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

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.


  1. You should visit Vietnam.There are a lot of things for you to explore.You will be attracted by its excellent cuisine and rich culture of Vietnam.
    Vietnam sightseeing

  2. Hi Sebastien

    I bought the same hide in Bangkok a year or two ago. Since then I found almost the same item in Decathlon's sister outdoor shop (called something like Nature active) in France (but found all over the UK and France) for a much reduced price. I looked today (am currently in France as we just had twins) but there were none in stock. Maybe just in summer...