I spent about 1.5 days birding Tam Dao this past week. I arrived in late afternoon on the 10th in crumby weather and left a little after noon on the 12th in very nice weather.
Tam Dao is a VERY weird place. It reminds me a lot of the tourism scene on Cat Ba Island because there are over 50 hotels! Literally! And almost all are empty... how is this feasible??? Is there an incredibly high 'peak' season where they make a ton of money to live off of the rest of the year?
I tried to find a smaller hostel type accomodation but in the end all I could do is get the cheapest hotel room. They need a bloody hostel for low budget travellers! I also didn't understand their idea of a National Park. The only people of significance I encountered was 2 or 3 men at the gate to the Water Tank Trail. They charge 50 000 dongs for each entry which is a fair price... but a far cry from the 4 000 to enter the Hanoi Botanical Gardens or the 40 000 for multiple daily entry in Cuc Phuong N.P. And really... all you do is walk along a path for a few hours.
On the afternoon of the 11th I encountered an organised birding group from Tropical Birding led by Sam Woods, an excellent guide that I have had the pleasure of working with briefly in the past. Another short encounter with the group the following morning (12th) had me shaking hands with Robert S. Ridgely. Definitly a high point in my birding career. For all you Asian birders, this man is one of the most famous South American ornithologists. He co-wrote the two-volume Birds of Ecuador and discovered the Jocotoco Antpitta of southern Ecuador, just to name two things off the top of my head.
Both the birding group and I missed the sought-after Short-tailed Parrotbills. I put a huge effort in looking for these too! I may try again before I leave on the 21st if I can spare the time!
For a list of the birds seen please see my eBird checklists found at the following urls: