Tonle Sap lake and birding

When:  February 2016                           Weather:  Cold!!! 13C at 630am and worse with wind chill crossing the lake.   Warms up to 20C by noon.  But be warned, bring something v warm if travelling at this time of the year across Tonle Sap.

Nikon P900   Leica M240 35mmF1.4

 

Having a bit more time on this trip, we arranged a day trip to visit Tonle Sap…that emotive name for the largest lake in South East Asia, something I had only read about in my geography books many years ago…of course it also had something to do with the fact that there was a renowned birding site on the shores of Tonle Sap called Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary….

So we set off at 0540 am and it’s only about 15-20 drive from Siem Reap to arrive at the jetty on an estuary of the lake….

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Boat boarding point at dawn

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After about 20min on the estuary we reached the open waters of the Tonle Sap Lake itself ..there were some houseboats and fishing vessels with the rising sun behind…crossing the lake itself takes an hour and with the low temperatures, wind and spray, it was distinctly uncomfortable ! So be prepared.

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the houseboats on the estuary on the far side of Tonle Sap…

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After getting our park permits, we were finally on our way into the beautiful bird sanctuary of Prek Toal…

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The storks formed a welcome party…

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Darters were everywhere…

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as were the cormorants and egrets…

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grey heron

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grey heron in flight

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Before long we came across more pelicans than we’d ever seen before…

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they of course took easily to flight as we neared….

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the magnificent spot billed pelican

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and then from afar we saw this black capped kingfisher….a life for me….

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black capped kingfisher

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majestically perched was a grey headed fish eagle

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AN open billed stork

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and then we got into the serious stuff….here a pair of gorgeously coloured painted storks

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A Greater Adjutant Stork…they do look a bit vulture like though….

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The Greater Adjutant looks so big and clumsy that it’s hard to imagine it flying…

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but fly it certainly can and here we can see the three shades of grey on its wing…

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and away it goes…

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Here, the rather yellow-er necked Lesser Adjutant Stork with a painted stork in the foreground

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Lesser adjutant

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and an unusual sighting, the Milky Stork

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and of course the pelicans were still ever present and did not fail to remind us of that

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grey heron with milky stork

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Another view of the Greater Adjutant

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greater adjutant striding purposefully

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the tiny common kingfisher

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Black crowned night heron

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and just before we left the sanctuary, this female lesser common flameback woodpecker entertained us for a while

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Not a bird this time…but we were flabbergasted to see that someone had managed to hoik an old television set up this tree as a prank! A lifer for me indeed!

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the return boat journey in mid afternoon was much warmer but the traffic on the estuary was heavy! I’m still not sure how any fish manage to live in the muddy coffee coloured opaque waters of the Tonle Sap…

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The waters of the Prek Toal are obviously teeming with fish as they were jumping out of the water constantly…so much so that twice…one of the Toman snakehead fish actually jumped into our boat! Thought this only happened in movies like The Life of Pi…

 

So was the effort in getting to Tonle Sap and Prek Toal worth the 530am start and braving the cold and wind getting there?   I would say that if you were only going to see the lake and the floating village, no…but if you are at all interested in birding and cruising in the pretty sanctuary waters, a resounding yes!

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