Welcome to Vietnam Bird News

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

31 March 2015

White-browed Crake breeding in Hanoi

Although Craig Robson's guide mentions White-browed Crake as an "uncommon / locally common" resident southern species, occurring in Vietnam in Cochinchina, it was long known that they occur at least at Van Long Nature Reserve regularly. But in the swamp behind my house on Xuan Dieu in Hanoi they also occur. 

This is a shallow pond, oblong, but quite large, if all the time encroached upon by the surrounding houses. Part of it is used for floating vegetable cultivation, but the part behind my house is mostly covered in Water Hyacinth. In the autumn of 2013 I noticed White-browed Crake for the first time, but assumed it was a winter visitor. However, they have never left since. Quite vocal and territorial, there are now at least 4 pairs and already some time ago I thought one was an immature. But today we finally got definite proof of breeding. Two adults were balancing on the Water Hyacinths and when I checked with my binoculars why they were walking on top, rather than sneaking amongst, I noticed 3 small chicks, all covered in black down and still completely featherless, trying to make their way over the hyacinth leaves. Yes, White-browed Crake breeds in Hanoi!

Tom Kompier

28 March 2015

A skulkers day

Below some shots of 3 fine skulkers taken Saturday, March 28, in good ol' Hanoi.

Pale-footed Bush Warbler, a shy and rarely seen inhabitant of thickest scrub
I finally managed to get some (poor quality...) shots of one individual attracted by playback (with  songs recently recorded in the same area), which unfortunately remained in thick cover. A master skulker!

As I wrote in my last post, I found 1,5 week ago several songsters along the Red River, in dense scrubs and tall rank grasslands with scattered scrub in clearings and edges of a small wooded patch.

Today, a "tape-and-wait" session led to the discovery of 4-5 individuals along a 200m section. As I never recorded the Pale-footed Bush Warbler in Hanoi in winter, it would be reasonable to consider them as passage migrants. But I strongly believe that this species is also present in winter. Skulking and silent birds are elusive and easily overlooked. Only singing males reveal their presence.

Asian Stubtail 
Striking supercilium with dark eye-stripe as Pale-footed Bush Warbler, but obvious structural differences

Siberian Blue Robin (m) 
Not a cryptically colored bird, but secretive and quite difficult to see well

20 March 2015

Spring migration : slowly but surely

Spring is an exciting time of year as tons of birds make their way through East Tonkin to their breeding grounds in China, Russia... Spring birding in Hanoi is not about quantity of birds but rather about quality, diversity - if you devote enough time and perseverance.

Recent short strolls on my favorite wooded and scrubby patches along the Red River produced some nice photo opportunities of some fine examples of different (but expected) migrants/winter visitors.

Birds included, among other, a mixed flock of Grey-backed and Japanese Thrushes, one female Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, some Hainan Blue Flycatchers, one flock of Ashy Minivets, 2 Rufous-tailed Robins, dozens of "Blyth’s Leaf Warbler" cf P. claudiae and some Sulphur-breasted Warblers and best of all: a fleeting glimpse of a Pale-footed Bush Warbler - a good local rarity (hmmm, maybe not…).  This species is extremely shy and is a great skulker. I just realized that I have overlooked it for a long time. During winter it is almost impossible to locate but in spring its typical song helps to find it easily. It is a loud, explosive zip..zip-tschuk-o-tschuk which reminds me of the one of the Cetti’s Warbler - a well-known song amongst European birders. I located 2-3 songsters in scrubby grasslands along the Red River and caught a glimpse of one. It was impossible to get a clean view - leave alone a clean shot. But I took some recordings of call and song which I put on xeno-canto. I also heard 2 Manchurian Bush Warblers and 1 Siberian Rubythroat singing in thickets. Spring!

Apart from songbirds, I scored 1 fly-over Purple Heron, 1 Grey-headed Lapwing and 1 Eurasian Woodcock (flushed from just a few feet away as usual).

Song of two species of Bush Warblers recorded recently:

-the explosive one of the Pale-footed Bush Warbler

-the melodious one of the Manchurian Bush Warbler

Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher (f)

Black-naped Monarch (m)

Black-naped Monarch (m)

Hainan Blue Flycatcher (m)

Cyornis sp. Flycatcher (f)

Sulphur-breasted Warbler

Sulphur-breasted Warbler

"Blyth's Leaf Warbler" cf P. claudiae

18 March 2015

Passage Migrants and Winter Visitors

Recent strolls in Hanoi (Bai Da Song Hong/ Xuan Phuong and Thanh Tri district) produced some nice songbirds. Some winter visitors like Siberian Rubythroat, Bluethroat or Black-faced Bunting, but also some early spring migrants like Hainan Blue Flycatcher. Spring is definitely here, temperatures are rising and it's the perfect time to get outdoors in search of migrants! 

Le Viet Tuan Hoang

Dusky Warbler

Verditer Flycatcher

Hainan Blue Flycatcher (m)

Siberian Rubythroat (m)

Black-faced Bunting (f)

Daurian Redstart (f)


15 March 2015

Spring passerine migration has started!

12th March 2015 - This Hainan Blue Flycatcher made a stopover at Hanoi during its northward journey
Low-light conditions- I snapped away, the camera set to 3200 ISO and I was still only getting shutter speed at about 1/100 ! Seventy photos taken, most of which were blurry, very blurry... except two LOL!

15th March - Asian Stubtail. A species I usually spotted on autumn passage.
Hopped around, rarely fully in view, before flying a short way... Heard at the same place (a 1ha open wooded area with dense undergrowth) a singing Pale-footed Bush Warbler - a very good bird for the city (altitudinal migrant I think).

So that's it - passerine migration has begun. Interesting times ahead in the few remaining Hanoi's wooded patches!

11 March 2015

Pittas photography tour

Hi all,

With 3 nights/4 days at Cat Tien NP (that includes the transfer from Ho Chi Minh City to Cat Tien and return), Pittas lovers can shot Bar-bellied and Blue-rumped Pitta and more....

Bar-bellied Pitta (Mrs and Mr)

Blue-rumped Pitta (Female)

Tickell's Blue Flycatcher (Female)

Thanks all for looking at my pics.


Bui Duc Tien: tienpitta@gmail.com

2 March 2015

A morning at Tam Dao / 27th Feb.

Hi all, 

Last week, a morning visit to Tam Dao (along the “Water Tank trail”) produced some nice species in spite of many groups of noisy students. As usual the birding activity was slow in spite of the excellent viewing conditions. Some « innovations » there since my last visit last year: a barrier at the Forest protection station, an entrance ticket (20.000 VND) and, at the end of the trail, a restaurant + a new loop trail. Obviously there is a plan to attract more visitors there. And unfortunately it works well !

The 3 peaks that gives Tam Dao its name (Tam = 3, Dao/Đảo = island - above the sea of fog!), seen from the Water Tank trail.
An amazing warm and sunny weather, rare in February.

The piping call of the Golden Babbler and the loud song of the Golden-throated Barbet accompanied me all the morning, and some gave nice views. Another common singer was the handsome Chestnut Bulbul. I also did hear some distant Laughingthrushes (probably Grey), and at the end of the morning a flock of Grey L. finally crossed the trail. It took plenty of time and effort to get some kind of view of one of the 3-4 birds present. Chestnut Bulbul and Grey Laughingthrushes are restricted to East Tonkin and South China, and are among the specialities of Tam Dao.

In mid-morning, as virtually nothing was moving, I played the Collared Owlet call and had a male Forktail Sunbird and some unexpected Short-tailed Parrotbills (another local speciality), which vanished as quickly as they appeared. No photos, maybe next time.
At the end of the trail I had also 1 Ratchet-tailed Treepie, which gave great looks. Following the bird-waves as usual. One ceicercus warbler was also seen, identified by ear as the Bianchi’s Warbler (soft più call). 

Notable other birds include a fine pair of Blyth’s Shrike-Babbler, Schaeffer's Fulvetta, Black Bulbul, Chestnut-collared Yuhina (a breeding pair), Spot-necked Babbler, Collared Owlet (heard), Streaked-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Lesser Yellownape, Sultan Tit, a lone Japanese Thrush, Brown-flanked Bush Warbler... 

I also bumped into 2 guys on motorcycle with (homemade) guns. My god, where are the "rangers" ? Despite being a national park, proper conservation remains non-existent. This is Vietnam!

heavily cropped shots of a male Blyth's Shrike-Babbler - split from White-Browed Shrike-Babbler complex

Golden Babbler

male Forktail Sunbird

David's (Schaeffer's) Fulvetta - split from Grey-cheeked.

Chestnut Bulbul

a very smart Black Bulbul of the white-headed morph

Along the Water Tank trail...
The former trail has been fully degraded into a gravel track...Hopefully it will not be upgraded to a paved road...