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

31 December 2014

Chinese Penduline Tits at Hanoi

Today (31th  December) was one of those days that makes me grateful to be a regular patchworker. There is always something new to see, something new to learn, and sometimes a great surprise around the corner.
This morning I headed to the Red River, more exactly to the place called “Bai Da Song Hong”, only few kilometers from the city center. This area is a mix of shrubs, woodland, grassland, reedbeds, sandbars and open water, crossed by small tracks. This is the most popular place in Hanoi for... wedding photos. A scenic place, good birds, beautiful brides..... A great spot!

I parked my bike and headed out onto the trails. After a few minutes walk, a small bird perched on a reed attracted my attention. I hurriedly put my bins to my eyes and was more than happy to discover a Chinese Penduline Tit, part of a small party (ca 5 ind.) busily exploring reedbeds.

Below a heavily-cropped (photographer speak for crap) record shot taken with a... 100mm macro lens (a great lens for butterflies and dragonflies but not for birds!). The worse photo ever published on this blog for sure, sorry for that, but enough to validate the sighting. Should have my 400mm next week, fingers crossed.

Apparently there are very few records of Chinese Penduline Tit from Vietnam (1 or 2 according to Lê Manh Hung), although of course the lack of people checking suitable habitat in winter is certainly a factor.
This species is recorded in Robson for East Tonkin, as vagrant. 

Happy New Year!
May you see wonderful birds in 2015!


PS : relocated the flock on January 2. Got better views and slightly better images. Five individuals, majority of first-winter (pale mask), at least one adult male. Perched on reeds and tall grasses at the edge of a pond, sometimes on top of peach trees in a nearby orchard.

Remiz consobrinus, male ad. and 1st winter bird. 
Hopefully they will stick around a few more days and someone will take better photos than me.

According to literature, breeds in the Russian Far East and northeast China. Winters in eastern and southern China (Yangtze valley, Yunnan, Hong Kong), South Korea and South Japan. An increase in the wintering grounds was recorded in the last decades.

24 December 2014

A short trip to Ba Vi NP

Last week I went to Ba Vi for work-related reasons but but I did manage to sneak off and do a bit of birding in the National Park :) 

I got a female White-throated Rock Thrush, a White's Thrush, a flock of 17 Red-billed Blue Magpies, a couple of Grey Treepies, a Ashy Bulbul, a female Fork-tailed Sunbird, lots of Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers (and one good opportunity of photo missed arghh.....), a Red-flanked Bluetail...

The day after, in a rural cultivate area in Thanh Tri district (near Cong Bang pagoda, Hanoi), only a Wryneck and a Siberian Stonechat played ball for the camera.

Le Viet Tuan Hoang

Grey Treepie - one of the avian specialities of Ba Vi (more often heard than seen)

Ashy Bulbul

Red-flanked Bluetail

White-throated Rock Thrush, female

Fork-tailed Sunbird, female

White's Thrush

Red-billed Blue Magpie


Siberian Stonechat

18 December 2014

Small Niltava in the City

A cold front brings altitudinal migrants to the city (Hanoi). Recently spotted at the Botanical Gardens a juv. White-tailed Robin and a female Small Niltava. The latter is a patch tick and the 22th species* of ‘Flycatcher’ being observed in this park!

During the winter months, this strict montane bird sometimes shifts to lower elevations. It is a scarce visitor at Hanoi (I have 2 previous sightings in November  2010 and December 2012). Moves lower inside denser vegetation, more skulking in habit than other Niltavas. With all the ‘grooming’ in the park, I was not expecting to spot this species there.

No photos unfortunately (photography gear had some 'problems' recently)...


* the 21 others are : Fujian Niltava, 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, Slaty-blue, Rufous-gorgeted, Blue-and-White sensu lato, Hainan Blue,  Chinese Blue, Hill Blue, Blue-throated (ssp klossi) (excluded : Asian Paradise Fly, Black-naped Monarch).

  2 photos of the juv. White-tailed Robin taken one day before by Jean-Daniel L'HERIAU, a french visiting birder (many thanks to him!) 

16 December 2014

Silver Waterfall at Tay Thien - Tam Dao

I haven’t been birding for a few weeks due to work and family commitments, so it was nice to go last Saturday to Tay Thien, Tam Dao, in Vinh Phuc province (70km from Hanoi). 

On the way to the Silver Waterfall, I saw some mix flocks with warblers, Schaeffer’s Fulvettas... 
But my main target here were Water-Redstarts and I picked up 2 birds : a stunning White-capped WR and a  female Plumbeous WR.
Other interesting birds include  a couple of Grey Wagtails, a smart Slaty-backed Forktail, 2 Rufous-gorgeted Flycatchers - 1 female and 1 male at good range, nice and clean light and background. 
On the way back, I saw more birds moving and calling around but not enough time to photograph them.

Tay Thien, a really nice place for sight-seeing, trekking and birding!
Sure I will be back soon :)

Le Viet Tuan Hoang

White-capped Water Redstart

Schaeffer's Fulvetta is a recent split from Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, and is a typical component species of bird-waves at Tam Dao

Slaty-backed Forktail

Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher

Plumbeous Water Redstart, female

Grey Wagtail

23 November 2014

Some winter visitors

Hi everyone,

Last week I had a day in Xuan Phuong (Tu Liem District, Hanoi), especially a 5 ha of grasslands rich of birding potential. I and my friend counted about 20 species at that time. A short list below:

1. Little Egret.
2. Grey Heron
3. Purple Heron
4. Intermediate Egret
5. Common Kingfisher
6. Black-capped Kingfisher
7. White-throated Kingfisher
8. Eastern Stonechat
9. Grey Bushchat
10. Pied Bushchat (a pair)
11. Lesser Coucal
12. Great Coucal
13. Black-browned Reed Warbler
14. Siberian Rubythroat
And some very common birds that can see in the city like White-rumped and Scaly-breasted Munias common Tailorbirds,...

In the afternoon we came back to Botanical Garden in search of the Black-breasted Thrush. We failed to see it but had a flock of Japanese Thrushes.

Le Viet Tuan Hoang

female Eastern Stonechat

Siberian Rubythroat

male Japanese Thrush

Black-browed Reed Warbler

Dusky Warbler

19 November 2014

A VIP Thrush

Some images of a Black-breasted Thrush spotted on November 14th at the Botanical Gardens, among a flock of Japanese. This is a regular winter visitor in Hanoi, I usually see 1 or 2 a year.

There is no doubt, winter is definitely here...

Hanoi gets pretty cold in winter. If you are planning to go there from December to March, bring a good jacket…

17 November 2014

Little Brown Job

Bush Warblers are photographers nightmares. You can locate them all by call, but seeing them is another issue (despite often being only a few feet away), let alone getting a good photo... I tried vainly for quite a while to get a decent photo of a Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler. I finally managed to get some okish shots last week.

This great skulker is a quite common winter visitor at Hanoi, in scrubs at the edge or inside wooded areas.

The archetypal small boring brown bird, the famous "Little Brown Job" or LBJ of the British birders.

It occasionally deigns to leave the cover and perch in the open... but just few seconds, not more ! 

Note the flashing pale underwing-coverts

16 November 2014

Some other altitudinal migrants from Hanoi

After the Snowy-browed Flycatcher (see last post), some recent shots of 3 other altitudinal migrants, scarce at Hanoi : Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Chestnut-crowned Warbler and White-tailed Robin. The latter was photographed in mid-October, the 2 other ones in the last few days.

male Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher - Botanical Gardens
Recorded a female last year in mid-January, in the same area of the park,  on the same trees almost same branches :))

Chestnut-crowned Warbler - Red River Island
Last year, sighted another one, in mid-October. Great bird for the city and below its lower altitudinal limit (Hanoi is at sea level).

White-tailed Robin - Botanical Gardens
Scarce but regular. Recorded every year in the city parks, from mid-October to December
This species is assumed to be a montane resident, although there is evidence of some movements during the non-breeding season. 

15 November 2014

Snowy-browed Flycatcher in the city

Yesterday, Le Viet Tuan Hoang sent me some pictures of a female flycatcher for ID help, seen the 13th November at the Botanical Gardens.
With such great shots, the ID was not difficult : Snowy-browed Flycatcher !
To my knowledge, this is the third sighting of this montane species in the city - the other ones the 10th November 2010 & 15th November 2012 (all males). Note that all the birds were seen mid-November.

Photos of some other scarce short-distance altitudinal migrants spotted recently at Hanoi will follow... watch this space!

Congratulations Hoang !

13 November 2014

More shots of Thrushes

Hi all,

Below some photos taken at the Botanical Gardens last Saturday. There has been a big drop of in the number of migrants passing through the park, with some Japanese Thrushes, 1 Blue Whistling Thrush, 1 Taiga Flycatcher, some Yellow-browed Warblers...
It looks like it might be a "Thrushy" winter !  We live in hope.....

Le Viet Tuan Hoang

                                                                Blue Whistling Thrush

 Female Japanese Thrush

 Taiga Flycatcher

White-throated Fantail

5 November 2014

Thrushes influx

On Wednesday 5th November a brief stroll at Botanical Gardens produced 5-6 Japanese Thrushes of both sexes, 1 skittish Chinese Blackbird, 3 Orange-headed Thrushes, 1 Blue Whistling Thrush.

It is great to welcome Japanese Thrushes back to the park and their arrival comes at roughly the same time as previous years. This timeliness never ceases to amaze me. Heard them (thin high-pitched tseeeee contact calls) before sighted them.

female Japanese Thrush

female Japanese Thrush

male Japanese Thrush

male Orange-headed Thrush
To describe the back as grey makes it sound very drab, but in good light it takes on a bluish hue.

I think that the migrant Orange-headed Thrushes seen in northern Vietnam belong to the southeastern Chinese race melli with a white wing-bar and two vertical facial dark lines - one below the eye and a second on the auriculars.

                                                                      female Orange-headed Thrush, with olive back