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Bird news from Vietnam, from Vietnam's resident and visiting birders.

19 April 2015

Another exciting passage migrant - 18th April

The incei subspecies of Asian Paradise-flycatcher, from China, is a quite common passage migrant in East Tonkin. I have been waiting for a long time in Hanoi the Japanese Paradise-flycatcher, considered as scarce in Vietnam. Finally flew into the right patch!

At first glance, I noticed the black hood extending further down onto breast, very different to the migrant incei APF  I am used to seeing on passage. At closer range, breast appeared dark grey but without clear demarcation with the black hood.  The incei APF show a sharp demarcation, the blackish throat contrasting strongly with the grey breast.
This bird show also clear maroon tone on the mantle and a dull tail - not bright orangey-chestnut as in APF. 
Another detail is the black crown lacking metallic gloss, which also points to female Japanese PF.
The clearly bluish bill and orbital indicates an adult.

Due to its similarity to its more abundant female Chinese cousins, I reckoned the female Japanese Paradise-flycatcher may have been overlooked  and under-recorded in Vietnam.

15 April 2015

Green Cochoa - Tam Dao / 15th April

First of all, I want to thank Richard Craik, owner of  Vietnam Birding, a company offering services for birders to Vietnam and beyond (website here), who kindly informed me there were a pair of Green Cochoas busily collecting nesting material near a trail at Tam Dao, seen on 2 days the 11 and 12th April – very exciting! 

According to Richard, the Cochoas were spending most the time collecting moss from some branches and flying behind the trunk (of the same tree) which is where - he guess - the nest is being built. 

I decided to try my luck 3 days later. Richard gave me detailed indications about the location of the famous tree.  I found it easily but the Cochoas lived up to their reputation i.e. sluggish and elusive. I had a glimpse of two birds - maybe the same individual - around the tree, frustrating brief views but not so bad after all. I covered up with my camo blanket at 20 meters from the tree, down the trail a bit (didn't want to be seen by walkers...) and waited. 45 minutes later, a female landed on a branch, stayed few seconds then flew up and away, not to be seen again the two following hours. End of the show. Short but intense!

Seeing this near-mythical creature was a dream – finally fulfilled. I hope this pair will breed successfully and will not be too sensitive to disturbance by noisy walkers that invade the place each weekend. With the coming of spring and warm weather, their number will increase significantly over the next few weeks.

The brownish wash on wings indicates a female

14 April 2015

More photos of Brown-breasted Flycatcher from Hanoi

Another Brown-breasted Flycatcher found the 13th April, one day after the one photographed one day before (see previous post), at a different patch.

Note the rufous edges to the greater coverts and tertials, the pale lower mandible, the pinky/fleshy legs.The lores are pale and the eye ring is conspicuous. The chin and throat are white while the breast and sides of the body are pale brown.

Some information found on the internet : this species was described by E.L. Layard in 1854 as Muscicapa muttui from a specimen procured from Point Pedro in Jaffna, the northernmost point in Sri Lanka. It was thought to have been an endemic till the end of the 19th Century!
The grateful Layard named it after his cook Muttu who brought him the specimen and the dedication of the species reads as follows: “I name this new species after my old and attached servant Muttu, to whose patient perseverance and hunting skill I owe so many of my best birds. This one he brought to me one morning at Pt. Pedro during the month of June.”

The Brown-breasted Flycatcher (or Layard’s Flycatcher) is quite similar to the closely related Asian Brown Flycatcher and some have difficulties in telling them apart. But, the differences in plumage and habits help to make a positive identification. The Asian Brown Flycatcher is smaller in size, has gray-brown upperparts, lacks brown breast-band and has a pale, fleshy-pink base to the bill.

However, the best feature that helps to definitely tell them apart is the colour of the legs, which are dark gray, gray brown or black in the Asian Brown Flycatcher as opposed to the prominent pinky/fleshy of the Brown-breasted.

I spotted it feeding mainly on small flying insects but sometimes it also picked up other creatures off the branches and even picked prey off from the ground. Often perched low (1-3 meters, sometimes lower).

This species breeds in NE India, S China, N Vietnam, NE Myanmar and NW Thailand. Spends non-breeding season in SW India (Western Ghats S from Goa) and Sri Lanka.

In Vietnam, Robson (2009) listed it as scarce breeding visitor in West and East Tonkin.  Given the number of records in Hanoi the last 5 years, both in spring and autumn, it should also be listed as scarce or uncommon passage migrant in East Tonkin. Dear M. Robson, if you read these lines.... :)

12 April 2015

Four great Flycatchers on my patch - 12th April

Last week, after warm temperatures, winter weather was back. Cloudy skies, north wind and rain are good conditions for fallouts - flocks of birds forced to the ground by bad weather during migration - but not for nice photos, that's why I didn't go out birding (lazy birder!).
Sunday 12th April the sun finally came back out and I went out to my favorite Hanoi's patch for some migrant action, and despite the limited time, I still came away with a very nice selection of flycatchers, among them 2 Blue-and-white, 1 Brown-breasted, 2 Mugimaki and 1 male Narcissus - the latter obviously different from the one found 12 days ago! All spotted in a ca 200m x 150m area.

male Mugimaki Flycatcher

                                                    male Blue-and-white Flycatcher

Perched quite high and flew down to the "forest" floor to catch small invertebrate prey

Brown-breasted Flycatcher
Imagine you are a tiny bug...

My other sightings at Hanoi : 27th August 2010, 9th September 2010, 16th October 2010, 27th March 2012, 23th September 2012. Regular, but scarce passage migrant.


Narcissus Flycatcher
Listed as vagrant in Vietnam (Robson). But certainly (scarce) passage migrant in East Tonkin.

It is a second calendar-year male, told by the patchy brown on the nape and on the flight feathers - see site of Birdskorea/ID-Notes-Narcissus Flycatcher. Compare with the full adult of my last post.

More photos of migrants soon!