Welcome to Vietnam Bird News

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

27 December 2010

Tristram's Buntings for Christmas

Hi all,

One day trip to Mount Ba Vi last Sunday (26th December).
In winter, this mountain can be very foggy and birding impossible. Sunday, the weather was nice, cold for sure but no mist, and the 3 famous peaks were perfectly visible as the photo shows (foreground : Đồng Mô lake):

I focused on the degraded forest and thickets around the restaurant area. Surprisingly, I saw many interesting species that we encounter generally in good forest, mixed with birds of more open habitats and forest edges. Many fruiting trees yielded flocks of Thrushes and other good birds.

Highlights : 2 Tristram's Buntings, 1 male Fujian Niltava and 1 Chestnut Bulbul (hard to believe I know, but good views...)

Seen also, among many others : - Barbets : Great (heard only), 1 Green-eared, 1 Blue-throated

- Thrushes : 1 Black-breasted, some Grey-backed and Scaly

- 1 Verditer Flycatcher

- 1 Stripe-Tit Babbler

- 1 Oriental Turtle Dove

- Flowerpeckers : 1 Scarlet-backed and 2 Fire-breasted feeding on the same fruiting tree

- very showy Orange-bellied Leafbirds, male singing and female

- 1 Chestnut-flanked White-eye in a flock of Japanese ones.

- Sunbirds : 2 Crimson, 1 Fork-tailed

- some Orange-flanked Bush Robins

- 1 Green Magpie sp
Tristram's Bunting. I flushed 2 birds, non identified. One of them, more curious, reappeared in the thickets in which they had just disappeared, and observed me during long et nice seconds.
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker male

Fire-breasted Flowerpecker female

Gorgeous Crimson Sunbird male

Blue-throated Barbet. I saw this bird 500m after the cactus garden, so at low altitude (300m). Each time I go to Ba Vi, I stop at this place which offer panoramic view on the valley and I have generally a contact with this species, moving in a degraded open forest. I don't understand why this bird which don't seems to have narrow habitat requirements (I mean good forest) is so rarely spotted elsewhere.

Scaly Thrush

A Japanese Thrush which seems to hesitate : Hmm, which one to choose ?

On the way back to Hanoi, I came across a flock of 20-30 Grey-capped Greenfinches at Đồng Mô lake, along the dyke (the northest one), feeding over grasslands grazed by cattle and perching sometimes on eucalyptus trees. Difficult to approach.

A nice birding trip with 2 lifers in the pocket (the Greenfinch and the Bunting), exactly one year after I began to interest myself in the vietnamese avifauna and twitched my very first local bird, it was a Robin Magpie...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone !


21 December 2010

27 hours in Laos

I know that Laos isn't in Vietnam, but arguably the easiest way to see the recently described Bare-faced Bulbul is by making a quick trip into Laos from Vietnam. I don't want to set a precedent for expanding the scope of this website beyond Vietnam, but I thought that information on how to do this might be of interest.

Aside from the endemic bulbul, Sooty Babbler is easier to see in Laos than in Vietnam. In addition, going to Laos to see it invalidates the need to visit Phong Nha Ke Bang. Red-collared Woodpecker is also much easier to see in Laos than in Vietnam. So visiting birds could add these three species to their Vietnam trips by just visiting Laos instead of Phong Nha Ke Bang, as long as they get a multiple entry visa for Vietnam.

Laos is expensive to fly to, even from adjacent countries, return tickets to and from Vietnam cost $400, and it is very easy to visit using public transport. So that is what I did. The total cost including transport, accommodation, food and visa was just under $100.

I began by taking the overnight train from Hanoi to Vinh arriving at 4am on Saturday morning. You could equally travel north from Da Nang to Vinh overnight, if that was where you were based. The first bus to Trung Tam (the border town in Vietnam) leaves at 6am, and from there I caught a bus to Lak Sao, in Laos. The border crossing was uneventful aside from a Nepal House Martin (sadly not on the Vietnamese side), and once in Lak Sao it was easy to hitch a ride along Highway 8 to Na Hin village.

Just after lunchtime I arrived at the Mi Thuna Guesthouse in Na Hin village. I hired a motorbike from the guesthouse and drove up to the viewpoint described on Stijn de Win's website. After about an hour of scanning with the scope I located a trio of distant Bare-faced Bulbuls perched atop the karst. After another hour of waiting I headed downhill to an area where the karst is next to the road. A short walk along the road quickly produced a party of 10 or so Sooty Babblers flopping around on the rocks, giving great scope views. I returned to the viewpoint and spent the rest of the afternoon getting increasingly good views (ending with very good views) of trios of the bulbuls (although only two trios may have been involved) and found a troop of seven Laos Langurs before dark.

An early start on Sunday was curtailed because my motorbike had been boxed in by a 4x4. I improvised a ramp out of some planks, drove the bike up onto a thankfully very low wall and got round the car. At 6:30am I arrived at the track to the pumping station at km 48.3. However, on reaching the small trail just before the pumping station I found four kids with guns shooting at anything that moved. I quickly abandoned this plan and instead tried a different trail located approximately 200 meters before the pumping station on the left as you head up hill/away from the road. This trail descended steeply into good forest.

With the ipod dead I tried whistling an imitation of Stijn's Red-collared Woodpecker vocalisation, a sort of explosive kwaa!. After about 150 meters of walking I heard a response, coming from the forest floor to my left. I then heard what sounded like a Blue-naped Pitta vocalisation coming from the same location. Keen for a bit of two for the price of one action, I began to imitate the "pitta" as well. A bird flew up to a branch c. 1 meter off the ground from the direction where the sounds were coming from - it was the woodpecker. This bird soon flew off (and continued to make the sound like Stijn's recording), so again I whistled the Blue-naped Pitta type noise. There were no more pitta type sounds from the forest floor, instead the woodpecker flew in to a tree 20 meters up and showed well. Twice, Blue-naped Pitta type vocalisations came from the location where the woodpecker now was, high in the tree. For obvious reasons, I then gave up trying to find the "pitta" and went back to the guesthouse for breakfast. It was 8am.

After all that enjoyable and satisfyingly successful birding, the only thing left to do was to retrace my steps to Vinh. I did this and took the late train back to Hanoi. This arrived at 5am, in time for work.

19 December 2010

Pittas in Cuc Phuong

Last chance for birding in Vietnam for quite a while, I chose Cuc Phuong for that (16.-18.12.2010). Christian went with me. We spent 2 nights there, first at the HQ, second at Bong, with a stop at Van Long on the way back. It was quite cold, except the last afternoon, which was as good as weather can get in northern Vietnam.

First I tried to look for the Pied Falconet, which I still needed to see despite a few previous attempts. Easy this time, one bird was at the spot indicated by Simon, then a family of 4 perched near the gate at the end of the road through the botanical garden, and finally one more showed nicely and real close at Bong.
Luck was with us, when we flushed a Blue-rumped Pitta on the valley trail, which wasn't too scared and allowed for wonderful close views. Really nice bird, with almost all blue back. Very happy about that, after having tried many times in Cat Tien to find that one. Even better, we saw one more briefly the next day on the loop trail.

Earlier in the morning on the stairs to the loop trail (starting from the swimming pool), we met a family of Silver-breasted Broadbills, with a lot of small birds around. I could not concentrate well on those however, as Bar-bellied Pittas started to call from two sides. One came in to the tape and crossed hurriedly the trail, giving short but nice views.

Descending towards the big old tree, we got great views of a pair of Silver Pheasants. There where a few more nice birds around, here is the complete trip list.

At Van Long, we couldn't take the boat to see the Delacour's Langurs as apparently water is too low now, but we managed to find them in the scope from the dike. Quite far but nicely seen climbing over the rocks, at least 8 adults with 1 baby.

A Peregrine made a spectacular show by snatching a water bird (I didn't see what it was, but from size I guess it was a Crake) and then taking it to the top of the nearest rock for us to watch him plucking and eating his prey...

That was a great last trip of 2,5 years birding in Vietnam. Hope to get more of that in one of the holidays to come, and hopefully with you guys then! I enjoyed it to be out with you and I definitely learned a lot from you... Thanks for that!
Keep up posting good stuff here for me to envy!

A few more pics taken by Christian:

14 December 2010

Blue Rock Thrush

Just to put on something new, here a pic of a Blue Rock Thrush seen today from my house.
This morning with Simon in the botanical gardens, we saw a Red-flanked Bluetail, a couple of Olive-backe Pipits and the White-tailed Robin, which looks almost normal and healthy now.

Cheers, Florian

5 December 2010

White-tailed Robin in the city

Hi all,

Productive afternoon (Sunday 5th December) in the Botanical Garden, with some different migrants/winter visitors showing up.
The best being 1 impressive bullnecked White-tailed Robin male, 1 Grey-backed Thrush male 1st winter, 1 Taiga Flycatcher, 1 Orange-flanked Bush Robin female.

The Orange-flanked Bush Robin, with a big tumor on the head.

Please use settings 480p for best quality.

Have a look here : http://www.youtube.com/user/TheDELONGLEE (other videos of this funny Robin)


Dalat and Cat Tien NP, 28.11. /1.12.-4.12.

I made use of a work trip to the south to squeeze in quite some birding in Dalat (Tuyen Lam lake, 28.11.2010) and Cat Tien National Park (1.-4.12.2010). In Dalat I was with my colleague Nils. In Cat Tien I joined Swedish birder Peter for some of the time, he was on a tour organised by Richard and in Cat Tien guided by Mr. Duyen. Excellent birding throughout, below some of the highlights.
In Dalat, best bird was certainly the Blue Pitta that I was so lucky to spot for a second near the trail (very silent the Pittas otherwise at this time of the year). Also very nice were the Vietnamese Cutia and the Indochinese Green Magpie, favorite birds of mine, but not less nice the Rufous-browed and Snowy-browed Flycatcher found in the forest under-storey.
Plenty of birds in Cat Tien NP, including a few lifers for me:
  • A Lesser Fish Eagle not far from Ben Cu Rapids was one of the highlights.
  • A secretive Germain's Peacock Pheasant at the headquarters, 20 m from the bear enclosure, and Siamese Firebacks seen very well from the Crododile Lake trail.
  • Woodpeckers: Black-and-buff and Heart-spotted Woodpecker were new to me, also seen Bay, Rufous and Laced Woodpecker and Greater Yellownape. And a White-browed Piculet. Great Slaty Woodpecker was heard very close-by but remained invisible, still needing that one. Three Common Flamebacks were doing some Drongo-style insect hawking from a dead tree stump in the evening sunlight, an amazing sight.
  • Black-and-red Broadbill and the very funny looking Dusky Broadbill.
  • Orange-bellied Trogon was another long wanted lifer, also seen Red-headed Trogon.
  • Two Bar-bellied Pittas seen and many more heard but not found, no sound and sight of Blue-rumped Pitta, one more reason to come back....
  • Quite a few Hainan Blue and Tickell's Flycatchers, one Blue-throated Flycatcher.
  • A female and a stunning male Siberian Blue Robin and also a first winter male Siberian Thrush.
  • A nice selection of sunbirds including a party of the incredibly colourful Purple-throated Sunbirds.
  • One more bird very high on my wanted list, the Banded Kingfisher, was heard twice very close-by but kept hidden.
  • Very last bird before leaving was a Large Scimitar-Babbler, excellent finish!

Apart from birds, I was amazed by the number of primates seen. I saw Black-shanked Douc Langurs every day and they appear not to be very shy.

Finally a few clumsy snapshots, partly through the scope: Golden-crested Mynas, Lesser Fish Eagle, Bronzed Drongo, Pompadour Green Pigeon, Douc Langur and Siamese Crocodile.

Full bird list here, please let me know if you find any implausible birds in there ;-)

Cheers, Florian

3 December 2010

Red River Island / 03-12-2010

Hi all,

This week, I focused on the small forest of the Red River Island. I tried to shoot Manchurian Bush Warbler(s), but it's almost "mission impossible".

Apart this skulker, I saw :

- 1 strange White-rumped Shama male with a short white-edged tail, which make me VERY confused, you can imagine. Very secretive bird, I had to build a blind to get a decent pic. Well, I think it's this species, what else could it be ?!
- some Dusky, 1 Radde's, 1 presumed Two-barred, some Yellow-browed, 1 Pallas's Leaf (photo below) Warblers

- 2 Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers
- 1 Siberian Rubythroat male

- 1 Seicercus Warbler

- 2 Red-billed Leiothrix

- 2 Black-shouldered Kites

- 1 Accipiter sp

- and 1 stunning female Barred Buttonquail on the way back, crossing quietly the trail and a cabbage field

I wish all of you good birding !