First things first - my quest to find more than 500 species of birds in Vietnam has been successful! As I've never been to Sapa before it was very much anticipated by me but certainly not as easy as I had thought.
First of all, I only had 1 1/2 days. Second, the weather was terrible at times - windy, rainy and foggy, especially along O Quy Ho road where nothing was seen but a whatever finchbill and a Hill Prinia.
A few tourists were around but that was less of a problem.
A pre-arranged guide took me from the Cat Cat View Hotel to Hoang Lien National Park where we took the trail to Fansipan. I didn't stop for Little Forktail at the waterfalls as tourists were everywhere and time was restricted.
Once we started walking up the trail that starts at the "Eco-tourism zone" (this word gives me the shiver) hopes were high! The first birds to be seen, and heard were Whiskered Yuhinas, soon followed by an all too quick glimpse of what might have been a juvenile Green Cochoa - views were too brief to claim it though.
Many Grey-bellied Tesias were heard, and one was seen exceptionally well.
My list kept growing with species added including, Bar-throated Minla, Black-faced Warbler, Hume's Treecreeper, White-tailed Nuthatch, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Red-tailed Minla, Yellow-browed Tit, Golden Parrotbill, Rufous-winged, Streak-throated and White-browed Fulvetta as well as White-collared and Stripe-throated Yuhina.
The night was spent at the lower campsite. It had started pouring down, and would only stop for short periods of time the next day. Most of the higher elevation birds were missed which is a shame but given the short amount of time and terrible weather I think I did OK.
Highlights of the second day included nice views of Hill partridge, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Silver-eared Laughingthrush (brief views but great anyway - thanks Simon!), Chestnut-bellied Rock-thrush and Yellow-billed Blue Magpie!
On the way down a few species I'd seen before were added to the trip list including, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, White-tailed Robin and Large Niltava.
The trip was very successful - despite the terrible weather, and the fact that I missed quite a few of the more interesting high elevation species. I had 23 new species though, and that meant I could leave Vietnam with a final count of 511!
I will certainly be back at some stage to make it 600!