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

22 January 2014

Pittas in Cuc Phuong

Dear all,

I was sitting in front of the screen for long, i took a break and brought out my camera and hide to forest. Driving along the main road to Bong substation for some Thrushes as Scaly, White, Black-breasted, Grey-backed, Japanese; Fujian Nitava; Red-flanked Bluetail, Red-vented Barbet...Then i disappeared into forest till afternoon i found a spot where we could see and take picture of Blue-rumped and Bar-bellied Pitta. The day after, i tried for Eared Pitta and i got shot too. Finally, i found 2 places to see and take picture of three pitta species in Cuc Phuong.


Bui Duc Tien - birding and bird photography guide: tienpitta@gmail.com

6 January 2014

Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Tan Tanh, Go Cong District, Tien Giang Province, 5 January 2014

On Sunday 5 January Richard Craik and I visited Tan Tanh beach in Co Cong District, Tien Giang Province to look for Spoon-billed Sandpiper. We arrived at low tide after a three hour journey from D2, Saigon. We parked by the noodle shop next to the casuarina grove at the south end of the beach. We had walked only 100 m out onto the mud flats when we found a Nordmann's Greenshank. Within 30 minutes we had found our first two Spoon-billed Sandpipers associating with Red-necked Stints. As the tide came in we eventually saw four Spoon-billed Sandpipers feeding together although I was only able to photograph two together. By 14h00 the tide was rising swiftly and as we scoped a flock of 2,000 Great Knot at a pre-roost roost, we saw three more distant Spoon-billed sandpipers. These three were observed at the same time as the four nearer birds which means the total seen was seven. This was our first visit to the site and next time we plan to visit the main roost on an offshore island. However, it is clear that Spoon-billed Sandpiper is easily found on Tan Tanh beach at low tide. Although the distance from Saigon is not great, the road is small and busy and with a 20 minute ferry crossing on route 50, it makes for up to a six hour round trip plus birding time. Many thanks to Nguyen Hoai Bao who provided instructions to us on how to find the site.  Jonathan C Eames.

3 January 2014

Chinese Thrush, Hanoi Botanical Gardens 26 December 2013

The Chinese Thrush found by Sebastian on Christmas Day in the Botanical Gardens was also present on the following day, Boxing Day.  I was at the office but after speaking with Sebastian rushed to the gardens and found it immediately. I could not find it on Sunday 29 December, instead discovered  Red-billed Blue Magpie and a female Fujien Niltava. Jonathan C Eames.

Trung Khanh District, Cao Bang Province 23, 24 and 25 December 2013

Amid perfect winter weather I set-out to look for Collared Crow, Black-billed Magpie and Ring-necked Pheasant in Trung Khanh District in Cao Bang Province.  Black-billed Magpie was easily found in flocks of up to 20.  Collared Crow proved more elusive and I found only three pairs.  Although I observed nests of both magpies and crows in villages both species were shy and not easily approached.  Whenever I found them they were in freshly tilled fields near to human habitation.  I looked for Ring-necked Pheasant in dry scrub near field margins but heard and saw nothing. Jonathan C Eames

Ba Be Lake Sunday 22 and Monday 23 December 2013

A first winter Black-legged Kittiwake was a very unexpected find at Ba Be Lake on the afternoon of Sunday 22 December. It was still present on the 23 December.  This appears to be the first record for Vietnam and South-East Asia.  Also present on the 22 and again on 23 December was a female Greater Scaup.  Also present at the shallow margins of the south shore of the lake was a Eurasian Coot, four Long-billed Plovers and perhaps 10 Buff-bellied Pipits.  The largest flock of Mandarin Duck counted was 29 individuals.  On the morning of 23 December I counted five White-eared Night Herons returning to roost and later found an immature roosting near the lake edge.
Jonathan C Eames

Black-legged Kittiwake Ba Be Lake 22 December 2013

Long-billed Plover Ba Be Lake 23 December 2013

Female Greater Scaup Ba Be Lake 23 December 2013

Mandarin Ducks Ba Be Lake 22 December 2013
White-eared Night Heron Ba Be Lake 23 December 2013

A tricky phyllosc

Last week, in the Botanical Gardens, I bumped into an unknown plain-coloured phyllosc (no wingbars) with olive-brown upperparts, olive fringes to wings and tail, buff wash on flanks and breast. The bird was feeding at eyes level among small trees and also on top of a wall. It did not call.

It was clearly not a Dusky Warbler (always mid to dark brown above; no olive is ever apparent in the upperparts). At first, I thought it was a Radde’s - a bird I am now quite familiar with - but the jizz and some color pattern details did not match. Its clearly demarcated pale throat contrasting with the brownish breast first drew my attention; this was very obvious in the field (in frontal view). The throat also appeared somewhat puffy. Moreover the bird did not show the large-headed, somewhat bull-necked appearance of the Radde’s.

Once I got home and examined my pictures, I also noticed the striking broad and rather uniform supercilium (lacking strong contrast between fore and rear parts, only very faintly browner to the fore), the pale orange legs unremarkable in size (thick tarsi in Radde’s), the lack of contrasting peachy vent. The bird also show yellow streaks on the underparts – but Radde’s can also be streaked; so that is not a clinching ID feature.

After checking the photos against Brazil (2009) and especially various internet based resources, I identified it as Yellow-streaked Warbler, an uncommon winter visitor in Vietnam, apparently only recorded from the north of the country (and already recorded at Hanoi by Falk and Simon few years ago).

It seems that Yellow-streaked is a particularly difficult bird to tie down unless you hear the call (a metallic bunting-like tzic). That is why I'd be happy to hear experienced birders opinion, especially those who have already observed this species.


Here a bunch of shots (sorry for the "concentration camp" atmosphere):

Note the breast band (most easily judged when the bird is in shade, as sunlight tends to work out the colour ) contrasting with the pale throat, the yellow streaks on flanks, the broad and rather uniform supercilium.

2 January 2014

Hanoi : Black Stork and Woodcock to start the New Year

A strange pair of species for a post title, but one was the biggest (and maybe the rarest) bird I have seen over the past few months, and the other the hardest to photograph. Both have been spotted during a walk yesterday morning along the Red River, at Hanoi, only 1 km from the city centre.
January 1st is the traditional day for birders to get outdoors and make a good, birdy start to the New Year!

The Black Stork was roosting on a sandbar with 50-60 Grey Herons, near Vinh Thuy Bridge. An adult, maybe the one recorded mid-Nov 20km upstream by S. de Albuquerque & M. Ashby.
After being flushed, the flock (with the Stork) landed 300 meters away on another sandbar, in the middle of the river.

A long distance and heavily cropped record shot. Grey Herons here in Vietnam have a very large flush distance (at least 200m for this pic). They are hunted for food so they have very good reasons for not trusting humans.

Sightings of Black Stork over the last 3 years at/around Hanoi (that I am aware of):
-26th Oct. 2011 (2 juv.,Vinh Thuy Bridge also)
-26th Oct. 2012 (1 juv.)
-10th Nov. 2012 (2 juv., among them one seen the 26th Oct.)
-mid-Nov. 2013 (1 ad.)
-1st Jan. 2014 (1 ad.)

All these birds were sighted along the Red River, often roosting on sandbars, only one time observed foraging (in a small pond adjacent to the river).
Black Stork is a rare winter visitor in Vietnam (only recorded from East Tonkin apparently).

The Eurasian Woodcock was flushed in a nearby orchard.
Not an uncommon sight in the Hanoi area (both winter visitors and passage migrants), in small wooded areas, banana plantations and even downtown parks – where they have some difficulty to hide!

A lucky flight shot