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

31 March 2011

Botanical gardens 31/01/11

Not much time to look for birds this morning, but I spent a bit of time at the row of trees which overhang the second lake where the Phylosscs hang out. There were plenty of birds here, probably 50 in total, and I didn't have time to identify them all. Of the ones I did identify there were:
15 Y-brow type (silent, so some could have been Hume's)
2 Greenish Warbler sp.
2 Sulphur-breasted Warbler
1 Pale-legged Warbler
1 Arctic Warbler sp (silent)
1 Eastern Crowned Warbler

Much more time is needed to sort these difficult birds out.


30 March 2011

Lenin Park 30/03

Very few migrants/winter visitors seen in the park this morning (1 Brown Shrike, 1 Japanese Thrush, some Olive-backed Pipits). But nice surprise with 5-6 Grey-capped Greenfinches feeding in a flowerbed.
Also 3-4 males Plaintive Cuckoos singing.
Two of the 3 mozzy-infested corners have been completely cleaned to "fight against social evils". Bad for us...

29 March 2011

Peregrine Falcon in the botanical gardens - Hanoi


Quite a few birds in the botanical gardens today, including a perched Peregrine Falcon - a large pale individual, the size of this bird suggests that it is not one that spent the first half of the winter near to Truc Bach lake.

Quite a few migrants are passing through now:
Chinese/Hill Blue Flycatcher 1 male
Taiga Flycatcher 3
Brown Flycatcher 2
Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher 2
Radde's Warbler 1
Pallas's Warbler 1
Yellow-browed Warbler 4+
Unidentified Phylossc 5+

A few winter visitors remained - 1 Chinese Blackbird and a smattering of Olive-backed Pipits, and spring was in the air of the Plaintive Cuckoos at least. There was also a White-rumped Shama in fine plumage in the rattan clump by the toilets. I guess this is an escape. Shamas seem to like this spot, I saw a much scruffier individual in exactly the same place last autumn.


27 March 2011

Cat Tien 18.-21.3.2011

Hi all,

I had a good long weekend in Cat Tien from the 18th to the 21st of March. I spent two nights in HQ and one at the Crocodile Lake. The trail to the lake was surprisingly slow in producing birds. This was mainly due to the many noisy Vietnamese students on the trail. However, the trails around HQ were good. The best species were:

- 3x Bar-bellied Pitta

- Germain’s Peackock-Pheasant (2 seen very well; many heard)

- Siamese Fireback (a couple)

- Good selection of Woodpeckers, especially Heart-spotted Woodpecker

- Many White-crested Laughingthrushes

Biggest misses: Blue-rumped Pitta and Pale-headed Woodpecker

Cheers, Stephan

Tam Dao, Bear Center, Water tank trail, Transmitter steps - 26, 27 Mar

Hi all,

Two very enjoyable days of birding produced some interesting species, namely:

- at least 1 Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill
- 4 Collared (White-hooded) Babblers
- 1 or 2 Red-billed Scimitar Babblers
- 1 White-gorgetted Flycatcher
- 1 White-tailed Robin
- 4 or 5 Chestnut Bulbuls
- 2 Spot-necked Babblers
- 2 Plain Flowerpecker
- at least 2 Bay Woodpeckers
- 1 Golden Babbler
(all Water tank trail)

- 2 Collared Scops Owls
- at least 1 Grey Nightjar
(early morning drive-up to Tam Dao town)

- lots of Verditer and Hainan Blue Flycatchers, 2 Hill Blue (or Chinese Blue) Flycatchers, a few Taiga Flycatchers
- 3 Pale-footed Bush Warblers
- 2 Manchurian Bush Warblers
- 1 Thick-billed Warbler
- 1 Siberian Rubythroat
- a flock of Large Woodshrikes
- 1 or 2 Greenish Warblers
- 1 Pale-legged Leaf Warbler
- 1 probable Hume's Leaf Warbler
- a flock of House Martins
(all around the Bear center)

- 1 Collared Owlet
- 1 Blue Whistling Thrush
(the only birds encountered along the Transmitter steps)


25 March 2011

Vĩnh Tuy bridge mudflats - Hanoi

Hi all,

The 24th March, I visited the mudflats located at the foot of Vĩnh Tuy bridge (I have marked the location of this area on this GoogleMap).
Spotted 25-30 Kentish Plovers (many are now attaining fine breeding attire) and 2 Temminck's Stints.

I think this place which offer several hundred of meters of QUIET mudflats, very suitable for waders, is worth checking regularly.


24 March 2011

Tam Dao Bear Center, 24/03/11

Hi all,

Only a few flycatchers here, namely Taiga Flycatcher, Hainan Blue Flycatcher and Asian Brown Flycatchers but a very obvious movement of Phylloscopus warblers. Sulphur-breasted, lots of Arctic, Greenish and Yellow-browed have been seen.

Plus 2 migrating Common Buzzards, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers, Grey-chinned and Scarlet Minivets...


Botanical gardens 24/3/11

A few new migrants in the botanical gardens as well, and some of our wintering friends are still about. This morning there were a few Olive-backed Pipits and Y-brows plus one each of the following:
Grey-backed Thrush (male)
Japanese Thrush (male and female)
Chinese Blackbird (male and female)
Manchurian Bush-warbler
Brown Flycatcher
Taiga Flycatcher
Dark-sided Flycatcher


23 March 2011

Lenin Park 23/03

Hi all,

Seems to have some movements of flycatchers in our dear parks.
2 Verditer, 1 Asian Brown, 1 presumed female Hainan Blue, 1 Taiga today in the Lenine.

Hey Wayne, I think the "flycatcher as blue as the back of a kingfisher" you have spotted last week was the smart guy on this photo. Verditer Fly !


22 March 2011

Tam Dao Bear Center, Raptor migration, babblers, 22/03/11

Hi all,

An exciting morning produced 2 big flocks of raptors (approx. 300 individuals totally) and needletails and hirundines.
- Oriental Honey Buzzard
- Black Baza
- Sparrowhawk sp. (too high)
- possible Grey-faced Buzzards
- 1 Hawk-eagle sp.
- lots of Silver-backed Needletails and Asian House Martins (possibly Nepal as well?)

Also around the center were,
- 4 Buff-breasted Babblers
- 2 Spot-necked Babblers
- 2 Puff-throated Babblers
- 1 Manchurian Bush Warbler


Tam Dao, Raptor migration, 22/03/11

Hi all,

This morning saw a massive number of raptors (about 200-300 totally) and needletails and hirundines migrating through.

Among them were,

- Oriental Honey Buzzard

- Black Baza

- Sparrowhawk sp. (too high up)

- possible Grey-faced Buzzard

- 1 Hawk-eagle sp.

- lots of Silver-backed Needletails

- big flock of Asian House Martins (maybe some Nepal?)

Other birds of note around the Bear Center were Buff-breasted Babbler, Spot-necked Babbler...

21 March 2011

Photo stroll at noon 21/03

Hi all,

A wander around the Red river Island at noon produced some interesting birds. En route to this area, I picked up a flock of 50 Black-crowned Night Herons above the West Lake, apparently seeking a place to roost.
After this, I encountered in the channel 5 Kentish Plovers together.
In the main woodland of the island, nothing special except this smart male Grey Bushchat amazingly showy, probably very proud of its brand new breeding plumage.

For this male Sibechat, the molt is underway.

In the woodland, I met a snake hunter, with 3 snakes in a bag. He showed me one of them, a non-venomous specimen, long at least 1.50m. He told me that there are "rắn hổ mang" (cobras) in this area. I'm not surprised; last year I saw one on the sand, at the northern tip of the island. I don't know much about snakes but I noticed its characteristic dilated neck taking shape as a hood.

So, watch your steps whenever you're walking around and avoid tall grass !

For information, the poor snake of the photo will end its life in the "famous" village of snake of Lệ Mật, just outside the city, disemboweled alive, the still beating heart dropped into a glass of rice wine...


Tam Dao Bear Center, 21/03/2011

Hi all,

Spring - is all I can say! Here some of the more noteworthy birds:

- 2 Spot-necked Babbler
- 1 Puff-throated Babbler
- 1 Harrier sp.
- 5 Japanese Sparrowhawks
- 2 Crested Serpent Eagles

Very promising...


20 March 2011

Confusing flycatchers at Lenin Park

I spent a couple of hours walking around Lenin Park on Saturday morning (March 19). I caught glimpses of several birds with no time to ID or photograph including a flycatcher as blue as the back of a kingfisher and something the size and colour of a scaley thrush, scratching around in the mud, but which flew off quickly, rather like a bat.

Anyway, I did take the following photos of a couple of interesting flycatchers, which has lead to more confusion. The first two images (same bird) look (more) like a Hainan blue and the third image appears to be either a Mugimaki or a female Hainan blue. I have posted on birdforum, but there is no consensus there either (yet). Anyone able to narrow this down more???


18 March 2011

Red river/Hanoi - 18-3-2011

I took advantage of "better" weather for a short walk along the Red River.

All the usual suspects were seen, the more notable birds spotted included 1 Long-billed Plover, 1 Kentish Plover, 3 Temminck's Stints, 20-30 Barn Swallows.

Also at least 3 nesting pairs of Little Ringed Plover (using the "broken wing" feint), 1 chick seen. Watch your steps !

Long-billed Plover. As you can see, the plumage show a significant change (compare with this picture here, taken 2 months ago) : now complete dark breast-band, dark forecrown-band, thin yellowish eyering.

with a Little Ringed Plover

(and don't forget to read the last post of Falk below this one, from today too)

Tam Dao Bear Center, 18-3-2011

Hi all,

A quick stroll around the Bear Center produced amongst others,

- 1 Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler
- 1 Asian Brown Flycatcher
- 1 Black-breasted Thrush

and a mixed flock of Grey-chinned and Scarlet Minivets, Green-billed Malkohas as well as Ashy and Spangled Drongos.


16 March 2011

A week in Hoa Binh (but not much birding)

Finally some time to report back. I spent last week (7 - 11 March) with my G11 Biology students, staying at V-Resort, in Hòa Bình. Several time, I managed to steal an hour away, to go to a Vietnamese Eco-park (yep, complete with the obligatory concrete animals in the forest etc.). This place, (called Cửu Thác- Tú Sơn) is in a small side-valley, about 5km from V-Reort. It still has a reasonable amount of diverse forest up a small stream, with a concrete track going up steeply for about 5km. I never got more than 1km up the river, and am keen to go back. I saw the following:

  • Bulbul – Puff throated

  • Bulbul – red whiskered

  • Flycatcher – Asian paradise (male – woo hoo, what a tail)

  • Flycatcher – Verditer

  • Forktail – Spotted

  • Minla – Blue winged

  • Myna – While vented

  • Redstart – Plumbeous

  • Redstart – White-capped water

  • Shrike – Grey backed

  • Shrike – Long tailed

  • Wagtail – Grey

  • Yuhina – Whiskered


12 March 2011

Red River Island, 12/03

Hi all,

This morning proved to be quite successful with a good variety of interesting species - spring has obviously arrived.
Most notable birds were:

- 5-10 Little Buntings
- at least 3 Black-faced Buntings
- around 30 Grey-capped Greenfinches
- 5-10 Citrine Wagtails
- many Red-throated and Olive-backed Pipits
- couple of Bluethroats
- around 5 Stonechats
- 2 Scaly Thrushes
- ca. 5 Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher
- 1 female Grey Bushchat
- 1 Thick-billed Warbler
- 1 Yellow-legged Buttonquail
- a flock of around 25 Oriental Turtle Doves
- a few Red Collared Doves
- 1 Common Buzzard
- Common Kestrel, Black-shouldered Kite and Pied Harrier (both male and female)
- Wood and Common Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plovers
- Little Grebe

Plus one mysterious songster in the little woodland which could have been a White-bellied Redstart (or a good mimicker)!

Simon and Falk

I (Sebastien) add some pics taken the same day, same place, but during the afternoon...
Little Buntings

Male Citrine Wagtail in transition to breeding plumage. The black nuchal band appear, the greyish crown disappear

Citrine Wagtail and Red-throated Pipit

I also spotted this female Eastern Marsh Harrier and a second male Pied Harrier with one leg hanging down and some broken primaries...

10 March 2011

Quang Binh Province

4-5/03/11 Simon Mahood

Edwards's and Vietnamese Pheasants are probably the same species, just with a different number of white feathers in the tail (none in the former, more than none in the latter). Nonetheless, they are very rare, and have been very rarely seen. Part of the reason for this is that it is very hard to find their preferred habitat - broadleaved evergreen forest below 300 meters elevation, the lower the better, and forest on Karst, such as Phong Nha Ke Bang is no good.

So I took a look at Googleearth and found this place:

If you pull it up on your Googlearth and run the cursor over the forest alongside roads marked in red you will find that there is plenty of it below 200 m elevation! So I headed off here, using the overnight train to Dong Hoi and a motorbike which I rented daily from a hotel in that town. The yellow road is the Ho Chi Minh Highway, whilst the road connecting it to Dong Hoi to the east as an un-named road.

To get to the best bits of forest (those along the roads marked in red in the picture above) you need to first find your way out of Dong Hoi to Highway 1, then you turn off to the west (left if you are driving north like I was when I took this photo) at this junction depicted on the signpost and just visible on the left in the gap between the green trees:

Follow the concrete road without turning off until you get to this junction, where you turn left:

Then keep following this road out of the villages and through the rubber plantations until you get to a guard station and a barrier over the road that marks the start of Truong Son State Forest Enterprise. Wave in a cheery way and shout "Hello" in a jolly voice at the guys at the guard station and show them on your map that you just want to head inland to go for a drive along the legendary Ho Chi Minh Highway and they'll let you on your way (this process has to be repeated at a number of other guard stations further along the road). Ignore the immediate right turn after the barrier and carry on along the un-named tarmac road. This map shows the junctions in more detail:
From here on the forest just gets better and better along the un-named road, which ranges in altitude from 60-170 m elevation. I guess the hills either side of the road go a few hundred meters higher than this, but there is still plenty of habitat for one of those pheasants. This is not forest on karst - it's proper pheasant habitat! By the side of the road are kilometer markers that have been painted over, but you can still faintly make out the distances to the Ho Chi Minh Highway, which I will refer to. In total there is nearly 20 kilometers of good forest alongside this road, and many trails leading off into it. There is a particularly good trail to the left at km13, and another on the right between km 11 and 12, as well as another good one closer to km 12. But any trails which you find are worth exploring. These photos show the forest along some of the trails:

Once you meet the Ho Chi Minh Highway turn right and you will soon get to some logging tracks heading off the road to the right where logging is ongoing, again these are worth exploring. To the left across the river is new track running into the forest which looks promising which I didn't have time to explore. Continuing north the road gains elevation and by the time you have covered 20 kilometers the adjacent forest is about 600 m elevation.

Going south instead of north again leads you through low elevation forest past a few trails which lead into the forest, which I didn't have time to try. Again the road soon gains in elevation and the forest becomes patchier. Approximately 40 kilometers south of the junction there is some karst next to the road which should hold Sooty Babbler.

The two roads and the trails that lead off them were great birding, particularly those that lead of the un-numbered road leading to the Ho Chi Minh Highway. Most of my good sightings were made on the second day. As well as the following notable species I recorded good numbers of raptors and crows - indicators of low hunting pressure:
Annam Partridge - heard all over the place and 2 seen
Red-collared Woodpecker - 1 seen
Austen's Brown Hornbill - heard all the time, everywhere and seen often. The highlight was a flock of at least 40!
Grey and Ratchet-tailed Treepies - common
Blue-rumped Pitta - 1 heard
Grey-faced Tit-babbler - common
Short-tailed Scimitar-babbler - 2 heard in higher elevation areas (c.600 m elevation)
Pig-tailed Macaque - one troop heard and moving trees seen
Wild Pig - one herd heard,and then smelled!
Red-shanked Douc - a troop of at least 8 seen well, although they are invisible, they really are in the scene in this picture:
There was also lots of suitable habitat for Blyth's Kingfisher, which I have previously seen in similar habitat elsewhere in central Vietnam. Sitting by a river for an hour or so would have done the job.

It rained all the time, if it had not then I'm sure I would have seen Southern White-cheeked Crested Gibbon from the road and heard Crested Argus.

As you can tell I dipped the pheasants, but this was not a surprise. My figures for Silver Pheasant at sites where it definitely occurs in Vietnam are as follows:
0 sightings in 7 days at Cuc Phuong NP
2 sightings of 3 birds in 6 days at Tam Dao NP
1 sighting of 4+ birds in 10 days in Bi Doup Nui Ba NP
0 sightings in 3 days in Bach Ma NP

So even if Edwards's/Vietnamese Pheasant does occur at this site (which I think it still does) then I could not really have hoped to see it in two days.

I don't think that this pheasant has been trapped out of the site - numbers of other regularly hunted species were higher than any other site I have visited in Vietnam (except Cat Tien NP), and Lophura are very difficult to trap out anyway - as evidenced by their continued presence in heavily hunted sites such as Cuc Phuong and Tam Dao. I think I just didn't give it enough time.

I asked a couple of local guys who were wandering out of the forest to point to the pheasants in the Robson guide which they were familiar with, both pointed to Crested Argus, Red Junglefowl and the expected race of Silver Pheasant, but despite my best efforts neither could be convinced that the blue one with a white crest could be found in the area. What I really needed to do was to ask them to describe each of the different types of pheasants in the area and put a name to them without showing them the pictures, but my Vietnamese skills are not good enough to do this. Also two is a very low sample size. I still find it hard to believe that Edwards's/Vietnamese Pheasant is not at that site!

This site is worthy of greater attention from birders, not least because some of those tough central Annamite endemics can be seen with ease, but also because there is always the chance you'll come across that mythical pheasant. However, you would need to see a male to be certain that you're not seeing Silver Pheasant, or worse still, "Imperial Pheasant" - the untickable hybrid.

Another place worth visiting not far from this site is along the Ho Chi Minh Highway in Quang Chi border about 150 kilometers south of the junction of the un-named road and the Ho Chi Minh Highway. Here the road reaches 1,100 m elevation. I think that this is the spot where I heard Rufous-cheeked Laughingthrush in 2008, and they appeared to be fairly common - but do bring a tape if you want to see them!

Rufous-cheeked Laughingthrush spot (the red circle, probably):

Tam Dao Bear Center, 10-3-2011

Hi all,

Right now it's hard to compete with our beloved Red River island but at least 2 Pale-footed Bush Warblers and 1 Besra showed very well...


8 March 2011

Red River island - Hanoi 8/03

Today, at noon, short visit at the same patch than last Sunday.
Spotted some new guests :

- 2 Little Buntings perched on dried corn plants
- 1 bulky Peregrine Falcon flying at low altitude and disappearing behind the “forest”
A flock of 15 Red-throated Pipits too. Possible Richard’s Pipit (harsh “tchriiipp” flight call, more strident than Paddyfield) ; but I have 0 experience of this species, need to send an expert to confirm !

The male Pied Harrier exploit a lot this patch, especially the dried corn field. I saw it resting on a ploughed parcel. Perched on a tall bush too. Difficult cohabitation with the local pair of Black-shouldered Kites which don’t tolerate the intrusion.
Really a wonderful bird, and good opportunities of nice photos.

Crap pic of the Buntings, taken from a long distance. Please don't zoom in ;-)


6 March 2011

A Raptor Day - Hanoi

Today (6th March) I went to the Red River island, more precisely the cultivation and scrub between the "forest" and the main trail, a small area of around 2-3 hectares. I just sat and waited the actors enter the scene.

Highlights : 1 Black-faced Bunting male, a flock of 15 Grey-capped Greenfinches, 2 Pied Harriers (1 male, 1 juvenile), 1 Eastern Marsh Harrier male, 1 Siberian Rubythroat male, 2 Bluethroats, 2 Chinese Blackbirds.
Grey-capped Greenfinch
This bird is fairly common along the coast, but seems to be also not scarce inland, at least in East Tonkin. Indeed, it’s my second sighting of this species this winter far from the coast, the first one near Dông Mô lake, 50km west of Hanoi (26th December).

In this flock, there were also some juveniles begging for food and still being fed by parents. So they were born in the middle of the winter ?!

A stunning Pied Harrier male
As I was trying to hide myself behind a ridiculous bush to photograph the Bunting, I suddenly realized that a big guy was flying towards me. It tried to catch something in a cornfield and flew over me, very close, not scared.

Pied Harrier immature

Eastern Marsh Harrier male
Black-shouldered Kite
I added this crap pic below because it shows well a form of display I have observed sometimes : the bird raises and lowers the tail (around 1 time per second), with a soft call (“piu.. piuu”), when the partner is around.

This guy belong to the pair of the northern tip of the island. The small wooded area where they tried to nest last year has been cut down...


Sébastien Delonglée

5 March 2011

Tam Dao Bear Center, 05/03/11

Hi all,

I hope it's not getting boring for everyone but here some more news from the misty mountains...

Good birds today included:

- 1 Manchurian Bush Warbler (you just have to keep talking about it...)
- a flock of at least 40 minivets, the majority being Scarlet M. but also distant and short views of possible Grey-chinned and Long-tailed Minivets
- 5 Long-tailed Shrikes chasing each other around
- 1 probable Greenish Warbler

plus a few Blue Whistling Thrushes, Streaked Spiderhunters, Striated Yuhinas and the odd Common Kingfisher.


2 March 2011

Tam Dao Bear Center, 2/3/2011

Hi all,

Following birds of note were seen around the Vietnamese Bear Rescue Center today:

- 1 Pale-footed Bush Warbler
- 2 male Verditer Flycatcher
- 1 White-browed Piculet
- only 1 female Grey Bushchat left
- 2 Blue Whistling Thrushes

Generally, a lot more bird activity here right now.


1 March 2011

Tam Dao Bear Center, NP HQ

Hi all,

Last night around 6.30pm quite a bit of owl activity around the bear center with 1 Brown Hawk Owl seen well and some Collared Scops Owls and Asian Barred Owlets calling. Also of note was a pair of Bar-backed Partridges performing a duett.

Today (01/03/11) good bird movements with flocks of Black Bulbuls (white-headed ssp.), many more Yellow-browed Warblers. Crested Serpent Eagles start displaying as well. Red Junglefowl calling from almost everywhere.