Friday, March 9, 2012

Okoki's White-winged Ducks, and More!

Our next stop is Okoki, famed for its White-winged Ducks––yet another endangered species that finds refuge in Cambodia. We arrive mid-afternoon at this remote site, only about 10 miles from the Laos border. As soon as we pull into the campsite, local guides meet us. They are excited––the White-winged Ducks are there, now!––and that takes precedence over everything.

A bespeckled White-winged Duck at Okoki, Cambodia
(Photos mostly by Narca)

A 10-minute walk along a trail takes us to a blind, and there indeed is the prize. We quietly watch and photograph the ducks. They are alert and aware of us, but not too worried. (The next day, while we again watch the White-winged Ducks from a blind, a pair of Giant Ibis lands in the tree immediately over our heads! That mega-rarity is here, too!)

The faces of our local guides reflect their pleasure in showing us the White-winged Ducks.

White-wings are among the largest of ducks. They are a puzzle. Originally thought to be related to Muscovy Ducks and the dabbling ducks, recent DNA work indicates that they are actually closer to the diving ducks. They are very secretive. Although the Wikipedia account notes that they are known to feed only at night, the ducks that we observed were feeding, as well as loafing, during the day. White-wings are spottily distributed in Southeast Asia, India, and Sumatra. They depend on hollows in trees for nesting, and since this is a big duck, it needs big hollows. Habitat destruction is a major threat to their survival.

A White-winged Duck displays those white wings. 
(Photo by our guide Duong Nara, who was experimenting with our camera)

At Okoki we once again stay in a tented camp, complete with tented bush shower and toilet, and outfitted by the local villagers. We pass a couple of very pleasant days, searching out Green Peafowl and Bar-bellied Pitta, Green Imperial Pigeon and Puff-throated Babbler. Indian Rollers tumble through the sky in courtship rolls, flashing brilliant blue as the sun catches their wings. Tickell's Blue Flycatcher joins the parade of other blue flycatchers.

Okoki's butterflies are outstanding. Here are just a few! I hope to put names to at least some of them, eventually.

A nymphalid, possibly a species of Moduza (known as the Commanders)

This emerald-eyed beauty has strangely-shaped hind wings. It's a pristine individual.

Another jewel-eyed hairstreak whose turquoise wingspots match the eyes.

This beautiful creature reminds me of Helicopis from South America.

This lovely Yellow Moth (surely there's a better name?) finds Rich's well-traveled hat completely irresistible.

The Yellow Moth, Dysphania sagana, is a geometrid moth from Southeast Asia, Sumatra and Borneo.

A few flowers enliven the dry season, including this probable iris relative:

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