Welcome to Vietnam Bird News

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

28 February 2012

Just lovely and photogenic

The male Bluethroat is quite striking with its blue and red throat and its flashing rufous tail-base. However it is quite secretive and hard to see as it skulks through thick vegetation. But sometimes it is also forage in open fields.

When I saw this fellow (at the Red River Island), I squatted down and came slowly forward it. I waited and let it comfortable with my presence. And progressively, it approached me, step by step, and gave me some very nice poses. It was just curious to see what this big thing in the middle of the field was.

"Hey birders, look at my nice throat" (this guy must known it would be in the blog the day after).

The king of the field at the top of its clod of earth.

Just a strikingly beautiful bird.


27 February 2012

Pied or Hen Harrier? 27-2-2012

Hi all,

Yesterday Wayne and I saw a female harrier (1st cy, I guess) on Red River Island.
First impression, female Pied. But then we noticed that the bird appeared to be a bit stronger, broader/shorter-winged. The markings under its wings seem to be right for Hen Harrier which is an extremely rare bird in the region.
Any comments very welcome...
There was a birding group there as well, and I thought I'd spotted Hung, so maybe some further comments from them (if they've seen this bird, and didn't only watch the male Pied!).

Other than that, 1 Pintail Snipe, loads of Red-throated Pipits, a few Citrine and Yellow Wagtails plus the resident Black-shouldered Kite.


Hi All!

We all think that is the female of Pied Harrier. I was there with some very skeen birders of birdquest's group. I am in Misty Tam Dao now, having a good view of Blue-naped Pitta along the water tank trail. No Laughingthrush and Parrotbill.


Hung Le

23 February 2012

Pied Harrier Show - Hanoi

Look at those panther eyes !

Pied is beautiful !


20 February 2012

Weekend birding around Hanoi

I managed to spend an hour on the Botanical Gardens on Saturday. The only bird of note I saw was one female Fujian Niltava. I could not find our Crested Goshawk. The birds on the pigeon island were not all clustered together in defensive formation as they were last weekend, when I was there. On the other hand, there were several workmen on the island cleaning it, so that may have had an effect, to keep the raptor away.

On Sunday I opted to walk up the Red river. As I photographed a nice butterfly (sorry), a lovely male Bluethroat landed about 5m from me. The act of slowly rolling around with my camera spooked it. I saw some of the most yellow Citrine wagtails I have seen and a few Red throated pipits, along with all the birds you usually see here. One highlight was a Snipe that I spooked. I have no idea what species. As it flew away the back half of the wings near the body appeared a clay-yellow colour, if that helps with ID...

At a friends house just next to West Lake, just prior to this, I saw the Warbler in the images below (in the hedge right next to a window, so I should have had better shots than this. LOL). I thought it didn't look right for a yellow-browed warbler, so posted the images and a Hume's Leaf Warbler was suggested. Can anyone confirm, as this would be a new species for me.

Wayne Hodgkinson

19 February 2012

All Things Common

Male Grey-capped Greenfinch.

The Red river Island was fairly quite last week. But when you have a camera in the hands, there is always something interesting to do. This is a serie of shots I did during 3-4 noon visits.

A smart Grey Bushchat

Still plenty of Siberian Stonechats. One of the most common winter birds here.

Many Red-throated Pipits in the fields now. The other Pipits I saw were Paddyfield and Olive-backed (the last one around/in banana plantations).

A stunning Siberian Rubythroat which stubbornly refused to turn just a little bit to show its brilliant red throat. Get a decent shot of this little fellow is always a challenge.

Probably the "highlight" of the week : 2 Pallas's Leaf Warblers, in a hedge. My third observation of this species in Hanoi.

Much more common : some Dusky Warblers...

... and many Yellow-browed Warblers.

Raptors were quite numerous in the area with many sightings of Pied Harriers (at least 1 male, 2 imm, sometimes 2 birds hunting together), Eastern Marsh Harriers (at least 2 males, pic above), 2 resident Black-shouldered Kites.

A cracking male Pied Harrier; probably one of the best raptor in the world.

Imm. Pied Harrier (body and underwing brown, secondaries rather dark). Surprisingly, this individual show very pale primaries. The one below (with a prey, you can see its tail) is more plain chestnut-brown below and show black-tipped/more barred primaries.
I think both are 1st winter birds (the second one I'm sure 100%).

I bumped also into a medium-sized bat trapped in a mist net set up along a bamboo hedge. It takes me 15 minutes to free it - without a knife it would have been impossible.

I tried to ID it. There are ca 100 species of bats in Vietnam, and this one probably belong to a common species.
The family was easy to find : Pteropodidae = fruit bats or flying foxes.

After, things become more difficult. I found in the web a list of mammals of Vietnam. In the Pteropodidae, there's only a dozen of species. I found pictures of all of them, and my conclusion is that's probably a Lesser or Greater Short-nosed Fruit Bat / Cynopterus sp - dog-faced fruit bats.

Those common frugivorous bats occur in differents habitats including disturbed/open forests, mangroves, gardens, cultivation... They roost in small groups in trees, under leaves, and in caves.

Rotation 180° - to protect your neck !

In this net there were also some warblers, 1 Brown Shrike, 3-4 White-throated Fantails, all dead. All birds that fly into those invisible nets are destined to die a slow lingering death...

And a dragonfly to end this post : Pantala flavescens (Globe Skimmer or Wandering Glider). There are very few dragonflies to spot in winter around Hanoi, and 90% belong to this strong species, the highest-flying dragonfly - recorded at 6,200 m in the Hymalayas.

Sebastien Delonglee

Daurian Redstart

A stroll at the sand bank and the wooded area near the Thang Luong bridge this morning did not brought a great number of birds but some interesting species. On the sandbank a resting Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), no other birds. The beach was occupied with some 50 cars from the 4x drive club so we decided to visit the open wooded area and the banana plantation nearby. Here we flushed an Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) in the banana-tree plantation. In the open wooded area a group Olive-backed Pipits (Anthus hodgsoni), two Taiga Flycatchers (Ficedula albicilla), and a male and female Daurian Redstart (Phoenicurus auroreus), o.a. were identified.

Jan de Groot and Brieke Steenhof

15 February 2012

Online press review

The story of the vulture captured in Son La - information found on the web - gave me an idea: to write a short Vietnamese press review of articles relating to birds published online.
I really enjoy reading Vietnamese newspapers, especially articles about wildlife - despite the fact most of them are quite depressing!

Almost all the articles selected here are written in Vietnamese; if you cannot read this language, try to use Google Translation. It may not help you get 100% the meaning - even 70%... -, but you still can understand some sentences… and watch the pictures.

The Vietnamese press articles relating to wild birds can be classified into several themes:

1) Discovery of "strange birds" (sometimes "giant birds”!) :
I found many articles with this kind of appetizing title, and some of the species concerned are rareties in Vietnam. For example a Malayan Night-Heron (clic on this link to read the article) captured and kept as pet in Nghe An province, a Lesser Adjutant trapped in Ha Tinh province and, finally, released, a Darter in Hâu Giang province and, of course, the Himalayan Griffon in Son La (which has been transferred to Soc Son centre and appears to be OK).

However, the usual story of "strange birds" concern chicks of Barn Owls. Almost every year, I bump into articles concerning “monkey face birds” or even “giant bird” (!) discovered by local people, accompanied by many suppositions about the name of the species: eagle (lol), kite… All the villagers and many journalists come to see the beasts. The stories always end badly: chicks are taken away from the nest and fed as pets (link 1/nest in a house ; or link 2/nest in a pigeon box above a pond).

Sometimes, but rarely, some articles are interesting for birders. This is the case of 2 articles about “flocks of strange birds” appeared in March/April 2011 in aquaculture ponds of Ninh Thuân province (link 1 and link 2. I found an English version- link 3).
Those birds turned out to be Red-necked Phalaropes. It is written “thousands” of individuals, during weeks! It is said that the first flocks appeared in March, and their number did not cease to increase, to such an extent that the ponds owners became worry about the impact of this “invasion” on their shrimps. They tried - unsuccessfully - to chase the birds. And some of them finally used guns and mist nets... It is also said that some specimens were sent for identification to the Institute for Tropical Biology of Hô Chi Minh-City! Send a post here would have been quicker!

At least 70 individuals in this photo !

2) The sale of wild birds along streets:

In general, Vietnamese newspapers take a increasingly critical look at this practice. I found some articles about wild birds sold in Hanoi (near the Botanical Garden here , + link 2 (Short-eared Owl, Pied Harrier.../March 2011) or in Hô Chi Minh-City (link 3, link 4).
Short-eared Owl, center of Hanoi.

Photo in Tuoi Tre; here. This kind of cruelty has to be stopped...

3) The overharvesting of birds in rural areas:
The overexploitation of avifauna in the countryside, an acute problem in Vietnam, have also been criticized in many articles, with such titles as “The season of bird massacre” or “Migratory birds call for help”. Birds are harvested for local consumption or trade (link 1, english version here)
A large range of species are concerned, such as partridges and pheasants, waterbirds such as herons, egrets and crakes, pigeons and doves, medium and large-sized raptors, all medium-sized passerines such as thrushes, bulbuls, laughingthrushes, starlings, mynas…

Photo in Nguoi Lao Dông; article "The extermination of wild birds"; here)

Two White-bellied Sea Eagle chicks captured by a fisherman at Phu Quôc, ready to be sold (Photo in Lao Dông, here)

The hunting activity in Vietnam is a real problem : no limit, no control and no rule. But many species are far more threatened by habitat loss than by overharvesting.

4) “Phong sinh” ceremonial:

In Vietnam, live birds are also purchased for ceremonial release (called “Phong sinh” in Vietnamese) by Buddhists who believe that such compassion will garner them good fortune. The most concerned are lowland flock-forming species including munias, weavers, sparrows, finches and swallows. Captured in rural areas and transported to cities, surviving birds are often in poor shape when they released. Many of them - 50-60% according to some estimates - died. A good number of articles denounce this practice (link 1 or link 2).

Apparently with no success… Around Hanoi, munia traps have never been so numerous. I practice my own “phong sinh” ceremonial each time I bump into this kind of stuff. Good for my karma!
Sale of "phong sinh" birds in front of a pagoda

This one, exhausted, will be crushed or - if it is "lucky" - catch again by the sellers for a new release ceremonial

Rao vặt :
Another thing you can find on the web relating to birds is small advertisements (rao vặt). I was astonished by the species you can buy or sell, especially raptors (maybe because it is more difficult now to sell them in the streets). Examples: a guy who sell a Crested Serpent-Eagle, another one Black-shouldered Kite or Hawk Eagle, even Pitta or Malayan Night-Heron...

Well... that's enough for today.

Sébastien Delonglée

13 February 2012

Update Tam Dao, 13-2-2012

Hi all,

Not much around bird-wise (miserable weather) - a displaying pair of Crested Serpent Eagles, 1 Radde's Warbler, still plenty of Pale-footed Bush Warblers, the odd bird wave and very nice views of Collared Scops Owl being the exception.

On the other hand, mammals are putting in an appearance with very regular sightings of Small Asian Mongooses around the bear centre.
Even better 1 Red Muntjak was heard on Saturday - unbelievable they are not completely wiped out!


12 February 2012

Cuu Thac - Tu Son

I had to head out to Hoa Binh to donate some whiskey / cigarettes to the police and get their written permission for our school field-trip to go ahead next month, and managed to have lunch at Tu Son. Again foggy with low light (photographers nightmare), and not much time to bird anyway, but still a few interesting birds around.
  • Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike (10+)
  • Plumbeous Redstart (1)
  • Red-billed Blue Magpie (8+)
  • White-capped Water Redstart (1)

Wayne Hodgkinson, John Haug & Phan Thuy Van

9 February 2012

Hanoi Botanical Gardens - 09/02/2012

Hm...hm I think that my Besra was in fact a Crested Goshawk immature. Look at this slight crest. I am a bit surprised, I didn't found this guy particularly large.
Not easy at all those Accipiters...

The raptor attacking sparrows on the ground