We discovered that the Sam Veasna Center (SVC), a nonprofit bird conservation group, offered a half-day guided bird walk that nicely fit into our schedule.
“Sam Veasna was a pioneering Cambodian naturalist who tragically died of malaria in 1999 aged 33 while surveying the Northern Plains of Cambodia for the now extinct Kouprey. During his short life he was responsible for discovering and cataloging many of the most important sites for conservation in Northern Cambodia, including the discovery of large numbers of Sarus Crane at Ang Trapaeng Thmor. The Sam Veasna Center was set up in his memory to promote conseration (sic) throughout Cambodia and find ways to continue his work protecting the endangered species of the country.” – from the SVC website
For us, a bird walk is never only about birds. We see the birds’ environment, observe rural area land use, and learn a lot more from our guides than strictly knowledge of local birds.
The SVC guide, Vanh Tharath, met us at our hotel at 5:45am in a tuk tuk. After a short ride south on a rough, rural, dirt road we started to hear birds. The tuk tuk stopped, we pulled out binoculars and, in the next few hours, saw 21 bird species as we walked down the road. Ten of the birds we’d not seen before, among them the plaintive cuckoo, the Javan pond heron, the white-breasted waterhen, and a lesser coucal.
We ended on a muddy road bordering a field of lotus. Vanh Tharath picked a lotus blossom and some pods. He showed us how to remove the lotus seeds from the pod. We ate our first fresh lotus seeds, and they were tasty!
Siem Reap, Cambodia offered us many options of interesting activities. We’d put a bird walk with a guide from the Sam Veasna Center high on the list.