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10 April 2016

Tristram's Bunting at Red River Island (Hanoi) and Raptor Migration over Tam Dao (by Tom Kompier)

Last week Red River Island went through a "pimp-my-island" episode - NOT. People have been digging at the soil quite a bit over the years, but recently activity has increased substantially. What is more, the little forest patch towards the northern side has been decimated and the reedy grasslands have been turned into banana plantations. But migrants still turn up. Many of them actually end up in traps and nets, but even so, birding can be pretty good still. Here a few records of interest from the recent past:

Baikal Bush Warbler was a nice addition to my Vietnamese list on April 2. After a sighting by Dom this spring and the Chinese Bush Warbler seen by Sebastien I was ready to see a Locustella (besides the rather common Lanceolated Warbler, that is).

Short-eared Owl was another great bird on April 2. I hope it survived, as several local bird-catchers were actively pursuing it.

Apparently a good bird in Hanoi was the male Tristram's Bunting on April 4, the first time I saw 3 species of bunting on the island on a single day (the others being Yellow-breasted and Little). 

April 6 I saw a Northern Boobook and a Jerdon's Baza. The latter was carrying a lizard and showed very well. Both were new for me in Vietnam. 

Chinese Penduline Tits have been around regularly, with sightings on March 26 (1), April 2 (2), and April 4 (3). 


On April 10 finally a sunny day seemed to be truly happening, a rare event in springtime Hanoi and even rarer for it to be on a weekend. I know that Tam Dao can be pretty good for raptor migration, but it is very much dependent on the cloud cover (even on good days Tam Dao can be locked in cloud and mist) and the wind. After a spell of pretty bad weather raptors are eager to circumnavigate the higher mountains on their way to the north. I have seen good migration at various points, notably Pia Oac in Cao Bang, and Tam Dao. Pia Oac seemed a bit far for a day outing, so I opted for Tam Dao. When I reached the hill station at 9 AM it was shrouded in mist, but the sun peeked through it vaguely and soon I started seeing the mountains over a sea of cloud. Because the mist returned I went a little higher up the town and found a spot with good views. Between 10 AM and 4 PM I saw around 280 raptors migrating. No big flocks, irrespective of the seemingly good weather. Maybe they passed already the last few days, or maybe the lack of wind was not good. 

Accipiter species were out in good numbers. Many could not reliably be identified, but the more striking Chinese Sparrowhawk clocked 40, Japanese Sparrowhawk 13, Eurasian Sparrowhawk 7, and 46 I left unidentified. So, 106 Sparrowhawks in total, not bad.

I was very surprised that Jerdon's Baza, allegedly a resident species that does not occur to the north of Vietnam, nor around Hanoi for that matter, was migrating in considerable numbers. I had only seen my first reliably last week at Red River Island (on the same day that Sebastian saw several close to Hanoi), so I had dismissed what looked like it yesterday in Sa Pa as probably something else. Here in Tam Dao I again dismissed several pairs and singles mixed in with Crested Serpent Eagles. I though my eyes were playing tricks on me and that they just had to be immature Oriental Honey Buzzards. Even when I saw two singles that I positively identified, I still could not bring myself to accept that the others had been Jerdon's too. Until at the end of the afternoon I saw 6 together. These too were obviously Jerdon's, so I dashed to the car and took out my camera to shoot some proof. In the end I tallied 10, but there must have been at least 15-20 passing.

The other Baza, Black Baza, passed in small numbers. Only one small flock of 5 and a few singles, for a total of 8.

I saw 6 Eastern Marsh Harriers, 4 males and 2 females. I was hoping for Pied, but that did not happen.

Crested Serpent Eagles can be quite numerous at Tam Dao, but today I only saw 64, with the largest group 15.

I counted 51 Oriental Honey Buzzards, but if we deduct some misidentified Jerdon's Baza, then there were little over 40 passing.

Grey-faced Buzzard was scarce, with only 11, and now flocks to mention (largest number together 3). Disappointing. Maybe they passed through already.

A single Black-eared Kite, a single Eastern Buzzard, and a single Osprey added some spice, as did single Kestrel and Amur Falcon.

Local Crested Goshawks completed the picture. 6 Raptors I did not identify at all.

Below some pics of Jerdon's Bazas:

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