Welcome to Vietnam Bird News

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

27 March 2013

Spring passage underway at Hanoi

Spring migration has officially started, here in Hanoi, with Sulphur-breasted Warbler, Hainan Blue (a male with a white throat-triangle), Hill/Chinese Blue and Mugimaki Flycatchers, Black-naped Monarchs, Chestnut Bunting, Ashy Drongo, Eastern Crowned Leaf-Warbler, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher (usually small flocks).
A male Fujian Niltava was also picked up by Richard (Craik) one week ago around the toilet block of the Botanical Gardens, probably a migrant from further south.
male Mugimaki Flycatcher

This bunch of migrants was seen in mid-March in some old orchards around the city. Surprisingly, very few migrants in my favorite downtown patch, the Botanical Gardens, but a patch tick : Olive-backed Sunbird (small flock). I am wondering about the status of this species, here in the Hanoi area. That’s only my third observation of Olive-backed Sunbird in/around the city - always in March-April. It’s certainly not a resident here ; I could have miss it but I don’t think so - not really the kind of bird easy to overlook. I think they are passage birds.

male Black-naped Monarch

24 March 2013

Tam Dao - Water Tank Trail / March 23th

Hi all,

After a long time, finally some news from Tam Dao (not a lot though): singing Chestnut and Black Bulbuls, flocks of Silver-eared Mesias, Indochinese (or Chestnut Collared) Yuhina, White-bellied Erpornis, one tame White-browed Piculet, one Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Collared Owlets, Large Hawk Cuckoos and Golden-throated Barbets were calling, Grey-cheeked (Schaeffer's) Fulvettas were very obvious as usual, 2 small feeding flocks of Short-tailed Parrotbills with Yellow-bellied Warblers and Golden Babblers, few Scarlet Minivets, 1 male Fork-tailed Sunbird, Red-headed Trogon (heard), 1 Streaked Spiderhunter, one Treepie sp (heard only, Grey or Collared), some Spot-necked Babblers, 1 Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, a group of Grey Laughingthrush heard...

No migrants were seen... but the spring migration is well underway (as I can see in the Hanoian parks).

And a good news to end with : the annoying Park "ranger" has gone! Good riddance to him, he was so negative and greedy.

Streaked-breasted Scimitar Babbler in bamboo forest

White-browed Piculet

This guy tried to hide itself, but it does not work with me :))

Short-tailed Parrotbill, one of the Tam Dao specialities.
Did not get a clean shot, better luck next time !

Golden-throated Barbet

21 March 2013

Cuu Thac - Tu Son / March 17th

Hi all,

Cuu Thac - Tu Son (Hòa Bình Province) is a nice sub-mountainous area found by my fellow birder Wayne Hodgkinson, located 75 km southwest of the capital city. An interesting mix of vegetation, including bamboo. Not much of good forest is left though. Birding between 400 and 600-650m high.

This place has some interesting birds such as Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Collared Babbler - and has certainly other goodies to be discovered.
An interesting area, perfect for a day trip from Hanoi !

A recent trip produced among others : 2 Coral-billed Scimitar Babblers, Spectacled Barwing, Blue-winged Minla (all at ca 500m asl, below their given listed elev. in Robson), a breeding pair of Bronzed Drongo, Long-tailed Broadbill, Streaked Spiderhunter, Grey-throated, Spotted-necked and Buff-breasted Babblers, Black Bulbuls, White-capped Water Redstart, White-crowned Forktail, breeding pairs of Slaty-backed Forktails and Plumbeous Water Redstarts (both at ca 400m asl), Golden Babbler, Silver-eared Mesia, Crested Goshawk displaying, Verditer Flycatcher, Mountain Tailorbird, Blue Whistling Thrush (resident race with yellow bill)…

Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler
A great bird fairly easy to see at Cuu Thac - spotted on almost every visit.

Slaty-backed Forktail 
Forktails are smart birds but always very sensitive to human presence. Most birders know how challenging taking pictures of these species can be. A photo hide is needed. I have one that is quite portable for field use. It is nice because it breaks down and sets up very easily and very quickly (20 seconds max). Have a look here. Tien use the same at his bird-bath ;)

The male (I guess) gives a prey to the female.

 Long-tailed Broadbill
This guy works safe he always wears a helmet while foraging in dense forest :))
This bird looks almost like a toy!... Looks unreal... Amazing.... I just love this species.

Blue on crown... I never noticed that before !

Beautiful eyes also....

male Plumbeous Water Redstart

Cuu Thac is a great dragonfly & damselfly watching spot with many upland species, some of them only known from a handful sites in Vietnam. A new species for science described in 2011, found in central Vietnam (Ha Tinh Province) and central east Laos, has been recorded there last year.
Saw a lifer during this trip : Mnais andersoni. I missed it last year because it is an early-emerging damselfly. That’s a real beauty, that's why I added its photo here (and many birders are also dragonfliers…).

Lovely damselfly. The wing colouring really stands out.

Birder’s obsession with winged things has always extended to insects like dragonflies (chuồn chuồn in Vietnamese). Dragonfly watching is an enjoyable and exciting summer hobby. You don’t have to get up early when it's miserable out (dragonflies are solar powered, so sunny midday strolls are perfect). And catching them is half sport and half science.
Dragonflies are really interesting and when you know a little about them they're really fun to watch. The problem, here in Vietnam, is that there is no identification guide so it is hard to make progress alone. You have to find a chuồn chuồn guru!
Somewhat surprisingly, in the field, I always find it hard to focus on dragonflies and birds at the same time.

There are some nice waterfalls to see in this area.

20 March 2013

Cuc Phuong - a new record?

Hi all,

I got a photo of a flycatcher from my client, who has been with me from 10-17 of  March in Cuc Phuong.

I think that it could be an Indian Blue Robin but i never see it in Vietnam. That's why i would like someone can help to confirm that. It's maybe a new record. This photo was taken at the same place where i took some photos i posted on Vietnambirdnews last week.

Thank you all.


Bui Duc Tien - freelance birding guide.
Email: tienpitta@gmail.com

18 March 2013

Cuc Phuong N.P. Birding - March 7th to 11th

Hey birders and nature lovers.  This last week I spent about 4 days birding Cuc Phuong N.P. while taking a few days off from my volunteer bird surveying work at Xuan Lien Nature Reserve in Than Hoa province.

I am not much of a photographer I'm afraid, but I do record a lot of bird sounds.  I was with my buddy Nick Boyd who also works with me at Xuan Lien.  Both of us are very good at identifying birds in the area by sound so we came up with a pretty decent bird list.

The birding is rather different at Cuc Phuong, compared to Xuan Lien, in many respects.  Cuc Phuong is the oldest national park in the country and has 'relatively' good forest protection which means that there is still a good amount of large primary forest with many canopy trees.  There is a lot of bird sound at Cuc Phuong.  The forest at Cuc Phuong is also mostly on Limestone rock, where as Xuan Lien is pretty well a clay-type soil base and there can be hoards of leeches to worry about at Xuan Lien, whereas we encountered NO leeches whatsoever at Cuc Phuong!!!  That was a welcome relief!

I cannot be certain about any records or highlights, but the following are a list of birds that I think might be good for that site.

Could someone please pass along a checklist of the birds of the park to the following email address: uofgtwitcher@msn.com

Chestnut Bulbul - heard from Park Centre (20km in on the main road).

Chestnut-crowned Warbler (March 8th)- in a bird flock along a smaller limestone ridge along the western side of the Ancient Tree Trail (one of the larger trails on your left side, not far a drive from the main gate).  This was of the northern subspecies which Robson does not illustrate... nor give much of a written account of... Robson! Sebastian Delonglee has a photo of such a bird from his recent trip to Sapa.  This bird was recorded below 200m elev. which is well below the known range of elevation for this species in Vietnam as far as we are aware.  We were quite pleased by this sighting!  Can anyone shed light as to whether the species has been recorded from Cuc Phuong before?

Slender-billed Oriole (March 10th)- I have a few fairly crumby, dark photos which show this birds bill shape/size relative to head. It was encountered in a large canopy flock along the main road between the restaurant and sleeping area at the Park Centre.  We found the flock, and the bird, again after breakfast about 45min. later inside what we are calling the 'trail matrix', or network of trails inside that good forest just behind the restaurant area.  We were also wondering if there are records of this bird for the park.

Maroon Oriole ssp. nigellicauda (March 10th) - the red ssp. of Maroon Oriole was seen and recorded singing in the same canopy flock as mentioned above.

Eared Pitta - I unknownly recorded what appears to be a subsong of this species on one of the evenings, near the main gate. No, I won't count this as a lifer ;)

Blue-rumped Pitta (March 11th)- some quick, but nice looks at a bird near the main gate.  Two birds were heard calling in this area.

Indochinese Cuckooshrike (March 10th)- several, alongside several Black-winged Cuckooshrikes, in the same 'mega'(?) canopy flock as mentioned previously.

Russet Bush-Warbler (March 11th)- 1 found singing along main road in low shrubby area, a few hundred meters from main gate.  Very interesting song, which was hard even to identify as a bird at first.  I was unable to record the song, except by background noise on some iPhone video, so hopefully I can find a way to pull it off there someday and put it on Xeno-Canto.

Silver Pheasant (March 10th)- 2 female pheasants were flushed up by Nick near the end of the Ancient Tree Loop Trail in the valley bottom.

I think that these are all of the highlights.  We recorded a total of no less than 95 species which, again, I think is quite good for that amount of time.  We had a few big misses which I intend to go back for in about a weeks time.

Andrew Keaveney
Toronto, Canada
(Currently Xuan Lien, Than Hoa, Vietnam)

15 March 2013

Cuc Phuong - new guests at the pool

Hi all,

I got some more species at the pool where I regularly set up my photo hide :

Hainan Blue Flycatcher

Rufous-tailed Robin

Black-browed Fulvetta

Asian Stubtail


Bui Duc Tien
Freelance birdwatching guide (tienpitta@gmail.com)

10 March 2013

Cuc Phuong / 8th-10th March

Hi all, 

A relatively productive weekend in Cuc Phuong produced the following species
  • Residents : Limestone and Streaked Wren Babblers, Blue-winged Leafbird, Grey-eyed, Puff-throated, Black-crested, Black Bulbuls, Pied Falconet (Bong Substation), Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Goshawk, Puff-throated, Striped Tit, Grey-throated and Buff-breasted Babblers, Red-headed Trogon, Ratchet Tailed and Racket Tailed Treepies (NP Headquaters), White-winged Magpie (Botanical Garden + Valley Trail), Greater Yellownape, Bianchi’s Warbler, Blue-rumped (h, Bong Substation, near the `swimming-pool`) and Bar-bellied Pittas (Loop Trail), Rufous-throated Fulvetta, Hainan Blue Flycatcher, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Fork-tailed and Crimson Sunbirds, Plain Flowerpecker, Hill Myna, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Red-vented and Green-eared Barbets, 1 male Silver Pheasant (Loop Trail), Asian Barret (h) and Collaret Owlets (h), Collared Scops Owl (h), Rufescent Prinia, Red Junglefowl (h), Emerald Dove, White-rumped Shama, White-bellied Erpornis, Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike, Common Iora, Lesser Coucal, Russet Bush Warbler, Scarlet Minivet, Little Spiderhunter (1 individual dead - hit a glass window - found at NP Headquaters, picture here. Interesting record for Cuc Phuong I think).
  • Winterers : Blue Rock Thrush, Japanese Thrush, Common Hoopoe (resident?), phylloscs of the Blyth’s or Davidsoni complex, Radde’s and Yellow-browed Warblers, Asian Stubtail, Fujian Niltava, Grey Bushchat, Olive-backed Pipit, Red-flanked Bluetail.

+ 100-150 Asian Openbill Storks at Van Long.

male Bar-bellied Pitta
A sighting of a pitta species is always the pinnacle of a day's birdwatching ! These birds are difficult to find, and this, combined with their intense beauty makes them so desirable.

male Fujian Niltava

 White-winged Magpie
A conspicuous and noisy bird, but surprisingly very few images on the web.

Limestone Wren Babbler, a specialist of limestone forest

At Cuc Phuong, the Streaked Wren Babbler frequents the same habitat than the Limestone (crags in the forest). The Streaked WB is obviously smaller than the Limestone, has wings spots, grey face, and lacks bold black and white throat streaks.

 Russet Bush Warbler

Pied Falconet

 Crested Goshawk in display flight with fluffed out undertail coverts and stiff wing-flaps

And a Flying Squirrel to end with. I spotted this guy along the Valley Trail, at the end of the day. I saw it glide, land on a huge tree trunk, then climb into the canopy. Big size.
Maybe someone on here can help me to ID the species, I don't have documents in hand.