Birding along the Mekong River in Kratie, Cambodia

The small and relaxed town of Kraitie in central Cambodia lies right alongside the massive Mekong and makes an excellent place to explore nearby birding areas. One of the main reasons to visit the area is to look for the recently described Mekong Wagtail. The species was described in 2001 and is similar to the African Pied Wagtail although not closely related. It was named in honor of Sam Veasna, a Cambodian ornithologist who had made major strides towards conserving Cambodia’s birds.

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Mekong River sunset

 

The Mekong Wagtail breeds and forages on seasonally flooded islands with a dense cover of bushes. Once the right habitat is reached, pairs are easily observed along sandbars and beaches. The best place to look for the Mekong Wagtail near Kratie is at Kampi (15 kms north of town along the river road). The well-known dolphin pools are found at Kampi and boats take visitors here to the middle of the river to look for the Irrawaddy Dolphins. Boats are available throughout the day and it costs $9 or $7 per person, depending on how many people per boat. Before heading out it would be important to clarify to the boat driver that one wants to look for birds near the small islands or else birders will bop just in the middle of the river, watching dolphins (the dolphins are easily seen).

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Mekong Wagtail

We took a morning kayaking trip with Sorya kayaking, their office is easily found along the waterfront in Kratie. The trip was excellent and we paddled for about 13 kms downstream towards the dolphin pools. The trip passed several islands and through picturesque channels. One section was touted as the flooded forest, but mainly contained a few trees growing in the water. Some trees were very impressive. Even though the habitat looked excellent I could not find any Mekong Wagtails. We stopped for a swim and snack break and I managed to see a Little Ringed Plover.

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Kayaking through the flooded forest along the Mekong

We paddled into the wind across the river to reach the pools and I finally saw some wagtails in flight. I saw one perched on a bush before it dropped onto the waterfront on the other side. We paddled around and located a pair foraging on a sandy beach, offering great views of this distinct wagtail. Afterwards we stopped on an island and watched the dolphins.

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Irrawaddy Dolphins are easily seen near Kratie Cambodia

We returned in the evening to watch more dolphins via one of the many boats and I saw another Mekong Wagtail in flight . While we waited for the sunset on the high bank above the dolphin pools we saw two dolphins cavorting near the surface and had prolonged views. One even breached, which apparently is a rare occurance. In addition to the range-restricted wagtail Kratie is also an excellent place to see the rare Asian Golden Weaver. The best place to look for the weaver lies a few kilometers north of town. I explored a side road marked on eBird and found a few woven nests and soon a male Asian Golden Weaver appeared. There were at least 3 males and many females plus other weaver species have been found in the past. The wetland areas were also very productive with migrant warblers and water birds.

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male Asian Golden Weaver near Kratie

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by William D. Shepler on March 4, 2016 at 7:40 am

    Another great adventure. Thanks!

    Reply

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