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

30 November 2010

Cuc Phuong and Van Long 27-28th November

Stephan, Nicolas, myself and others went to Cuc Phuong from the 26th (evening) till the 28th midday, when we went to Van Long. We didn't get Hung's cochoa double, or even a single cochoa, but we had a good time nonetheless. Avian highlights were:

Spot-bellied Eagle Owl - one heard on the loop trail at 10pm
Pied Falconet - a family of four seen from the botanical gardens, to find these guys follow the main path past the first concrete bandstand thing on the left until you get paralel to the second concrete bandstand thing on your left. Then, look up to the karst hill on your right and the family of falconets should be perched on top of a dead shrub.
Amur Falcon - two at Van Long together with single Peregrines and Common Kestrels, seen well only by Nicolas and Stephan
Bonelli's Eagle - one at Van Long
Pheasant-tailed Jacana - three at Van Long
White-browed Crake - five at Van Long
Common Coot - 15 at Van Long, also five Moorhens and about five distant ducks in flight (of two species)
White-winged Magpie - three in the botanical gardens, one at the HQ
Thrushes - at Bong, almost entirely Japanese, with a few Chinese Blackbirds, Grey-backed and Eye-browed Thrushes and one Scaly Thrush. At the HQ most were Chinese Blackbirds with a few Japanese and Black-breasted Thrushes
Other frugivores - one tree contained 14 Green-eared Barbets and two Red-vented Barbets. Another tree contained two Hill Mynas and 10 Gold-crested Mynas
White-bellied Green Pigeon - one on the valley trail
Other winter visitors - on the loop trail: one Rufous-tailed Robin, one Fujian Niltava and one White-tailed Flycatcher.
Limestone Leaf-warbler - what was probably this species (and not a wintering Sulphur-breasted) was on the loop trail in a mixed species flock at the start of the steps.

A really good weekend!


20 November 2010

Small Pratincoles - Red River Island

Hi all,

Nice surprise this morning at the northern tip of the Red River Island with 2 Small Pratincoles trying to find a quiet place to rest between the wedding couples posing for photos.

One with greyish streaky-throat...
The other one still in breeding plumage


19 November 2010

Japanese Thrush male adult - video

Seen last tuesday in the Botanical Garden.

17 November 2010

Thrush headache

Hi all,

I always thought that the Japanese Thrush male adult was ONLY like this (and therefore always thought that its illustration in the Robson had been a little bit botched !) :

with a strong contrast head - mantle/wings

… until I saw this stunning bird 2 days ago in the Botanical Garden :

I told myself : woaah, so nice bird ! An adult male, exactly like the illustration of the Robson ! Ok, but all my contrasted head - mantle males of before, how should I call them now ?

- In the Robson (edition 2006), there's absolutely nothing about this pattern (both plates and texts). Very strange.

- In the Brazil (thanks Florian !), there’s an illustration of this kind of plumage with the legend: 1st winter male.

Not convinced at all, I search on Internet and found something very interesting on OrientalBirdImages, especially the pics of Jonathan Martinez, a French birder who’s living in China, in the Hunan province. He took pics at mid-June 2010 of juveniles, females and males (http://orientalbirdimages.org/search.php?Bird_ID=2464&Bird_Image_ID=44540&Bird_Family_ID=&p=6), in a Japanese Thrushes breeding population. Today, I send him an email to have confirmation that those males were adults and even breeding ones.

He answered this (sorry, in french, please use Google traduction) :
« Pour tout t'avouer, ces thrushes m'ont également laissé perplexe. J'ai une bonne population nicheuse dans le Hunan en Chine et je n'ai pas encore vu un seul mâle nicheur qui ait un pattern classique comme décrit dans de nombreux guides, sans fort contraste manteau-tête, tout les mâles que j'ai pu observer sont identiques à ceux de mes photos. J'en viens à me demander si les oiseaux qui nichent en Chine ne serait pas différents de ceux qui nichent au Japon, j'ai trouvé très peu de choses dans la littérature mais n'ai pas eu encore trop le temps d'approfondir, dans tout les cas il y a quelque chose d'étrange, et je n'ai rien trouvé qui mentionne que la population qui niche dans le centre de la Chine soit une sous-espèce différente. A mon avis il y a matière à creuser».

He wrote, I resume, that among the 10 pairs he have observed over there, he have never seen males without strong contrast head-mantle like described in the majority of the identification guides. All its pics definitely show adults breeding males !

So, different races of Japanese Thrush ? In my humble opinion, the very black males could come from North-Est Asia (Japan, Korea...). Have a look at the blogs of the Land of the Rising Sun birders.

Now, I want to show you a mysterious bird that I have observed last Tuesday in the Botanical Garden. That's a tricky one isn't it ? Look this grey-blue mantle/wings, the contrast head-mantle, the black breast, the bluish spots on the flanks... Why not a 1st winter male Japanese Thrush ?
Thoughts/suggestions/confirmation welcome !

More thrushes

Morning visit to the botanical gardens:

Japanese Thrush 10 + (1st winter m and f, adult f)
Grey-backed Thrush 2 (?) 1st winter f
Eyebrowed Thrush 1 f
Siberian Thrush 1 f
Scaly Trush 1

Simon and Florian

Black-breasted Thrush male adult

Video made Tuesday 16th November at the Botanical Garden.

Please have a look at the last post of Simon (yesterday) , I sent many pictures there.

Grey-backed Thrush female adult

Video made Tuesday 16th November at the Botanical Garden.

16 November 2010

Some great thrushes in the botanical gardens

This morning there were at least 20 thrushes in the botanical gardens. Since I was in a rush I concentrated on identifying the easy ones:
Japanese Thrush adult male 3
Japanese Thrush adult female 2
Japanese Thrush 1st winter male 4
Black-breasted Thrush adult female 1
Chinese Blackbird 2 (male and female)

I left all the 1st winter females....

Florian then visited shortly afterwards and found an adult male Black-breasted Thrush!

  • At noon there, I saw also :
Grey-backed Thrush female adult 1
Grey-backed Thrush 1st winter 1-2
Eyebrowed Thrush male adult 1
Siberian Thrush 1 (without tail !)
Orange-headed Thrush 1
Rufous-tailed Robin 1

Videos will follow !

Eyebrowed Thrush male (the shiest of all the Thrushes there)

Siberian Thrush... with a little problem

Grey-backed Thrush female. Compared to the Black-breasted female : brownish bill, slightly marked on breast, paler brown-olive tinged upperparts (Robson).
Grey-backed Thrush female (in the background/no spots on the rufous flanks, slight streeks on breast) and - I suppose - a Grey-backed Thrush 1st winter

This supposed Grey-backed Thrush 1st winter : flanks largely orange with spots, heavily marked on breast than adult female.

Black-breasted Thrush male adult

15 November 2010

Osprey - Van Long

Seen last Sunday (14th November) circling high above the dyke.


Van Long, 13.11.2010

Pleasant trip to Van Long to see the Delacour's Langurs that we missed during our only previous visit. Got good views around 4 pm.

Birds were pretty much the usual ones (EDIT: I just learned that Coot isn't actually so usual here), but always nice to actually see birds in large numbers:
Uncountable egrets, Great, Intermediate, Little and Cattle, White-browed Crakes 30 + (all over the place and very close views both from the boat and the dike), Pheasant-tailed Jacana 3, Moorhen 10+, Coot 2, Little Grebe 10+, Crested Myna 30+
Common and White-throated Kingfishers, Long-tailed and Brown Shrikes, Kestrel.

We went by motorbike, pleasant trip via the Ho-Chi-Minh Highway, Chi Ne and Ngo Dong and stayed overnight in the Van Long Resort there (a bit too expensive for what they offer...)
Huong and Florian

Adult male Japanese Thrush

Up till now almost all of the thrushes in the botanical gardens have been young birds, but today there were:
Japanese Thrush adult male 1 - a beautiful bird with its jet black and white plumage
Japanese Thrush adult female 2
Japanese Thrush 1st winter male 3
Japanese Thrush 1st winter female 5
Grey-backed Thrush 1st winter female 1
Scaly Thrush 1
Rufous-tailed Robin 1
Olive-backed Pipit 15


8 November 2010

Thrushes in Botanical Gardens

Lots of Thrushes in the Botanical Gardens this morning, at least 10 in the two usual spots.
A few easy Japanese Thrushes but also quite a few that were difficult to me, I think most were 1st winter Japanese. One looked like a Black-throated (very dense and dark streaked throat, less dense streaks on belly and flanks, grey sides and upperside of head and neck).
Further a Rufous-tailed Robin (lifer!), a Red-flanked Bluetail and an Ashy Drongo.

7 November 2010

Lenin Park

This morning in Lenin Park, behind the toilets:
Japanese Thrush 2
Snowy-browed Flycatcher 2 (chasing each other, one looked neat like the one in the photos, the other a little scrubby)
Taiga Flycatcher 1


And near the northern entrance :
2 Thrushes (1 1st winter Japanese, 1 exactly like the mysterious one seen by Falk and Simon, photographied by Roland Männel with well-demarcated streaky rather than spotted breast, so 1st winter Grey-backed/ photo above), 1 Grey Bushchat, 1 Ceicercus Warbler, 1 Dark-sided Flycatcher

6.11.2010, Red River Island

Saturday morning visit to the island:
Taiga Flycatcher 1
Small Niltava 1
Wryneck 2
Grey Bushchat 1
Oriental Skylark 1
Thickbilled Warbler 2
Dusky Warbler 5
Seicercus Warbler sp. 1
Harrier sp. 1

Sebastien also saw a Shortwing with a very long Eyebrow...

Sebastien, Christian, Florian

Here now a pic of the Lark by Christian. Please correct if I'm wrong with Oriental Skylark.

6 November 2010


Our magic corner in the Botanical Garden is not only magic for us.

This afternoon I discovered a Blue-Whistling Thrush in a trap. Why this situation only happens to me ?! The trapper is the guy who is living in the small "house" on the right. I released the bird - big work ! one wing was completely tangled in the net, I had to cut it off (not the wing, the net !)... with my keys - and threw the trap in the bushes. What else should I have done ? No regrets. Do the same !


5 November 2010

Thrush ID, 1st November

Hi all,

finally I got the pictures of monday's presumed Grey-backed Thrush - I think the pictures will prove this assumption.
Note the finer spotting (orange and not dark or even black on the flanks), the well-demarcated streaky rather than spotted breast and the larger extend of orange on the flanks (not clearly visible on these pics, though) as well as the more grey overall impression.
First winter female Grey-backed Thrush seems like a reasonable ID to me.
Oh and, don't get confused with the other thrush...

Falk (all images - Roland Männel)

Red River Island

Hi all,

Two hours this afternoon at the Red River Island (essentialy the little forest) produced some nice birds. The highlights were :

- 1 Bluethroat, in the thickets between the forest and the fields

- 1 Small Niltava male inside denser vegetation

- 2 Harriers, among them 1 Pied imm. identified : fairly plain, rich chocolate brown above / Chestnut-brown body and underwing coverts.

- 1 presumed Green-backed Flycatcher male

-1 Ceicercus Warbler (with wings bars)

- 1 pair of Black-shouldered Kites, attacking the Harriers... and vice versa (photo above) !


4 November 2010

Pics/video of the Snowy-browed Fly

Some images of this stonking bird, especially for the unluckiest among us ;-)

it perched very low, droped down to the ground to pick up invertebrates. Didn't see it flying out to catch insects in the air. Easy to overlook, but friendly and confident.

Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Lenin Park, 4th November

Hi all,

after Sebastien discovered a male Snowy-browed Flycatcher in Lenin Park behind the toilets (where else?!), I quickly went over to successfully twitch it - nice!
A first winter Siberian Blue Robin was there, too.

Not much else around with the female Blue-and-White Flycatcher being the best bird.
One male superciliosus-Brown Shrike was seen at the nursery.

After having a second look at the Snowy-browed Flycatcher something weird happened. I walked past the flycatcher and it flew the opposite direction I was walking towards. At the eastern park gate another or the same bird turned up! I thought it looked a bit different, so maybe there's two of them there...


Mysterious Thrush - Botanical garden

Yesterday, 2 Thrushes were hanging around the big banian : a nice Japanese Thrush male and this one on the left with a strange pattern. Not plain brown above, looks like a bird in a transition plumage with grey appearing on the rump, the wings, the back, the crown and the ear-coverts ; hindneck, lores, feathers still brownish. A young male Grey-backed in the process of acquiring its adult plumage ?


Rufous-tailed Robins - Botanical Garden

Hi all,

In the Botanical Garden yesterday, seen 2 Olive-backed Pipits, 2 Thrushes (1 Japanese male, the other one not clearly ID, see next post), some Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers, 1 Dusky Warbler, 2 Rufous-tailed Robins together (video below)


3 November 2010

Lenin Park, 3rd November, Rufous-tailed Robin

Hi all,

a quick morning stroll proved to be less productive than anticipated.
Best birds were:

1 Rufous-tailed Robin
1 Asian Stubtail
1 Blue-and-White Flycatcher (still the female, looks somewhat bristly - maybe escaped after being caught?)

Sebastien saw a Thick-billed Warbler as well.


Who am I ?

I have had some difficulty to clinch the ID of this Thrush seen yesterday at the Botanical Garden.
The blackish bill got me confused a little bit, nothing similar to this on the Robson's plate ! The dark spots below, the almost complete lack of orangey tones on the flanks...
My feeling is that it looks good for a 1st winter Japanese. Consulting the web definitely helped - especially this blog : http://10000birds.com/grey-thrush.htm

Comments welcome !

2 November 2010

Rufous-tailed Robin enter the Lenin Park list

Hi all,

Quick morning stroll around Lenin Park to see a possible recent arrival of new migrants.

The best thing was a Rufous-tailed Robin perched on the same dead branches - along the wall - where we have seen so many goodies - I mean behind the toilets... An another Lenin Park tick (park list stands at..., someone have an idea ?).
Sorry for this crap pic. This bird was extremely wary. When I saw it, I immediately took some pics and a video. A good idea because when I tried to approach a little bit (I was at about 15 metres) it promptly flew off, not to be seen again !

A (the?) Blue-and-White Fly female was also hanging around.

Botanical Gardens - Chestnut Bunting, 'Green-backed Flycatcher', Manchurian Bush Warbler, Sulphur-bellied Warbler

Hi all,

This morning Simon and me tried to relocate yesterday's challenges - thrushes, bush warbler and flycatcher.
After finding the juvenile female Grey-backed Thrush we moved on and quickly found the presumed elisae-Flycatcher (Narcissus Flycatcher, for the lumpers amongst us).
Pictures were taken later today and some research based on internet (OBC-Images, birdskorea.org) suggest juvenile female Green-backed Flycatcher.

Images give an idea of the bird only. Very helpful are the notes on identification of Narcissus Flycatchers

The bush warbler showed itself after a while and gave good looks - Manchurian Bush Warbler!

At around 10am a bunting was seen feeding on the ground at the opposite side of the pond near the big banyan tree. It had a yellow, unmarked belly, a very obvious pinkish-rusty rump, streaky back , a white moustache, a grey beak and while feeding on grass seeds showed some habit unknown to the observer: It stretched its neck and let its wings hang down. On OBC there's one image of a male Chestnut Bunting indicating this habit


The combination of features led to Chestnut Bunting.
The bird took off after 15 minutes or so, being flushed by a Red-eared Slider(!) not to be seen again.

At lunch Simon found a Sulphur-bellied Warbler.

Other birds of note included 2 Taiga Flycatchers, 1 female-type Black-naped Monarch, 1 Asian Brown Flycatcher and 1 Orange-headed Thrush plus 1 more possible bush warbler near the toilets.
Grey Wagtail and Common Kingfisher put in an appearance, too.

What a Tuesday!

Simon, Falk

Edit: Forgot to mention
4 Olive-backed Pipits and a bunch of Palm Swifts and (Germain's) Swiftlets soaring overhead.

1 November 2010

Difficult Turdus in the botanical gadens

Today in the early morning the botanical gardens held a small flock of Turdus thrushes. One was a male Japanese Thrush, whilst the other four, all females or first-year birds, were seen too badly to be identified conclusively.

Also present were 1 Taiga Flycatcher and 2 Orange-headed Thrushes.

At lunch, Falk and visiting birder Roland joined Simon to try and sort them out. We only re-found one of the confusing Turdus, but got very good views. Roland also took some good photos (pictures will follow the next days). We think that this is a first-winter female Grey-backed Thrush because it has a dark brownish bill (with no yellow or orange). only faint spotting below the streaked breast and weak orange flanks.

We also saw a Dusky Warbler.

Falk and Roland also found 2 interesting bush-warblers which were most probably Manchurian.

Other birds seen near the banyan included a 1st cy Mugimaki Flycatcher and a possible juvenile Green-backed or Narcissus Flycatcher.

Also there, 1 Taiga Flycatcher and 1 Eastern Crowned Warbler.

Simon and Falk 1/11/10

Daurian Redstart - Red River Island

Yesterday, afternoon trip to the Red River Island was looking a bit birdless until I stumbled upon a very handsome Daurian Redstart male, amazingly showing (it must known that it would be in the blog the day after).

I found it at the northern tip of the pond (the one with the floating houses). If you are interested : you follow the central path of the island for about 1 km and 100m before turning right and walking down towards the little forest you will see a small area recently cleared, on the slope, between the trail and the pond. It's here.


Ba Vi National Park

Hi all,

Last Saturday, a day trip to Ba Vi produced - only - 23 species :

Asian Barred Owlet (heard), Bulbuls (Puff-throated, Ashy, Black, 10+ each), White-bellied Yuhina, Sunbirds (1 Fork-tailed, 1 Black-throated/lifer for me), Trushes (2-3 Orange-headed, 7-8 Siberian, 1 Scaly), 1 Crested Goshawk, 1 Mountain Tailordbird, Babblers (1 Grey-throated, 1 Buff-breasted), Barbets (many Golden-throated, 1 Green-eared), some flocks of Scarlet Minivets, 1 Red-headed Trogon, some Silver-eared Mesias, 2 Grey Bushchats, 3 Orange-bellied Leafbirds, 1 Silver-breasted Broadbill, some Phyllos non ID...

Siberian Thrush male

Siberian Thrush male 1st winter

Buff-breasted Babbler

Silver-breasted Broadbill

Crested Goshawk