Welcome to Vietnam Bird News

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

31 December 2011

Flock of Northern Lapwings - Hanoi

Today (31th December), a flock of around 30 Northern Lapwings along the Red River. I first saw them on tilled land.
This species is probably not as scarce as we think. In winter, how many guys go birding in the north Vietnam agricultural plain ?...


26 December 2011

Fujian Niltava - Botanical Garden/Hanoi

An early morning walk (26th December) at the Botanical Garden produced a nice surprise in the shape of a female Fujian Niltava. If my memory serves me correctly, we didn't spot this species in our Hanoian parks last winter. But during the winter of 2009-2010, one male have overwintered at the Bot. Garden; and an another one at Lenin Park.

Otherwise the park was very quiet. Not a single Thrush !

This bird was perched at mid-storey level and often droped down to the ground like a small Thrush to pick up invertebrates; sometimes caught preys on trunks also. Hard work with this big worm ; it cut it piece by piece, and finished it on a branch. A robust appetite !

The best I could get of the the blue-neck patch.

25 December 2011

Red River Island - Hanoi 25/12/2011

Short noon stroll at the woodland of the Red River Island produced few birds - most notably :

- 1 Barn Owl
- 1 Thick-billed Warbler
- 1 Bradypterus Bush Warbler (with spotted throat. B. thoracicus? )
- 1 Rufous-tailed Robin


24 December 2011

Grass Owl - 3rd breeding site

Hi all,

I'm not particularly looking for Grass Owls, but when I come across a suitable habitat, I cannot but explore it ! So an another breeding site, not far from the two other ones. Five chicks at different ages; the youngest is considerably smaller and seems undernourished. If I refer to this "guide to ageing young Barn Owls" (link), I estimate them as being 25-30 days old (they cannot stand yet and rest on their tarsi).

This nest needs to be monitored. It is located 100-150m from fields of Jícama or "yam bean" - cây củ đậu, a very easy way to get food from poor soil -, and when I was there, farmers were burning the grasses and thickets to expand their plots.
Recently, I have discovered that all the area of the first breeding site has been burned ! This practise seems to be frequent there. Sure it helps to prevent encroachment of woody vegetation (this is not the goal of course), but the problem is that it is completely uncontrolled. They want to clean one or two hectares but they burn two or three times this surface. Very sad for this pair...

Next weekend, I'll go back to this new site. Come with me, guys ! Let's hope we will not have a bad surprise...

Merry Christmas to all

20 December 2011

A Jerdon's Baza for Christmas

Hi all,

Great lunch-hour birding (20th December) at my favourite patch (i.e. the small wooded area of the Red River Island), with a Jerdon's Baza which offered me much better views than 2 months ago.

In the north part of this area (the most wooded), I flushed a mid-sized raptor. I put my bins on it one second, enough to see its broad rounded wings, pale underparts, broad rufous bars on belly. I thought immediately : Jerdon's Baza !... but not 100% sure ! Thirty minutes later, I came back and was happy to see it again, almost at the same place. After a few shots it flew off and began to circle over the trees.
Other interesting guys I saw : 1 nice male Rubythroat, 1 Thick-billed Warbler, 1 Manchurian Bush Warbler.

The long erectile crest is well visible on this pic

Do you have some informations about the status of the Jerdon's Baza in Vietnam ? In my Robson (2005), it's written : Resident in East Tonkin, N/S Annam, Cochinchina. No mention of Passage migrant or Winter visitor. Curious, isn't it ?
The birds we saw at Hanoi are vagrants ? Migrants ? Have you ever spotted this species at Cuc Phuong, Tam Dao... during the migration period or in summer ?

18 December 2011

Cuu Thac - Tu Son / 17-12-2011

Scarlet Minivet male

A solo motorbike trip to Cuu Thac - Tu Son. I found again the elusive "Indiana Jones trail". According to local people, it leads to a pass which marks the entrance of Thuong Tiên Natural Reserve (4 hours walk from the car park - we can add one hour for us). The trail is great. It follows the river and offers unobstructed views of the forest which, you can imagine, get better and better as we climb. I didn't found any kind of forest which we could call "relatively untouched" ; I just saw secondary-growth, but with more and more massive trees. Very promising !
Birds I saw :

-Golden, Grey-throated, Buff-breasted, Spot-necked Babblers
-a lone Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler exploring the trunk folds of a banana tree
- a Green Magpie heard and seen (just a glimpse as usual) around the... VIP restaurant. My 3rd observation of this bird, but each time I cannot clinch the ID between Indochinese/Common. Very frustrating. They can share the same habitat, can't they ?
-Many Silver-eared Mesias often in mixed-species foraging flocks with Golden/Grey-throated Babblers, White-bellied Yuhinas
-2 males Fujian Niltava
-1 Blue-winged Minla
-1 male Black-throated Sunbird, spotted at 1m50 (!), attracted by pishing (an another bird easily attracted is the Buff-breasted Babbler, a good candidate for the price of "the most curious guy of the forest" !)
- 2 Seicercus Warblers, many Yellow-browed Warblers, Puff-throated Bulbuls, some Slaty-backed Forktails, 1 White-capped Water Redstart, a flock of Japanese Thrushes, Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers, mouhoti Ashy Drongos, Scarlet Minivets...

Scarlet Minivet female

14 December 2011

Pitta, TamDao NP HQ, 10-12-2011

Hi all,

A colleague of mine saved a bird that trapped itself inside a bike shed - the bird appeared to be in good condition and was released.

This happened right next to the National Park Head quarters, and the bird turned out to be a pitta!
My colleague took two pics (of not so great quality) - first thoughts were, Blue-rumped Pitta. But then again, it looks very warm brown around the head. A very late this year's Blue-rumped Pitta or Rusty-naped?
What do you think?


11 December 2011

Red River Island, 11-12-2011

Hi all,

A very short visit to the island produced only few birds - most notably,

- 3 Citrine Wagtails
- 2 Manchurian Bush Warblers (1 bird very showy)
- 1 Black-shouldered Kite
- a few Temminck's Stints
- 1 Siberian Rubythroat
- a couple of Dusky and Y-browed Warblers
- 5 Siberian Stonechats

I find it amazing that there still are plenty of both White-rumped and Scaly-breasted Munias, given the hunting pressure...


10 December 2011

Late Mugimaki Flycatcher - Hanoi

Spotted this Mugimaki Flycatcher as I was drinking coffee near West Lake. This bird is interesting for two reasons. First, it is a late migrant. Second, it is a 1st winter male (my first sighting). It looked mostly like a female but : greyer overall impression especially head(conspicuous in the two first photos, taken from a short distance), brighter orange breast-throat, white supercilium behind the eye (still faint compared to the male adult, but distinct), tail with white base.

Sorry for the pictures quality, but it is winter here now (the ones who live or have lived here will understand...).


9 December 2011

Grass Owl - New breeding site

Prospected recently a new site along the Red River, ca 15 km west of the center of Hanoi in search of owls. Fantastic area, 150-200 ha of completely unexploited open habitats (pioneer vegetation on sand, seasonally flooded grasslands +/- dense), not even grazed. Wildland !

Found again a breeding pair of Grass Owls and a nest with 6 eggs, ca 5-6 km from the first one.
The breeding site - Nest (eggs visible) in the left angle (bottom).


5 December 2011

Waders near Lien Trung - Hanoi

Behind the brickworks is an open area with some seasonal cultivation on the shore of the Red river and some sandy area’s with in the river a big sandy island. link A group of 120 Spotted Redshanks and 15 Greenshanks were at the river bank. When they were flushed, they flew to the sandy island where another big group (50?) of waders were (too far to identify) and some 150 Grey Herons.
Other birds in the area: 5 Common Sandpiper, 4 Little Ringed Plover, 1 male Kestrel, 12 White Wagtail, 2 Paddyfield Pipit, 1 Plain Prinia, 1 Zitting Cisticola.

3 December 2011

Cuu Thac - Tu Son / 3-12-2011

Hi all,

One Saturday at Cuu Thac - Tu Son/Hoa Binh province with non-birder friends. We spotted some of the good birds you saw last week, and some news species.
The most notable of them were 1 Red-billed Scimitar-Babbler, two flocks of Coral-billed Scimitar-Babblers, 1 probable Collared Treepie, and 1 flock of 4-5 Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbills (seen last summer but not ID with certainty. I don't have the Robson in my head like you so I didn't concentrate on the good features at this time and the confusion with the Greater was possible).
We spent one hour along the stream trying to photograph the White-capped Water Redstart - a gorgeous bird !- and its friends : Plumbeous Water Redstart and Slaty-backed Forktail, the last one not easy at all.


Sebastien Delonglee & friends

WCWR feeding on treefruit

Video/choose settings 720p please

2 December 2011

Tam Dao NP HQ, 2-12-2011

Hi all,

More and more birds seem to move down from the higher elevations. Lots of birds around at the moment, though nothing cheerfully exciting.
Best birds lately,

- 1 female Fujian Niltava
- the group of Greater and Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush continues to linger around
- a big flock of Chinese Blackbirds feeding on figs
- a residential Blue Whistling Thrush whistling away
- a couple of very approachable Pale-footed Bush Warblers
- one bush warbler that was seen very briefly could have been a Russet Bush Warbler


27 November 2011

Cuu Thac - Tu Son, Hoa Binh Province, 27-11-2011

Hi all,

A very pleasant Sunday was spent birding in a semi-montaneous area, 70kms south-west of Hanoi.

This site (google map here) definitely has some potential, as there's an interesting mix of vegetation, including bamboo. Not much of a primary forest is left though.

We birded along the one trail, that is leading up to a few waterfalls. Some very nice species were seen. Amongst them the more notable were,

- Crested Serpent Eagle
- Blue Whistling Thrush
- White-capped Water Redstart
- Plumbeous Water Redstart
- at least 1 very late Mugimaki Flycatcher
- at least 1 nice male Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher
- lots of Verditer Flycatchers
- 1 smart 1st winter male Blue-and-White Flycatcher
- 1 splendid male Fujian Niltava
- White-crowned Forktail
- Slaty-backed Forktail
- Yellow-bellied Warbler
- Buff-breasted Babbler
- Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler
- Golden Babbler
- Spectacled Barwing
- Blue-winged Minla (Siva)
- Collared Babbler
- Silver-eared Mesia
- Black-throated Sunbird

A surprisingly good list for a totally unprotected site - it was actually better than Tam Dao most of the times! On the other hand, Tam Dao is not really protected either...


Jan de Groot, Wayne Hodgkinson (pictures), Falk Wicker

Crested Serpent Eagle

Blue Whistling Thrush

Blue-winged Minla

Fujian Niltava

Pied Harrier roost - Hanoi

Last Friday (25th November), in the late afternoon, at the owl spot near the Red River, I spotted many Pied harriers coming in from all directions and congregating in one plot to roost for the night.
Male ad.
Male ad.
Male ad.
Male ad. at dusk
An area of stunning natural beauty

I counted 20-25 individuals, at least 50% of immatures. Let's hope this number will increase as the winter progresses !


23 November 2011

Northern Lapwings-Hanoi / 22-11-2011

Another interesting sighting at Vinh Tuy today at dusk with a flock of 6-7 Northern Lapwings (for those who are reading this post from Europe : this species is a scarce winter visitor here, in Vietnam).



22 November 2011

Otter or not otter ?

Old track (left) and more recent one (right)

Last week I saw along the banks of the Red River some footprints which, I am almost certain, belong to an otter. Guess where it was… At Vinh Tuy !

I would like to have your opinion. I am not a specialist of mammals, but I have spotted at few occasions footprints of otters in France.
Yesterday at noon, I walked again along the river banks in search of new footprints. I found a track, beginning near the water and ending on the dry sand where I lost it.
I think it is an otter because of :

-first, the width of the feet : 5,5-6 cm (pen lenght : 14cm). For comparaison, a smaller mustelid of the size of the mink = 2,5cm.
- the five pointed toes (the smaller, inner toe, sometimes not visible), with claw marks and sometimes a clear imprint of the webbing .
I also met a fisherman (one of those who live 24h/24 on their small sampans with all their family, along the sandbars of the river) and asked him if he had already seen otters there (at that time I didn’t know the vietnamese word for otter, so I described it).
He understood immediately and answered : “con rái cá ? bây giờ hiếm lắm, chỉ thỉnh thoảng mới gặp thôi !” (“the otter ? rare now, I encountered one from time to time only !”).

There are 4 species of otter in Vietnam. The Eurasian Otter has been recorded in 7 provinces (North and Centre), among them Hoa Binh and Lai Chau (link here).


21 November 2011

Tam Dao, Warblers

Hi all,

It got quite chilly last night and this morning was dull and grey. Unsurprisingly, quite a few warblers were seen foraging around the lower parts of the NP today.

- 2 Hume's Warblers
- 1 presumed Bianchi's Warbler
- 1 Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler
- 2 very showy Pallas's Leaf Warblers
and many Y-broweds.


20 November 2011

Vinh Tuy Sunday 20 November

After a fairly uneventful walk with the little guy in the Botanical gardens on Saturday, Jan and I headed to Vinh Tuy (and the semi-cultivated area behind it) for a few hours on Sunday morning. This place appeared to be more varied than the woods on the Red River Island, and much larger, and may well be worth keeping an eye on during the migration. Today was like walking in a fairy-land, as there were thousands of butterflies covering many of the shrubs.

The highlight of the day was two large raptors being attacked by a Common Kestrel. We could not ID these, but they were large and very long winged, suggesting some type of eagle.

Birds seen :
  • Buzzard, Himalayan (2)

  • Eurasian Tree sparrow (lots)

  • Falcon, Peregrine (1 female)

  • Fantail, White-throated (4)

  • Flycatcher, Grey-headed canary (1)

  • Flycatcher, Taiga (2)

  • Greenshank, Common (few)

  • Heron, Grey (27 )

  • Hunter, Camouflaged well (1) – note no shots fired (Yay!!!)

  • Kestrel, Common (2)

  • Kingfisher, Common (1)

  • Kingfisher, Pied (1)

  • Pipit, Olive-backed (4)

  • Plover, Kentish (many many)

  • Plover, Little-ringed (few)

  • Plover, Long-billed (1)

  • Prinia, Plain (lots)

  • Raptor, Unidentified, large and very long winged (2)

  • Stint, Temminck's (few)

  • Stonechat, Siberian (1 female)

  • Tailorbird, Common (few)

  • Thrush, unidentified, dark (2)

  • Wagtail, White (lots)

  • Warbler, Unidentified (large green, single bar on wing, stuck to larger branches and walked along, even walking down steep areas head first)
  • Warbler, Yellow-browed (few)
Wayne Hodgkinson & Jan De Groot

Common Kestrel

Himalayan Buzzard

Here are the terrible images of the two very large raptors. Neither really shows the length of the wings. I could not get a focus lock on them, so quickly took these on manual, knowing they would not be so good.