Impromptu Bird-watching at Ba Klong Beach

Yesterday, I thought we were going to town (Koh Kong) but, instead, we were on our way to Ba Klong beach, across the bridge from the town. I say “we” because there was my wife and I on one motorbike and her mother and sister on another. We had postponed the trip in the morning because of heavy rain but set off after lunch.

When we got there, I was surprised that my wife asked me to continue beyond all the beach hut restaurants and stop at an open sandy area. It turned out that they were planning to visit the Buddhist Wat in the nearby commune, and I was given some free time to spend at the beach. I was so glad I had decided to take my camera.

Rather than going onto the beach (the tide was pretty high with very little sand exposed) I decided to wander back along the road we had just travelled but with my attention on the marshy land and scrub away from the beach and the sea. While riding the bikes, we had passed a few birds perched on wires near the road.

The conditions were dull and damp, with the constant but, thankfully, not realised threat of rain. My camera is a Canon Powershot SX60 HS. It has a very powerful zoom but, unfortunately, is not great in low light conditions, particularly at full zoom. In such conditions, I tend to switch to my camera to shutter-priority because I can at least get a sharper image even if it is a little dark and needs brightening up later. Maybe this is the wrong choice – I am not a photographer.

The first bird I spotted was Pandion haliaetus (Osprey). It was quite some distance away and I didn’t have my camera out of its case. It briefly hovered but I was not quite ready and missed the opportunity. It then started to range around, presumably checking out the numerous large ponds for some tasty fish. This brought it much closer but always on the move. I got a couple of shots, which are enough to show it is an Osprey but nothing more.

I then saw a fantail of some type but it disappeared too quickly for any photos. Luckily, I saw it (or another similar one) on my way back later.

From the same spot, I had also disturbed a Butorides striata (Striated Heron), which, unfortunately, flew to the far large of a large pond. I was still able to get a shot but not as clear as I would have liked.

As I turned to leave to carry on along the road a Haliaeetus leucogaster (White-bellied Sea Eagle) soared directly over my head and off to the beach. I managed one fairly clear shot but it was all over way too fast.

The next thing that caught my eye (and I was able to photograph) wasn’t a bird at all but a dragonfly: a female of Potamarcha congener.

I saw many other insects (dragonflies, bees, wasps, etc.) during my walk but managed only one very poor photo. I am not going to include the photo because it is only barely recognisable but it was a little odd. I saw something flying in the distance couldn’t work out what it was. I seemed to be the wingspan of a bird like a bulbul but the flight pattern of a bat. I was thinking that I was seeing a day-flying bat but on close inspection of the photo, I could see a yellow area that gave this away as the region’s largest butterfly: a Troides sp. (Birdwing).

The next bird was Todiramphus chloris (Collared Kingfisher) perching on a wire. I was able to get quite a few shots of this one before it had enough of my attention and flew off.

I then saw a pair of sunbirds, which I think are Anthreptes malacensis (Brown-throated Sunbird). They were high in a tree with too much brightness behind for decent photos.

During the walk there were quite a few Acridotheres tristis (Common Myna). Here are a couple perched on a wire.

There were also quite a few Passer flaveolus (Plain-backed Sparrow). They likes one tree in particular that had small cones.

I then got my second and third sightings of a fantail, which seems to be Rhipidura javanica (Pied Fantail). It was a very fidgety bird and difficult to photograph, as a result.

The fantail sightings were interrupted by the arrival of what seemed to be a large egret but, despite the impression of its size, appears to be Egretta garzetta (Little Egret). It had a very brief wade around in the shallow pond before heading off again.

Last but not least, was a new species for me: Lonchura punctulata (Scaly-breasted Munia). I was able to watch two of these for several minutes. They are not the most impressive of birds but I have a bit of a soft-spot for Munias. Previously, I have seen only Lonchura striata (White-rumped Munia) so very please to see these guys.

Not a bad way to spend an hour, which was all I had before the others returned. We then visited one of the aforementioned beach restaurants for some great food.

Gerard Chartier
Author: Gerard Chartier

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