(4-27 January

We arrived early at the end of a dirt road and waited until first light before setting out to the area we hoped to see Giant Ibis. Walking through the forest we listened as we passed several clearings. Hearing no ibis, we moved on. Shortly before sunrise, we heard a distant ibis and moved toward it, eventually coming to the edge of a large clearing. We waited just inside the forest. Soon two large birds flew low over the trees and landed on a large dead tree about 300 meters away. Giant Ibis! We quietly set up the scope and began a superb hour-long observation of one of the world’s most endangered species. The light gradually improved as the sun rose and gave us an opportunity for a detailed study of the ibis. They called several times and uttered a loud raucous duet twice as we watched, before they eventually flew off. Further search of the various forest clearings that morning got us a reasonable view of a White-shouldered Ibis as it flew away. In the afternoon we arrived about an hour before sunset where a pair of White-shouldered Ibis were known to be building a nest. Our guide placed us several hundred meters from the nest tree and we waited. Just before sunset, a pair of White-shouldered Ibis flew in and landed on a large dead tree about 200 meters away. We had about 20 minutes to observe them through the scope before they flew off over the forest. WOW! Fine scope studies of two of the rarest birds in the world in one day!

A few days later, well before first light, we entered a blind in the forest at the edge of a small pool. Then we waited. Just about sunrise, a loud nearby quack alerted us to the arrival of a pair of White-winged Ducks. We peered out the large peephole and set up the scope. Thus began an hour-long viewing session with the ducks at a range of only 40-50 meters. It was marvelous to be able to have such a long and close study of this endangered species.

Cambodia has a number of special species and we were able to see a good portion of them: Spot-billed Pelican, Milky Stork, Lesser and Greater Adjutants, Comb Duck, Lesser and Grey-headed Fish-Eagles, White-rumped, Slender-billed and Red-headed Vultures, Rufous-winged Buzzard, White-rumped Falcon, Germain’s Peacock-Pheasant, Sarus Crane, Bengal Florican, Eurasian Thick-knee (heard only), Red-vented Barbet, Black-headed Woodpecker, Indochinese Bushlark (Mirafra marionae), Mekong Wagtail (Motacilla samveasne), Brown-rumped Minivet, and White-throated Rockthrush. We saw 6 of the remaining Mekong Dolphins at close range. Other neat mammals were the Northern Smooth-tailed Tree-Shrew, Pig-tailed Macaque, Golden Jackal and Black-shanked Duoc Langur. We saw a total of 227 species of birds plus 17 heard only. Our only disappointment was that the road to Bokor was closed a few days before we were due to visit, cutting us off from that area entirely. Cambodia’s poverty, lack of development, long war years and poor roads have left it in a time warp with an abundance of birds and forest that takes you back 50 years in time to a richer period environmentally. Add that to friendly people and good food and you have the recipe for a great tour.

Other interesting birds seen were: Indian Cormorant, Painted Stork, Asian Openbill, Wooly-necked Stork, Black-headed Ibis, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Black Baza, Imperial Eagle, Collared Falconet, Chinese Francolin, Scaly-breasted Partridge, Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas, Pin-tailed Pigeon, Blossom-headed Parakeet, Brown-backed Needletail, Banded Kingfisher, Green-eared Barbet, White-bellied and Great Slaty Woodpeckers, Indochinese Cuckooshrike, Burmese Shrike, Siberian Blue Robin, Pale-legged Leaf-Warbler, Hainan Blue Flycatcher, Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Red Avadavat, Plain-backed Sparrow, Vinous-breasted Starling, Golden-crested Myna, and Slender-billed Oriole.