Welcome to Vietnam Bird News

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

29 May 2012

Weekend in Tuyen Quang

I finally got to Tuyen Quang, and in between the rain got out and about a bit.  On Friday just as it was getting dark, our bus slid off the road, so we had to walk the last km or so to our accommodation.  I saw 6 small dark-coloured raptors (pointy wings and narrow tails), which I take to be some type of Falcon (with no certainty) circling a tree slowly.  I though they could be the tail-end of the migration looking for a roost for the night, then two broke off and flew away.  Interesting.

Saturday morning stroll early around the irrigation dam showed many cinnamon bitterns and two female Watercock (separate from each other) and one bizarre pale-grey bird.  Its body feathers were fluffed up and it had a black bib and no feathers on its head.  The bib suggested no to what it was thinking, and now I think it was a rather sick white alboides wagtail.  I then walked up into the Acacia forest, as I could hear a few calls from in there.  After fleeting views of a couple of babbler species, I came across two Eyebrowed Thrushes.  A nice way to end the day.

Sunday morning and the irrigation dam was close to birdless.  I worked up through the Acacia to the top ridge and saw nothing.  I heard a three bar call and imitated it.  In no time I was being circled by 2-3 agitated red-brown birds with whiter heads and dark eye-stripes.  When I could not get a photo, I recorded the call with my cellphone.  A better description and the recording are attached to this post on Birdforum).  Sunday afternoon and we took the kids to a cave, where we walked up a track up a limestone cliff, covered in scrub and small trees.  I let the kids get well away and sat.  There were plenty of birds moving around, again mostly unphotographed or described.  A female Black-Naped Monarch gave me troubles to ID until the male arrived, as did a striped Tit-Babbler.


21 May 2012

Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler - Cuu Thac

"What the hell this Tây ba lô* is doing near my nest !"
(* Westerner with bagpack in Vietnamese, translation for those who are not living here!)

Yesterday I went to Cuu Thac-Tu Son (Hoa Binh province), not for bird watching but for chasing dragonflies - my favorite summer pastime.  It is difficult to focuse on both groups at the same time, but I always keep an `open ear` for birds. I brought with me the 400 mm lens to prevent this possible tragic situation : Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbills in front of me but only the 100 mm macro in the bag.. arghh..!

"Chim cút đi ! Chim cút đi !" 
(Get the f... out of here !)

Near the place where we saw Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill & Collared Babblers few weeks ago, I flushed at very short distance a Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler. It flew not far, turned around me, insulted me copiously, so I guessed there was something special hidden somewhere (nest or chicks). Indeed, after a short search, I found a nest on the ground, on a big slope, within low (20 cm) grassy vegetation, only half-meter from the path ! An open-cup nest, rather deep, with 3 white eggs inside. Altitude : ca 500-550 m (a bit low for this montane species, isn't it ?)

Three hours later, on the way back, I flushed it again - no solution to avoid this, there is only one trail !

Other interesting species spotted : 1 noisy Green Magpie - I don`t know which one...


13 May 2012

Van Long - Asian Openbills still around!

Hi all,

A morning spent at Van Long Nature Reserve revealed the hoped-for Openbill storks!
At least 29 were counted!

Other birds seen included (amongst others),
Yellow, Cinnamon and Black bittern, Purple Heron, Great White Egret, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Purple Swamphen, Little Grebes with chicks, White-browed Crakes, 1 possible Ruddy-breasted Crake, White-breasted and Common Kingfishers, Common Moorhen, Oriental Reed Warbler.

It was great to see that once very common countryside birds (now absent from many areas, especially in northern VN) like Crested Mynas, White-shouldered Starlings, Scaly-breasted Munias and Paddyfield Pipits are doing well at Van Long.

Unfortunately a lot of fishing / collecting went on in the wetland areas.

No Bonelli's eagles or Watercocks.

We didn't try for the langurs but opted for some cold beers at the excellent Van Long Restaurant instead. There we saw 2 pretty late warblers - Eastern Crowned and Arctic.

Wayne Hodgkinson, John Parr, Falk Wicker

The stars of today

White-shouldered Starling

Cinnamon Bittern

Paddyfield Pipit

9 May 2012

Hanoi - Spring passage : a happy end

Morning stroll today (9th May) at the Lenin Park in the hope of picking up some interesting late migrants. The first bird I encountered after 2 minutes was a stonking male White-throated Rock Thrush, with the beak wide open gasping on a 40 degrees day ! At Hanoi, I always seen this species between the last week of April and the 1st week of May (2-3 sightings annually) ; it is obviously peak time for them to be passing through this part of Vietnam. Interestingly, in all our Hanoi’s birding spots, we have not a single sighting during the autumn passage.

The peak time for Brown/Burmese Shrikes and Ashy/Spangled Drongos is definitely behind us. Only 1 single Brown Shrike seen this morning.

And again a nice male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher hanging around - the only flycatcher spotted this morning. The spring passage 2012 at the Lenin park have been particularly good for this species. Difficult to quantify because the migrants can stay some days here, but I estimate their numbers at not less than 15-20 individuals - 1 sighting/2-3 visits on average.

The unexpected bird of the day was a Cinnamon Bittern (patch tick, # 111), seen around the small wet patch where the local trapper set up (every day !!!) his mist net.

And 2 days ago, along the channel of the Red River Island (flooded now), I heard 3 Reed Warblers singing from within the tiny reedbeds, which turned out to be Black-browed. Lifer !


6 May 2012

Afternoon on Red River Island

I had a couple of hours to walk around the island on Sunday afternoon, and spent my time in the wooded area, hoping there would still be the tail of the migration.  Surprisingly, there was very little in the center of the wooded area, with the birds focused around the edge.  After 2 hours, I had seen a fair few birds, but nearly every one was from the same five species:  Black Drongo, Brown Shrike, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Thick-billed Warbler (I think) and Red collared Dove.


2 May 2012

Huge Openbill Storks roost at Dien Bien Phu

Information found in the vietnamese press online yesterday (Vietnam+) : 600-700 Asian Openbill Storks have been roosting in some pine hills at Dien Bien Phu for one month now. The birds leave the place at dawn and return before sunset.

The same flock spotted recently at the frontier district of Muong Te (Lai Chau Province), 100 kms north ?

The local authorities took measures to stop poaching - that's good !


1 May 2012

Morning in Ba Vi

Arriving at Ba Vi to a fine sunny morning, we were quick to head up the top track towards the temple.  We were back 30 minutes later, as it was just too windy up top.  Pretty much the only bird we had seen was a female Small Niltava, which thankfully was a lifer for both of us.  Later, we added a male as well.  We slowly birded down the road (amongst the multitude of weekend traffic, cars and bikes) and added a few birds.  These including an Orange-headed Thrush, a couple of Dark-sided Flycatchers, two Gray-throated Babblers, four species of Bulbul (Black, Black crested, Puff-throated and Red-whiskered).  Mid-morning a flight of 6 Oriental Honey Buzzards went over.  We had a lovely morning, and we were back in Hanoi in time for lunch.

Puff-throated Bulbul

Dark-sided Flycatcher

Wayne Hodgkinson and Falk Wicker