25th of March to 2nd of April 2013
I had done part of this circuit last year already but, as the Missus couldn't go back at the time, we decided to give it another shot. We also figured we had better go soon before the last remaining tree in Cambodia is felled; but more on that later. Many of the sites are run by Sam Veasna Center; so these are the people to go through.
We had actually planned a longer tour, but Sam Veasna Center ran into some logistic problems and we decided to just stick to the North; notably the Florican Grasslands, Prey Veng, Tmatboey, Veal Krous, and Seima Protected Forest (click on the names to get more information, thanks to Sam Veasna Center).
Tours with Sam Veasna may not be the cheapest in the world but the price does include everything except beers (and, more worryingly, coffee) and part of the money goes into keeping the community-based tourism going. We paid a total of just under USD 4,000 for the two of us; this got us 4WD with a driver and guide, accommodation, meals, and of course birding.
A couple of the sites (Prey Veng and Tmatboey) do not have any accommodation and we slept in safari-style tents. The tents are excellent (made in South Africa I believe) but stinking hot. The cots come with attached mosquito nets and we just moved them outside the tents as sleeping inside was out of the question.
We did not stay in Seima proper as they are renovating the accommodation there. We did look at the rooms they had and were very glad to stay in the town of Sen Monorom. It did mean an hour's drive to get to the bird site, but it also meant A/C, cold beer, and a proper bed!!!
Do take plenty of spare batteries; there are no facilities to charge batteries at Prey Veng or Veal Krous.
Never, ever again will I go birding during that time. After four years in Cambodia, I should have know better. Actually, I did know better but a very busy high season meant I could not go earlier. March and April are the hottest months here and the thermometer passed the 40 Celsius mark a couple of times with temperatures not dropping much at night. There was not a breeze in some of the places we went to and, as much as I like the heat, it did make things almost unbearable at times.
We did have very heavy rain one evening in Mondulkiri but apart from that it was mostly dry.
Food and Drink:
As on my last trip, the food was excellent throughout. The staff have been trained by SVC and I cannot complain. Obviously, one can forget your ham-cheese-mushroom omelet for breakfast, but for anyone being able to handle fried rice in the morning, food is not a worry. Not much in the way of fruit or veggies, but I knew that and had brought plenty along.
Do take along snacks or sweets to liven up the diet as it is heavy on rice, chicken and egg (and Tuk trey mate, fish sauce with chili).
I made sure I stocked up on beer and soft drinks as these are not included in the tour price. We also purchased plenty of coffee as, unlike last year, our tour guide had not packed any; a cardinal sin!
Dangers and annoyances:
Ha was worried about leeches, but the fear proved unfounded as, even after the heavy rain in Mondulkiri, we saw nary a one.
A couple of places had tons of Mosquitoes, Mondulkiri was particularly bad. In Tmatboey, gnats were out in force, and all places had a fair share of ants. Nothing to worry about, though people with sensitive skin might want to bring along some repellent.
Heat exhaustion is more than just a possibility; is is almost certain without some precaution. We drank liters of water every day and did lie low during the hottest part of the day.
All of the above pale in comparison to the danger that traffic poses. Cambodian roads are generally not very good but populated by huge SUV's driven by people that often do not have a driving license. We told our driver right from the start that we are not in a rush and he turned out to be very careful throughout the trip.
A word on the environment:
Ha and I were quite shocked at the devastation we saw along the way. The first time we went to Tmatboey in 2006, the road consisted of a small track. This has been turned into a highway by the Army, which is resettling lots of outsiders to Tmatboey. These people obviously do not care about any sustainable eco-based tourism, just about a quick buck. Lots of trees were "ringed" (this kills the trees) and large swathes of forest had been cleared. Our local guide told us that in March alone, four White-shouldered Ibises' nests had fallen victim to logging. Losses like that will not be sustainable for long, considering the low populations of the two Ibises.
Things got worse in Mondulkiri. Everything along the road had been cleared as far as the eye could see. It looked like a war zone, with a heavy haze hanging over all the smoldering tree stumps. This will all be turned into Cassava or Rubber plantations; there is a reason the Chinese are building all these nice highways in the North (hint: it has nothing to do with giving the locals a better infrastructure).
We also came across a lot of snares and hunting is apparently rampant, including inside Seima protection forest. We heard from more than one side that the police and army were heavily involved in all these illegal activities though I cannot verify this.
Call me a pessimist and a cynic, but I think there is little hope for Cambodia's environment. The culture of greed, (nurtured at least in part by the Billions our countries pumped in here to alleviate their guilt over letting Pol Pot slaughter his people), weak governance, and the involvement of "Okhnas" ("excellencies" that have connections to the very top of the government) in illegal logging make for a bleak future indeed. Add to that corruption on a pandemic scale and a total disregard to the law and I suggest that anyone wanting to se Cambodia's unique wildlife had better hurry.
The guide of choice still has to be "A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia" by Craig Robson. This is the 2011 edition and includes all the latest taxonomic updates.
For mammals the recently published "A Field Guide to the Mammals of South East Asia" by Charles M. Francis provides the best coverage.
Obviously a big thanks to Sam Veasna Center, and particularly to Raksa, for organizing all this. It is good to know that organizations like this exist in Cambodia.
Naran, our Sam Veasna guide, was very good and worked hard on getting us onto the birds. Only a "junior" guide at the moment, I think he is excellent (and funny). And also hungry most of the time....
Our local guides: Mr. Proh in Prey Veng, Mr. Luat in Tmatboey, and Mr. Roeun in Seima (never caught the name of the guide at the vulture restaurant).
Of course I cannot forget all the wonderful cooks, camp staff, hotel staff and anyone else that helped us along the way. Some basic creature comforts make birding so much more fun.
And last, but not least, there is my long suffering wife "I-missed-the-White-winged-Duck" Ha. Thanks once again for all the hard effort, and it is only a duck after all.
As usual all mistakes, omissions and errors are mine. Write to me at hannostamm (at) hotmail (dot) com for any encouragement or abuse.
Hover over the photos for text, more photos are here: Photos
25th of March:
We left Siem Reap at 05:30 to head for the Florican Grasslands, about 75k towards Kampong Thom. Mr. Ly, the driver, did go a little too fast for our liking at first, in particular as the car was quite old and the suspension non-existent. Once we told him to slow down, he turned out to be an excellent driver throughout the rest of the trip.
Both Ha and I had seen Floricans before but I do like the grasslands; these too are under threat and some sites that used to hold Floricans have disappeared already.
When we reached the Grasslands, we stopped for breakfast and to wait for the local guide. As with other sites administered by Sam Veasna and/or WCS, much of the focus is on engaging the local populace as any conservation measures are only possible with their help. Anyway, the guide ran a little late and we enjoyed our coffee and croissants and looked at the birds. I did notice something out of the corner of my eye, turned out to be a Oriental Plover quietly feeding less than 10 meters away. I had only seen my first ever a week earlier, 50 of them actually but very distant, and was very pleased with this great photo opportunity. As was Ha as it was her first lifer of the trip.
Plover photographed and coffee drunk we headed out to look for Floricans. It took just seconds and we saw a splendid male Bengal Florican. It was quite far and Ha tried to get closer. Absolutely no chance: when she moved, the Florican moved; when she stopped, the Florican stopped...
We walked around for about two hours and saw 5-6 males, including a couple that were displaying. Funnily enough, we did not see a single female. There were quite a few Bluethroats, Australasian Bushlarks, and Paddyfield Pipits. At around 10:00 it started getting seriously hot and we decided to head out.
We stopped for lunch near the Bang Melea temples. A small suggestion to SVC: change the restaurant, there are better ones opposite Bang Melea. A real tourist trap, the food ranged from mediocre to inedible. At least they had a cold beer to wash down what must rate as the worst fried rice I have ever eaten. I guess most of the food cost goes into paying commission to guides and drivers.
After lunch, we did the final stretch towards Prey Veng. The road is a highway now, but the clearing of forest along it was terrible and our search for White-rumped Falcon was futile.
We had a quick halt in Anlong Veng, the last town before Prey Veng, to stock up on drinks and ice before tackling the last 25k to Prey Veng village. The track was just as bad as I remembered it from last year and we were lucky that they had not had much rain yet as I am sure access is impossible after a few heavy downpours.
We did stop a couple of times to give our aching bodies a rest, picking up Red-billed Blue Magpie, Small Minivets, a Common Flameback and a few Black-headed Woodpeckers. We crossed Prey Veng village to get to our camp, set up next to a Baray (a reservoir dating back to Angkorian times), dumped our gear and headed for the White-winged Duck site; a very rough 40 minutes by car away.
It was when we got there that we found out that the ducks had changed their roosting site recently and that our guide, Mr. Proh, had not yet located the new site. We gave the old site a go anyway, but no joy. Back at the car the local farmer told us that he had seen a duck as it flew over to its new roost:-(. The drive back felt even longer, but at least we had a shower, great food, and cold beers waiting for us.
That night was hell for me: still 32 degrees outside the tents, it felt like 50 degrees inside. Also, whilst the tents are very well made, the cots are a little narrow for a big fella like me. I thus opted to sit outside, feed all the Mozzies in the neighborhood, and listen to Large-tailed Nightjars and Brown Boobooks. Oh, and a very noisy party in a nearby village.
Bird-of-the-Day for all of us was the Oriental Plover for giving such excellent views.
26th of March:
I finally did fall asleep at 01:00, just in time to get back up again for a 03:30 start to the White-winged Duck roost. Whilst getting some coffee in we heard and/or saw Oriental Scops Owl, Asian Barred Owlet, more Large-tailed Nightjars and at least two Great-eared Nightjars. After that, it was the same spiel like yesterday: horrible drive and no duck. We did have a bit of a walk in the area. One of the commonest birds encountered throughout the trip was Indian Roller; they were seemingly everywhere. Don't get me wrong, it is a nice bird, but we just ended up looking at way too many of them in the hope it would be something else (White winged Duck for example:-)). A few Yellow-footed Green-Pigeons were nice, as were three Thick-billed Green-Pigeons.
By 10:00 temperatures had become pretty much unbearable and we headed back to camp where we basically tried to not move for the next five hours except to have lunch. Actually, I did brave the heat for a little while to head out to the Baray were highlights were two Giant Ibises as well as three Sarus Cranes. I also took a picture of a rapture I could not ID confidentially; after the trip I had some more knowledgeable people look at it and the general consensus was that it was an Indian Spotted Eagle; a lifer for me.
All of us headed out again at 4 pm and walked around the Baray, adding a few Herons and Egrets, Black Baza, Oriental Honey-Buzzard, a couple of Stork-billed Kingfishers, plenty of Oriental Pied Hornbills and both resident Nuthatches, Neglected and Velvet-fronted, to our trip list.
We were treated to both a great dinner and one heck of a weather spectacle. Constant lighting raced across the sky, the thunder rumbled on endlessly, and there was quite a gale blowing. Whilst the storm never actually dumped rain on us, it did bring down temperatures and I managed to sleep considerably better that night.
Bird-of-the-Day was unanimous again, with all of us choosing Giant Ibis. Not a new species or anything, but still a great bird to see. Though once ID was confirmed, I have changed my Bird-of-the-Day to Indian Spotted Eagle.
27th of March:
Naran had suggested that we get up at 03:30 again and give the Duck another shot. Ha and I agreed that we are not hardcore enough birders for that and instead we had a leisurely breakfast with temperatures that were a relative frigid 24 degrees. We took another spin around the Baray but we did not turn up much new apart from an Alexandrine Parakeet and we headed back to the camp.
Once Naran had settled the various bills and filled out the paperwork, a seemingly very complicated affair, we hit the rough track back to the main road, from there it was only an hour or so to Tmatboey.
The cabins were the same as a couple of years ago, as was the excellent cook. Apart from that, not much else was the same. There is obviously a great influx of people from outside the village, often soldiers that the government does not pay and gives land instead; people that have no connection with the conservation or eco-tourism projects that have been established here. Not only do the people not belong here, some stupid NGO then goes and builds wells so that they can have signs with their names. Yet another NGO without an effing clue!!! Rant over, but the area is being trashed; as mentioned earlier, this has a huge impact already; they lost 4 White-shouldered Ibises' nests in a month; this in area where a census turned up just 7 nests in total.
Back to birding: we sat out the midday heat, having lunch and watching a splendid male White-throated Rock-thrush from up close. We then headed out and drove for about half an hour to see what we could dig up. We walked about 300 meters to a Traepang (a water hole) but it was not clear who would get there first, us or a massive thunderstorm that was rolling in. We were more than a little uneasy about the lightning getting closer and closer, plenty of people end up dead in Cambodia every year after getting struck by lightning. We were about to turn around when the first rain drops hit us but decided to take a quick look at the Traepang and then rush back. Very fortunate we did as we straight away ran into a very accommodating Pale-capped Pigeon; one of the prize birds in Tmatboey!
The storm just missed us and we spent a fair bit of time getting photos (in some pretty crap light) before heading to a site that used to have a nest of White-shouldered Ibis. However, it was one of the nests that got chopped down and all we got were very distant views of a solitary White-shouldered Ibis.
It was getting dark and we headed back for a much-needed shower, a good feed, and a couple of cold Cambodia beers before turning in. After the tents the previous two days, the huts and, more importantly, the fan were the pinnacle of luxury.
No discussion about the Bird-of-the-Day, it was Pale-capped Pigeon all around.
28th of March:
The problem with going to bed real early is that I was wide awake by 02:30. Apart from a distant Asian Barred Owlet, a Tockay Gecko, and Naran's snoring, there wasn't much calling and I did what one does in the middle of the night: drink lukewarm coffee, shave, cut my fingernails and write my trip notes. A very balmy night with a full moon almost bright enough to read.
Everybody else got up at 05:00 and we had a fried noodle breakfast before heading out at 05:30. We did not have a long way to go before we got to some pretty good forest, home to at least 2 White-bellied Woodpeckers and a Great Slaty Woodpecker. Highlights of the morning however was a Brown Wood-Owl. It was in very dense, and quite thorny, scrub and it took a fair bit of effort to get reasonable views of it. Whilst trying to get one, we flushed at least one, maybe two, more.
A lot less effort was needed for a magnificent Brown Fish-Owl, we could have almost ticked and photographed that from the car. A great morning as both Ha and I are very keen on owls (who isn't?).
We got back to the camp at 11:00. As usual, Naran was starving by then, he needs food every 2 hours, and he went off and sneaked in a noodle soup. Ha and I waited for our lunch and watched White-crested Laughingthrushes, Green-billed Malkoha, Greater Racket-tailed and Hair-crested Drongos come in to drink from a little pool in the corner of the camp.
After another great feed, we decided to not go anywhere in the afternoon; it was just too hot. Instead, Ha and I spent the time taking photos of two Spotted Owlets that were roosting in a tree nearby. The afternoon slipped by and it was soon time for yet another meal and a few beers.
Bird-of-the-Day for all of us was the the Brown Wood-Owl.
29th of March:
Another early start, another short drive to look for Spotted Wood Owls. Mr. Luat, our local guide, tried very hard, he had actually spent the whole lunch time the previous day looking for roosts, but they had abandoned their favorite tree and we just could not find them. It was generally not very birdy so we gave up and drove to a nearby river for a picnic breakfast. Great fried rice with fish sauce and chilies was made even better by the appearance of a Heart-spotted Woodpecker that entertained us though it was pretty much impossible to get photos of. Not so with a very tame White-rumped Shama that hung around forever. Other good birds seen that morning were Greater Yellownape, Rufous Woodpecker, and a male and female Tickell's Blue Flycatcher (we would not see the latter three again on this trip).
Back to camp, lunch, and a 3.5 hour drive to the Vulture Restaurant at Veal Krous. Heaps of construction along the way, including what looks like a super highway being built by our Chinese friends. Of course they do not have a hidden agenda......
The last 30 minutes were very rough but the camp was great again (though I do not understand why they did not set up a tent for Naran and Mr. Ly). We dumped our gear and walked straight to the vulture restaurant about a kilometer away. The dead cow had already been placed earlier that day, which I did not agree with as some vultures had already been and gone (we never did see Red-headed Vultures). The vultures that still were there had pretty much finished the cow and were sitting in trees nearby; we counted three White-rumped and five Slender-billed Vultures. The latter was new for me, both species were new for Ha.
On the way back we spent quite some time at a little water hole. This was almost better than the vultures: whilst only Nara saw the Asian Jackal we saw a number of species in very short order, including the tamest White-breasted Waterhens I have ever seen, 20 Lesser Adjutants flying overhead, a couple of Woolly-necked Storks (we saw 12 soaring whilst we were on the road), our only Brahminy Kite of the trip, quite a few Orange-breasted Green-Pigeons coming in for a drink, a couple of Brown-backed Needletails giving unusually good views as they too had a zip of water, and a few Chestnut-tailed Starlings.
Naran headed back to camp whilst I got my Ipod. I had promised Ha a Nightjar and within seconds of playing the calls, a beautiful Savannah Nightjar came in, did a big circle right over our heads and disappeared. A first for Ha; I had heard it before but only seen it as a black shadow until then. With the moon still full that night, we managed to see pretty much every detail of the bird.
Dinner tasted fantastic after all these birds. Seriously, the food was very good considering the whole 4-course meal was cooked on a single fire. Still pretty warm so Ha and I moved our cots outside and slept pretty well.
Ha's Bird-of-the-Day was the Savannah Nightjar, Naran went for the Green-Pigeons and I went for my lifer of the day, the Slender-billed Vultures.
30th of March:
We left for the vulture restaurant at 05:00. There is a new hide, half-buried in the ground, that is much closer to the feeding spot. Mr. Roeun, our local guide, cut up the cow some more (though there really wasn't much left of the cow; I still think it is wrong to put the cow out he day before, and we settled into the hide. Within minutes, 6 Slender-billed and 13 White-rumped Vultures swooped in. They started feeding but within seconds something spooked them, I figure they saw us or heard the cameras, and they moved back; not to return. What was funny was a herd of cows passing by and getting really close to the vultures as if to say "what did you do with our cousin?". We gave up after 2 hours as it was getting hot and headed back to camp. Walking back, we saw two Yellow-throated Marten and pretty much the same birds as the previous afternoon though we did manage to nail a Dusky and a Lanceolated Warbler.
After breakfast, it was off to Mondulkiri. We crossed the Mekong by ferry in Stung Treng, adding both Small Pratincole and Mekong Wagtail to our trip list (except Ha who, as usual when in a car, slept most of the way). From there, it was supposed to have been an hour's drive to get to a restaurant near Kratie, but it was actually two hours; only to be served really dire food. Amazing that we managed to get excellent food in the camps but not in the towns..... We continued on to Mondulkiri, locating four Collared Falconets right next to the road en route. As we reached Mondulkiri Province, we got hammered by a massive thunderstorm, it looked like the world was going to end. We still managed to see the extensive destruction of the forest, I just read an article in a local newspaper that suggest that all forest in Cambodia will be gone in five years if the logging continues at current rates.
We arrived in Seima too late to get any birding in and continued straight to the hotel in Sen Monorom. The Mondulkiri Hotel was quite alright and the restaurant was actually pretty darn good. We all enjoyed our dinner and Naran and I had quite a few beers.
The Bird-of-the-Day was an unanimous affair: Collared Falconet.
31st of March:
We left our hotel at 05:00 to go to Seima Protection Forest. On the way we stopped at a site that used to hold lots of Peafowl until two years ago when apparently most were snared by, allegedly, Vietnamese poachers. Thus we did not really expect much when we got there and were all the more surprised when a splendid male Green Peafowl flew in whilst we were having breakfast! I did not even have my camera on me:-( We heard another male calling as well. Whilst standing around, there were plenty of Vernal Hanging-Parrots buzzing overhead, as well as good numbers of Alexandrine, Red-breasted, and Blossom-headed Parakeets. We also had good views of Silver and Brown-backed Needletails.
Breakfast done, we drove a little further to the Seima Forest Station. The first thing you will notice is dozens of cars and trucks loaded with illegal timber. Guess the ones do get caught just did not pay enough to he police; rumor has it that the local Chief of Police is getting very rich with his road block. Ha stayed here as she was worried about leeches after the heavy rain the day before, the local guide, Naran, and I drove to the nearby "Orange-necked Partridge Trail". To get there we crossed a Cashew nut farm that had a fair number of trees damaged by Elephants the night before. The trail is easy but the Mosquitoes were terrible. Naran almost turned back, in particular as it was very quiet bird-wise, with just a couple of Emerald Doves. We did get a response to our tape but the birds did not come closer. Naran gave it one more try, hiding the tape by the trail and sure enough: two Orange-necked Partridges came in and actually hang around for a couple of seconds. A lifer for both Naran and myself and not just the bird of the day and bird of the trip, but probably the bird of the year!!!!
It was obviously with big grins all around that we went back to reunite with Ha. Well, no big grin from Ha, the Black-and-Red Broadbill she saw during our absence did not quite make up for dipping on the Partridge..... We did some half-hearted birding around the restaurant but it was just too hot. Naran had made arrangements to get lunch there, but the floozies working there suddenly decided they did not want to prepare anything after all. This turned out to be a good thing as we stumbled across a restaurant a couple of Miles away that served up some absolutely amazing food (if you are ever in the region: it is called the Raksmey Trorchak Trorchum Guesthouse and Restaurant).
Stuffed to the gills we did some more birding in the afternoon; on trails not to far from the Seima Station. Birding was slow going but we did add Little Spiderhunter, Bronzed Drongo, Asian Fairy-Bluebird and Grey-faced Tit-babbler to our trip list. The highlight of the afternoon was Mammalian though: a group of Black-shanked Doucs. Absolutely stunning primate and it is estimated that Seima still holds 42,000 Doucs. Though speaking with a researcher there she told me that she feels numbers are declining rapidly....
Another great day was followed by another great dinner and more great beers. Obviously, Bird-of-the-day for Naran and me was the Orange-necked Partridge; Ha had to settle for the Green Peafowl.
1st of April:
Not quite as early as the previous mornings as we only headed to Dak Dam, right on the Vietnamese border. A pleasant drive with little traffic and almost cool temperatures. As soon as the sun came up, the birds got very busy along the road and we stopped for a little while. Nothing really new, but still nice to see lots of Parakeets, Chestnut-tailed Starlings, Chinese Francolin, and Sooty-headed Bulbuls.
We drove just a little further and parked off the road for brekkie. Within seconds, we had the first new species for that day: Van Hasselt's Sunbird (a split from Purple-throated Sunbird). We also heard a Black-throated Laughingthrush but never did manage to get views.
Coffee and sarnie out of the way we followed the track for a couple of kilometers. That whole areA was covered in good forest two years ago but has all been turned into cassava fields now. However, there was still some forest left and the birding for the first couple of hours was actually very good. The walk started with a very tame Barred Cuckoo-Dove giving fantastic views. Two Pin-tailed Green-Pigeon gave very good views of the tails that gave them the name and it was also here that we saw our only Dollarbirds of the trip. We spent quite some time at a dense stand of trees and were rewarded with Drongo Cuckoo,White-browed Piculet, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Lesser Yellownape, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Streaked Spiderhunter, Plain and Fire-breasted Flowerpeckers. It was also a good spot for Flycatchers, with Blue-throated, Blue-and-White and Mugimaki Flycatcher all making an appearance. The Cassava field nearby was home to a couple of Olive-backed Pipits, amazingly enough the only ones we saw on the whole trip.
As usual it was getting just too hot by late morning and we headed back to Sen Monorom for lunch. Mr. Ly took us to a restaurant in the center called the Khmer Kitchen Restaurant. I was a bit worried as it looked like a typical backpacker restaurant, and those are usually pretty crap as most backpackers have a) no money and b) their taste buds fried by too many banana pancakes. However, another pleasant surprise awaited us. We all agreed that this was possible the best food of the trip. The Koh Kor soup was great, I ordered a second pot, as was the Thai style red curry. We were completely bloated after lunch, what great fortune then that just across the road there was a Vietnamese coffee shop that did very yummy iced coffees.
After a little siesta, we headed back to Dak Dam, following a different trail. It was stinking hot and the birding a little slow, but we did start with a few Oriental White-eyes. There were Red-vented Barbets calling but we did not manage to eyeball them but had more luck with Annam Barbet. We also saw White-bellied Apornis here and had a run-in with the local coppers. As we were trying to track down some Laughers, this old car with 2 guys and a woman pulls up and starts talking to us in Khmer. When I answered in English, Naran was a fair bit behind us, they very rudely inquired what the hell we were doing there to which I replied who the fuck they thought they were, the police? Turns out they were. Talk about an "oooops" moment! Aparrently a few days earlier some foreigners on dirt bikes had inadvertently crossed into Vietnam on that road we were on and this had caused quite a stink. Anyway, got all this solved and continued to look for the Laughers which turned out to be White-cheeked Laughingthrushes.
We finished the day's birding, and pretty much the trip, with the Laughingthrushes and headed back for shower, food and beers. On the way we came across two very obliging Barred Buttonquail and I spent quite some time trying to get decent photos in very bad light as it was almost dark.
The Buttonquails were my Bird-of-the-Day whilst Ha and Naran went for the White-cheeked Laughingthrushes.
2nd of April:
A long day ahead as we would have to get back all the way to Siem Reap. However, we did have time for a little birding along the road near Seima; with the goal being Germain's Peacock-Pheasant (whilst we heard a couple, we never did see any). The day started with a very nice male Silver Pheasant just across the road, but it disappeared very quickly. Considering the number of snares we came across, it is surprising that pheasants can still hold on (the last Germain's Peacock-pheasant that Naran had seen was a dead bird in a snare). Some owl calls brought in a few small passerines, including the only Blue-winged Minlas of the trip, and we managed to nail Red-vented Barbet, the largest Barbet in Cambodia. And that was the end to an excellent trip. We spent rest of the day getting back to Siem Reap and planning our next trip; a trip that will certainly not be at the end of March. We did stop for lunch in Kampong Cham at "The Smile" restaurant. I suggest you give that one a miss as the food is dire, the staff indifferent and the (foreign) manager on a very high horse.
A great trip all around, we ended up with 200+ species of birds. Not bad going considering the heat....