harrier, Pied Harrier, Rufous-winged Buzzard, Bengal Florican, Sarus Crane, Yellow-legged Buttonquail, Red-wattled Lapwing, Pacific Golden Plover, Common Snipe, Wood Sandpiper, Oriental Pratincole, Spotted Dove, Zebra Dove, Red-breasted Parakeet, Asian Koel, Spotted Wood Owl, Crested Treeswift, Asian Palm Swift, Black-capped Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Green Bee-eater, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Black-headed Woodpecker, Small Minivet, Black Drongo, White-browed Fantail, Rufous Treepie, Eastern Jungle Crow, Horsfield's Bushlark, Sooty-headed Bulbul, Barn Swallow, Striated Grassbird, Zitting Cisticola, Common Myna, Siberian Stonechat, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Red Avadavat, Western Yellow Wagtail, Paddyfield Pipit, Red-throated Pipit.

Accommodation: Tmatboey Rating: Two stars

18 February 2013
Tmatboey and area

            We were up at 04:00 for an early start to visit a roosting site of Giant Ibis.
            Before leaving Miriam had quite a shock. She had splashed water on her face and was about to dry herself on the towel, but fortunately she opened her eyes before the towel made contact with her skin. There was a large frog clinging to her towel in the very area that would have hit her face. I shook off the towel outside and calm was restored!
            We had a cup of tea before leaving and drove through the dark to a place known to Grrrimm and parked the vehicle at a clearing in the forest. Then Grrrimm led us unerringly in total darkness through rice fields and into the forest to arrive at the roosting tree before first light. He set up the scope and we waited. As soon as we had light we could see three of these critically endangered, truly magnificent birds, perched high atop a tree. As daybreak advanced we watched them stretch, preen, hop around a little and finally take off to head for their feeding grounds. The sound they made was atmospheric indeed, a sort of deep howl.
            These are the Zen moments in life for me. To view these kaleidoscopes of nature surpasses all other experiences I could have. And to add to the euphoria we saw five White-shoulderd Ibises fly into a tree, furnishing much better views than we had had of the one at the nest. It was a remarkable morning. Let us all hope that places like Tmatboey can help in the slow recovery of these species to make sure that they continue to populate the wild areas of Cambodia. Congratulations to Sam Veasna Centre for their foresight.
            We continued birding, stopping shortly for breakfast, which we ate at an abandoned house in the forest. We had fried noodles with a bit of chicken, carrot and cabbage and it was very good. Naran had also brought bananas, much to our delight.
            I should mention at this stage that we were finding Naran to be not only a first class guide, but a very engaging personality also, with a well-developed sense of humour. Our driver was terrific, and along with Grrrimm, we were a compatible group.
            We continued birding until about 10:00, the cool of the early morning giving way to blistering heat. We saw several Crested Treeswifts, two Vinous-breasted Starlings, and a couple of Greater Flamebacks.  We watched a male Burmese Shrike displaying to a female; he must have put on a good performance for it was not long before the female came to him. A Crested Serpent Eagle was perched and it was great to have a scope view, as opposed to the aerial (and nonetheless magnificent) views we normally had. Numerous Oriental Pied Hornbills were flying through the trees and although we heard Red Junglefowl call  several times we never did see one. The sound is very pleasing however.
        
                                                                               Crested Serpent Eagle

            We drove back through the village and bought ice for the cooler, and headed back to our room. Miriam took a shower and we went for lunch shortly afterwards where we enjoyed rice, deep fried chicken, a beef dish and sauteed Chinese cabbage. It was very well done and slices of pineapple for dessert rounded it off nicely. We chatted for a while to a group of British birders staying there. It turned out that their trip had also been organized by Vietnam Birding, but they were doing it in reverse to us, heading for Vietnam the following day.
            We rested until 15:00 when it was time to leave to go birding again, but Miriam decided not to go.
            The highlight of this excursion was two Pale-capped Pigeons, a species for which one of the British birders in the room next to us had specifically come to Cambodia. Grrrimm knew the location of a Brown Fish Owl with young and took us there to see this exciting nocturnal raptor. We also saw White-bellied Woodpecker, three Lesser Adjutants and, amazingly three Giant Ibis. I finally was able to see a Crested Treeswift perched, all the other sightings having been of birds in flight. On the way back to the homestay (as Naran was wont to call it) we made a successful search for Brown Hawk-Owl.

                                                   Naran and Grrrimm in burned out forest

            I was back in our room by 19:00 and Miriam told me that our friendly frog had found its way back inside. However, it was hiding behind one of the boards, and occasionally would slowly work its way out. We both agreed that as long as it sat there and minded its own business it was perfectly welcome to stay. And so it did. Along with lizards of various sizes and colours we had interesting companions during our stay at Tmatboey.
            We went for dinner at 19:30 and were served fish soup strongly redolent of Kaffir lime leaves and quite delicious, sauteed vegetables, deep-fried pork and steamed rice. Along with bananas for dessert it made a fine repast.
            We were back in our room shortly past 20:00 and settled in for the night with our reptilian room mates. We read for a while, but they seemed to just loaf around not doing much of anything.

All species 18 February – Chinese Francolin, Red Junglefowl (H), Lesser Adjutant, White-shouldered Ibis, Giant Ibis, Chinese Pond Heron, Eastern Cattle Egret, Eastern Marsh Harrier, Shrikra, Rufous-winged Buzzard, Pale-capped Pigeon, Spotted Dove, Common Emerald Dove, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Green Imperial Pigeon, Blossom-headed Parakeet, Red-breasted Parakeet, Greater Coucal (H), Asian Koel, Banded Bay Cuckoo, Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Indian Cuckoo, Brown Fish Owl, Asian Barred Owlet, Brown Hawk-Owl, Large-tailed Nightjar, Crested Treeswift, Indian Roller, White-throated Kingfisher, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Coppersmith Barbet (H), Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, White-bellied Woodpecker, Greater Yellownape, Greater Flameback, Common Woodshrike, Common Iora, Large Cuckooshrike, Indochinese Cuckooshrike, Small Minivet, Burmese Shrike, Black-hooded Oriole, Ashy Drongo, Greater Racket-tailed Dronngo, Hair-crested Drongo, Indochinese Bush Lark, Sooty-headed Bulbul, Yellow-browed Warbler, Grey-breasted Prinia, Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, White-crested Laughingthrush, Vinous-breasted Starling, Black-collared Starling, Pied Bush Chat, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Taiga Flycatcher, Verditer Flyactcher, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Purple Sunbird.

19 February 2013
Tmatboey and area

            We were up and about by 05:30, without having to deal with a frog on a towel, and had a cup of tea before leaving to go birding at 06:00.
            By now Chiang was masterfully negotiating all the twists, turns, depressions and tree stumps as we made our way out to the road, and did so with aplomb.
            We walked from the road into the forest, birding for a short time until we stopped for breakfast. It resembled what we ate yesterday but with rice instead of noodles, and we enjoyed it equally.
            It was pretty quiet, but we did have a couple of woodpecker highlights. Black-headed Woodpecker is quite stunning and we had excellent looks, and we also saw a pair of Rufous-bellied Woodpeckers mating.

                                                            Rufous-bellied Woodpecker

            A couple of Black-hooded Orioles were flying around and we then happened upon one on a nest.
            We moved from the forest onto the road, but it was very noisy, with lots of trucks careening down the highway, and fumes wafting over us as they sped by.
            It was very hot and Naran suggested we move back to our base and watch the feeders until lunchtime. This we did. At first there was not a whole lot of activity, then Naran loaded a table with rice and bananas and it picked up. There was also a pipe dripping water and White-crested Laughingthrushes were both drinking and bathing there.
            A Hainan Blue Flycatcher flew into one of the buildings and another birder picked it up and waited for it to recover. Obviously we got great looks at this bird and were able to take pictures. Thankfully, the bird did not appear to suffer any permanent or serious injury, and flew off robustly when it was released.

                                                                   Hainan Blue Flycatcher

            Lunch comprised gingered fish, very much like a dish we make at home, steamed rice, mixed vegetables and chicken soup. We had a dipping sauce which is just fish sauce with hot chili peppers in it, good to remember as a simple and quick sauce for the spring rolls we make at home.
            At 14:55 we went birding again, Miriam deciding to stay back. We saw another Pale-capped Pigeon, although the poor fellow seeking it specifically had not found one yet. However, we failed to locate our principal target, Great Slaty Woodpecker, and in fact, try as we might, never did see this species. We did see a White-bellied Woodpecker feeding young.
            Back at the homestay I relaxed with Miriam for a while before going for dinner at around 19:15. We both had a cold Tiger beer, and found dinner to be a bit of an odd combination, but very good nevertheless. We had French fries with ketchup, rice, a chicken and vegetable dish and a fish soup with Kaffir lime leaves – very tasty but with lots of bones. Bananas were served for dessert.
            We were back in our room by 20:15 and settled in for the night. After chatting for a while, and reading interrnittently, we said goodnight to Froggie and friends, turned out the light and went to sleep.

All species 19 February – Chinese Francolin (H), Red Junglefowl (H), Eastern Marsh Harrier, Shikra, Besra, Rufous-winged Buzzard, Pacific Golden Plover, Pale-capped Pigeon, Spotted Dove, Zebra Dove, Blossom-headed Parakeet, Greater Coucal, Brown Fish Owl, Crested Treeswift, Asian Palm Swift, Indian Roller, Green Bee-eater, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Lineated Barbet, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, White-bellied Woodpecker, Common Flameback, Black-headed Woodpecker, Common Woodshrike (H), Common Iora, Small Minivet, Black-hooded Oriole, Bronzed Drongo, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Eastern Jungle Crow, Sooty-headed Bulbul, Black-crested Bulbul,  Streak-eared Bulbul, Yellow-browed Warbler, Dark-necked Tailorbird, White-crested Laughingthrush, Black-collared Starling, Pied Bush Chat, Hainan Blue Flycatcher, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Purple Sunbird, Brown-throated Sunbird, White-rumped Munia.

20 February 2013
Tmatboey – Kratie

            We were up at 05:00 to make our final birding foray at Tmatboey. Before leaving we tried a cup of instant coffee with sugar and whitener, and it didn't taste bad!
            We had breakfast in the forest at 07:00. Today it was a very tasty omelette with fried noodles and, as always, we enjoyed the meals that had had been prepared for us in the kitchen.
            It seemed appropriate that as we birded three Giant Ibis soared in full view and seemed to give us a departing salute as they flapped away; their loud “honking” echoing a fond farewell.  It truly was a privilege to see these birds, and we saw them better and more frequently than we had dared to hope. We have always appreciated the numerous species of starling found outside North America, and were delighted to have about ten Black-collared Starlings throughout our walk. It's a great-looking bird.
            A Burmese Nuthatch was a lifer and given our special fondness for nuthatches a very welcome sighting. A little later we also espied a Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch.
            We saw many other species, by now familiar to us, as we birded until 09:00. Conditions were unfortunately a little hazy, and there was the constant smell from the forest burning.
            Back at the homestay we settled our account, said farewell to the staff, and to Grrrimm, and boarded the vehicle for the drive to Kratie.
            As we progressed down a considerably better highway than we had experienced coming to Tmatboey, the vegetation seemed greener.
            We stopped for lunch at a very busy and patently popular restaurant, and Naran and Chiang both ate with us this time. Miriam had fried chicken with mixed vegetables and cashews (although we are still waiting for the cashews), and I opted for fried chicken with chilies. It was, of course, served with steamed rice, and a server kept returning to the table with more rice for as long as you cared to eat it. To drink, Miriam had peppermint tea and I had a banana/strawberry smoothie. Everything was excellent.
            Before getting back into the vehicle, Miriam and I went for a little walk along the street to a park by the river. As we had encountered throughout Cambodia once we left Siem Reap there was an incredible amount of garbage everywhere. It really was a shame to see this park, with many rides for children, just strewn with garbage, piled high and putrid in places where standing water emitted an odour enough to make you gag. The streets were similarly littered, garbage was everywhere, far worse than in Vietnam even. Cattle were always grazing along the sides of roads, but much of the grass was unavailable to them; it was simply covered with trash.
            Before long, it became obvious that the driver did not know where he was going. He called someone twice for directions, and twice we turned around. At 16:30 he stopped and again asked for directions, and again we reversed our progress.
            Naran had stated that we would stop to bird somewhere along the way, but at 17:00 we still had 60 kilometres to go and, given the volume of traffic, that took another hour.
            We finally arrived at our hotel in Kratie at 18:35 – more than eight and a half hours after leaving Tmatboey. The vehicle was very well-equipped, but a GPS would be well worth adding.
            The hotel was quite grand and we had a nice room. We went down for dinner to the dining room in the hotel at 19:30 and each had a beer, unfortunately not cold. Naran and Chiang ate with other guides and drivers, while Miriam and I dined together. Miriam ordered chicken curry which came in a huge bowl. It was pretty mild and seemed to have more beef than chicken. She also had a bowl of steamed rice, of course. I had fried beef with noodles and vegetables and a fine choice it was. 
            We were back in our room by 20:30.

All species 20 February – Giant Ibis, Chinese Pond Heron, Rufous-winged Buzzard, Red Turtle Dove, Spotted Dove, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Green Imperial Pigeon, Greater Coucal, Asian Barred Owlet (H), Oriental Pied Hornbill, Pale-headed Woodpecker, Common Iora, Large Cuckooshrike, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Burmese Shrike, Black-naped Oriole, Black-hooded Oriole, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Indochinese Bushlark, Streak-eared Bulbul, Brown Prinia, Grey-breasted Prinia, Chestnut -capped Babbler, Burmese Nuthatch, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, Siberian Stonechat, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Purple Sunbird, White-rumped Munia.

Accommodation: Oudom Sambath Hotel and Restaurant  Rating:  Three and a half stars.

21 February 2013
Kratie – Mekong River Trip – Siem Reap

            We were up at 05:00 and went down for breakfast before 05:30. There was no regular milk for the coffee so we took it with condensed milk. It was super sweet, but good. Miriam had bread with an omelette and I had bread with jam. The chunks of bread were enormous!
            We drove to the Mekong River to board our boat to go out and search for the endemic Mekong Wagtail and were out on the water by 06:45. It was not long before we located a Small Pratincole and there were hundreds of Little Cormorants flying by. An Osprey was patrolling the river and in short order we saw no less than three Mekong Wagtails. We also had a couple of Little Ringed Plovers.

                                                                                        Small Pratincole

                                                                                  Little Ringed Plover

            The boatman moved to a deeper part of the river and we quickly saw the endemic Mekong River Dolphin, the object of search for most of the tourists who flock to Kratie.
            By 07:45 we were back on shore and returned to the hotel to check out. We took a brief walk along a promenade that runs the length of the river. It is quite splendid, although crumbling in places and sadly in need of repair. If one sat on a bench and looked directly out a magnificent vista presented itself. The Mekong is wide at this point and dotted with numerous small islands. It is truly picturesque. If one lowered one's eyes, however and looked at the river bank, one was immediately assailed by a sea of garbage stretching all the way down to the river's edge. It truly is appalling. Somehow or other Cambodia needs to find some solution to this problem of trash marring the entire landscape. The festering, putrid pools no doubt constitute a health hazard also.

                                                                                    Mekong River Boats

            We then drove to some nearby rice paddies with a natural wetland area where the birding was quite terrific. We were able to walk through some rice paddies that had not yet been harvested and many birds were rising up from the rice and dropping back down again. In this fashion we saw numerous Zitting Cisticolas, Lanceolated Warblers, and Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers. There were many other interesting species including Watercock, Little Ringed Plover, Asian Openbill, Pin-tailed Snipe and a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo flycatching from the back of a cow.
            We saw mist nets used for a purpose for which they were certainly not intended. A section had been set up for the express purpose of trapping birds. I am not sure whether this was to protect the rice crop or to capture food, but when we left a Cinnamon Bittern had been caught in the net where it had died. To his credit, Naran was visibly upset at this practice.

                                                                   Rice

            I would have liked to have spent more time here, but we had to leave to start the long drive back to Siem Reap and by 10:00 we were back on the road.
           At about 12:30 we stopped to stretch our legs and take a few pictures from a bridge. Naran bought a “pancake” of deep fried shrimp, which we all tried and found delicious. A short time later we crossed the longest bridge in Cambodia and looked for a place for lunch. We found a small, family-run place, and enjoyed a very tasty lunch which we all shared. Naran ordered for everyone and made excellent choices: a chicken and lemon soup, sweet and sour chicken with pineapple with bell peppers, a beef and onion salad, and an omelette made with fish added to the eggs and served with raw carrots, cucumber and green beans. And obviously we had a copious quantity of steamed rice!
            When we got back in the car we had some rambutant (a fruit resembling lychee) which was  delicious. The fruit was covered in ants which Naran assured us it meant that it was pesticide-free!
            By 13:45 we were back on the road. We stopped at 16:00 to stretch our legs, with still quite a way to go until we reached Siem Reap.
            We finally arrived back at the hotel at 18:00 and were glad to see it and to know that we were there for two nights.
            This meant that we had travelled for eight and a half hours yesterday and eight hours today to get in three and a quarter hours of birding. I think it would be a far better arrangement to expand the birding on the river and around Kratie to take up a full day and leave the following day to drive back to Siem Reap. It is certainly not a good trade to invest sixteen and a half hours cooped up in the vehicle for barely more than three hours of birding time.
            We went for dinner at the same restaurant as the last time we had been in Siem Reap. We had a cold beer each, shared an order of spring rolls, and a pizza which Miriam thought would make a welcome change from noodles and rice. It was good but don't throw away your number for Little Caesar's yet! For dessert we had a plate of fresh mango.
            We were back in our room by 20:30.

All species 21 February – Indian Spot-billed Duck, Asian Openbill, Cinnamon Bittern, Chinese Pond Heron, Great Egret, Little Cormorant, Western Osprey, Black-winged Kite, Watercock, Little Ringed Plover, Pin-tailed Snipe, Common Snipe, Small Pratincole, Greater Coucal, Asian Palm Swift, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Black Drongo, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Barn Swallow, Striated Grassbird, Lanceolated Warbler, Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Common Myna, Siberian Stonechat, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Scaly-breasted Munia, Mekong Wagtail, Paddyfield Pipit.

Accommodation: Neth Socheata Hotel Rating: Four stars.

                                                      Angkor Wat
 
22 February 2013
Wetland near Siem Reap – Angkor Wat

            We drove to a combined wetland and area of rice paddies near to Siem Reap, although I am not sure exactly where, or whether the place has a formal name.
            Breakfast was taken when we arrived there and we had the same boxed food we had received on the first morning. We fed most of our croissant to the chickens! Naran had picked up mangoes and they were very welcome indeed, juicy and delicious.
            The birding there was quite fantastic. I would have gladly stayed there all day! Painted Storks almost came to greet us and by the time we left we had seen twenty-one of them. Pheasant-tailed Jacana was high on my wish list and we saw half a dozen of them amongst the water hyacinths. A pair of Plain-backed Sparrows were gathering nesting material and two Common Kingfishers zoomed along the waterways in a dazzling flash of colour. It was amazing to see seven Plaintive Cuckoos, and thirteen White -shouldered Starlings were a real treat.
                                                                                        Blue-tailed Bee-eater
            We had great birding there, with never a break in the action, yet I am sure we only scratched the surface.
            I saw a wonderful example of commensal feeding. Buffalo were grazing, Black Drongos were flycatching off their backs and Eastern Cattle Egrets were feeding around their feet.
            At 08:40 we had to leave to drive into Siem Reap to meet our guide for our visit to Angkor Wat.
On the way we passed a vibrant, crowded market that looked interesting and when Naran mentioned that his wife sold clothing there we asked if we could stop to meet her. She is very pretty and quiet. We couldn't coax a word out of her. We were able to tour through the market a little and found it very interesting indeed. It seemed like every product you could ever imagine was for sale.

                                                                          Naran and his wife

                                                                                           Market scene

                                             Market Scene
           
 Alas, we had to leave and shortly were joined by our guide, Dom, for the visit to the temple complex. This guy was a non-stop staccato talker, hard to understand at times, and programmed to recite a canned script.
            We visited the main temple first, and for this portion Naran stayed back with the driver. It's enormously interesting and impressive, but it's a lot to take in on one visit. The sheer number of tourists makes it a little claustrophobic for birders used to wide spaces and solitude.
            After the tour Naran met us, thankfully, since we needed a respite from Dom The Talking Machine, and we did a little birding on the way back to the car. It was great to have Naran with us again with his easy, relaxed style, excellent birding skills and ever ready sense of humour.
            It was almost 11:30, close enough to lunch time so we found a nice restaurant. Dom and Chiang went to eat with others, but Naran joined Miriam and me.  I ordered a mango shake and Miriam a papaya shake and both were refreshing and delicious. Naran had something similar, but I forget exactly which fruit. We chose three dishes – chicken amok (served in a coconut) with steamed rice, chicken with cashews and steamed rice, and chicken soup, which we all shared. Naran was the master at ordering interesting and tasty soups and we always enjoyed his selections.

            After lunch we drove to the second temple, with Dom's mouth going a mile a minute even before we got there. Naran accompanied us this time, and we stopped to do a little birding every so often. When Naran had an Alexandrine Parakeet in the scope we were able to show it to a father and son French team who were gob smacked at the beauty of the bird. After that they pretty much tagged along with us so as not to miss anything in the scope and I was able to act as their de facto interpreter. It was all very pleasant.

                                                        Angkor Wat
            After the third temple, where there were more Alexandrine Parakeets, Dom had finished his stint with us, and left. Now we went birding with Naran, who knew a couple of spots outside the main temple areas, and we were rewarded with excellent views of Black Baza and Shikra.
            We met up with Chiang and headed back to the hotel.
            Having showered, we went for dinner at 18:00. We had seen a Mexican café close to the hotel and decided to give it a try. We ordered two frozen margaritas while we were deciding on our dinner. Miriam opted for a chicken enchilada with Mexican rice and a salad, and I chose a chimichanga, refried beans and also Mexican rice and salad. The refried beans didn't make the plate but the meal was pretty good. They served a Chilean Merlot and we each had a glass with dinner.
            At 19:00 we returned to the hotel to get ready for the journey to Singapore tomorrow.

All species 22 February – Painted Stork, Asian Openbill, Cinnamon Bittern, Chinese Pond Heron, Eastern Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Little Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Black Baza, Shikra, Greater Painted Snipe, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Rock Dove, Red Turtle Dove, Zebra Dove, Alexandrine Parakeet, Greater Coucal, Plaintive Cuckoo, Asian Palm Swift, Indian Roller, Common Kingfisher, Blue-tailed bee-eater, Swinhoe's Minivet, Ashy Minivet, Brown Shrike, Black-naped Oriole, Black Drongo, Ashy Drongo, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Manchurian Reed Warbler, Lanceolated Warbler, Plain Prinia, Chestnut-capped babbler, Common Hill Myna, Common Myna, Black-collared Starling, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Pied Bush Chat, Siberian Stonechat, Hainan Blue Flycatcher, Plain-backed Sparrow, Baya Weaver, Scaly-breasted Munia, Paddyfield Pipit.

23 February 2013
Siem Reap – Bangkok – Singapore

            At 06:30 we went to the Mexican Café for breakfast. We sat at a table on the sidewalk and watched the city come to life. We had coffee with fresh milk and Miriam ordered a fruit plate. I had a Mexican omelette with salsa and a little mound of garlic mashed potato with emphasis on the garlic. Vampires dropped dead a kilometre away! It was supposed to come with refried beans but again I didn't get any.
            We had time to spare so I ordered a second coffee and we watched the traffic and the people going by.
            Naran and Chiang picked us up at 07:30 and by 08:00 they were dropping us off at the airport. We were really sorry to say goodbye to them. They had been great guys to travel with.
            We were at our gate by 08:30 and left for Bangkok a little after 10:00. No one occupied the third seat in our row so we could spread out.
            Breakfast was served almost right after takeoff. Our vegetarian option was a “pickled” salad of pickles, carrots and olives. There was a roll and butter and a little dish of fruit.
            We landed at 10:45 and after a long walk arrived at our gate at 11:30. We boarded at 12:15 for our 12:45 flight to Singapore.
            This narrative will continue with our arrival in Singapore.

All species in Cambodia 23 February – Rock Dove, Common Myna, Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

General Comments

            We very much enjoyed Cambodia and its people, to say nothing of the birds. It was a privilege
to visit the country and especially to travel to some of the more remote areas.

Our Guides

            Chen Sophal (Naran) was exceptional. He has but two years of experience as a bird guide yet he exhibits the confidence, poise and expertise of a veteran. He has an excellent command of English and a great sense of humour. He is courteous, friendly, considerate and always has the interests of his clients uppermost in his mind. He was obviously proud to be associated with Sam Veasna Centre for Wildlife Conservation and extolled their virtues often. It is to be hoped that they can use the talents of this young man wisely, and integrate him into their operations during the period of the year when he is not guiding. He has a wealth of talent and a great commitment to his work. We give him our very highest recommendation.

Grrrimm
            A pleasure to be with and a shining example of what can happen when local people are able earn a living from protecting habitat and wildlife.

Field Guide

            Please refer to the Vietnam trip report. The same comments apply.

Taxonomy

IOC World Bird List 2012

Further Information

            Contact David M. Gascoigne or Miriam Bauman, 519 725-0866, theospreynest@sympatico.ca

            A spread sheet showing all the species for the trip, together with a list of the lifers for Miriam and David, is available on request.