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25 October 2011

Red River Island - 24/25-10-2011

Hi all,

Last Monday and Tuesday morning, before work, I focused on the channel between the Red River Island and the town.

The local “ferry boat” use by local people to reach the Red River Island. The other convenient entrance is the Long Bien Bridge.

This channel present important seasonal water level fluctuations, accentuated by the hydroelectric activities upstream (the Son La dam). It is definitely a good spot for Citrine Wagtail migrants/vagrants, both in autumn and spring, and even in the middle of the winter (January 2011 for example).
Actually, the water level is low, and the exposed muddy banks are attracting waders and wagtails. In 2 or 3 months, this place will be completely dry, only suitable for Paddyfield Pipits or Little Ringed Plovers.

Citrine Wagtail adult

So, Monday and Tuesday morning I bumped into some Citrine Wagtails, three of which were 1st winter birds.
A good occasion for a beginner like me to examine closely the differences with the (Eastern) Yellow Wagtail juvenile (can be useful when back to Europe !).

In fact, I think those birds are quite easily separable in the field:
Juv. Citrine Wagtails diagnostic features:

- Upperparts pure grey (Yellow : duller grey wash greenish/olive)
- Striking double white wing-bar
- Broad white supercilium continuing down and surrounding the ear-coverts
- Pale forehead
- White undertail-coverts
- Jizz ! Citrine bulkier, with a rounded head; Yellow much slender.

For comparison, I added 2 pics of Yellow W. (taxa macronyx probably if I refer to the adults I saw around) shot last year, at the same place.

This young Citrine W. (on the right, adult on the left) shows no pale border behind the ear-coverts, but all the other diagnostic features are OK.

I also saw a Pied Kingfishers party, 3 males and 1 female (regurgitating pellet). Nice to see again those little buggers !

… and 4 Temminck’s Stints which allowed me to approach very close, thanks guys !

But maybe the best surprise were 2 Ruddy-breasted Crakes, an adult and a juvenile.

A patch tick I think.

I stayed lying 45 minutes in the muddy sand (or sandy mud...) to get those photos, and I arrived at my office in a very nha quê style :)

Below, the juvenile. The 2 birds were together, but this one was more secretive

Happy birding !

(Joe, the local buffalo, a very nice guy)



  1. Again and again - really nice shots by Sebastien!

    Let me add the considerably longer tail as a feature for Citrine Wagtail.

    Ruddy-breasted Crake would be another tick for my country list, jesus!

    Let's hope the Long-billed Plovers return this year...


  2. Hi Falk,

    Do you think the Ruddy-breasted Crakes could be resident birds ? Secretive guys, easy to overlook.


  3. Very hard to tell, but quite typical for crakes/rails to become less secretive on migration..
    Obviously, I can't prove anything but I would guess they're migrants.