Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Hornbill Tree

The other day Ben was out hiking and he came across a wild fig tree loaded with fruit and birds.  On closer inspection he was able to make out that the tree was loaded with figs and he thought about 30 or so Pied Hornbills feasting.  After watching for a while, something spooked them and they all took off.  He then estimated that there were about 100 or so of the Pieds.  He also was able to identify a pair of Great Hornbills.  A really exciting spotting - these are huge birds-according to wikipaedia about 1 metre long, 1.5 metre wingspan and weighing 2-4 kgs.  They have the best personalities, if ever you get to meet a tame one - friendly and comical.  I imagine they are awesome to see flying.  Naturally, Ben didn't have the camera.

The same day he came across more troops of languars and some giant black squirrels.  Wild pigs have also been scuffling around the building site and digging up the garden attempt.  In general he has noticed that the languars are coming closer and closer to the building site - which is good meaning they are feeling more secure.  Lets hope we can protect them. He just told me today that he wants to fence in about 500 ha - the core of the core area to keep out hunters and their dogs.

They also have been trailing more banteng (the wild cows) in the last few days, but not sighted them.  They were very very close yesterday and found some big tracks - telling me they were from a wild bull. Of course I asked him how he knew it was a bull.  He asked me back why I always question him!?  He thinks I don't trust his tracking skills!  Anyway, the answer was that the bulls are significantly larger than the females.  Valid answer I suppose.

Ben's been out there for the last ten days.  He's had helpers from the local village and has been making trails and patrolling.  He gets a range of personalities helping him.  He has worked out that the older, ex-Khmer Rouge soldier men are much tougher and know how to work hard.  This one guy who is on the Community Forest Committee has been helping a lot and has stayed out a lot longer than the others, saying he feels bad leaving Ben out there on his own.  Some other guys are less active - one spending a lot of time during the day "conserving energy." Others are a bit free spirited.  Actually, mostly they are all very free spirited.  They are happy for a couple of days work then need to go and do their other jobs.  The soya bean harvest is starting and it is proving more difficult to get helpers from the local village.  And then soon after that they will start harvesting the rice which means everyone will be busy with that.  We will eventually need to be hiring people on a permanent basis which will be an interesting task.

So this week, they have a finished trail to the temple on the mountain (both terms, temple and mountain are used freely here - temple being a pretty small construction and mountain being about 300 m elevation, maybe).  But a trail to this place is progress.

Here are some pictures of the temple and cave taken in 2012 when we bush-bashed our way through.

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