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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

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