Welcome to Vietnam Bird News

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

24 October 2013

Xuan Son National Park

Mid October I visited Xuan Son National Park, about 125 km West of Hanoi, so about 3.5 hours driving. The target was the Odonate fauna, but as very little is known about its birds I present here an overview of what I encountered. Having said that, my eyes were trained on nearby space most of the time and I ignored many of the birds calling, as the dragonflies were great. Nonetheless, the tally for birds was not bad at all.

There are several ways to access the National Park, with the entry near Coi Village well hidden. It has to be approached from the North, from QL32. That way you first get to Coi and from there to Lap village. Beyond Lap village is an area with a great clear stream through primary forest. It has a footpath of concrete slabs on one side and a narrow concrete road (newly constructed) on the other and various bridges, but the overal impression is that the forest is still good, the stream clean and visitors few, apart from the local minority people. At the end of the concrete road it turns into a forest trail leading to a waterfall. In parts the trail had collapsed in a landslide, so it is careful going, and in parts it was very steep and slippery, so that it was dangerous for the elderly, so to speak.

During the trip towards the park and near the park entrance I saw several Amur Falcons on wires or hunting, a large flock of swallows, including Barn, Red-rumped and Sand Martin, and a nice flock of Red-billed Blue Magpies. On a previous visit I also had seen Japanese Buzzard and Oriental Honey Buzzard migrating, and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, Ashy Minivet overhead, and Red-throated Pipit, Dusky Warbler in the fields. This time I was inside the forest more, so did not see that many migrants passing.

Along the trail Limestone Wren-Babblers were quite present, I saw at least 3 family groups. The stream had Plumbeous Water Redstart and Blue Whistling Thrush, and near the first bridge at dusk two huge owls, Eagle Owls or Fish Owls, I could not tell in the low light. Inside the forest I encountered several flocks of Spangled Drongos. This is a common species, but with them were Long-tailed Broadbills on several occasions, Indochinese Green Magpie and Bay Woodpeckers. The previous weekend we had also seen Silver-breasted Broadbill dipping into the stream to have a bath.
Grey-cheeked and Rufous-throated Fulvettas were common, as was Grey-throated Babbler.

Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher was another common species. The only other Flycatcher I saw was a Fujian Niltava. A Steaked Spiderhunter was seen several times calling from what apparently was its favourite branch to call from and a Dollarbird sat at the top of a tree.
On the way out of the park a small flock of Silver-backed Needletails was hunting over the fields, as were Ashy Woodswallows, another common species.

All in all it is a very interesting place and judging from the many unknown calls there is much more to see. Here is a far away shot of the Spiderhunter.

Tom Kompier

10 October 2013

Botanical Gardens (Hanoi) : Flycatcher number 18

This week, morning watches of the 3 or 4 city patches has been revealing large numbers of  Phylloscs - among them my first Dusky, Radde's and Sulphur-breasted of the season.

But the best bird of the week was a female Ficedula spotted at the Botanical Gardens, showing a rufescent tail, drooping wings and the peculiar habit of flicking tail constantly.
Other features: rufous-brown wings, mantle and below brownish-buff, paler throat, buffish eye-ring.

The darker pics (when the bird is in shadow) 
show the actual colour more accurately than the bright ones.

After a search on the OBCs image database, I confidently identified it as a female Slaty-blue Flycatcher, a lifer, a patch tick and the 18th  species* of ‘flycatcher’ (of the genera Rhinomyias, Muscicapa, Ficedula, Cyornis,  Cyanoptila, Eumyias and Culicicapa) being observed in the Botanical Gardens.

These bring the list of species (that I am aware of) being recorded in the 2 biggest downtown parks of Hanoi (Botanical Gardens + Lenin Park) to 115. Another recent patch tick was Common Hoopoe, spotted at Lenin Park by Tom Kompier, a Hanoi-based dragonfly/bird watcher who, hopefully, will post soon his sightings here ;)

The parks in Hanoi can turn up some real surprises in spring and autumn.  It’s not that these places are particularly maintained in any way to attract birds – with all the ‘grooming’, it’s the opposite – but a reflection of the fact that there are so few wooded area in/around the city (and so many birds migrating above it) that these places act as a real magnet for migrants.

* the 17 others are : Brown-chested Jungle Fly, Grey-headed Canary Fly, Dark-sided, Asian Brown, Brown-breasted, Ferruginous, Verditer, Yellow-rumped, Green-backed, Mugimaki, Taiga, Snowy-browed, Slaty-backed, Rufous-gorgeted, Blue-and-White sensu lato, Hainan Blue,  Chinese/Hill Blue (excluded : Fujian Niltava, Asian Paradise Fly, Black-caped Monarch).

The other surprise bird of the week was this Chestnut-crowned Warbler seen in an orchard at Hanoi, the first time I have seen this species so low down and presumably a migrant (altitudinal migrant I think - originating from as close as the mountains of northern Vietnam). A great bird for the city!

9 October 2013

Splitting headache

Per Alström’s Masterclass on Chinese Phylloscs and Seicercus Warblers here

7 October 2013

Autumn migration at Hanoi

 a smart 1cy Dark-sided Fly

Hi all,

Just returned to birding after summer months dedicated entirely to chuồn chuồn (Odonata).
Migration in full swing of course. All things repeat themselves, (almost) the same stuff year after year. But thanks to photography, it is never boring and always challenging. Lost a bit bird photography skills (it is like sport, you have to train regularly!) but everything will be back soon.

Spotted last week at Hanoi (stricto sensu) the following migrants/winter visitors (in thickets/ small wooded patches as usual): Ashy Minivet, supposed `stanfordi` Rosy and Swinhoe’s Minivets (see photos below), Asian Brown, Dark-sided, Taiga, Yellow-rumped and Hainan Blue Flycatchers, Asian Stubtail (2), leucogenis Ashy and Spangled Drongos (+ Black Drongos everywhere in open fields), Yellow-browed, Two-barred, Eastern Crowned, “Blyth’s”, “Arctic”& “Pale-legged” Warblers, Grey-headed Canary Fly, Brown and Burmese Shrikes, Thick-billed Warbler, Orange-headed Thrush (1), Black-naped Oriole, Grey Bushchat, Eastern Stonechat, Siberian Rubythroat (1), Black-naped Monarch, Seicercus Warbler sp (cf Bianchi’s), Black-capped Kingfisher.

leucogenis Ashy Drongo

 Thick-billed Warbler - never easy to get good views,
often difficult to get close enough to take quality pictures.

 1cy Black-naped Oriole playing hide-and-seek

 Two-barred Warbler. My first good pics of this species! 

Key features: two conspicuous pale wing-bars, with lower one typically wide much stronger than on Arctic Warbler, dark legs - markedly darker than the vast majority of Arctic W-, lower mandible entirely pale and, especially, short primary projection.

Close-up on legs. Bicoloured, with tarsus reddish-brown (pale legs and feet in Arctic).

Note short primary projection (50-60% of length of tertials. In Arctic it is much more, 80-90%). Alternatively, it is possible to judge primary projection in relation to the tail projection beyond the wing-tip. Primary projection in Arctic Warbler is equal to or slightly shorter than the tail projection (with the wing-tip being almost midway from tertial-tip to tail-tip). In 2BW, the primary projection is noticeably shorter than the tail projection, falling about one third of the way from the tertial-tip to the tail-tip.

A probable female Rosy Minivet `stanfordi` (apparently this race is an hybrid Rosy x Swinhoe's). Note the yellow on wings/outertail, pale yellow wash on breast, undertail-coverts and under tail feathers. I hesitate to draw firm conclusions on a race I haven't seen (and I've only seen a few Rosy's) but I lean closer to stanfordi than anything else. Let's wait for some experienced birders comment...

The pale yellow wash on breast, flanks, vent and under tail (coverts + tail features) is obvious in this photo above.

I found hard to tell apart females Ashy and Swinhoe’s Minivets. I found this individual (below) quite interesting with the absence of wing patch, the brown wash on mantle (at least on shoulders), the white on crown extending to the bill…

A frontal view (maybe of the same individual, but from the same flock that’s certain): note very pale lore/forehead, white throat and pale brown wash on breast/flanks. Looks like Swinhoe’s, what do you think?


PS: seen also the 30th September 4-5 Cotton Pygmy-Gooses at Van Long NR.