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Back in 2009, I spent a few days in and around Siem Reap, Cambodia, and explored some of the numerous temples that are located amid forests and farmland. Angkor was the home of the Khmer Empire, which flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries. The temples of the Angkor area number over one thousand, and range in scale from small piles of brick rubble scattered through rice fields to the magnificent Angkor Wat, said to be the world’s largest single religious monument. Just to put this into perspective, in 2007 an international team of researchers declared that Angkor had been the largest preindustrial city in the world, with an elaborate system of infrastructure connecting an urban sprawl of at least 1,000 square kilometres.

In total, we spent three days exploring the region and managed to visit about twelve temples in all. Some are very popular with tourists (particularly Angkor Wat) whereas others, particularly those which are a bit further from the main “temple route” remain less visited. What was really impressive was how the decaying ruins, abandoned for centuries, have been reclaimed by the jungle. The forest setting and its silence (or at least, the absence of human-made noise) enhance the sense of mystery and grandeur of the temples. Roaming among the giant fig and silk cotton trees, we experienced the senses at their height – the sounds of the birds and crickets, as well as the sensuous fragrances of the forest.

All around the region, we regularly encountered the sounds of the local birds. Each temple we visited seemed to have a small community of birds who occupied both the surrounding tree canopies but who felt equally at home on the temple ruins as well. I’d never really heard this type of bird call before, and they seemed to be unique to this region as we never heard them elsewhere in Cambodia, but I love the sounds that they made. In the following recordings there are a few different varieties including Red-breasted Parakeets, Alexandrine Parakeets, a Hill Myna (bell-like notes) and a Black-naped Oriole. In particular I find the two-tone bell like call of the Hill Myna absolutely beautiful.

Special thanks to James Eaton, member of birdforum.net for help on ID-ing the birds!