IRRAWADDY DOLPHINS IN CAMBODIA

 

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Hi to all my friends again ! A few days ago i found some pictures of the Irrawaddy dolphin of my last trip to Cambodia,and i decided to post them for you.

I decided to visit Kratie as it’s known as one of the best places to see this magnificent freshwater mammal. Kratie is a very calm and pleasant place to stay with some beautiful French colonial buildings surrounded by nice rice fields.

Once there i decided to arrange my trip to Kampi,the main entrance to the Mekong river for dolphin-watching.I woke up early at 7:00 am and i spent around one hour to get there while i enjoyed of excellent views of the countryside.Once there plenty of boats were waiting for tourists.I paid about 10 dollars and it took me a short time to reach  the main spot to see the dolphins.I could see several individuals on one bend of the river.While having perfect sights of the dolphins were not possible due to its shy behaviour, I could manage to take some shots of the flipper,head,and the small dorsal fin ( see second picture ).Notice the rounded head with a large melon ( organ used for communication and echolocation ) and no pointed beak as other dolphins have.

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Irrawaddy dolphin is a freshwater endangered species that inhabits in some parts of the Mekong river in Laos and Cambodia and in Bangladesh and Myanmar.They are hunted mainly for their oils or accidentally captured in nets while others are captured to perform in dolphinariums and there are fewer than 70 individuals left in Cambodia.

 

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SARUS CRANE, CAMBODIA

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The Sarus Crane is one of the most beautiful and most elegant  bird i had seen in Cambodia.It’ s the tallest of the flying birds ( up to 1.8 m ) and live in open wetlands.This bird inhabits India,Australia and South-east Asia, remaining in India the largest population.Unfortunately, their numbers have declined greatly and there are just a few populations in South-east Asia,where the last remaining stronghold of this species is in Cambodia and adjacent areas of  Laos and Vietnam.

In Cambodia they are quite vulnerable because they are dependent upon two particular types of wetland habitat: temporarily flooded grasslands for breeding during the wet season, and permanent marshlands for feeding during the non-breeding dry season.The most important Sarus Crane Reserve in Cambodia is in Ang Trapaeng Thmor.Up to 350 individuals can be seen in this area, especially in the dry season, between January and the end of March.

I could enjoy with the majestic presence of a group of 20 individuals that allowed us to approach slowly up to 100 meters.They flew and land several times while we were approaching.Its flight was amazingly captivating and elegant !!! I could take this nice picture while they were taking off.Hope you like it !! 🙂

Photo taken with a Canon 7d and Canon 400 5.6.

ANG TRAPAENG THMOR, CAMBODIA.MARCH 2014

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Cambodia was one of the few countries in South-east Asia that I wanted to visit.Surprisingly this amazing country suffered the Vietnam war and the atrocities of the Khmer Rouges hosts many interesting bird species,which not found in other parts of Southeast Asia.Endangered birds as Sarus Crane, Bengal Florican, Giant Ibis, White-shouldered Ibis, Lesser and Greater Adjutants, Milky Stork, Spot-billed Pelican and the White-rumped, Slender-billed and Red-headed Vultures are the main highlights there as well as other animals such as the Irrawaddy Dolphin, Black Gibbon and Siamese Crocodile.Around Siem Reap, there are many bird watching locations that are worth a visit. Preak Toal, Ang Trapaeng Thmor, Tmatboey and the grasslands next to Tonle Sap are among them.

Once I arrived in Seam Reap by plane,I spent my first few days visiting the most impressive temples I’ ve ever seen: the temples of Angkor ( being Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom complex and Tha Prohm the most remarkable ones ).The following day I gathered information on how to get to Preak Toal Bird Sanctuary, on Tonle Sap lake.Going by your own is not difficult: get a taxi or a tuk tuk to Chong Neas village, then a boat to the environment office ( 55 $ ) and finally get another boat with a guide ( 30 $ ) to take you into the sanctuary.From December to the end of February are the most recommended months to visit the sanctuary, being February probably the best. However, at mid March the level of water is too low to allow you to visit the breeding colonies of birds.

Ang Trapaeng Thmor was the wisest alternative at that time ( March ) and offered similar bird highlights.However if you want to get there on your own you need a four-wheels vehicle and once there you are quite unlikely to find the main areas where to spot the birds.The only alternative was to hire a tour with Sam Veasna Center.This organization has very knowledgeable guides and the basic infrastructure to move around.While a tour for a single person is expensive ( 270 $ ), joining a group can cost you around 110 $ for a group of 3 people.Fortunately I could join an Australian couple and we set up everything to start our trip on Tuesday.

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I woke up very excited at 5:oo am and the car pick me up around 5:30  am.We spent 1 hour and a half to get to the main entrance.We stopped there for a while and we spotted Baya Weaver flying on the top of palm trees.They were feeding their young inside their hanging nests.Other common birds were seen as well ( mynas,sparrows and drongos ).Afterwards we rode through some rice fields and stopped in an area where a Spotted Owlet was perched on a branch.After taking some shots,we moved to another area where we could see the stunning Great Slaty Woodpecker, the largest woodpecker in the world,climbing on a trunk.Just a few meters farther an impressive breeding colony of Painted Stork were perched on a couple of trees.We continued our trip along some rice fields and stopped to get a view of one of the largest owls in South-east Asia,the gorgeous Spotted Wood Owl.A  chick was perched on a branch,waiting for its mother to feed it on.It remained motionless, without noticing our presence.I had enough time to set up my tripod and take a picture using manual focusing.The result is quite outstanding, as you can see the picture above.

However its mother didn’t make its appearance so we moved to see the main highlight of this area, the strikingly beautiful Sarus Crane.On the way, we stopped on a rice field where a huge number of individuals of Oriental Pratincole where flying around.This bird is quite tame and i could approach enough to take a decent picture ( see below ).

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Afterwards, we drove for 15 minutes until we arrived in a large grassland area.There were no sign of Sarus Crane.After waiting for a while, one of the rangers came to us and lead us to the place where we could spot this magnificent bird.This bird is quite sensitive to human presence so we had to remain somehow far from them.It was very hot and there was a lot of haze,so it was quite hard to take a good picture.Slowly we could approach a few meters nearer and luckily the birds remained on the same place.I took a lot of shots from 1o0 meters but the haze was my worst enemy to take a sharp picture of an individual.However, I could get an acceptable shot of the group.

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It was almost noon, and it was annoyingly hot.We walked through the grassland to get into the car.I almost fainted but i was very pleased with what we had seen in the morning.We came back to the main office,had lunch and i laid on the floor to recover.Soon i felt better and full of energy to explore other parts of the reserve.At 2:00 pm we were lead to the reservoir of this reserve.This huge reservoir was created during the Khmer Rouge regime to irrigate the surrounding lands.

We waited for half an hour to a boat that would bring us to the breeding colonies.Once on a boat, the amount of different species we could saw was impressive: Comb Duck, Lesser-whistling Duck, Cotton Pigmy-goose, Little Grebe,Indian Spot-billed Duck, Chinese Pond Heron, Great, Intermediate and Little Egret,Black-backed Swamphen,  Common Moorhen,Common Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Bronze-winged Jacana were found in good numbers.Spot-billed Pelican breeds in colonies there but  we could only see a few individuals ( maybe because we didn’t stay until 6pm,when most of these birds return to the breeding area ). However one of them flew close enough that allowed me to take a quite good picture ( see on the top of this article ) .Near the breeding colony area of Spot-billed Pelican,we could spot other remarkable birds as a large colony of Painted Stork ( see below ), one Oriental Darter and some individuals of Little and Great Cormorant perched on a tree.

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It was 4 pm, and my fellow birdwatchers had to come back to Seam Reap.We came back by boat and left the lake.We rode for one hour and a half more to Seam Reap.I felt tired and dizzy but extremely satisfied with what I have seen: lots of interesting and amazing birds !!!!! I promise to come back again to see other of these stunning feather creatures that populates the vast lowlands of Cambodia, but this will be another story !!

See you soon my friends !

P.S. I would like to thank Sam Veasna Center for their valuable information,support and knowledgeable guides.

P.S.S. Photos taken with a canon 7d and Canon 400  f 5.6

CHECKLIST OF BIRDS SEEN IN ANG TRAPAENG THMOR, CAMBODIA. MARCH 2014

Comb Duck

Lesser-whistling Duck

Cotton Pigmy-Goose

Indian Spot-billed Duck

Little Grebe

Painted Stork

Asian Openbill

Little Cormorant

Indian Cormorant

Great Cormorant

Oriental Darter

Yellow Bittern

Chinese Pond-Heron

Javan Pond-Heron

Eastern Cattle Egret

Grey Heron

Purple Heron

Great Egret

Intermediate Egret

Little Egret

Sarus Crane

Spot-billed Pelican

Peregrine Falcon

Black-shouldered Kite

Black Kite

Eastern Marsh-Harrier

Rufous-winged Buzzard

Shikra

Watercock *

Black-backed Swamphen

Common Moorhen

Common Coot

Black-winged Stilt

Red-wattled Lapwing

Pheasant-tailed Jacana

Bronzed-winged Jacana

Common Snipe

Wood Sandpiper

Oriental Pratincole

Rock Dove

Red-collared Dove

Spotted Dove

Zebra Dove

Plaintive Cuckoo *

Asian Koel

Greater Coucal

Spotted Wood Owl

Spotted Owlet

Asian Palm-swift

Common Kingfisher

Indian Roller

Little Green Bee-eater

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Great Slaty Woodpecker

Pied Fantail

Black Drongo

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo

Southern Jungle Crow

Racket-tailed Treepie *

Brown Shrike

Purple Sunbird

Baya Weaver

House Sparrow

Plain-backed Sparrow

Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Paddyfield Pipit

White-vented Myna

Common Myna

Black-collared Starling

Eastern Stonechat

Taiga Flycatcher

Oriental Magpie-Robin *

Australian Bushlark

Yellow-vented Bulbul

Streak-eared Bulbul

Barn Swallow

Dusky Warbler *

Oriental Reed-warbler *

Striated Grassbird

Zitting Cisticola *

Bright-headed Cisticola *

Plain Prinia

 

*heard