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20 December 2012

Some other winterers in the capital

HANOI (10th -> 17th December) - Last week, I bumped into a small flock of migrant Red-rumped Swallows hawking insects over the channel of the Red River. They were flying low and straightish over the water. I snapped more than one hundred of shots but got only... 1 decent one!

Striated Swallows are very similar to Red-rumped, and differ from them in having heavier streaks on the underparts and rump, less red on the ear coverts and a dark rather than rufous nape.

In this flock I photographed individuals with almost complete nuchal collar but also some with solid dark nape (shot above). The amount of fine streaking was also variable. But I assume they were all Red-rumped.

According to David Bakewell, an experienced birder based in Malaysia (http://digdeep1962.wordpress.com), "in any case, the nape colour is not an altogether reliable indicator. Many migratory Red-rumped in Malaysia show a dark nape and no paler nuchal collar (such as this bird, initially identifed by me as Striated) seen in northern Peninsular Malaysia in March".

Last Saturday's better weather inspired me to try to "improve" on the Swallow shots I'd taken a few days earlier. No Swallows any more but some Swiflets were zipping around, which posed me some identification problems. Germain's and Himalayan look very alike and are not easy to tell apart in the field - for me at least.
According to Robson (2005), Himalayan has darker underparts, deeper notched tail and browner rump than Germain's. But I'd be a bit careful about trying to clinch any ID on my pictures (the colouration of a photo is not always the exact colour of the actual bird).

Upon searching on the net, I discovered that 1/ the depth of the tail notch is not a reliable feature - Germain's tail can also appear very forked ; 2/ Himalayan can show light underneath on throat and belly.
So this has given me more doubt. I could only state that based on the images captured (in particular the pale rump), these Swiftlets displayed pro-Germain's characteristics. Any help of experienced birders would be much appreciated!

A very worn individual

Spotted also 3 Riparia which turned out to be Grey-throated Martins (R. chinensis) : no breast-band, throated and breast greyish.

A smart Citrine Wagtail was also hanging around and I could not resist to snap it...

 picking something at the water surface...

1st winter Eastern Marsh Harrier

female Daurian Redstart - already a handful of sightings this season at Hanoi (this is not so bad). Found in open or bushy wooded areas or along the margins of agricultural fields.

Quite a few activity in the city parks last week, best stuff was :

Crested Goshawk

male Eyebrowed Thrush - my 8th species of turdid in the city this season (after Scaly, Japanese, Grey-backed, Orange-headed Thrushes, Chinese Blackbird, Blue Whistling Thrush, White-throated Rock Thrush). I am now waiting for some "VIP guests" (Black-breasted T. would be the icing on the cake!).

Chinese Blackbird
This species is significantly larger-looking and powerful than the European Blackbird. It shows also a light patch behind the eye, the tail appears longer. The calls are also very different from those of Turdus merula.

This obliging female Fujian Niltava seems to have taken up winter residence at the Botanical Gardens. She likes particularly to perch on the statues. Week after week I see her becoming more and more confident. Flush distance actually : 5 meters. Will she perch on my shoulder in March ?

a female type Red-flanked (or Hymalayan?) Bluetail.
Is it possible to tell the females Red-flanked and Hymalayan apart ? 

female type Mugimaki Flycatcher - a late migrant

catching a caterpillar on the ground

A ghastly shot but an interesting bird (for the city) : male Fire-breasted Flowerpecker.
This species is assumed to be a sub-montane and montane forest resident, although there is evidence that some short-distance movements take place in some areas (in the north of its range only?) during the non-breeding season. This is not the first time I have seen this little fellow in winter at the Botanical Gardens. Frequent the tops of trees, not easy to photograph - its tiny size does not help. Fortunately it's very vocal so easily detected.

At the Botanical Gardens, the Large-billed Crow appeared one month ago is still hanging around, high in the canopy. It has become the Public Enemy Number 1 for the park staff after it added to its menu some young unfledged domestic pigeons - captured directly in the nest box! For the moment, all attempts to eliminate it have failed.

Pallas's Squirrel (Callosciurus erythraeus), also known as the Red-bellied Tree Squirrel, is the other species highly protected by the park staff. All the other creatures can be captured or killed without encountering opposition from anyone!.. except from me sometimes, but soft opposition - my self-defense skills are very limited ;)

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