The night train I was on from Sapa got in yesterday morning about 4:30 AM, and the hotel didn't have a room for me that early, so I waited for daylight and made my way to the Botanical Gardens. For such a tiny park, it really is very birdy! The number of Olive-backed pipits alone makes one feel rather foolish for having been excited to see a handful of them at Ho Tuyen Lam outside Dalat.
White Throated Fantail
Olive Backed Pipit
Red Whiskered Bulbul
Oriental Magpie Thrush
Japanese Thrush (male and female)
Orange Flanked Bush Robin (female)
Japanese White Eye
Dusky Warbler (at least 3)
Ashy Drongo (one)
Gray Headed Canary Flycatcher (one)
I didn't have a long enough lens to get any decent bird pictures, but I have the following notes on another thrush; perhaps you can help. Slightly larger than the Japanese Thrushes, Brown above, grayer on the head, but without enormous contrast (not "gray-hooded" feeling). Some brown on the crown. Bill yellow with black tip. Skittish. (More nervous than the other thrushes here). Flushes from the ground, flies across the lake into a tree, looks for threats and then goes back to the ground. Face and head gray. Throat dingy and grizzled. Not spotted below or to the sides apart from the grizzled throat. Flanks rufous, dingy whiter to the center of belly. Has faint but marked white eyebrow extending well back behind eye, and also a half crescent white mark just below the eye.
(I would imagine this is an Eyebrowed Thrush, but it is many years since I had any experience with this species, and the eyebrow is significantly fainter than those in any images I found online. I'm wondering if Simon saw the same bird this morning. Any comments?)
I then walked over to the highway and crossed at An Duong to the neighborhood between the road and the Red River Island. Out-of-towners who have never birded here perhaps should be warned that this site is part farm, part mud-flat, part shanty-town. It has a slightly sketchy feel to it. I never felt in any danger, but it is one of those strange edge-of-the-city dumping grounds where the people give you a long hard look, as if to say "what the hell is that gringo doing here?" It is perhaps a testament to the relatively crime-free country of Vietnam that in a similar location in South America I would be very nervous and unsure about security.
After entering the neighborhood on An Duong, the road immediately bears to the left. After a few hundred meters, turn right on Ngo 76 An Duong. I hadn't noted this address down, and I spent a while wandering down dead-end alleys trying to get to the river, before I found this street by accident. Ngo 76 An Duong goes to some brickyards, then through a patch of shanty, and then emerges at a muddy strip of water between Hanoi proper and the Red River Island. There is some cultivation here and a small amateur ferry service to shuttle locals across to the island. I saw some good birds walking along the shore and around a couple of rice paddies, including some for the trip list.
Little Ringed Plover
Bluethroat (3 different individuals)
Citrine Wagtail (at least 2 individuals)
White throated Fantail
Red Throated Pipit (one)
Paddyfield Pipit (many but ? could this be anything else)
White Rumped Munia
Pied Harrier (male)
Do chime in if it looks like I've hacked any identifications. Thanks again to those who suggested these sites. I'll likely go to Ninh Binh this Saturday, Van Long on Sunday and Cuc Phuong for a few days after that; if anyone is interested in meeting up for a bit more Hanoi birding over the next couple of days, I don't have a phone, but drop me an email at donflan (insert that symbol used in all addresses here) yahoo (and then a period here) com.