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Laos and Cambodia; OBC tour

24th February - 10th March 2013

 

Leader: Frank Lambert

 
Max group size: 7

 

The sixth Oriental Bird Club tour to Cambodia again includes the equally fascinating Laos, adding more rarities to this exciting tour. We start the tour in Vientiane, the charming capital of Laos, a country long neglected by birders. We will spend two-nights surrounded by the beautiful karst limestone forest of the Annamite mountain range at one of only two known areas for the Bare-faced Bulbul, a species described as recently as 2009. Birding mainly from the roadside will also give us the chance of another other recently described species - Limestone Leaf Warbler, and also the near-endemic Sooty Babbler.

Cambodia, renowned for the amazing temples of Angkor Wat, is equally famous in birding circles for the number of rare species found nowhere else on earth. Fortunately, conservation organisations reached the country in time to help save the unique diversity of birds and mammals that make Cambodia their home. Several important discoveries, in particular a good population of the stately, critically endangered Giant Ibis and a new species, the Mekong Wagtail, have recently been made. Finally, a visit to the mountains will give us an opportunity to search for Chestnut-headed Partridge, a near-endemic. Cambodia also offers the opportunity to search for several other species that are difficult to see elsewhere including the critically endangered White-shouldered Ibis and Bengal Florican along with White-rumped Falcon, Black-headed Woodpecker, Asian Golden Weaver and a plethora of wintering migrants.

This tour raises funds for the invaluable work of the Oriental Bird Club. Our donation will be used for the important conservation work preserving the habitat and birds of the Oriental region. For further information on the club, please visit their website at http://www.orientalbirdclub.org.

Day 1:
International arrivals into Vientiane International Airport, Laos. Night and dinner in Vientiane.

Day 2:
After breakfast we head east into the heart of the rugged, limestone karst forests of central Laos. Our primary target will be the recently discovered Bare-faced Bulbul, a species described in 2009 and thus far only known from two small areas of Laos. Another species restricted to the eastern Indochinese limestone forests is the Limestone Leaf Warbler, a species also described in 2009 and though scarce at this site we will be searching for it as well as Sooty Babbler, a species endemic to the Annamite mountains of Laos and Vietnam, which is found in roving roadside flocks. 
Moustached, Red-vented and Green-eared Barbets and a range of bulbuls including Grey-eyed and Puff-throated busily feed in the fruiting trees and while scouring the roadside bushes we also hope to find feeding flocks that may contain Red-headed and Orange-breasted Trogons, wintering Blyth’s Leaf Warblers, White-bellied Erpornis and a large range of woodpeckers, possibly including the seldom-seen Red-collared and Pale-headed Woodpeckers. Night in Ban Nahin.

Day 3:
A full day birding in the limestone karst forest searching for the previously mentioned species, primarily the Bare-faced Bulbul. Night at Ban Nahin.

Day 4: 
After a final morning birding in the limestone forest we head back along the Mekong to Vientiane after lunch for an overnight stay. Night in Vientiane.

Day 5: 
An early morning flight to Siem Reap will give us the late morning and a full afternoon to explore the historic temples of Angkor. We shall concentrate on three main sites; Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm, which will also provide some birding around the temples. Possibilities here include Hainan Blue Flycatcher, Black Baza, Pale-legged and Two-barred Leaf Warblers, Alexandrine Parakeet among the more numerous Red-breasted Parakeets, Brown Boobook, Asian Barred Owlet and wintering Swinhoe’s and Ashy Minivets. Night in Siem Reap.

Day 6:
Early morning visit to the grasslands that run alongside the perimeter of the huge Tonle Sap in search of Bengal Florican. Large numbers of wintering migrants make these grasslands their home, especially large numbers of Eastern Marsh and Pied Harriers, we could even come across some water-birds including Sarus Crane, Lesser Adjutant and Painted Stork. Mid-morning will see us heading north into the remote Preah Vihear province. This province is home to some of the rarest species in south-east Asia. The landscape is dominated by open, dry savannah interspersed with extensive tracts of deciduous forest along the waterways. We shall arrive into our comfortable guesthouse in the mid-afternoon in time for some late afternoon birding. Night at Tmatboey.

Days 7-8:
During our two full days exploring the area surrounding Tmatboey we can hope to see most of our target species. We will walk through the open forest in search of small waterholes, or ‘trapeangs’, which offer us the best chance of locating the near-mythical Giant and White-shouldered Ibises, which use these trapeangs to feed. In between visiting these waterholes good numbers of other species will be encountered, including an array of wintering passerines found in large feeding flocks. Up to sixteen species of woodpecker make this forest their home, including the spectacular Black-headed, gigantic Great Slaty and striking White-bellied. Other localised species here include Burmese Shrike, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Rufous-winged Buzzard, 4 species of prinia including the localised Brown Prinia, Blossom-headed, Red-breasted and Alexandrine Parakeets, Indochinese Cuckooshrike, Indochinese Bushlark, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Black-hooded Oriole and White-rumped Falcon. Night-birding is often productive; Spotted and Brown Wood Owls, Collared and Oriental Scops Owl, Brown Fish Owl and Spotted Owlet all being possible along with Savannah and Large-tailed Nightjars. Nights at Tmatboey.

Day 9:
After a final morning’s birding in the area searching for any missing species, we will head for the grasslands that surround the Tonle Sap. This habitat is the home of the Bengal Florican, a beautiful bird that is becoming increasingly threatened due to changes in farming practices within its favoured haunts around Tonle Sap. Birding in this area will also produce a wide variety of passerines; wintering Richard’s and Red-throated Pipits, Australasian Bushlark, Oriental Skylark, Small Buttonquail, Red Avadavat and Black-shouldered Kites with a chance of Manchurian Reed Warbler in the long grasses. Night in Kompong Thom.

Day 10:
The grasslands in the Kompong Thom area hold many species of wintering passerines. Our main target will be Manchurian Reed Warbler, which winters in small numbers around Kompong Thom. While searching for this species, we hope to come across a number of other winter visitors; Black-browed and Oriental Reed Warblers, Bluethroat, Yellow-breasted Bunting, Pallas’s Grasshopper, Dusky and Lanceolated Warbler are all present. Large numbers of raptors also winter here, including Greater Spotted Eagle and both Pied and Eastern Marsh Harriers.
Following a late breakfast we will drive east and then north to the scenic town of Kratie, situated on the banks of the mighty Mekong River. Late afternoon birding here will hopefully produce Asian Golden Weaver, which is in decline owing to extensive habitat loss along with Small Pratincole and Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler. Night in Kratie.

Day 11:
The morning will be spent aboard small boats along the Mekong River to the north of Kratie searching the small vegetated islands for the recently described Mekong Wagtail. An added attraction while searching for these birds is the small population of the critically endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin, which are resident in small numbers here, and we can hope to be entertained by several of these wonderful creatures. Other bird species could include the declining Grey-throated Sand Martin, Small Pratincole and Pied Kingfisher.
After an enjoyable early morning we shall embark on a long drive south to the town of Kampot, via Phnom Penh for an overnight stay. Night in Kampot.

Days 12-13:
Bokor National Park, still cloaked in stunted montane forest, is a former French hill station to the south-west of Phnom Penh, and home to the Chestnut-headed Partridge, a restricted range species here at one of its few accessible sites. Typical of forest at this elevation, the trees teem with feeding flocks which could include electric Long-tailed Broadbills, Swinhoe’s Minivet, White-browed Scimitar-babbler and a host of wintering passerines including severalPhylloscopus warblers and Alstrom’s Warbler. Overhead we hope to hear the ‘whooshing’ sound of Great and Wreathed Hornbills, while Blue Pittas and Streaked Wren-babbler lurk in the undergrowth. Night in Kampot.

Day 14:
This morning we will make a special effort for Chestnut-headed Partridge if we haven’t seen it already, together with any other birds we may have missed the previous day. 
During the afternoon we shall drive back to Phnom Penh and share our final evening meal together while we reflect on the wonderful birds and sites that Cambodia has shown us. Night in Phnom Penh.

Day 15:
International departures from Phnom Penh International Airport.


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