SVC at the community-run Koh Samseb site, located on the mighty Mekong
On November 21st to 23rd 2020, SVC visited a new site called Koh Samseb. This location on the Mekong River between Kratie and Stung Treng is truly one of the hidden jewels for birders and nature lovers in Cambodia.
In the off season, SVC’s mandate is to seek new locations that provide a significant value for birders. This trip was also significant for many of our junior guides to discover this site for the first time and sharpen their birding and guiding skills. Koh Samseb offers a wide selection of rare and wonderful species including Green Peafowl, White-shouldered Ibis and White-rumped Pygmy Falcon. Within the space of three days, our target species were found in some of the most spectacular areas.
On Day 1, we arrived in mid afternoon and were greeted by the community. We went straight on the local boats and started exploring the Mekong for our target species. Within 30 minutes, we found Mekong Wagtail and Pied Magtail to name but a few from our boat. A couple hours later, we set up on the bank of the Mekong. As soon as we set up shop on the Mekong, a faint call of what was unmistakably Green Peafowl sprung our guides into action as we raced back into the boat to locate the source. Three Green Peafowl were seen in a tree on the opposite bank from where we originally set up our scopes. This would not be the last time we would encounter this magnificent species.
We slowly meandered our way back to camp when Koh Samseb revealed its most spectacular site. As we stopped by a row of trees, seven White-shouldered Ibis flew in from out of nowhere to roost. Five minutes later, seven were joined by another eight until fifteen critically endangered White-shouldered Ibis in total filled this one tree. While setting up our camp in the evening, we heard two near threatened bird species called Great Thick-knees making a call very close to the camp. There was no better way to finish Day 1 in Koh Samseb!
The morning of Day 2 was all about guide training. At 7am, we got in our boats and went to discover possible birding sites that were yet to be utilised. After breakfast we went on our boats slightly downstream and explored the sand bar for Great Thick-knees. We found 2 of them just upstream of our camp. We got to experience the extent of what SVC guides go through to fulfill their passion. Whether it’s wading through the Mekong or military crawling toward Pied Wagtail to get the perfect photograph, you soon start to realise that there is nothing an SVC guide won’t do to see their target species.
In the afternoon, we got out of our boats and explored the thick forest to search for Green Peafowl. The staff at Koh Samseb described this location as being better than the location on Day 1. Our guides couldn’t resist! After a 3km trek, we came to a clearing with local farmers. After two hours of waiting, no Green Peafowl were to be seen but we were content with the siting of a White-rumped Pygmy Falcon. As we were about to call it a day, one of our junior guides spotted a distinctive head popping out of the paddy fields. We had seen our target and all eyes were all on this one Green Peafowl darting throughout the field. Without warning, a large sound reverberated throughout the area that revealed seven Green Peafowl that flew into the nearby canopy. An awesome site and another perfect ending for Day 2.
The morning of Day 3 provided a slower pace. We had seen our target species and it was now time to sharpen our technical skills along the riverbank of our camp. Even at a slower pace in a solitary position, Koh Samseb revealed one final surprise- Yellow-breasted Bunting. As we returned to base to leave Koh Samseb, we stopped at one final location to see White-shouldered Ibis for the last time on this trip.
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