Bluethroat and Striated Grassbird, Phnom Krom rice fields, February 7th

Marshes near Phnom Krom, about 10km south of Siem Reap. This is an excellent area for a range of marshland birds and wintering "Sibes".
Marshes near Phnom Krom, south of Siem Reap. This is an excellent area for a range of marshland birds and wintering “Sibes”.

This rather well-known birding area, about 10km to the south of Siem Reap along the road to the ferry docks, consists of rice fields, marshes, scrub and open grassland, overlooked by the prominent Phnom Krom hill. A large range of species has been recorded here, although much of the area is hard to access.

The personal highlight of my 4-hour visit this morning was good views of several singing Striated Grassbirds, on bushtops and engaged in parachuting song flights. This is a bird I have only ever seen on one previous occasion, also in Cambodia. Cotton Pygmy-Goose, Indian Spot-billed Duck and Plaintive Cuckoo were also year ticks here. Wandering into the rice paddies along the edge of a small creek, I flushed a probable Locustella warbler from almost under my feet, which flew just a short distance before abruptly disappearing among the rice stems. Its behaviour, size and coloration were suggestive of Lanceolated Warbler, likely a common but highly elusive wintering species here, but I just didn’t get enough on it to be 100% sure.

Nearby, I had brief flight views of a Bluethroat. Later, on the way back to Siem Reap, a short stop in a good-looking marshy area produced excellent views of a second individual – a non-breeding plumaged male – right out in the open and cocking its tail in characteristic fashion.

Other notable species seen in the Phnom Krom area: Asian Openbill, Yellow Bittern, Purple Heron, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Green-billed Malkoha, Oriental Reed and many Dusky Warblers, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Siberian Stonechat and Paddyfield Pipit. A notable miss was White-browed Crake, which is often reported by visiting birders at this location – I will have to see if I can make time for another visit while in Siem Reap.

2015 Year Ticks: Striated Grassbird, Cotton Pygmy-Goose, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Plaintive Cuckoo, Bluethroat (total 252).

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