Welcome to Vietnam Bird News

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

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.

Tam Dao, NP HQ

Hi all,

This weekend it was 'time to flock'.

Not only was there a flock of about 30 Striated Yuhinas hopping around in the trees near the National Park head quarters but also a group of ca. 15 Red Junglefowls scratching their way through the leaf litter. A group of the resident Red-billed Blue Magpies gave brilliant views.

Much better was a flock of about 30 laughingthrushes - both Greater and Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrushes were observed very close to the main road that leads up to Tam Dao town!

There were also the more expected large flocks of visitors...


An owly day / 19-11-2011

Hi all,

Last weekend, I explored a new patch (look here) along the Red River, located approximately 20km upstream of Hanoi. A wonderful area, hundreds of hectares of grasslands, reeds, sandbars, mudflats, ponds… with no hunters, no 4x4…. I didn’t see much birds at this time (it was at noon) but I promised myself to come back. It is just the kind of place where you feel there is something great to find…

So yesterday I came back there. First, I was very happy to spot 2 Pied Avocets. I haven’t seen one for a fairly long time. It was the only good wader I found there. Four Pied Harriers were hanging around. I observed also 10 Black Kites resting on the sand and sun bathing with open wings, some Black-shouldered Kites…

The place where I flushed 3+1 Short-eared Owls.

The first three ones were near the clump of grass located exactly in the centre of the image

As I was walking between the soft sand and the grassy terrace, I bumped into 3 Short-eared Owls that were roosting at the feet of a clump of grass. I flushed them at very close distance (10m). I managed to get some shots, but all - except one - are blurry !

Very excited, I decided to check the nearby thick grass terrace. After 200-300m walking through high blade grass, I flushed 2 other owls at a very very short distance (3m!), in a patch with sparse bushes.
They flew up from a bush in which I found, on the ground, a nest with 7 eggs! The birds flew a short distance ahead (ca 50) and put down again in the thick vegetation. I noticed that the face was very like Barn Owl. I phoned immediately to Falk, who was busy with his bears. “ Does the Barn Owl nests sometimes on the ground ?”, I asked stupidly. ”No, but the Grass Owl does”; he answered. Grass Owl ? I must confess that it was the first time I heard about this species.

100 meters from the nest, in this small area without vegetation, I found many pellets

Let’s hope this disturbance will not have bad consequences on the success of this pair. In one month, I will check the nest… if I can find it again, it’s not guaranteed at all !

One hour after, I went back to the area where I saw the 3 Short-eared Owls to take a photo of the habitat. I flushed again an individual, of course not at the same clump of grass but not far away.

Sébastien Delonglée

18 November 2011

Vinh Tuy Bridge/Hanoi 18-11-2011

Short end afternoon stroll along the mudflats and sandbars at the north of Vinh Tuy Bridge. Always many Kentish Plovers (100-150) and Temminck's Stints (30-40+) scattered over all the area, so difficult to count, + some skittish Common Greenshanks.
The highlight was 3 Great Knots (!) and at least 15 Citrine Wagtails along only 100 meters of mudflats. Never seen so many Citrine W. together in my life ! I spotted also 2 black-legged small Calidris foraging with the Temminck's S.; I am almost certain it was Red-necked Stints.
Probably not so many Great Knots have been observed venturing inland in Vietnam. What do you think ?

Recently, a bulldozer opened a track to access the sandbars and extract sand. Yesterday, dozens of 4x4 invaded the area. If I had a bazooka...


16 November 2011

6 Mergansers at Hanoi ! 16-11-2011

Hi all,

Another BIG surprise at the foot of Vinh Tuy Bridge, late in the day : 6 Scaly-sided Mergansers paddled in the shallow water, between sandbars!
They were not there when I arrived at around 16 pm so they probably landed as I was scanning the groups of waders.
I managed to get some shots. Because of the distance and the poor light, scaling on flanks is not visible on the pics; but I spotted clearly this feature with the scope.
Not the best photos in the world but enough I think to confirm the ID and validate this record.

When I leave the place at dusk, they were roosting on the sand.
This beautiful duck is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List. More informations here.


Sébastien Delonglée

13 November 2011

Nordmann's Greenshank at Can Gio 12 & 13 Nov 2011

It's been a good weekend for Nordmann's Greenshank down at Can Gio. Jonathan Eames found five birds among a flock of c.400 Great Knot at a high tide roost at a location we hadn't visited before on Saturday afternoon. Then on Sunday afternoon I had wonderful scope views from a distance of around 25 metres of six birds settling down to roost at the same location. I was able to observe them for an hour or so before I had to head back to Saigon. The 400 Great Knot where still around along with c.50 Bar-tailed Godwit, a dozen Eurasian Curlew and small numbers of Common Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, etc. There were the usual zillions of Lesser Sand-plovers on the drier pans along with Greater Sand-plovers and White-faced Plovers. All photos by Jonathan C. Eames.


Richard Craik

Beach Falcons - Hanoi / 13-11-2011

Some news of the Hanoi's Peregrine Falcons. Well, now, there are 3 guys frequenting the sandbars around Vinh Tuy Brigde : 2 adults and an immature. They help me a lot in my morning's waders counting by concentrating all the birds, scattered over several hectares, in 1 or 2 flocks. Exactly like sheepdogs ! The nervous guy on the pic above, obviously smaller so probably a male, harassing both the other adult and the immature.
Not yet spotted hunting scenes there.

The immature in flight
Two days ago, I counted 80-90 Kentish Plovers and 30 Temminck's Stints.
The immature on the sand, near the Red River.
Beach and sun... Wintering at Hanoi, the dream !

Tam Dao NP, Water tank trail, 13-11-2011

Hi all,

An early morning visit to Tam Dao produced some nice species - even though a few hunters, campers and annoying Park "rangers" tried to get between us and the birds. In the end we succeeded!

Here the more notable species (amongst not many others),
- 1 or 2 Collared Owlets calling
- 1 juv. Grey-backed Shrike that was welcoming us at the Ranger station
- 1 bird looked suspiciously like a female Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush but views were too poor and short
- 1 female Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher- at least 1 White-crowned Forktail was heard
- quite a few Chestnut Bulbuls, also a few Black Bublbuls
- Mountain Tailorbird
- Sulphur-breasted Warbler
- a few flocks of laughingthrushes, probably Grey as well
- 2 Streaked Wren Babblers
- Red-billed Scimitar Babbler, heard only
- a fine pair of White-browed Shrike Babblers
- Black-chinned and Striated Yuhinas
- 1 or 2 Olive-backed Pipits
- 1 Fire-breasted Flowerpecker
- 1 female Fork-tailed Sunbird
- 1 Streaked Spiderhunter

We were really lucky with the weather as it started getting very foggy, just as we were heading back to Hanoi.
Even though my companions didn't seem to really believe me, but this was a good, above-average birding trip to Tam Dao!

Falk Wicker, Frank Momberg, John Parr

12 November 2011

Red River Island, 12-11-2011

Hi all,

Quite a few birds were seen today - the northern parts and the woodland was checked, unfortunately no sign of L-b Plover or C-e Bunting.
Most notable records were,

- 3 or 4 Pied Kingfishers
- 2 White-breasted Waterhens
- a couple of Temminck's Stints, Green, Common and Wood Sandpipers
- 1 Common Buzzard
- 1 female Siberian Thrush
- 2 very showy male Siberian Rubythroats
- 1 Bluethroat
- a couple of Siberian Stonechats
- 1 Striated Grassbird
- 1 (very unexpected and of unknown origin) Hill Prinia
- a few unidentified bush warblers but 1 probable Baikal Bush Warbler and 1 possible Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler
- the commoner Phylloscs but one possible Hume's Warbler
- 2 Hwameis
- 1 Richard's Pipit amongst some Paddyfield Pipits
- 1 macronyx Yellow Wagtail
- 2 Citrine Wagtails

Also, a couple of bird trappers near the ferry. The old guy who runs the ferry in summer time demanded money for crossing the little dam. Is that a new thing, as I've never been asked to pay there. I didn't pay this time but I surely don't want to piss off people there.

Falk Wicker, Frank Momberg

11 November 2011

Tam Dao, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, 11-11-2011

Hi all,

Very outstanding record - 2 Blue-bearded Bee-eaters were first heard and then seen along the stream that flows into Ho Son. Possibly a first for Tam Dao!

As the days (and nights!) are getting much cooler here in Tam Dao, a bit of altitudinal migration seems to start.

This morning a Grey Treepie was seen, in a mixed flock of Scarlet Minivets, Ashy Drongos and a few Phylloscs. Later on 2 more treepies were heard but not confidently identified.

Slaty-backed Forktail now inhabits the lower stretches of the small stream near NP head quarters (again, the one that ends up in Ho Son).

A lone Forest Wagtail was a late migrant. One Large Hawk-cuckoo showed up as well.

Bar-backed Partridge and the smaller owls calling actively.


8 November 2011

Weekend birding trip to Xuan Thuy National Park 05 - 06/11/11

Scanning the shore at Con Luu island

A weekend jaunt to Xuan Thuy National Park produced several notable records including a lone Amur Falcon, a Northern Lapwing (only saw by Falk Eagle-Eye) and a group of 7 Black-Faced Spoonbills.

View of the shrimps ponds

The weather for the first afternoon (5th November) was hot and dry with little cloud cover. The following morning’s birding was done in more overcast conditions, though it was still warm and the sun came out later on in the morning.

Amur Falcon spotted at 6 am along the dyke. A lifer for all of us, except Falk

The first day’s birding focused on areas of mangrove, separated by bunds supporting mixed grasses and scrub. The second day was done along the mudflats and in the stands of Casuarina on Con Luu island.
Other species recorded included the usual menagerie of waders, ducks and two gull species (Black-Headed and Heuglin’s). Combing through the Casuarina pine stands produced Grey Nightjar and several forest species including Large Hawk Cuckoo and Chinese Blackbird. Various small flycatchers and/or warblers were seen flitting in and out of the Casuarina but the dense stands prevented any good views.
Black-faced Spoonbills, one of the most wanted birds at Xuan Thuy

Several raptors were seen during the trip including Eastern Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Japanese Sparrowhawk and Peregrine Falcon.

A group of Black-tailed Godwits
At the end of the trip, we bumped into this leucistic Black-tailed Godwit
Our guide for the weekend, Truong, had also recorded two Oriental Scops Owl and an Orange-Headed Thrush two weeks ago.
From left to right : Truong (NP staff), Daniel, Falk, Matt

A Large Hawk Cuckoo flushed in a Casuarina stand at Con Luu island

Group of adults Heuglin’s Gulls

All in all a worthwhile trip with some good records though the wader numbers seemed to be low and there were no diving ducks. Thankfully, Xuan Thuy is sufficiently isolated and so there are no screaming hordes of Vietnamese students to contend with, only fishermen and their dogs. Though the latter are probably more threatening to the future of this National Park.
Adult Heuglin’s Gull

1st winter Heuglin’s Gull (for large gulls ID, good link here)

Intertidal mudflats and mangroves at Con Luu island

Wood hut of local fishermen. Fishing and shellfish harvesting
within the park boundaries are not prohibited...

"Chim này la chim gì ? To quá nhỉ ? Chắc là ăn nó rất ngon"

A huge thank you to Tien for organizing this trip and to Truong for being a very good guide and showing the group some good birding spots.
Participants : Falk Wicker, Sebastien Delonglée (photos), Matt and me, Daniel Willcox