Archive for the ‘Bird-watching’ Category

I didn’t have any bird-watching goals for Laos … thank goodness! Although we spent four or five days in Laos (including a couple on the Mekong River), it was slim pickings to see any birds, let alone new ones. We only saw 18 different birds in Laos … 8 new ones. However, I will say, of the 8 new ones we saw, two or three were rare … so that was nice!

Here are a few pictures of them.

This is a grey-headed Lapwing.This is the White-throated Kingfisher.This is the River Lapwing, becoming more rare along the Mekong.This is a common Sandpiper.This bird looks like a swallow, but it is a Small Pratincole, also becoming more rare. This is a yellow-browed warbler.This is a Plumbeous Water Redstart … a female. I have a picture of the male (when I post the Thailand birds). A lovely little bird.



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As we’ve worked our way around SE Asia I’ve been keeping track of my birds (as you know). I had specific goals for each country … for Vietnam it was 70 new birds (we saw 99!). For Cambodia it was 30 new birds. I knew it would be tough because we would be sharing the same birds with Vietnam. I scaled it back and I’m glad I did … we saw a total of 60 different kinds of birds in Cambodia but only 28 new ones.

However, they were all really nice birds! Here are a few of our favorite ones from around Angkor Wat … The Tonle Sap post has the other birds.

Here is the Hill Myna … a beautiful bird.These are red-breasted parakeets … the male has the orange beak and the female has the blue-black beak. This is the Alexandrine parakeet … notice the yellowish undertail.This is the Blue Rock Thrush … the patterns on its feathers were amazing. Beautiful.Here’s another few pictures of the Red-breasted parakeet. Finally, this is the Ashy Drongo … we saw several kinds of Drongos in Vietnam … we saw this guy for the first time in Cambodia. Notice the long, fork tail.

They were beautiful birds in Cambodia … and they were more numerous than in Vietnam. On to Laos!


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We were up early for this trip … 0530 … so we had to get a “breakfast bag lunch.” Check out the breakfast boxes here! Cool … woven bamboo boxes …

This was a bird-watching trip for us … a scheduled excursion onto the Tonle Sap lake to see the National Bird Refuge. The Refuge is home to nesting Asian Openbills (storks), Spot-billed Pelicans, and Lesser/Greater Adjutants. Seeing as how we had already seen most of these birds in Vietnam, we asked the bird guide if we could just drive around bird-watching near Siem Reap. We felt like this would be a better use of our time. It was not to be; although our guide was an excellent bird guide, the focus of the trip was to show support to the floating village people. Through this support, the villagers would help sustain and promote the bird refuge. A noble cause so off we went!

On our drive to the boat launch we still stopped and saw numerous birds. These guys had eagle eyes — they could pick stuff out and zoom right in on it. Here are a couple of the birds we saw on the way.

We saw a few other animals besides birds …

When we arrived at the “boat dock,” we realized there wasn’t really a dock. The level of the lake is directly impacted by the level of the Mekong River (among others). As the level goes up and down on the rivers, so does the lake. As the dry season increases, the villages move on the water — so you don’t really find too many firmly fixed piers.

Our driver expertly brought us to our boat … we saw this young (what we though was a) boy getting the boat ready to go. Both Deb and I thought he was prepping it for the regular boat captain — nope. He was the boat captain. Come to find out, Poo is 15 and drives this boat around the river. So, we climbed on, settled into our chairs, and off we went on the first leg of this expedition.

We saw a few birds on the ride out, stopped for a quick breakfast, and then continued the journey. We arrived at the Floating Village to transfer from the larger boat to an even smaller boat. Of course, before transferring to the smaller boat, we had to have a bathroom break … that presented its own challenge. Here’s the path to the restroom below.

When we got on the next (smaller) boat, it was with some trepidation …. the engine seemed to be misfiring and not running very well. We started motoring out into the channel and the engine quit. The guide and the boat driver had a small conversation — the boat driver pointed us toward the gas station building and coasted in on fumes to fill his tank. He had to borrow a little cash from the guide, but it all worked out! We were off on another leg of this adventure! We (again) saw a few birds on this leg of the journey.

We rode this boat for about 30 minutes out to the “viewing platform.” I use this term loosely. We had to climb up about a 20 foot bamboo ladder to a platform in a tree on the lake. Before we could do that, we had to wait around 15 minutes for the people already on the platform. You couldn’t overload it. Once up on the platform, we did see hundreds of storks, pelicans, and adjutants. However, the platform moved so much it was hard to take a clear picture. Here’s a couple samples …

Can y ou see the viewing platform here? These boats were all waiting their turn.Here we are getting closer … see the folks climbing the ladder?Here I am at the top getting ready to climb back down … don’t look down!These are Lesser Adjutants …These are Spot-billed Pelicans …Here (apparently) is the old viewing platform … I guess that tree died or something. Haha.These are Asian Openbills (storks)

We survived this excursion and headed back to the floating village! It was all very interesting — the boats were so noisy it was a surprise we saw any birds. We scared our fair share of them … you can hear it in this video.

Overall, it was a great experience! With the birds we saw back on the drive to and from the lake plus what we saw on the lake, we ended up with about 50 species! Yes. That’s a great bird outing. 🙂


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When we showed up in Belize last year, we decided to do a “Birding Big Year.” If you are not familiar with the concept, you keep track of the total number of birds you’ve seen for an entire year. We started our Big Year on 1 Dec 2017 (the first day we were in Belize) and concluded it on 30 Nov 2018 (in Thailand). We’ve had a grand time tracking all the birds throughout this year … Some of our running totals are:

1) Belize – 200 birds. So many birds migrate here from the USA … it was cool to see them in their winter setting.

2) USA (Arizona/Texas/Other) — Around 170 species … some were duplicates from Belize. A beautiful array of birds.

3) Canada — We saw around 106 different species in Canada. BC produced some great days of viewing this last summer … I think we saw over 50 species just at our house!

4) Hong Kong … We only saw 11 birds in Hong Kong … but they were nice ones.

5) Vietnam … At first, we didn’t see many birds … they were scarce all over. However, in Cat Tien National Park we saw quite a few to bring our totals up. We saw 103 different birds in Vietnam.

6) Cambodia was a pleasant surprise … We had a couple of outings that brought our total for the country up to 60 birds.

7) Laos … This one was a little slim. We didn’t spend enough time here, but what we did see was nice! We saw 18 birds in Laos.

So as we’ve come to the end of our “Big Year,” our final tally was 514 birds! Whoa. We never even gave that number a thought but it’s been pretty grand. My personal life list was around 400 birds when we started this adventure … I’m now over 800 and well on my way to 1,000. I hope to get there by the end of this Southern Swing.



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We left the comforts of Saigon for a cruise on the Mekong Delta … actually, we started on the upper end of the delta and made our way up to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  We were up early on the last day as we transferred from our hotel to the shuttle bus location.   We found ourselves on a bus for 2 hours with about 20 other folks driving down to the Cai Be district to board our cruise ship, the RV Mekong Pandaw.

We quickly transferred to our boat and the fun began!  There were approximately 32 other people on the boat with us.  We cruised for five days and four nights … if I had to do it over again, I’d probably only stay on this boat for three nights.  The people were very nice, the food was excellent, and the accommodations were great.  However, there’s only so many Village People you can visit before you become saturated.  Since we had already visited villages along the way, I was already saturated before we were on the cruise.

There was a small gym on-board (really small) and below the waterline.  We were able to make use of it a couple of days (riding the exercise bike)!  However, Deb was able to be up early every day to do Yoga on deck and I was able to practice some Tai chi/Shaolin as well.

The first day we were just settling in — it was kind of funny … everything was very regimented, so you had briefings on everything you were doing; sometimes by more than one person.  It reminded me of being in the military again.  Haha.


The second day, we were out early for a ride on a Sampan to see, you guessed it, a village!  The boat ride through the mangroves was cool.


We walked through some people’s yards to get to our next mode of transportation — a horse drawn cart.  There were 2 people per cart, so we made sure we were in the first cart … no horsey odors for us!


We stopped for a bathroom break, quick snack, and opportunity to shop.  The two pictures below are a local bee keeper’s hive … oh, and Deb did a snake dance!  In one of the other villages we were shown how they grafted trees and made Bonzai pots.  We topped this all off with some Snake Wine (they put cobras in the alcohol … yes, we both tried it and are still alive and kicking).  Our guide kept saying it was for “noodle stand-up” … then he would just chuckle.

Then we made our way over to a small pier to catch a canoe back to our boat.  All in all, an interesting day.

I did try to see some birds but no real luck.  They catch and eat them in Vietnam so the birds hightail it out of there!  And speaking of birds—that’s the next day’s journey.  We were up early and took our ship’s tender to shore (check out the interesting landing spot).


We rode in a big van through small roads to Gao Giong bird sanctuary.  We only hit one kid’s bike and kind of nudged an old man — no harm, no foul!  Here’s where I thought I was going to strike it rich with the birds!! Nope.  I did see about 5 new birds here, but it was probably the most frustrating “birding outing” I’ve had.  We joined all 30 something folks in small 2-man canoes and were paddled through some canals to see the Asian Openbill stork nesting.  It was like rowing through a tunnel with an opening in the ceiling.  The birds would zip across without a chance to snap a quick photo.  I finally gave up and just enjoyed the beautiful scenery, company, and atmosphere.  The lady rowing our boat serenaded us with some lovely singing [welcome to the department of redundancy department].

We made it back to the boat for  lunch and then had another opportunity to visit the village people.  Deb and I opted out and just enjoyed quiet time on the boat.  We exercised and enjoyed the cool afternoon breeze on the boat.

On the fourth day, we skipped the next village people tour in the morning and stayed on board the whole day.  Supposedly we were to finish our visa processing that afternoon for Cambodia but we ended having to stay longer on the boat the next day due to the visa process happening that day.  It was all good … we enjoyed the weather, made several new friends, and just chilled out.   So many things to see as we journeyed along!

We eventually got off the boat, were met by our guide and made our way to Phnom Penh!  Woo hoo!  Here’s to the end of our cruise!



Stumbling piper

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What can I say here? Our total bird count was pretty good in Viet Nam: we saw 103 birds, 99 of which were new to us. However, we found the lack of birds amazing. Everywhere we went, whether in the mountains or suburbs, parks or cities, there were fewer birds than we expected; of any kind of bird. We asked a couple of our guides about this and they all said, “Well, the Vietnamese people either catch and eat them or catch and put them in bird cages, so there aren’t that many.”

We found this to be strange but understandable. We pressed on with our bird-watching. Of course, our largest haul was in Cat Tien National Park. We probably saw 80% of our Viet Nam total in Cat Tien and that was over the course of 2 days. Whew.

Striking the professional bird photographer pose.Lost in thought as I gaze in wonder.

We were fortunate to see several really nice birds … I’ll add a few of the better pictures here. Enjoy!

Stumbling Piper

Plain Prinia.A Great Tit.Black-crowned Night Heron.Common Kingfisher (doesn’t look common to me!)White Wagtail … Scarlet Minivet.Orange-breasted Trogon.Red Junglefowl (yes, I know it looks like a chicken, but it’s a wild chicken!)Green Peafowl (like a Peacock).Red-wattled Lapwing.Black and Red Broadbill.Ashy Drongo.Stripe-throated Bulbul.Asian Emerald Cuckoo.Bronzed Drongo.

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We flew (early) to Ho Chi Minh City on Day 16 and then drove around 3.5 hours to Cat Tien National Park. Actually, we drove to the ferry point, rode the ferry across, and then had a golf cart ride out to the Forest Floor Lodge.

This was the start of our big Vietnam bird-watching trip. I will have another post on the birds of Vietnam but I’ll hit some highlights here. We settled our things at the lodge, had a quick lunch, and then joined our local birding expert, Tim, for our first birding outing.

There were all different kinds of mushrooms … these are just a couple of pictures of them.Here we are with Tim. What a fantastic guy, great guide, and so knowledgeable about the birds. Oh, our pants are tucked in our socks to try to ward off the leeches. Lol.We only had a short ride in the back of a Jeep. We were supposed to have a longer Jeep adventure but we ended up walking for most of the tours. We must have covered around 14 miles or so walking … with the heat, humidity, and walking … we were pretty spent at the end of this expedition!

We had an excellent time–the meals were interesting to say the least. We were able to catch up on some emails in the evenings. We hung out in the lodge common area and then went to the room for bed before the power was turned off. Haha.

Our room was “rustic” … but comfortable. We didn’t meet up with many mosquitos (thank goodness) but we did see the largest gecko we’ve ever seen … it was probably the length of my hand (around 8 inches) … and it didn’t have a tail. Here’s the best picture I could come up with.

The only problem was … it was in our room! Haha. Wow … we were a little creeped out, but he didn’t carry us off so I guess we survived. The next day and a half were whirlwinds of bird-watching, jungle-trekking. We saw plenty of birds (around 100) and probably as many leeches! Fortunately none latched on for a drink! Here’s a couple of photos of the scenery (as well as those above) … to include a picture of a leech trying to get me.

The leech looked like an earthworm … they would rear up to see (or smell) you and then tried to hitch a ride!This tree was over 800 years old … a “Tung” tree. You can see Deb in the picture below to give you a feel for its size. It was huge! We were out late both nights in the park … the sunset was glorious … as were the birds.We didn’t only see birds though … we heard several monkeys and saw these Gibbons near the park headquarters.It was a fun adventure walking through the jungle ….But we also had some easy walking at times … here’s Tim carrying his tripod.Oh, did I mention there were also spiders??We saw a couple of different varieties of deer. These had travelers on their backs … These Myna birds were eating the leeches off the deer. In my bird post I’ll add a picture that shows the birds with their heads in the deers’ ears. Pretty funny!

We were up early both mornings we were there for bird watching (0630) … we closed out the final day with another long (but productive) walk! After an eventful drive we arrived at our hotel in Ho Chi Minh city … but that’s for another post!

Stumbling piper

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Spent a couple of days in Hong Kong adjusting to the time changes before continuing our journey South. We went out yesterday morning early (couldn’t sleep … go figure)! The first bird we saw was the ubiquitous Rock Pigeon. Haha.

However, we did start adding a few new birds through the day as we toured around Hong Kong. We walked through a couple of very nice parks: Signal Hill Park, right beside our hotel, and Kowloon Park, a very large park a block or so away.

In total, we saw 13 different types of birds and identified 12 of them, 8 of them new to me! We actually saw several other birds … Kowloon Park has an aviary and a “bird lake.” There were hornbills, parrots, and flamingoes galore! Very cool … but for my “life list,” the bird must be in its natural habitat.

Here are a few of the birds we saw (below). All new except for the Black-crowned Night Heron. We continue to add to our “Big Year!” I actually have two big years going right now:

#1 (1 Dec 2017 – 1 Dec 2018): The total birds observed … 378
(Rock Pigeon and Heron already counted, so added 9 here). Total seen: 1) Rock Pigeon 2) Black-crowned Night Heron, 3) Swan Goose, 4) Eurasian Tree Sparrow, 5) Black-collared Starling, 6) Great Tit, 7) Oriental Magpie-Robin, 8) Spotted Dove, 9) Red-whiskered Bulbul, 10) Oriental White-eye, 11) Lesser Coucal

#2 (1 Jan 2018 – 1 Jan 2018): The total birds observed …232 (added 11 birds)


Stumbling Piper

Red-whiskered Bulbul

Red-whiskered Bulbul

Oriental Magpie Robin

Spotted Dove

Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Oriental White-eye

Swan Goose

Black-crowned Night Heron

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A Birding Big Year

If you were not aware, I’ve been an active birdwatcher since about 1972. We had a close friend of the family who had a love of birds, a great spotting scope, and the desire to go out and chase the birds. I’ve been on-again off-again pretty serious through the years leading to the point to where my “life list” is standing at 666 different species.

Carolina Chickadee (Mineola, Texas)

We traveled to Belize last December and started actively tracking our bird-watching numbers. So, for a Big Year, I started my “reckoning” on 1 December 2017. At last count, we were up to 369 different species (so far) this year with another couple of big outings planned before 1 December 2018.

Lark Sparrow (Mineola, Texas, 2018)

Great Egret with Perch (Mineola, Texas, 2018)

Great Egret with Perch (Mineola, Texas, 2018)

With that being said, I’ve adjusted my goals for this year — first, I want to obtain 1,000 birds on my life-list. I never thought I would make it that far but stints in Europe, Africa, Central America, and South Africa with my work allowed me to add birds to my list of which I had only dreamed. Secondly, I want to bust the “500 species” list for our big year! It will take some effort but I think we will get it. I will be blogging about it here.

Yellow-headed Blackbird (Kelowna, BC)



Golden Eagle (Kelowna, BC)


Western Meadowlark (Kelowna, BC)






California Quail (Kelowna, BC)


Lewis Woodpecker (Okanagan Falls, BC)

Say’s Phoebe (Kelowna, BC)

Evening Grosbeak (Kelowna, BC)

Finally, I also restarted my count from 1 January 2018 to have a “valid” Big Year. That number stands at 220 species — we’ll see if I can extend this out to 500 birds too.

Guianan Trogon (Belize)

Blue-crowned Motmot (Belize)

Amazon Kingfisher (Belize)

Collared Aracari (Belize)

Central American Pygmy Owl (Belize)

White-necked Puffbird (Belize)




Lesson’s Motmot (Belize)

Keel-billed Toucan (Belize)



Happy, happy birding all!

Stumbling Piper

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