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

19 February 2013

Sa Pa / 13th-17th Feb

Spent recently four days at Sa Pa. This was not exclusively a birding trip and most of my birding was done around the city. I had also one afternoon session along the Fansipan Trail (half the trail between Tram Tôn Pass and Camp 1).
Despite it being incredibly foggy sometimes I managed some excellent - but unsurprising - birds and add a dozen new species to my life list.

  • Scrubby habitat + small patches of secondary growth (some kms before the Silver Waterfall / 3 hours) : 2 Partridge sp. flushed, mixed flocks of Crested & Collared Finchbills and Brown-breasted Bulbuls, a lone Red-flanked Bluetail, Pallas’s Leaf Warbler, Grey Bushchat, Blue-winged Siva, Rusty-capped and Wiskered Fulvettas, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Spectacled Barwing, Grey-bellied Tesia & Pygmy Wren Babbler along the streams, “Blyth’s” Leaf Warbler.
  • Silver Waterfall touristic area and below (2 hours): Blue Whistling Thrush, Plumbeous and White-capped Water Redstarts, Little Forktail, White Wagtail ssp alboides, Asian Barret Owlet (h).
  • Fansipan Trail below the Camp 1 (one afternoon) : Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Red-tailed Minla, Chestnut-vented and White-tailed Nuthatches, Yellow-cheeked, Yellow-browed and Black-throated Tits, Mountain Bulbul, Ashy-throated, Chestnut-crowned and Black-faced Warblers, Pygmy Wren Babbler (heard many times in the small, shady valleys), Chestnut-fronted Shrike Babbler, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Stripe-throated and White-bellied Yuhinas, Green-tailed Sunbird, Great Barbet (h). 
  • Ham Rong Gardens (2 x 2 hours, essentially the scrubby margins) : 2 nice males Red-flanked Bluetails, females Daurian Redstart, Hill Prinia, singing Buff-throated Warbler, “Blyth’s” and Pallas’s Leaf Warblers, small flocks of Vinous-throated Parrotbills, Grey Bushchat, Green-tailed Sunbird, flocks of Little Buntings, 1 male Chestnut Bunting, Rusty-capped Fulvetta, Black-headed Greenfinch, Olive-backed Pipit, 1 Yellow-bellied Fantail, Blue-winged Siva, a party of Rufous-capped Babblers. 
    Collared Finchbill

    Crested Finchbill and Brown-breasted Bulbul

    Crested Finchbill

    male and female Plumbeous Water Redstart

    Little Forktail. 
    I arrived at the Silver Waterfall (Thác Bạc) very early to avoid the crowd but failed to find one. Two hours later, 400 meters downstream, in a wild area, I finally bumped into this guy.

     Chestnut-crowned Warbler

     Pallas's Leaf Warbler

     male Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher

     Black-faced Warbler

     Chestnut-fronted Shrike Babbler

     Red-tailed Minla

    Yellow-cheeked Tit calling excitedly in response to an imitation of the Collared Owlet

    Black-throated Tit

    Yellow-bellied Fantail

    Buff-throated Warbler

    Grey-bellied Tesia

    male Chestnut Bunting

    Little Bunting

    Rusty-capped Fulvetta - only spotted in scrubby areas

    Stripe-throated Fulvetta

    Wiskered Fulvetta

     Female daurian Redstart

    Olive-backed Pipit

    Rufous-capped Babbler

    Vinous-throated Parrotbill

    Hill Prinia

    male and female Green-tailed Sunbird

    And a set of pictures of 2 philloscs to end with, both of the Blyth's Leaf Warbler complex.
    Establishing which one of the 3 species of this complex is tricky. Any help would be welcome!
    • The first one seen in a scrubby area, at 1800m :
    • The second one, spotted at the Ham Rong Garden (1600m), was singing. Song recorded here (clic Download).

    So Blyth's, Hartert's or Claudia's? Hopefully someone with experience of these species will propose some satisfactory ID's.

    And Sa Pa, it is not only the birds but also its colorful hill tribes...
    Black Hmong ethnic little girl

     Black Hmong women with babies

    Black Hmong young girls

    Red Dao ethnic woman

    The mist would have been my worst enemy

    More pictures of the presumably Ogilviegranti's Leaf Warbler ssp disturbans, taken last year at Sa Pa -  and probably not phylloscs of the Blyth's complex as I previously tought (see `comments`) :


    1. An interesting sighting : Andrew Keaveney, a visiting birder, had recently a group of 3 Scaly-sided Mergansers twice in 2 weeks in Xuan Lien Nature Reserve, Thanh Hoa Province.
      I hope that Andrew will post some of his sightings here.

      His blog (2013 Vietnamese Birding) here : http://thebigtwitchontario.blogspot.com/


    2. Concerning the 2 phylloscs, Jonathan Martinez sent me this email :

      I also think that both of the birds belongs to the same species.
      Looking at the sonogram of your recording, with such a song pattern, many different verses on each warble and variation between different warbles, these bird are vey likely Ogilviegranti's Leaf Warbler (aka Kloss's Leaf Warbler, one of the splits of the Davisoni Group). The subspecies that would occur in this part of the world is very likely disturbans, but I have very little information on their plumage. But these birds fit by many aspect the different characteristic of this species. The most noticeable feature being the variable amount of streaks on the underparts, the dark lateral crown stripes that are blackish and more accentuated at the rear and more olive at the forhead, the quite strong legs.
      These birds looks a bit different from the ssp ogilviegranti I have in Central Guangxi, and are not yellow enough on underparts to be ssp klossi, so that left disturbans, a well found name by Latouche when he first saw these birds:-)

      Hartert's Leaf Warbler would show a much more regular song pattern, and I'm not sure ssp godsoni is going so far west.

    3. I added at the end of this post 3 news pix showing well the features described by Jonathan Martinez, taken last year at Sa Pa.

    4. Just found this site, I am an amatuer birder living in Hanoi and would like to connect with other birdwatchers to bird in and around Hanoi. If interested please send me email. I am free on most weekends. paulrbyler@yahoo.com