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

13 December 2015

A few late autumn goodies from northern Vietnam

The last few weeks dragonflies have become scarce, so my attention has shifted somewhat to birds. November 15 I visited Sa Pa and hiked up to the reservoir above the road that leads from Sa Pa town to the Love Waterfall area. Beyond the reservoir there are a number of small rocky streams running through what once was lovely forest and what is now an area with a few remaining trees and a lot of shrub. I was very happy to repeatedly flush a Wood Snipe that eventually I also saw for an instant on the ground, when it crossed a stream, before taking off again. To me this was both an unexpected and much desired species, irrespective of the fact that all snipe are more or less the same. The same day I also saw at approximately the same location a Long-tailed Shrike of subspecies tricolor. The first time I saw this subspecies in Vietnam. Apparently its range just about extends to the Sa Pa area.

December 5 I visited the same area again. No Wood Snipe this time, but I saw several female Blue-fronted Redstarts, new in Vietnam for me. It apparently winters regularly in the Sa Pa area. Another new bird for my Vietnamese list was the Great Spotted Woodpecker. A female fed in a lone tree for a while, before moving on.

Tam Dao also offered a few interesting birds to me recently, along the long trail at Tam Dao 2. On December 6 I was thrilled to flush a Dark-sided Thrush from the vegetation along the path that perched just long enough on a fallen log for me to be able to ID it. That same day also brought a party of Red-billed Scimitar-Babblers. Both were new birds for me.

On December 12, along the same trail and on a rather misty day, a party of Short-tailed Parrotbills were the definite highlight. I love parrotbills and seeing a party feeding for a while in close proximity was fantastic.

Below a photo of a Blue-fronted Redstart, taken with my macro lens.

Tom Kompier

3 November 2015

Nicobar Pigeon in Con Dao

This was a pure family holiday (6.-9. October), with most time being spent floating in the warm water with the kids or eating through the seafood restaurants.

I initially planned to take my 10 year old to Bay Canh island to see the turtles laying eggs (and looking for Nicobar Pigeon in the forest). But as we were a little late in the season and turtles not guaranteed we didn't go. Also a longer boat trip to the Egg Island (hon Trung) was not so compatible with the family plans, so my birding was limited to morning walks through the forest of the main island, Con Son.

Near Ong Dung Beach

Of course the main target was Nicobar Pigeon, however with low hope, as this bird seems to be rarely or never seen by birders. Hung has photographed it some years ago during a survey, but I've found no other reports of sightings. On the other hand, not many birders make that detour to the Con Dao Islands....

My main walk was up to the So Ray Plantation and down the other side until the coast near Ong Dung Beach. The start of the trail is marked by a sign at the road, so easy to find. After 50 m through banana trees the forest starts and it is actually pretty nice forest with relatively tall trees. Into the forest I was welcomed by Common Tailorbirds, Pin-striped Tit-babblers, Streak-throated Bulbuls and White-rumped Shamas, which remained the most common birds I saw on the Island. Also rather soon I saw a group of Red Junglefowl. And then I flushed a bird from the ground, it flew up and perched in sight but mostly hidden behind branches. Darkish body and a few times a wierd shaped thin head peaked out. I tried to approach for a photo, but it escaped unphotographed. Before, when the bird was flying up, a white tail flashed, the rest was very dark. That was it then, Nicobar Pigeon! Less than satisfying views, but the bird was there, with only 20 min on the trail.

 Common Con Dao birds

After this sighting the trail went up steeply, and when almost reaching the highest spot, several Pied Imperial Pigeons were flying off from the trees above the trail. That spot remained the only place where I saw them, again when returning. On the top it got flat again, I guess that's what is called So Ray Plantation. More Junglefowl here, a female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Common Iora, some Phyllos Warblers, Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo. 

Then the trail descended steeply down the other side. A lot of Long-tailed Macaques and also quite many Giant Black Squirrels down here. The black variant of Variable Squirrel was very common everywhere. All three are endemic subspecies. Also a few Northern Treeshrew. The mammals seemed more common than birds, actually. Almost all the way down the slope I flushed another Nicobar Pigeon. This time I saw the short while tail and the dark back and wings of the bird quite well. Like the first bird, it made a loud woosh-woosh sound with the wings when flying up.

 Con Dao mammals

Ahaetulla Sp., but which one?

I returned the same way and reached the road around lunch time. The way back could also be shortend by going up the new paved path to the road leading to Ong Dung beach, when arranging pick up there.

Along this road, they are constructing a new National Park headquarter, if I read the construction sign right. Shortly after this, there is a signpost marking trails to Bai Bang Beach (2.4 km) and Dat Tham Beach (3 km). I tried this path another morning. As the ones decending to Ong Dung beach, these ones where also recently paved. One of thoe works not so uncommon in Vietnam's national parks: a 3 m wide path made from granite blocks and lots of mortar, surely very expensive and totally useless. The algue growing on the mortar made the path extremly slippery. It was rather dry and I managed not to  hurt myself too badly. The forest here is also nice, but much lower trees and dryer than the one at So Ray trail, and I saw much less birds here. Forest wagtails and a White-bellied Sea Eagle at Bai Bang Beach were the only new birds here. However, during the first km on the trail, lots of Pigeons were calling, probably Pied Imperial.

Slippery path

I did not see much else: Kentish Plover, Common Sandpiper and Pacific Reef Egret on the Beaches, 2 Terns hunting on the Lotus ponds, I believe it were moulting White-winged Terns. And Flying Foxes feeding in the trees of the hotel compound.

So very happy about the two Pigeons, but nothing really exiting besides. So for a birding trip to Con Dao, I'd recommend to focus on the So Ray trail (both my sightings of the Nicobar Pigeon were at the parts with tallest forest near the lower end of the steep slopes on either side of the hill) and try to get out to Trung Island (see Richards report here).  Here a map of the Island, the mentionned trails can be seen west of "Con Dao Town". Another trail in the North of the Island is marked there as well, could be interesting, but I havn't tried it.


24 May 2015

Streaked Weaver - The first record for Northern Vietnam

Hi All!

With the kindly helps from friends (Sebastien and others), I got some new photos for me just around Hanoi (from end of April to 23 of May 2015). The highlight is the first record of Streaked Weaver for Northern Vietnam. Robson 2009 mentioned this species is locally common resident at central, south Annam and Cochinchina.

Some others includes the other views (from Sebastien's photos) of Fairy Pitta (second time for me in Vietnam) and white morph of Asian Paradise Flycatcher (first time with photos and perfect view) and so on..

Male of Streaked Weaver

Fairy Pitta (first chance for me with the photos)

Asian Paradise Flycatcher 

Oriental Pratincole in breeding plumage

Male of Barred Buttonquail in dust bathing.

Please enjoy and thanks you all!

Hung Le

19 May 2015

Ba Vi : Red-headed Trogon encounter

Back to Bavi NP. My main target was the Red-headed Trogon, which I suspected to breed somewhere, not far from the Red-vended Barbet nest. I finally found them and had some poor shots in the foggy condition of the morning. Not so long after, I found the nest. After gathered some food, the female stay all the day in the cavity.

The nest is really in danger. It is too close from the road. At midday, tourists like to stay there, making a lot of noise. I told to some of them I was a snake expert, there were some cobras in the area blablabla… and at the breeding season they can attack without warning... They left immediately! 

Le Viet Tuan Hoang

Small Niltava - male and female

Red-headed Trogon 

at nest

male Scarlet Minivet

11 May 2015

Residents and (few) migrants at Ba Vi / 2-3th May

One week ago, I headed to Ba Vi National Park and spent 2 days there.  I chose Ba Vi because there were lots of tourist during these days at Tam Dao. Of course Ba Vi attract also lots of tourist but they generally avoid my secrete place hehe..., right under the ruins of the French church (at ca 650m asl).
The first day was not too easy, I arrived at 2pm and soon found a singing male Hainan Blue Flycatcher. Not so long after, I spotted 2 other individuals. Some common birds in fruiting trees include Puff-throated and Black Bulbuls, Black-naped Oriole - the latter being a lifer. Before the sunset, I got some shots of a male Fork-tailed Sunbird. 
The day after, I woke up early and went to an alt. of 400m, cannot go higher because of the fog...  I spotted there a pair of Crimson Sunbird, a Grey-chinned Minivet, a pair of Striped Tit Babblers... After that, I saw a Green-billed Malkoha perched on a dead branch, but too far for a good shot. 
At 10am, when the fog lifted, I went back to the place under the church. 
For the second time I saw a male Red-headed Trogon perched 100m away. I quickly took out my camera but as I was about to pull the trigger, some Drongos mobbed it, and it flew off, never to be seen again. Arghhh, f........g drongos! 
One hour after, I was more than happy to discover a nest of Red-vented Barbet. I hide myself in my camouflaged tent for more than 2 hours. Had some good shots of this lifer :D  But I didn’t want to make the birds uncomfortable, so after that, I left quickly the place. 
After having a very fast lunch, I stayed at the feet of a fruiting tree and waited for some more birds.  Same stuff: Black and Puff-throated Bulbuls, Black-naped Oriole… But finally, 2 lifers came for a nice ending birding trip: an Orange-bellied Leafbird and a stunning male Siberian Thrush. 

Le Viet Tuan Hoang

singing male Hainan Blue Flycatcher

Black-naped Oriole

male Fork-tailed Sunbird

Red-billed Blue Magpie

Red-vented Barbet at nest

Puff-throated Bulbul

Black Bulbul

male Orange-bellied Leafbird

male Siberian Thrush

8 May 2015

An angel in my patch - Hanoi

The 7th May, spent the lunch break at the patch and did pretty well, finding a magnificent white morph Asian Paradise Flycatcher. I also bumped into one individual in May 2014, almost the same day! 

This gorgeous chap spent much of its time flitting gracefully after insects. Despite its colour, it was not always easy to see as it spent quite a lot of time perched low and came to ground to feed. A lovely sight.  
Unfortunately I didn't have enough time to get the "perfect" (for me) shot – that's the problem with noon strolls, as the clock neared 2pm, you have to go back to work, quick! And when you find a great bird at 1.30pm, you are feeling VERY frustrated! 
Just got decent shots far from very good, but much better than what I'd previously achieved. So many things to do with this gorgeous bird - photographically speaking.

Other migrants include Radde's, Dusky and Arctic Warblers (the latter being the commonest phylloscs actually), 2 singing Thick-billed Warblers, 1 female Mugimaki Flycatcher, some Asian Brown and Dark-sided Flycatchers, 1 Asian Paradise Flycatcher (rufous morph), 1 singing Eurasian Cuckoo, 1 male Tiger Shrike.
Of particular note on the resident birds front was a flock of 5 Masked Laughingthrushes instead of 3 counted one month ago, with at least one recently fledged bird. Yep, they breed successfully in this 3ha suburban wooded area!

This distant shot shows the actual length of the tail…..truly remarkable!

 Elegant, classy and beautiful in an understated not flashy way

6 May 2015

More pix of migrants (+some residents) - Hanoi

No busy migration any more, things have slowed down. Nevertheless, I hope to pick up some interesting migrants before the summer break.
Just can’t finish with the migration images, there’s so much left to edit… No time to write too much about it, unfortunately. Just enjoy! The following were taken in April and the 1st week of May, mostly in 2 patches along the Red River.
Watch this space for new stuff in the next days and maybe weeks.

                                                             full adult males Yellow-rumped Flycatcher

 second calendar-year male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher showing an interesting transitional plumage.
The flight feathers appear brown, worn and contrasting with the glossy black wing coverts and the upperparts. Some grey-brown patches are still visible on the nape and the mantle. Moreover the throat is less vividly orange than in breeding-plumaged adults.

                                      Another second calendar-year male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher

note the "bristling appearance" of the nape

full adult male Mugimaki Flycatcher

second calendar-year male Mugimaki Flycatcher, transitioning into full adult plumage

a fine male Taiga Flycatcher - Botanical Gardens

male Hill Blue Flycatcher

male Hainan Blue Flycatcher 

Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Yellow-browed Warbler
During one session at the Botanical Gardens, songsters were literally everywhere.

Below a songster recorded the 4th April 2015 (lots of  Y-BW calls on xeno-canto but very few songs, quite surprising... This one is the southern one of the database !) :

a gorgeous male Siberian Rubythroat, which stopped singing as I approached it
The last few weeks I heard and spotted many singing males

A male singing in the open. Maybe to give itself courage to continue its long journey to Siberia.
How many kilometers this tiny creature will have to fly over the next few weeks ? Five, six, seven thousands kilometers? Just amazing...

Rufous-tailed Robin - unobtrusive, keeps to floor or low vegetation in dense shady patches of forest, Shivers tail energetically, which helps to spot it!

a fine male Citrine Wagtail, a fairly common passage migrant at Hanoi
Photographed at a terribly polluted channel along the Red River, but my best spot for this species so far!

Forest Wagtail

Eurasian Wryneck - regular passage migrant but in small numbers

A poor shoot of an Accipiter sp., but enough details to ID confidently an adult male Chinese Sparrowhawk : dark eyes, pink wash on breast and, especially, orange-yellow cere (lemon-yellow in male Japanese S.).
This species in known to migrate in flocks, but this male was apparently alone.

Dollardbird - scarce passage migrant but 3 (together) this spring

a smart male Asian Paradise Flycatcher

another one, of the migratory race incei (grey breast and belly), from China

female Siberian Blue Robin

Mr & Mrs White-throated Rock Thrush
At Hanoi, a classic passage migrant in late April/early May ; it is obviously peak time for them to be passing through this part of Vietnam.

a lovely male adult Tiger Shrike
 This species is a skulker, typically perches inconspicuously in trees/bushes.

 female Blue-and-White Flycatcher

with a huge breakfast...
My patches are good refueling stops, the best restaurants in the city!

Cinereous Tit Parus cinereous collecting nesting material
A common resident bird in open woodlands, parks and gardens, one of the 3 splits of  Great Tit Parus major s.l. (with Great Tit Parus major s.s. and Japanese Tit P. minor)
The usual race present in northern Vietnam and SE China is commixtus, and has a plain grey back without any green tones. This is currently treated as Cinereous Tit. But some authorities treat commixtus as a subspecies of Japanese Tit. It seems that the true taxonomic position of this taxon is not fully resolved.

Asian Barred Owlet visits Botanical Gardens (4th May 2015) - patch tick, #145
Amazing to spot this species right in the heart of the city!