Sikol San freezes mid-sentence. The guide’s eyes dart towards the tuft of a coconut tree on the edge of a rice field. He adjusts his spotting scope to hone in on a small black bird with a forked tail perched on a palm.
The co-founder of the Cambodia Bird Guide Association (CBGA), Sikol San starts relating details about the migratory black drongo, which spends September to May in Cambodia. It is one of 40 to 60 species of bird regularly seen at this rural patch of land on the outskirts of Siem Reap, he says.
In the foothills of Phnom Krom mountain, about 12km from the city, the site is a popular stop on CBGA’s half-day birding tours. Habitats here include wetlands, rice fields, lotus ponds, tall trees and shrubs, all of which attract varied species.