Wild Temples and Critical Wildlife trip report of a 5-day Cambodia birding tour in December 2022 with Sam Veasna Conservation Tours (SVC).

Dates: 19th to 23rd December 2022

Report Written By: Mardy Sean, SVC Bird Guide

SVC Client: 2 pax

Locations: Bengal Florican Grasslands, Betreed, Prey Veng Village, Boeng Toal Vulture Restaurant

Total No. of Bird Species: 172 seen and heard

Map of Locations (not exact locations of birding spots):

Trip Report Map


From the 19th to the 23rd of December 2022, Sam Veasna Conservation Tours led two clients from the United States across various sites in Cambodia. On the first day, we visited Bengal Florican Conservation Area in Preahoot Commune, Designated Bengal Florican Conservation Areas, the seasonally flooded grasslands of Kompong Thom and Siem Reap Provinces contain the largest known population of Bengal Florican – over 50% of the world’s population.

The next day, we continued to “Betreed”, located in Preah Vihear Province, the northern plain of Cambodia. Betreed Adventures is working on the frontline to protect the Phnom Tnout Phnom Pok Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia: 42,000 hectares of Cambodian’s “savannah” land, or dry dipterocarp forest. Leaving this Betreed then we continue to “Prey Veng Village”.

Prey Veng is a small remote village deep in the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary (KPWS). The flagship community eco-lodge is nestled on the banks of an Angkorian baray or reservoir which provides a permanent water source for both the community and wildlife and is just 400 meters from the spectacular ruins of an unvisited pre-Angkorian temple. Prey Veng is a remarkable year-round location not only for birdwatching but for wildlife and nature lovers with a sense of adventure to immerse themselves in real wild Cambodia.

The last place we visited during this trip is “Boeng Toal Vulture Restaurant”, Our campsite at Boeng Toal lies close to the village of Dongphlet in Chepp district but is within Preah Vihear Wildlife Sanctuary, and the area around the vulture restaurant allows access to excellent dry deciduous forest containing many of the same species found at Prey Veng too.

Chen Srom Temple in Prey Veng Village

Highlights of the tour


  • Bengal Florican
  • Sarus Crane
  • Grey-headed Fish-eagle
  • Rufous-winged Buzzard
  • Slender-billed Vulture
  • Red-headed Vulture
  • White-rumped Vulture
  • Black-headed Woodpecker
  • Great Slaty Woodpecker
  • Yellow-crowned Woodpecker
  • Yellow-breasted Bunting
  • Brown Boobook
  • Brown Wood Owl
  • Collared Scops Owl
  • Oriental Scops Owl
  • Siamese Fireback
  • Green Peafowl

Wild Temples and Critical Wildlife 5-Day Tour

This overnight safari camping tour brings together pre-Angkorian culture at mysterious outlying forest temples and Cambodia’s most Critically Endangered wildlife. We take you from the wildlife and history of the outlying deserted temples to the depths of the Northern Plains to our world-famous Vulture Restaurant deep in a remote wildlife sanctuary, an essential community-based conservation project keeping three species of vultures alive in South East Asia.

Trip Report

Day 1: Siem Reap to Betreed via Bengal Florican Grasslands 

This morning, we depart from Siem Reap and sprawl into the grassland of Tonle Sap Lake. It took us around two hours to get into the most productive areas of “Preah Hoot” Grassland, which is located in Chikreng District, Siem Reap Province.

Meeting the local Community Guide, he then took us into the rice-field habitat, which the Bengal Florican have spotted the other day before we arrive. Following the path in the countryside, we can see a few Eastern Marsh Harriers, drifting over the harvested rice fields. We then cross the dried carnal and move along the natural Grassland the first bird we spotted on the field was the Woolly-necked Stork standing in the field by itself. In the sky which lights up by the bright colour of the sun, Painted Storks glide and flew to land in one of the small ponds in the water, where it still has some water and then they decided to feed together with Little, Intermediate, and the Great Egrets. While watching the Painted Stork flying over, we spotted one male Bengal Florican, was flying over the rice field around a few hundred meters from us and again we saw the other non-breeding male flying at the other side to the next field. Walking back from the Florican field, we saw Indochinese Roller and again many Little Green Bee-eaters happily foraging on the dried rice field.

Leaving the Bengal Florican spot we drove back to the main road from the village then we turned into the other rice fields leaving the car and we started walking to the other side of the road, we then began to see the Amur Stonechats, Chestnut Munia with a few of Yellow-breasted Buntings and led us to get to the big flock of these critically endangered birds. They are using the small rattan bush surrounded by the little pond as a resident, but not just a few birds, there were a few hundred birds hiding in these bushes. There are a few bushes around that area. While we were scanning for the yellow-breasted bunting, then we could spot something really big, the Sarus Cranes, it was such a lucky day for all of us, there were at least seven birds were seen feeding together on the field after they had been spending several months at the Northern Plain of Cambodia such as Preah Vihear Province, Stueng Treng, where they bred. We could actually see the juveniles and the adults working together in the field.

Flock of Painted Stork
Flock of Red Avadavat


Leaving the grassland, we drove to the next town and stop there for lunch. This afternoon, we continue to Betreed Adventure which took us around three more hours plus some roadside bird watching. The dry dipterocarp forest of the Betreed area is home to many species of birds, especially since we were welcomed by the Black-headed Woodpecker before we got into our residence. Not far from the house, there is a beautiful trail, we can’t believe what we saw that late afternoon, Asian Wild Boar, Red Jungle Fowl and Siamese Fireback are feeding together with the Ground Squirrel and Emerald Doves. This evening, before sunset, we walked around this place, looking at the Green Peafowls, flew to the roosting tree there are many Long-tailed Macaques moving around the trees nearby and not so far, we saw the cute small Asian Barred Owlet, chased by the Bronze Drongo. Before, dinner time, Grey-headed Woodpecker just visited our house.

Male and Female Siamese Fireback
Female Siamese Fireback

Day 2: Betreed to Prey Veng Village

Welcome to the new day, the owner of the Betreed Adventure offered us a drive to visit one of the ancient reservoirs perhaps built between the 10-12th centuries. This place used to be the most important area for the endangered White-winged Duck, but sadly the main population has gone a long time ago. Looking into the man-made lake a few hundred Lesser Whistling Ducks are swimming and looking for food here. On the dead trees around this lake, there are Pond-heron species, Ashy Drongo, visiting this pond too.

After we checked the ancient reservoir, our owner drove us more to check some parts of the dry forest by the main entrance into Betreed Adventure. Moving the car out of the small part of the semi-evergreen forest we came to the most beautiful spot where we saw a lot of Black-headed woodpeckers, Red-breasted Parakeet. Drove the car back to the lodge, we had our short breakfast, then looking for other Green Peafowl, flew off from the main roosting tree to the ground the rest are still spending a couple of hours since sunrise before they decided to go down and started foraging among others in the yard.


Green Peafowl at Betreed
Flock of Lesser Whistling Duck


Around 9:00 AM we departed from Betreed through the bumpy road toward Sangkum Thmie district then we turned to Kulen district and had lunch there. This afternoon, we continued our journey to the village called “Prey Veng” along the sandy road through the majority of the dry forest before we got to our community lodge. In the sky, there are a few Lesser Adjutants, and some Rufous-winged Buzzards perching on the tree looking like they want to catch their prey. Arriving at the Eco Lodge, we met our community guides and related people.

After check-in, we then managed to walk to the other side of the man-made reservoir where we saw the magnificent Sarus Crane, a pair flying over the reservoir and a very large flock of Lesser Whistling Duck flying back and forth in front of us. The Reservoir is quite large and it is home to many different birds around this place. On the ground there were Pond-herons, Little and Cattle Egrets, there are some Bronze-winged Jacanas also foraging here as well. Before sunset, there are many flocks of Red-breasted parakeets and a few Oriental Pied Hornbills too.

In the evening we saw, two different owl species here, Brown Boobook and the Collared Scops Owl. This is a wonderful place to watch the Owl in the evening.

Pair of Sarus Crane
Rufous-winged Buzzard

Day 3: Prey Veng Village

This morning, after we got up, we had breakfast which was prepared by the community chiefs with coffee and tea. We began to move around our reservoir, which is around a 3 KM walk. Along the trails there are many Eastern Cattle Egrets, moved out from the dense bamboo vegetation, we arrived at the small patch of the open forest, where we saw Red-billed Blue-magpie, Yellow-footed Green-Pigeon, Common Woodshrike, Indochinese Cuckooshrike, Large Woodshrike, Chestnut-tailed Starling etc. Then we continued to walk along the eastern part of the reservoir until we got back to our lodge. In front of the lodge is a very nice place to see much wildlife such as Cambodian Striped Squirrel, Black-hooded Oriole, Golden-fronted Leafbird, and Olive-backed Sunbird.

This afternoon, around 3 PM, we drove from our lodge to the roosting area of the endangered White-winged Duck along the long forest. The area’s habitat is a really good open forest with seasonally flooded grassland. We moved slowly to our hide. While sitting in the hide, we could hear so many birds call, Puff-throated Babbler, Hainan Blue Flycatcher, Green Peafowl, etc.

This evening we had been seated in the hide for nearly two hours, but unfortunately, we had no chance to see our target White-winged Duck. We left our hide and walked back altogether to our car and drove back in the nighttime to our lodge.

Sarus Crane foraging in the reservoir
Waiting for the White-winged Duck

Day 4: Prey Veng Village to Boeng Toal Vulture Restaurant

This morning, we got up very early and moved to sit down on the platform, which was linked by the bridge from the bank into some part of the reservoir. Sunrise is fabulous, and slowly we had sitting down had some hot coffee and watched birds flying over.

Morning at Prey Veng Ecolodge


Oriental Pied Hornbill, started to move slowly from the south to the north of the lake to get to the feeding fig tree, around seven Red-billed Blue-magpies also moved slowly toward the reservoir from where they roost, and then we had Little Egrets, Taiga Flycatchers, and many other birds too. After we finished, our breakfast, we checked out and continued to one of the most beautiful temples around the village of Prey Veng. This temple is called “Chen Srom” and is a Hindu temple perhaps built between the 10th and 12th centuries. The temple has five main towers built from brick on the low common Platform around 2m from the ground and facing in the East direction. Nowadays, the temple is surrounded by dense vegetation and bamboo.

Around 9:00 AM we depart from Prey Veng and continued to “Boeng Toal Vulture Restaurant” and we stopped by the little town in Preah Vihear Province for our lunch. Then we continued from that town after we sorted out the food for our one-night stay over there.

At around 3:00 PM we arrived at this place and meet the community members and discussed our plan for the vultures today. After 20mn breaks, we began to walk through the beautiful forest around 20mn to the roosting area of the Brown Wood Owl. It was a lovely walk around here, we saw the Burmese Shrike, Ashy Drongo, Common Woodshrike, Burmese Nuthatch, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, and also the Black-headed Woodpecker before we arrived at the Brown Wood Owl location. We saw one bird at the roost. Leaving that place we moved to vulture hide and sat down there until 6:30 PM.

Vulture Restaurant Viewing
Brown Wood Owl

Day 5: Boeng Toal Vulture Restaurant to Siem Reap

This morning, we got up very early and walked through the dark to get to our vulture hide again. We spent a few hours inside the hide listening to the bird calls. But idea, we would want to see the Asian Golden Jackal, but we had no luck with this animal.

Around 7:30 AM we walked back and continued to check one of the ponds, and we saw so many Baya Weavers then we continued to the forest near there, and we saw the Grey-headed Fish-eagle. Before we got back to our camp, we check another pond near the semi-evergreen forest, but we only saw the Chinese Pond Heron there. Today, we depart for Siem Reap after we finished our breakfast and said bye to the community member.

Arrived in Siem Reap, we stopped at the Royal Residence in front of the Raffle’s Grand Hotel, where we saw hundreds of Lyle’s Fruit Bats, reside and hang on the Dipterocapus Alatus trees here. We then transferred our group to the airport and our trip ended with a lot of fun and memory.

Morning at the Vulture Restaurant
Lyle's Fruit Bat at the Royal Residence
Mardy Sean

Mardy Sean

SVC Guide


Mardy has over 16 years of bird guiding experience with SVC and has often represented SVC at international birdfairs including the Global Birdfair in 2022. Giant Ibis and White-shouldered Ibis are his favourite species to show clients in Cambodia.

Complete Bird List

Total No. of Bird Species: 172

  1. Lesser Whistling-Duck Dendrocyhna javanica
  2. Indian Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha
  3. Green Peafowl (Heard) Pavo muticus
  4. Chinese Francolin Francolinus pintadeanus
  5. Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus
  6. Siamese Fireback Lophura diardi
  7. Wooly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus
  8. Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala
  9. Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax inger
  10. Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster
  11. Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
  12. Great Egret Ardea alba
  13. Intermediate Egret Mesophoyx intermedia
  14. Little Egret Egretta garzetta
  15. Cattle Egret Arborophila cambodiana
  16. Chinese Pond-Heron Ardeola bacchus
  17. Javan Pond-Heron Ardeola speciosa
  18. Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus
  19. Black Baza Aviceda leuphotes
  20. Red-headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus
  21. White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis
  22. Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris
  23. Crested Serpent-Eagle Spilornis cheela
  24. Changeable Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus limnaeetus
  25. Rufous-winged Buzzard Butastur liventer
  26. Eastern Marsh-Harrier Circus spilonotus
  27. Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus
  28. Shikra Accipiter badius
  29. Grey-headed Fish-eagle Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus
  30. Bengal Florican (three birds) Houbaropsis bengalensis
  31. Sarus Crane (two birds) Grus antigone
  32. Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus
  33. Pin-tailed Snipe Gallinago stenura
  34. Rock Pigeon Columba livia
  35. Red Collared-Dove Streptopelia tranquebarica
  36. Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis
  37. Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica
  38. Zebra Dove Geopelia striata
  39. Thick-billed Pigeon Treron curvirostra
  40. Yellow-footed Green-Pigeon Treron Phoenicopterus
  41. Green Imperial-Pigeon Ducula aenea
  42. Banded Bay Cuckoo Cacomantis sonneratii
  43. Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus
  44. Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopaceus
  45. Green-billed Malkoha Phaenicophaeus tristis
  46. Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis
  47. Collared Scops-Owl Otus lettia
  48. Oriental Scops-Owl Otus sunia
  49. Brown Wood Owl (1 bird at the roosting tree at the vulture place) Strix leptogrammica
  50. Asian Barred Owlet Glaucidium cuculoides
  51. Brown Boobook Ninox scutulata
  52. Great-eared Nightjar (heard) Lyncornis macrotis
  53. Large-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus macrurus
  54. Brown-backed Needletail Hirundapus giganteus
  55. Germain’s Swiftlet Aerodramus germani
  56. Asian Palm-Swift Cypsiurus balsiensis
  57. Crested Treeswift Hemiprocne coronata
  58. Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops
  59. Oriental Pied-Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris
  60. Common Kingfisher Alcedo meninting
  61. Stork-billed Kingfisher (heard) Pelargopsis capensis
  62. White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis
  63. Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis
  64. Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus
  65. Chestnut-headed Bee-eater Merops leschenaultia
  66. Indochinese Roller Coracias Affinis
  67. Coppersmith Barbet Psilopogon haemacephalus
  68. Blue-eared Barbet Psilopogon duvaucelii
  69. Lineated Barbet Psilopogon lineatus
  70. Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos canicapillus
  71. Yellow-crowned Woodpecker Dendrocopos mahrattensis
  72. Rufous-bellied Woodpecker Dendrocopos hyperythrus
  73. Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus
  74. Black-headed Woodpecker Picus erythropygius
  75. Common Flameback Dinipium javanense
  76. Rufous Woodpecker Micropternus brachyurus
  77. Greater Flameback Chrysocolaptes guttacristatus
  78. Great Slaty Woodpecker Mulleripicus pulverulentus
  79. White-rumped Pygmy Falcon Polihierax insignis
  80. Collared Falconet Microhierax caerulescens
  81. Blossom-headed Parakeet Psittacula roseatta
  82. Red-breasted Parakeet Psittacula alexandri
  83. Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis virgatus
  84. Common Woodshrike Tephrodornis pondicerianus
  85. Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus picatus
  86. Common Iora Aegithina tiphia
  87. Small Minivet Pericrocotus cinnamomeus
  88. Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus speciosus
  89. Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus
  90. Large Cuckooshrike Coracina macei
  91. Indochinese Cuckooshrike Lalge polioptera
  92. Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
  93. Burmese Shrike Lanius collurioides
  94. Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis
  95. Black-hooded Oriole Oriolus xanthornus
  96. Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus
  97. Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus
  98. Bronzed Drongo Dicrurus aeneus
  99. Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus
  100. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus paradiseus
  101. Malaysian Pied-Fantail Rhipidura javanica
  102. White-browed Fantail Rhipidura aureola
  103. Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea
  104. Red-billed Blue-Magpie Urocissa erythrorhyncha
  105. Rufous Treepie Dendrocitta vagabunda
  106. Racket-tailed Treepie Crypsirina temia
  107. Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos
  108. Australasian Bushlark Mirafra javanica
  109. Indochinese Bushlark Mirafra erythrocephala
  110. Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula
  111. Bank Swallow Riparia riparia
  112. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
  113. Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
  114. Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis
  115. Burmese Nuthatch Sitta neglecta
  116. Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta frontalis
  117. Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps
  118. Black-crested Bulbul Pycnonotus flaviventris
  119. Sooty-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus aurigaster
  120. Stripe-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus finlaysoni
  121. Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier
  122. Streak-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus blanfordi
  123. Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus
  124. Radde’s Warbler Phylloscopus schwarzi
  125. Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus
  126. Two-barred Warbler Phylloscopus plumbeitarsus
  127. Pale-legged Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus tenellipes
  128. Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis
  129. Striated Grassbird Megalurus palustris
  130. Lanceolated Warbler (heard) Locustella lanceolata
  131. Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
  132. Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius
  133. Dark-necked Tailorbird Orthotomus atrogularis
  134. Brown Prinia Prinia polychroa
  135. Rufescent Prinia Prinia rufescens
  136. Plain Prinia Prinia inornate
  137. Chestnut-capped Babbler Timalia pileate
  138. Pin-striped Tit-Babbler Mixornis gularis
  139. Puff-throated Babbler Pellorneum ruficeps
  140. White-crested Laughingthrush Garrulax leucolophus
  141. Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa latirostris
  142. Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus malabaricus
  143. Hainan Blue Flycatcher Cyornis hainanus
  144. Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassinus
  145. Taiga Flycatcher Ficedula albicilla
  146. Blue Rock-Thrush Monticola solitarius
  147. Amur Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri
  148. Pied Bushcaht Saxicola caprata
  149. Common Hill Myna Gracula religiosa
  150. Black-collared Starling Gracupica nigricollis
  151. Asian Pied Starling Gracupica contra
  152. White-shouldered Starling Sturnia sinensis
  153. Chestnut-tailed Starling Sturnia malabarica
  154. Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
  155. Vinous-breasted Myna Acridotheres burmannicus
  156. Great Myna Acridotheres grandis
  157. Golden-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons
  158. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker Dicaeum cruentatum
  159. Purple Sunbird Cinnyris asiaticus
  160. Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis
  161. Paddyfield Pipit Anthurs rufulus
  162. Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni
  163. Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola
  164. House Sparrow Passer domesticus
  165. Plain-backed Sparrow Passer flaveolus
  166. Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
  167. Streak Weaver Ploceus manyar
  168. Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus
  169. Red Avadavat Amandava amandava
  170. White-rumped Munia Lonchurastriata
  171. Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulate
  172. Chestnut Munia Lonchura atricapilla

Mammal List

  1. Long-tailed Macaque Macaca fascicularis
  2. Small Indian Mongoose Herpestes javanicus
  3. Variable Squirrel Callosciurus finlaysonii
  4. Indochinese Ground Squirrel Menetes berdmorei
  5. Cambodian Striped Squirrel Tamiops rodolphii
  6. Lyle’s Fruit Bat Pteropus lylei