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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Northern Vietnam, 4-20 January 2002,
Remco Hofland (RH), Chris Quispel (CQ) and Roland van der Vliet (RV) from The Netherlands.
Quite recently, Northern Vietnam has become known as one of the easiest accessible sites in the world to see the rare and enigmatic Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus in winter. Moreover, the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor as well as the rare Nordmann's Greenshank Tringa guttifer and Saunders's Gull Larus saundersi can be seen at the exact same spot, while nearby (sub)tropical forests hold beautiful and sought-after species such as Elliot's (or Bar-bellied) Pitta Pitta ellioti, Blue-rumped Pitta Pitta soror and Fujian Niltava Niltava davidi. Our initial reasons to visit this country were therefore clear.
In the process of preparing the trip it soon became clear, however, that in the far north of Northern Vietnam there was a place where it could be equally good birding: by a Belgian birder, Ward Vercruysse, we were supplied with two tapes of bird sounds he had recorded during a trip to Sa Pa, N Vietnam, including interesting species such as Golden Parrotbill Paradoxornis verreauxi, Long-tailed Spelaeornis chocolatinus and Spotted Wren Babbler S. formosus and Scaly Garrulax subunicolor and Red-winged Laughingthrush G. formosus. Most of these species were recorded by him while on the slopes of Fan Si Pan mountain, a trek for which we didn't have the time. However, Ward also provided us with two scribbled maps of probable good birding trails: one in the vicinity of the small village of O Quy Ho (approx. 7 km from Sa Pa) (Map 1) whereas the other showed the whereabouts of a small wooded valley (Map 2)near the pass between Sa Pa and Lai Chau (approx. 15 km from Sa Pa). We soon agreed to spend at least two days in the Sa Pa area.
This is the report of a two-week trip, in which the following sites were visited:
Xuan Thuy, part of the Red River Delta about five hours (per car & motorcycle) from Hanoi, where wintering Spoon-billed Sandpipers, Black-faced Spoonbills, Nordmann's Greenshanks and Saunders's Gulls can be found; (Maps 3+4)
Cuc Phuong, a forest reserve with its entrance some 3,5 hours from Hanoi, holding Elliot's and Blue-rumped Pitta, Limestone Wren Babbler Napothera crispifrons, Indochinese Green Cissa hypoleuca and White-winged Magpie Urocissa whiteheadi, with a slight chance of Red-collared Woodpecker Picus rabieri;
Sa Pa, a mountain village at about 2,000m altitude some 11 hours by train from Hanoi, with birds typical for the eastern Himalayan avifaune including several species of Yuhina Yuhina, Fulvetta Alcippe and Parrotbill Paradoxornis; and
Tam Dao, a hill station only 2 hours from Hanoi where several good species can be found such as Purple Cochoa purpurea and Green Cochoa C. viridis, Black-throated Garrulax chinensis and Grey Laughingthrush G. maesi, Short-tailed Parrotbill Paradoxornis davidianus, Chestnul Bulbul Hemixos castanonotus and White-hooded Babbler Gampsorhynchus rufulus.
Since the exact location of Xuan Thuy is hard to find, traffic signs are rare, not many (local) taxi drivers speak English and many visiting birders just don't have or take the time, most birders have so far used the services of Nguyen Van Viet, a Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) based travel agent who can provide cars and drivers that know the sites. He is expensive but no one sofar had had any problems with his service. For the Xuan Thuy part of the trip I prearranged, through firstname.lastname@example.org of Vietam Travel, the following: a car with driver to collect us from Hanoi Airport and bring us straight to Xuan Thuy, three permits to the site and two boats (on Sun and Mon). We were charged 215 US$ for this. The three nights accommodation for three at Xuan Thuy WWF Headquarters cost an additional 108 US$ (3 x 3 x 12 US$).
For the Sa Pa part of our trip we told mister Van Viet to book us three beds in the soft sleeper train which leaves Hanoi for Lao Cai and the Chinese border three times a week, every Mon, Wed & Fri from 9:30pm to 7:30am. Van Viet told us that for good beds staying in a special compartment was required, which meant that we also had to book the expensive (and luxurious) Victoria Sapa Hotel for at least one night, which we did. He charged us 115 US$ (for three) for the hotel, and 60 US$ each for one-way on the Victoria Sapa train (weekend one-way rate for Superior Compartment).
We did not prearrange a car taking us from Xuan Thuy to Cuc Phuong, hoping there would be a chance of arranging a local taxi driver for that ride - no chance! So we had no choice but to use Van Viets services again; he charged us 80 US$ for the one way trip, by van, from Xuan Thuy to Cuc Phuong. Note that, although the drive from Xuan Thuy to Cuc Phuong takes about 4 hrs, the van has to leave Hanoi in early morning and has to return there the same day.
For the drive from Cuc Phuong to Hanoi we were charged 100 US$.
After one night at the Victoria Sapa Hotel (cost: 80US$ per person from Mon to Fri / 95US$ Sat & Sun - as said, we paid 115 US$ for three in one room) we moved to the much cheaper, less posh and quieter Prince Hotel, next to the village square. The Prince Hotel arranged the taxi van back to Lao Cai and the soft sleeper beds in the night train: as it turned out the beds arranged by the Prince Hotel were bigger for only 15 US$ each, against the 60 US$ per person we had had to pay for our Victoria Sa Pa train! Beds in the Hanoi - Lao Cai train, arranged by a hotel in Hanoi other than Sao Mai Hotel and / or Van Viet will probably be cheaper than the 60US$ one-way we were charged.
According to mister Van Viet, a public train connects Hanoi with Lao Cai every night from 9pm to 9am but it has no soft beds, just beds without mattresses, for 11US$.
The total cost of the Xuan Thuy and Sa Pa parts of the trip accumulated to 618 US$, in all we paid mister Van Viet 798 US$, even outside of Vietnam a very large sum of money! As far as I know, we are the only ones who have had any trouble with the pick-up at Hanoi airport, or the fact that the train tickets and the guides and accommodation at Xuan Thuy were not paid for in advance (see below).
Xuan Thuy is the place to go for Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Black-faced Spoonbill and Nordmann's Greenshank in winter. Saunders's Gulls also winter in small numbers. The main problem with this site is, however, not how to get there - just put some dollars on the table and you get there rather easily. The problem is how to get to the sites where the waders are, and how to get them into view. An unpredictable low tide can prevent boats from taking you to the mudflats, while thick fog doesn't help your chances in finding the birds. We were lucky with both, although our hour on the bigger boat towards Con Giao Thuy was spent through rather thick fog, that fortunately disappeared when we got the waders into view. I know of at least four birding groups or individuals, among which BirdQuest, who failed to find Spoon-billed Sandpiper here because of (a combination of) these circumstances. The best bet would probably be to plan two days here at the start, and two at the end of any trip to N Vietnam, to minimize your chances of fog and / or low tide.
However, the shrimp pools that surround the WWF HQ and that are fringed by mangroves where they border the South China Sea provide good habitat for a number of other interesting species, of which we saw rails, crakes and Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata, Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala and Manchurian Bush Warbler Cettia canturians. The area of shrimp pools is several square km's wide and since it is in this habitat that the Black-faced Spoonbills are usually found, even with fog and low tide one should be able to find this species here while on foot.
In addition, when driving from Hanoi towards Xuan Thuy one passes many rice paddies where waders and possibly rails should be found. We checked some and were rewarded with nice views of Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus.
Cuc Phuong is a beautiful forest reserve, that unfortunately is completely devoid of any large mammals - all shot, probably. Also, larger birds are quite rare, although sought-after birds such as Silver Pheasant Lophura nycthemera and Grey Peacock-Pheasant Polyplectron bicalcaratum have been recorded. The road between the entrance and Bong substation, some 20 km long, has some good patches of thick dark primary forest that looks excellent for pheasants - and we were lucky when driving back out of Cuc Phuong, in that we encountered a male and two female Silver Pheasants foraging next to the road in front of us.
Most birders will arrive here with taxis and so will not be able to bird the main road for longer than about 5 km south of Bong, on foot. This will probably not improve your chances of the mentioned pheasants, since the best forest is found further away from Bong (closer to the entrance). However, goodies like Elliot's, Blue-rumped and Eared Pitta Pitta phayrei, White-bellied Green Pigeon Treron sieboldii, Pied Falconet Microhierax melanoleucus, Indochinese Green and White-winged Magpie, Red-collared Woodpecker, Limestone Wren Babbler, Ratchet-tailed Treepie Temnurus temnurus, Fork-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga christinae, White-tailed Flycatcher Cyornis concretus, Fujian Niltava Niltava davidi, White-crowned Forktail Enicurus leschenaulti and Long-tailed Psarisomus dalhousiae and Silver-breasted Broadbill Serilophus lunatus have all been recorded: mainly from the grid, Loop and Valley Trails but also from the main road near Bong, so there is still enough to see to keep one busy.
Sa Pa has recently become known as a good addition to any Northern Vietnam birding trip, since here one can find the highest Vietnamese mountain (Mt Fan Si Pan, 3143m), along with some remnant patches of forest - in all good for eastern Himalayan / Chinese specialties like several species of yuhina Yuhina, fulvetta Alcippe, parrotbill Paradoxornis and laughingthrush Garrulax. We found that there is a lot of (or rather, as anywhere in SE Asia, too much) wood- and bamboo-cutting going on so, even if these forests once held Ward's Trogon Harpactes wardi, Temminck's Tragopan Tragopan temminckii or Rufous-necked Hornbill Aceros nipalensis, these surely must have disappeared from the area by now. All areas, especially the ones near the pass, are easily reached, not only by birders but also by locals in search of a living.
This said, we had some nice birding near the pass, especially near the village of O Quy Ho and at the wooded valley south of the pass, dubbed "Ward's valley" by us (see maps).
Ward's valley is located about 1km below the highest point of the pass between Sa Pa and Binh Lu. We entered the (degraded) forest on the left hand side of the road, where a wooden hut built on posts is visible beyond a large sign on the left hand side of the road, just before a road sign "B. Lu 37 km". From this point we walked down the (steep and slippery) hillside until we reached a small stream which we followed to the right. After following this for about 20 mins we reached an open area, where on the left hand side a small green sign 3.5m up a tree showed the entrance to the trail to Ward's valley - cross the stream first. The open area is also visible from the road leading up to the pass, but from this point it seems harder to get to.
Tam Dao is a forested hill station where the main specialties are Blue-naped Pitta, both Green and Purple Cochoa, Grey and Black-throated Laughingthrush, White-hooded and Spot-necked Babbler Stachyris striolata, Short-tailed Parrotbill, Red- & Coral-billed Scimitar-Babblers Pomatorhinus ochraceiceps & P. ferruginosus, Indochinese Green Magpie, Chestnut Bulbul, the dark-billed race of Blue Whistling-Thrush Myiophonus caeruleus caeruleus and Mountain & Collared Scops-OwlOtus spilocephalus & O. lettia. Most of these birds will, however, be very hard to find if not vocal (i.e. in winter, when we were there) and probably also in other times of year. Main reason for not seeing many species (apart from the fact we only had an afternoon and one morning) was that it was very foggy at times and alongside the best trail, the so-called 'Watertank Trail', the forest is thick and hillsides are steep. Others have found this area to be a 'complete basket-case' in terms of hunting and trapping (resulting in not seeing many birds), but we heard many different species although we didn't see all the specialties.
Friday Jan 4th: We left on the 1.45 pm Cathay Pacific flight from Amsterdam to Hong Kong, where we arrived at 8.15 am on Jan 15th.
Saturday Jan 5th: We were accompanied by a Cathay Pacific hostess, that already had our boarding passes ready, to our gate and thus made our onward flight to Hanoi, leaving Hong Kong at 9 am. Arrived at Hanoi at 10.15 am. Upon arrival, nobody was there to collect us. We phoned mister Van Viet (in Saigon) and he told us that something had gone wrong with the Sao Mai Travel Agency, his contact in Hanoi, and that it was best to take a taxi into Hanoi to the Sao Mai Hotel where someone would straighten things out. Mr Son was waiting for us at the hotel and explained (through the English-speaking hotel desk clerk) that not only did he still had to arrange a driver for us on short notice, he also still had to buy the 'prearranged' soft sleeper train tickets Hanoi - Lao Cai and the one night stay in the Victoria Sa Pa Hotel. But with only about one hour delay we were on our way to Xuan Thuy. We agreed to pick up the train tickets at the Sao Mai Hotel when arriving back from Xuan Thuy and Cuc Phuong several days later.
After a long drive through Hanoi suburbs, several small villages and lots of arable lands, only stopping when we saw some Lapwings in a paddy (that turned out to be Grey-headed Lapwings) we arrived at Giao Thuy village. From here we were accompanied by a man on a scooter to the police station, where we arrived at 5 pm. Within half an hour we could continue our journey, each one of us backpacked on the back of a motorcycle. Through the pitch-black night we drove over a dyke and along unsurfaced paths in between shrimp pools, hearing several Common Greenshanks Tringa nebularia and enjoying the many stars visible and the salty smell of the nearby sea.
Arrival at the WWF HQ, our place of stay for the next three nights, was at 6 pm, and we had dinner and tea. We were however not expected, so the airport pick up and the train tickets were not the only things that had gone wrong with our e-mail correspondance with Van Viet - although I had sent him some 25 e-mails prior to the trip. We could stay however, and were appointed a boat and guide for the next day.
Sunday Jan 6th: Since the door of the bathroom was locked (later we found out why) we got up and birded the mangroves, reeds and pools from the small dykes surrounding the WWF HQ, from 5.45 to 7 am, before breakfast. With our guide we left the HQ at 8 am in a small boat. First we went through the mangroves to a shrimp pool about 3 km west of the HQ, where we were shown a group of 9 foraging Black-faced Spoonbills. After this little excursion we went on towards the sea where we got out of the boat and waded towards a sandbank, Con Lu, where small numbers of waders were roosting. All around us we saw the tops of mangrove trees sticking out of the water. The group of waders consisted mostly of Dunlins Calidris alpina, Kentish Charadrius alexandrinus and Mongolian Plovers C. mongolus and Common Greenshanks, with some Grey Plovers Pluvialis squatarola - no small stints though.
At noon we moved on towards the large sandbank apparently called Con Xanh, located in the mouth of the Red River and home to a large flock of roosting gulls - mostly adult large white-headed gulls with pink legs (somewhat resembling Greater Black-backed Gull Larus marina), probably Heuglin's Gulls L. heuglini taimyrensis, with also 8 Greater Black-headed (Pallas's) Gulls L. ichtyaetus present. Our guide ordered us to get back to the HQ, we would try for another wader-site later in the afternoon. Back at the HQ we had lunch, took a nap, and birded some more from the dykes before leaving for some mudflats alongside the Red River at 4 pm, where our guide said he had seen Spoon-billed Sandpiper on some occasions. However, we couldn't search the waders properly since it was too shallow for the boat to go nearer, and too muddy for us to wade closer. In the evening we were shown why we couldn't take a shower: the bathroom was filled with big turtles, at least 60 piled up and crawling over one another.
Since we didn't find the Spoon-billed Sandpipers, our guide told us that we had the biggest chance of finding them at an island / mudflat called Con Giao Xuan, about an hour away by using a big boat that we had to pay extra for. The officer in charge at the WWF HQ was very reluctant to let us take the guide for the next day since he was expecting a tour group, and even a phone call to mister Van Viet didn't seem to help. The guide tried to convince us that without him we would be able to find the boat, and the boatmen knew where to go, but since it was our only chance of finding the birds we were there for, we persisted he'd come with us. In the end he went with us since the tour group was apparently a day late.
Monday Jan 7th: Got up at 5.45 but breakfast was only served at 6.30. At 7 the guide arrived half an hour late, and in the fog we walked north until the 3rd bridge where we turned left (west).
At 8 a biggish boat arrived that took us over the river westwards, through the fog past many fishingnets until we reached the sea, where many huts were placed on wooden posts above the water. Passing the site we visited Jan 6th we saw no exposed mudflats, meaning it was high tide. From this site it was about an hour until we reached an exposed flat apparently called Con Giao Xuan, the westernmost 'island' according to the map the guide drew (see map). We got out of the boat and waded through the 30-cm-deep water until we reached the westernmost side of Con Giao Xuan, where many waders had congregated. It took half an hour to find the first Spoon-billed Sandpiper, foraging singly amongst other waders, such as Dunlins, Great Knots Calidris tenuirostris, Terek Sandpipers Xenus cinereus, Greater and Lesser Sandplovers. Up to 4 Nordmann's Greenshanks were also present, as were some Saunders's Gulls. In all we saw a loose group of 5 Spoon-billed Sandpipers and 3 single birds that might well have been other individuals, although they were not seen simultaneously. While the water slowly receded we walked eastwards over the circa 3 km long mudflat, reaching the eastern side at noon, where we got back on the boat. An hour of sleep on the exposed boat in the mild seabreeze meant some expected discomfort later - sunburn.
Having scored the main target birds, (after lunch) the afternoon was spent slowly walking eastwards along the embankment while watching birds and women collecting and drying seeweed. In the evening we phoned Van Viet and ordered a van to come pick us up at the Xuan Thuy police station the next morning. The (extra) cost at Xuan Thuy was US$ 15 each per day for the guide, and an additional US$ 30 for the big boat - expensive for Vietnamese standards.
Tuesday Jan 8th: Had breakfast at the WWF HQ, and then took the motorbikes back to the police station, where we saw some Red-billed Starlings Sturnus sericeus. The van was right on time (8 am) and we drove to Cuc Phuong, some 5 hours driving (mostly) westwards, only stopping at Nim Binh for lunch. Views while on our way included mostly dry brown ricefields, near Cuc Phuong interspersed with chalkrocks, topped in forest, rising from the flat land at unexpected places - very beautiful. Small villages held lots of people, most of which were on bicycles, and the most beautiful women I've ever seen. Sunshine throughout, although not hot.
The entrance to Cuc Phuong was found at the end of an ascending road, and was reached at 1pm. Here we booked and paid for the accommodation in the centre of the park, Bong substation: 10 US$ each per night, with an additional 30,000 D / US $/EUR 2.5 per meal. The ordered food was later brought in by a man on a motocycle. The drive to Bong took half an hour, through mostly secondary but sometimes good-looking primary forest. Bong turned out to be the end of a dead-end road, a fairly large grass lawn sided by a wooden house (our accommodation: cold shower and rats at night), a large hall where meals could be had and several small bungalows which apparently cost 35 $ for two - hot showers here!
Since we had not prearranged this drive, the driver (who didn't speak any English) made us pay 80 US$ upon arrival at Bong substation, right in the middle of Cuc Phuong national park and over 20 km from the nearest village. Had we stopped in such a village it would have been hard to find someone who spoke enough English to understand that we were looking for a taxi to collect us three days later and bring us back to Hanoi, so in the end we also had to tell (write down, sign) the Van Viet driver when we wanted him to pick us up and take us to Hanoi. For this three-hour trip, also prearranged, we paid 100 US$ (no bargaining possible).
From 1.30 until 5.30 pm we walked various trails, mainly the grid trails where we heard both Blue-rumped and Elliott's Pitta but saw none. Most birds were only heard - like in most tropical rainforests. Dinner at 6.30 pm in 'dining hall' which, unfortunately, was not heated - after dusk it's quite cold at this altitude.
Wednesday Jan 9th: Due to thick fog birding seemed impossible in early morning, and although we tried the 'far' end of the Loop Trail not much was seen. Breakfast at 9, hot noodlesoup and egg. After breakfast walked grid trails and birded along the entrance road, until about 2 km from Bong. Lunch at Bong, hot noodlesoup and egg. After lunch we followed the Valley Trail, through mostly open areas with scattered bushes, some bamboo and some forest. Returned at dusk at 6pm. Diner at 6.30 (chicken). At night went crazy because of sandflee (?) bites, probably contracted at Xuan Thuy.
Thursday Jan 10th: Breakfast at 6.30am - hot noodlesoup and egg, with some vegetables. First grid trails, followed by the 8-km-long Loop Trail, past the "1000-year-old tree", which took us from 7.30 - 2pm to walk. Highlights at the Loop Trail included good views of Limestone Wren Babblers near a side trail leading up to a small cave, a female Blue-rumped Pitta on the trail, Long-tailed Psarisomus dalhousiae and Silver-breasted Broadbills Serilophus lunatus and an immature White-winged Magpie, which was unfortunately only seen by RH - it turned out that the part of the tree in which the bird was perched for a minute was only visible from the exact position on the path where RH was standing. Only met with a handful of other people on the Loop Trail. No fog and in the afternoon some pleasant sunshine.
Friday Jan 11th: Our last morning at Cuc Phuong (not yet having seen our main target bird Elliott's Pitta) we aimed for this prize at the Valley Trail. However, music and singing coming from that direction convinced us that, apart from Bong and the grid trails, the Valley Trail had also become taken over by weekend tourists. Having read in other reports that the entrance road is the only quiet place during weekends we went there. We walked away from Bong for about 4 km and turned back at 11 am, having ordered the van to come pick us up at 2 pm.
When RH was busy trying to identify some skulking birds, RV and CQ managed to get some (poor) views of Elliott's Pitta hopping about in the undergrowth - only RH's most wanted bird on the entire trip! After some careful considerations abouth whether to kill himself, stay the rest of the trip in Cuc Phuong or fly back home the next day, CQ and RV left RH to go and search for the White-winged Magpie that had eluded them sofar. RH then tried to tape out the pitta at several sites along the entrance road and got about 5 different birds to respond and even saw some movement, but no conclusive views.
RH took a last chance when taping Elliott's Pitta while standing behind a big tree at an area, about 2km from Bong, where there was hardly any undergrowth. The male Elliott's Pitta that responded circled closer and closer, staying in full view for about 3 minutes, passed RH by at less than 3m and to this day remains the most beautiful bird he's ever seen (out of 2175 species). Even better, after the van collected the group at 2pm, it later stopped at the site that had been marked by RH, and the bird performed again with RV and CQ also present!
The driver of the van stopped at every White's Thrush on the road and while contemplating whether to ask the driver to neglect any further birds on the road he stopped again: in front of us, a male and three females Silver Pheasant were foraging by the roadside. Unfortunately they were flushed by a passing moped within one minute, never to be seen again...
It took from 3.45 until 4.45 pm to reach the Highway no "1" where due to heavy traffic, light rain and a little girl crossing the road right in front of us (and scaring the hell out of us) it took until 7pm to reach Hanoi. We headed straight for Sao Mai Hotel where we were handed our train tickets and we ordered dinner, that unfortunately was not served quick enough since our train left at 8.30 pm. A taxi brought us to the train station, only some 800m from the hotel, where we found out there were several compartments with soft sleepers, and most were not owned by Victoria Sapa Hotel.
At Lao Kai 5 sleeper train we celebrated the Elliott's Pitta in the bar with expensive Heineken beers, chicken wings and Sunset (non-alcoholic) cocktails.
Saturday Jan 12th: The train ride to Lao Cai was long and bumpy, and the beds too narrow and not long enough so we didn't get a lot of sleep but it was still an adventure. Arrived at Lao Cai at 6.15 instead of the planned 5.30 am. A Victoria Sapa van took us from the Lao Cai train station along steep, sometimes foggy, mountainsides devoid of any forest to the hotel at Sapa where we arrived at 8 am. Here, after a good and elaborate breakfast (8 US$ each) and a shower we went straight for the mopeds at Sa Pa village square to go to the birding sites higher up.
We drove about 7km up towards the pass and were dropped at the pine tree plantation which was indicated on Ward Vercruysse's scribbled map (see map). From there we walked about 4km past all kinds of agricultural land, harvested bamboo patches and pieces of secondary forest near the village of O Quy Ho. On this pleasant walk, slightly upwards over a muddy track, we saw all kinds of birds like both Collared Spizixos semitorques and Crested Finchbill S. canifrons (easiest in late afternoon when they apparently gathered for the night), a mixed flock of White-browed Laughingthrush Garrulax sannio, Spectacled Barwing Actinodura ramsayi and Spot-breasted Parrotbill Paradoxornis guttaticollis; mixed flocks or loose congregations of Rusty-capped Alcippe dubia and Grey-cheeked Fulvetta A. morrisonia; Whiskered Yuhina flavicollis, Stripe-throated Y. gularis and White-collared Yuhina Y. diademata; Red-billed Leiothrix Leiothrix lutea; Red-tailed Minla ignotincta, Chestnut-tailed M. strigula and Blue-winged Minla M. cyanouroptera; Green-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga nipalensis, Black-headed Greenfinch Carduelis ambigua and Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis.
At 4.15 pm we were collected by the motorcycles, who drove us back to Sa Pa, mostly with their engines switched off. For the round trip we paid 5 US$ per motorcycle. In Prince Hotel, near the tiny park in the middle of town, we found a good substitute for the expensive posh Victoria Sapa Hotel - 9 US$ for a room with three beds. There they also sold pre-booked beds for the return night train back to Hanoi, this time for only 15 US$ each. For some 40 US$ all-inclusive we had dinner at the Gecko Restaurant.
Sunday Jan 13th: After breakfast we took our luggage to the Prince Hotel, after which we took to the moped stand again. About an hour later we were some 14 km from Sa Pa and only about 1km from the highest point of the pass. Here we found the wooden house that had been described to us by Ward, and we eventually found our way through the wet bamboo forest and over a small open field until we reached a small stream that marked the entrance to a small valley with nice forest (Ward's valley). The great birding here, although at times quiet, kept us busy until late afternoon.
Birds encountered here (mostly in flocks) included Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher Ficedula strophiata, Large Niltava Niltava grandis, White-crowned Forktail Enicurus leschenaulti, Chestnut-vented Sitta nagaensis and White-vented Nuthatch Sitta himalayensis; Yellow-cheeked Parus spilonotus, Yellow-browed Sylviparus modestus and Black-throated Tit Aegithalos concinnus; Chestnut-headed Tesia castaneocoronata and Slaty-bellied Tesia T. olivaea; Broad-billed Tickellia hodgsoni, Black-faced Abroscopus schisticeps and Chinese Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus sichuanensis; Pygmy Pnoepyga pusilla (heard only) and Long-tailed Wren Babbler Spelaeornis chocolatinus; Golden-breasted Alcippe chrysotis and Rufous-winged Fulvetta A. castaneceps.
RH strained his ankle slightly when rushing down the valley slope where he was trying to tape in Pygmy Wren Babbler, at the moment CQ and RV sighted the first Slaty-bellied Tesia.
At 4.15 pm we were collected by the motorcycle drivers, with whom we drove upwards to have a look at W Tonkin from the highest point of the pass. The forests on the mountain slopes looked promising, however, they were probably as degraded as the ones we had encountered sofar. Even Ward's valley, however nice the birds encountered were, showed signs of cutting; a hut is placed along the small trail that follows the stream and on 14th we encountered a barefoot, blue-dressed H'mong man carrying a basket to collect who-knows-what. Dinner at Cha Pa Restaurant, recommended by the Rough Guide for a reason.
Monday Jan 14th: The word got out that there were motorcycle customers in town (not many, if any, tourists in town besides us) and so outside Prince Hotel they were fighting over who got to take us up this morning. At 9, only having stopped for a group of laughingthrushes with two Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus erythrocnemis that crossed the road, we found ourselves back again at Ward's valley where we mainly saw the same birds as the previous day, apart from a flock of Golden Parrotbills Paradoxornis verreauxi, one of the highlights of the trip! At the wooden hut along the road a guy demanded money for 'crossing his land', so we gave him 20,000 D / about 1.5 US$. Upon arrival back at the road, at 3.45 pm, only two motorcycles had turned up to take us down, so two of us got on the back of one bike. A short stop near the O Quy Ho turn-off didn't produce anything new, so on we went downwards, while a strong wind blew clouds our way. Back at the hotel we paid both drivers 7.5 US$, and the third driver only 4 US$ for the one-way trip this morning. Diner again at Cha Pa Restaurant.
Tuesday Jan 15th: It took a while to figure out where the Ham Rong Gardens were located (looking in the direction of the soccer pitch they're found up the hill looking the other way) but once we found them we had some nice sunny hrs of birding there, although it was quite windy.
Birds encountered included White-browed Laughingthrushes, a black-capped race of Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach tricolor, Blue-fronted and Black Redstarts Phoenicurus ochruros rufiventris (the latter apparently a vagrant, so chased them for pictures but failed unfortunately) and Buff-throated Warbler Phylloscopus subaffinis. At noon had noodlesoup in the gardens, followed by a proper lunch at Cha Pa Restaurant. At 4 pm took a small van back to Lao Cai, a drive which took 1.5 hrs. We boarded our train at Lao Cai at 5.30 pm, and at 6.45 it took off, completely full when we left. Outside temperature at that time 27° C, inside even warmer. Sodas and beer were sold inside the train, but no bar was available.
Wednesday Jan 16th: Upon arrival in Hanoi, at 4 am, we searched for a taxi driver who spoke enough English to understand that we wanted to go straight to Tam Dao hill station. One seemed to understand that we wanted to go there, since he mentioned it was somewhere near Vinh Yên, so we took the chance. All quiet in Hanoi, apart from some people that were taking their vegetables, by bicycle of course, to an enormous vegetable market. Only two hours later we arrived at the winding road, going up towards the hill station Tam Dao. On our way up we were fortunate in seeing both Collared Otus lettia and Mountain Scops Owl Otus spilocephalus in the headlights on small posts next to the road. At Tam Dao, we asked the driver to come pick us up the next day at 11 am and checked in at the, quite luxurious, Hotel Green World. Paid the taxi driver the agreed 40 US$ fare. The hotel rate, after some bargaining, was 25 US$ per night for two spacious rooms with hot showers. Apart from two other tourists in the same hotel and some builders working on yet another hotel, noone seemed to be around.
After a shower we walked to the Watertank Trail, in places quite overgrown and flanked by tall, wet grass. We were accompanied by a young boy who seemed to be quite interested in birds: whenever I whistled a sound he would try to imitate it, and sometimes he stopped and pointed out birds in our Robson - doing that he made no obvious mistakes. At the Watertank Trail, both Large Pomatorhinus hypoleucos and Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler P. ruficollis as well as White-hooded Babbler Gampsorhynchus rufulus and Grey Laughingthrush Garrulax maesi were heard, while a flock of Short-tailed Parrotbills Paradoxornis davidianus was seen. Also, several leeches were present there, and while checking what this Pale-footed Bush Warbler Cettia pallidipes was making such a fuss about, I discovered that there was a big snake lying beside the trail. Fog curtailed our visit to the Watertank Trail unfortunately - since this is probably one of the best sites in the world for both Green and Purple Cochoa!
In the afternoon we visited the 'waterfall' that did not hold much water, but a beautiful White-capped Water Redstart Chaimarrornis leucocephalus and some Sultan Tits Melanochlora sultanea were nice. The boy, who still followed us and who had enjoyed lunch with us in the village, played his flute, which made the sun come out and in the end we enjoyed a 25° C sunshine. Dinner at the hotel.
Thursday Jan 17th: After breakfast at the hotel we left for the 'Contour B Trail', the steepest and most slippery trail we walked this trip. Through the fog we went uphill over the wet mud, bamboo leaves and rocks, but apart from some intriguing sounds we heard (at the time we thought of Cochoa but Ward, afterwards listening to the recorded whistle, thought it might have been Black-headed Sibia Heterophasia desgodinsi, which would also have been a tick) we saw too few birds (mainly because of the fog) so we turned back and went to the 'transmitter steps' instead. Here we encountered relatively many birds although nothing new, until RV, less than an hour before our estimated time of departure, discoverd a small flock of Grey Laughingthrush we all saw. Also nice were the distinctive (black-billed) race of Blue Whistling Thrushes Myiophonus caeruleus caeruleus that were showing beside the steps repeatedly. After having paid the bill (25 US$ for the room; 18 US$ for diner including 7 beers (drank by two); 9 US$ for two noodlesoup breakfasts and drinks) we left for Hanoi in our taxi. At 1pm we arrived at downtown Hanoi and while our driver changed his flat tyre we checked in at the Camellia Hotel (the one we picked from the Rough Guide, the Anh Dao Hotel, was full). Their last room cost us 15 US$. A loud and not very cosy but crowded restaurant nearby provided good food and thus it was also used for diner the same evening. Through nice weather (from 25-30° C) our afternoon was spent walking along some of the broad streets, and some of the smaller ones, but all were loaded with cyclists and motorcycles - hardly any cars. We visited Confucius' Temple of Literature, walked past the rather ugly Ho Chi Minh museum and mausoleum towards West Lake, a picknick site (or used as such by many) in a nice setting surrounded by Hanoi city. The evening was spent browsing through the many (copied) cd-shops in the 'Old Quarter' of Hanoi - 18 cd's for 10 US$. Great variety, everything from Nirvana, Cornelis Vreeswijk, Underworld and Louis Armstrong was available.
Friday Jan 18th: After self-service breakfast at the hotel we drove to Hanoi airport in a taxi (10 US$). Departure tax at the airport was 14 US$ each. At 11 am we left Hanoi for HongKong with Cathay Pacific. I now read in my notebook that the stewardess seated opposite us was a sure candidate for our '"top ten most beautiful girls" (see below) - but since she was not Vietnamese, I have decided, she does not count.
We arrived at HongKong Airport at noon, so we could spend between 1pm and midnight birding and sightseeing. Since we had prearranged permits to Mai Po marshes through the website www.wwf.org.hk/eng/maipo/introduction we took a green taxi straight to the marshes, arriving there at 2.30 p.m. (the fare was 315 HKD, about 40 US$, but due to the stress of arriving-and-birding RV paid 500 HKD and forgot to ask for change). We paid for the permits and paid some extra that we were to get back upon return, only if we would return before 5 pm. Since it was Falcated Duck Anas falcata we wanted to see most, we started walking fast in the direction of the gei wais, the shrimp pools where in earlier years groups of these ducks could be found in winter. No luck there however, so we tried the hide at Deep Bay, where we had to go through a fence manned by the military who checked our permits. Back at this gate we could not find someone to reopen the gate for us, and thus we were trapped at the Chinese side of the border, with only half an hour to get to the Panda Shop to get refunded, and 7 hours until our plane to Amsterdam left. We started to walk alongside the fence in the hope of spotting someone who could help us, but signalling both a fisherman and a shovel worker didn't help. I even sounded a loud horn through an open car window, but the fisherman whose car I was molesting was not impressed. Finally a military man drove past on his bicycle and he opened a gate for us. Slightly after 5 pm we arrived at the Panda Shop and were refunded, and by a school class also leaving the area we were told how to get to Kowloon and HongKong Island.
We took a taxi to Sheung Shui KCR subway station, taking half an hour and costing 68 HKD. In the very crowded Friday night rush hour we got a good feel of the enormous amount of people in this very large city, by taking the subway towards Kowloon Tong. Here, no skyscrapers were found, so we took the MTR subway (like in Kuala Lumpur they have different systems) to Tsim Sha Tsu, where we found the typical HongKong image we were looking for: skyscrapers, big neonsign commercials, loads of people, big shopping malls and a view of the business district of HongKong island, across from where we were. Diner was a seeweed-and-pick-some-other-ingredients-yourself noodlesoup at a 'Food Court', after which we took the Airport Express (subway): straight from HongKong Island to the airport in 23 mins (100 HKD each). Arrived at the airport at 10.30 pm, where at customs I realised that I had been pickpocketed on the subway - I still had my passport and ticket, but ATM card, credit card, cash (only 8 US$ and some specifically saved beautiful Vietnamese banknotes) and Dutch public transport card were gone. One phonecall to The Netherlands was enough to block the cards however, so no stress.
At 0.15am we made our flight back to Amsterdam.
The field guide used was "A field guide to the birds of South-East Asia" by Craig Robson (2000).
Lonely Planet's "Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia" Road Atlas (1:1,000,000) was used strictly for reference.
Of the birding trip reports read before the trip Brian Gee's (december 1996) had excellent maps as usual. Other reports checked include one in German by Matthias Fehlow (february/march 1999); one by Susan Myers (may 1999); one by Aidan Kelly (december 1998) and one by Jon Hornbuckle (march/april 1998). The latter four were found on the Internet.
After our trip I found some other interesting trip reports on the Internet, including one by Jonathan Williams (april 2001), who was quite successfull at Sapa and Tam Dao, and one by Dave Farrow (febr/march 2003) who only visited S Vietnam.
An article on Xuan Thuy was found in the supplement by the OBC Bulletin No. 33 -this article is accompanied by a small map mentioning the locations for the main target birds here.
Arnold Meijer, Teus Luijendijk, Ward Vercruyssen, Gunther DeSmet.
List of birds recorded in Northern Vietnam (nomenclature follows Robson (2000)
Used abbreviationsCP = Cuc Phuong
XT = Xuan Thuy
HQ = Headquarters
SP = Sa Pa
TD = Tam Dao
1. Chestnut-necklaced Partridge - Arborophila
Heard only, along the northeastern part of the Loop Trail, CP, 9/1.
2. Silver Pheasant - Lophura nycthemera
A male and two females on the road between Bong and the entrance, CP, in the afternoon of 11/1.
3. Eurasian Wigeon - Anas penelope
80+ at sea, XT, 6/1.
4. Spot-billed Duck - Anas poecilorhyncha
About 30 in the ponds near the HQ, XT, 6/1, with about 10 there on 7/1.
5. Northern Shoveler - Anas clypeata
10 seen from the embankment east of HQ, XT, 7/1.
6. Northern Pintail - Anas acuta
About 40 flying over the HQ in early morning, with 2 among the Eurasian Wigeons at sea, XT, 6/1.
7. Garganey - Anas querquedula
About 15 flying over at XT, 6/1, with 2 along the main track there on 7/1.
8. Common Teal - Anas crecca crecca
About 50 dispersed over various shrimp pools at XT, 6/1, with 20+ on 7/1 and 10+ on 8/1.
( ) Spotted Woodpecker species - Dendrocopos
2-3 birds heard calling in a distant mixed bird flock at Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan pass, SP, 13/1. Also heard drumming from the bamboo stands.
9. Greater Yellownape - Picus flavinucha
A calling Yellownape Picus flavinucha / chlorolophus briefly seen by CQ and RV, near the SE clearing at Loop Trail, CP, 9/1, may have been this species.
Three were seen in one tree (together with a Ratchet-tailed Treepie Temnurus temnurus and a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus paradiseus) from a grid trail, CP, 11/1.
10. Bay Woodpecker - Blythipicus
One seen from a grid trail, CP, 11/1, with 3+ heard that day. One seen and heard along the steps to the transmitter, TD, 16/1.
11. Red-vented Barbet - Megalaima
10+ along the main road, walking south from Bong, CP, 9/1. 2+ along Loop Trail, CP, 10/1. Several heard and at least one seen along main road, CP, 11/1.
12. Green-eared Barbet - Megalaima
2 along Loop Trail, CP, 9/1, with 1 along the main road and 1 along Loop Trail, CP on 10/1.
13. Golden-throated Barbet - Megalaima
Two were seen very well from the Watertank Trail, TD, 16/1.
14. Red-headed Trogon - Harpactes
Easily seen at CP, with several in the trees next to the accommodation at Bong. Birds were encountered as follows: 5 on 8/1; 2 on 9/1; 3 on 10/1 and 3 on 11/1 (latter along main road).
15. Common Kingfisher - Alcedo atthis
Common indeed, especially in the many small pools and waterways in the Red River Delta. 35 were counted between Hanoi Airport and XT on 5/1. At XT, 15 were seen on 6/1; 12 on 7/1 and 10+ were counted between XT and CP on 8/1. 6 were seen from the car while travelling from CP to Hanoi on 11/1 and finally 1 was seen in the backyard of a Hanoi house near West Lake, 17/1.
16. White-throated Kingfisher - Halcyon
Mostly singles were noted at XT, with 1 on 5/1; 3 on 6/1; 2 on 7/1 and 4 on 8/1.
17. Black-capped Kingfisher - Halcyon
Very obvious bird at XT, and a beautiful one. One was seen on an electricity wire high over the dry rice paddies near Giao XT, in the evening of 5/1. At XT, 8 were seen on 6/1; 3 on 7/1 and 1 on 8/1. The latter was seen catching fiddler crabs.
18. Pied Kingfisher - Ceryle rudis
At XT, one was seen on 6/1, with 2 on 7/1.
19. Drongo Cuckoo - Surniculus lugubris
Singles were heard only from the main road at CP on 9/1 and from the steps to the transmitter at TD on 16/1.
20. Lesser Coucal - Centropus bengalensis
At XT, 3 were seen on 6/1, with 2 there on 7/1. One seen from the Valley Trail at CP on 9/1.
21. Asian Palm Swift - Cypsiurus
110+ over West Lake, seen from the grounds of the Temple of Literature, Hanoi, 17/1.
22. Mountain Scops Owl - Otus spilocephalus
Heard at night, Bong, CP, 10/1. One was seen well for about 30 seconds in the headlights of our car, some 13 km before reaching TD, at 6.30 a.m., 16/1. Especially white eyebrows, spotted and spangled underparts, small eartufts and row of large white scapular feathers were noted. Apparantly, it is uncertain which subspecies is involved: in Northern Vietnam both siamensis and latouchei occur (cf. Robson (2000).
23. Collared Scops Owl - Otus lettia
(Split by Clements (2001)
One was seen well for about 10 seconds in the headlights of our car, some 6 km before reaching TD, at 6.45 a.m., 16/1. Especially pale face with dark facial lining, as well as whitish underparts and collar were noted.
24. Collared Owlet - Glaucidium brodiei
Alarming songbirds (mostly Striped Tit Babblers Macronous gularis) directed our attention to one individual, that was seen well afterwards from a grid trail, CP, 11/1.
25. Spotted Dove - Streptopelia chinensis
3 between XT and Giao Thuy, 8/1.
26. White-bellied Green Pigeon - Treron
5 in a tree behind the entrance building, CP, 8/1. First two birds and later one female in a tree along the Valley Trail, CP, 11/1.
27. Slaty-breasted Rail - Gallirallus
Easily seen at XT, with 8 seen on 6/1 and 6 on 7/1.
28. White-breasted Waterhen - Amaurornis
Quite common at XT, with 10 on 6/1; 11 on 7/1 and 3 on 8/1.
29. Brown Crake - Amaurornis akool
One bird seen twice near the XT HQ, 6/1 (RH only).
30. Ruddy-breasted Crake - Porzana
One seen briefly from the embankment east of the XT HQ, 7/1 (RH and RV only).
31. Common Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
At XT, birds were noted as follows: 3 on 6/1; 7 on 7/1 and 4 on 8/1.
32. Eurasian Woodcock - Scolopax
One flying over Bong at dusk, CP, 10/1.
33. Common Snipe - Gallinago gallinago
At XT, singles were heard on 6/1 and seen in flight on 7/1, while one was also seen between XT and Cuc Phuong on 8/1.
34. Black-tailed Godwit - Limosa
Four together and a single in a shrimp pool west of the HQ and a group of 50+ flying over the mudflats of XT, 6/1, with several birds heard at Con Giao Xuan, 7/1.
35. Bar-tailed Godwit - Limosa lapponica
30+ at Con Giao Xuan, 7/1.
36. Eurasian Curlew - Numenius arquata
100+ at Con Giao Xuan, 7/1.
37. Spotted Redshank - Tringa erythropus
At the shrimp pools at XT, 1 was seen on 6/1, with 3+ there on 7/1. 10+ were seen opposite the plice station at Giao Thuy on 8/1.
38. Common Redshank - Tringa totanus
Only recorded at XT, with several heard at night upon arriving at the HQ by motorbike, 5/1; 40+ seen at Con Tan on 6/1 and 4 at Con Giao Xuan, 7/1.
39. Marsh Sandpiper - Tringa stagnatilis
Only seen at the shrimp pools at XT, with 10 on 6/1 and 25+ on 7/1.
40. Common Greenshank - Tringa nebularia
Only recorded at XT, with several heard at night upon arriving at the HQ by motorbike, 5/1; 60+ seen at Con Tan on 6/1; 40+ at Con Giao Xuan, 7/1 and 3+ near the HQ on 8/1.
41. Nordmann's Greenshank - Tringa
At least 3-4 different individuals (of which 3 were seen together) at Con Giao Xuan, XT, 7/1.
42. Green Sandpiper - Tringa ochropus
Heard only, at XT, 6/1 and 7/1.
43. Wood Sandpiper - Tringa glareola
13 in an inundated paddy near the village of Binh My, between Hanoi and Giao XT, 5/1. One over HQ XT, 8/1.
44. Terek Sandpiper - Xenus cinereus
About 10 at Con Giao Xuan, XT, 7/1.
45. Common Sandpiper - Actitis hypoleucos
At XT, one was seen on 6/1; 5 on 7/1 and 2 on 8/1.
46. Great Knot - Calidris tenuirostris
About 100 at Con Giao Xuan, XT, 7/1.
47. Sanderling - Calidris alba
5 at Con Tan on 6/1 and 40+ at Con Giao Xuan, XT, 7/1.
48. Dunlin - Calidris alpina sakhalina
100+ at Con Tan on 6/1 and 300+ at Con Giao Xuan, XT, 7/1.
49. Curlew Sandpiper - Calidris ferruginea
4 at Con Giao Xuan, XT, 7/1.
50. Spoon-billed Sandpiper - Eurynorhynchus
At least 5 but possibly as many as 8, Con Giao Xuan, XT, 7/1. First one individual was seen, that flew off shortly after its discovery. Then a group of five was seen foraging close together. This group flew off with several other waders, to land about one km further east. Within 600 m we discovered three other singles that may have been other birds than the original five. Distance to the foraging birds was about 80 m.
51. Grey Plover - Pluvialis squatarola
50+ at Con Tan on 6/1 and 200+ at Con Giao Xuan, XT, 7/1.
52. Kentish Plover - Charadrius alexandrinus
300+ at Con Tan on 6/1 and 50+ at Con Giao Xuan, XT, 7/1.
53. Lesser Sand Plover - Charadrius
mongolus mongolus / schaeferi
50+ at Con Tan on 6/1 and 25+ at Con Giao Xuan, XT, 7/1. All birds observed closely turned out to be Lesser Sands, but there may have been Greater Sand Plovers C. leschenaultii present.
54. Northern Lapwing - Vanellus vanellus
7 in paddies between Vinh Yên and TD, about 10 km from the former city, with 3 in flight between the airport and Hanoi, both on 17/1.
55. Grey-headed Lapwing - Vanellus
23 in an wet rice paddy near the village of Binh My, with 1 about 3 km further down the road between Hanoi and Giao XT, 5/1. 4 in flight between XT and CP, 8/1. 1 in a paddy between Vinh Yên and TD, about 10 km from the former, 17/1. 1 in flight between Hanoi and the airport, 18/1.
56. Possible Heuglin's Gull - Larus
250+ at Con Xanh, the exposed sandbar in the mouth of the Red River, XT, 6/1. One first-winter in flight over the sea between Con Tan and Con Giao Xuan, XT, 7/1. One adult recorded on 8/1. We doubt, however, whether L. heuglini really occurs in Vietnam, when for instance comparing the situation with Hong Kong, where both L. mongolicus and L. vegae occur. If this is correct, the birds found in XT probably belong to L. mongolicus because of the pink legs in the adults.
57. Pallas's (Greater Black-headed) Gull
- Larus ichthyaetus
8 (7 adults, some of which were in summer plumage, and 1 third-winter) at Con Xanh, the exposed sandbar in the mouth of the Red River, XT, 6/1.
58. Black-headed Gull - Larus ridibundus
At XT, birds were recorded as follows: 15+ on 6/1; 10+ on 7/1 and 3 on 8/1.
59. Saunders's Gull - Larus saundersi
A group of 7 and a lone foraging individual were seen at Con Giao Xuan, XT, 7/1.
60. Common Tern - Sterna hirundo
tibetana / longipennis
A first-winter at Con Tan on 6/1.
61. Little Tern - Sterna albifrons
About 15 at Con Tan on 6/1 and 10 at Con Giao Xuan, XT, 7/1.
62. Whiskered Tern - Chlidonias hybridus
30+ along the channel southwest from XT towards the sea, and 50+ at Con Giao Xuan, XT, 7/1.
63. Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus
2 at Hong Kong Airport, 5/1. 24 (of which 12 congregating at dusk, so maybe the same 12 birds were involved) at XT, 6/1, with 11 recorded there on 7/1. Only one adult male was seen, from the embankment east of the HQ on 7/1. One in flight near Hanoi Airport, 18/1.
64. Crested Goshawk - Accipiter trivirgatus
One perched in a tree near the northwestern end of the Loop Trail, CP, 9/1. One over Bong, CP, 11/1. One over SP, 12/1. One over Contour Trail 'A', TD, 16/1.
65. Common Buzzard - Buteo buteo
2 over O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1. This species is not mentioned for W Tonkin in Robson (2000).
66. Pied Falconet - Microhierax melanoleucus
1 catching butterflies from a tree next to the accommodation at Bong, CP, 9/1.
67. Common Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus
2 recorded between XT and CP, 8/1. 1 between the airport and Hanoi, 17/1.
68. Merlin - Falco columbarius
One adult male hunting over the Red River mouth, XT, 6/1. According to Robson (2000), this species has not been recorded in Tonkin before.
69. Peregrine - Falco peregrinus japonensis (/calidus?)
One adult flushed from the beach at Con Tan, XT, 6/1, was the biggest Peregrine I've ever seen - perhaps even bigger than a Gyrfalcon F. rusticolus!
70. Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis
Recorded at XT as follows: singles on 6 and 8/1, with 8 on 7/1.
71. Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
Common at XT, with a maximum of 100+ recorded on 7/1.
72. Grey Heron - Ardea cinerea jouyi
Quite common at XT, with 25+ recorded daily.
73. Purple Heron - Ardea purpurea
A single recorded at XT on 6/1, with two on 7/1.
74. Great Egret - Casmerodius albus
Quite common at XT with about 30 recorded daily.
75. Intermediate Egret - Mesophoyx
3 at XT on 6/1.
76. Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis
A group of 13 was seen in fields between Hanoi and XT, 5/1.
77. Chinese Pond Heron - Ardeola
Quite common at XT with about 20 recorded daily. 15 between Vinh Yên and TD, 17/1.
78. Little (Striated) Heron - Butorides
Two were flushed from the embankment north of HQ, XT, 7/1.
79. Black-faced Spoonbill - Platalea
A group of 9 was seen in a shrimp pool southwest of the HQ, XT, 6/1. Three were seen in flight over the shrimp pools east of the HQ, XT, 7/1.
80. Blue-rumped Pitta - Pitta soror
4 heard from the grid trails in late afternoon, CP, 8/1. 2 briefly seen from the main road, CP, 9/1. A female was observed on the Loop Trail for about a minute, and 2 were seen from the main road, while 4 were heard on both sites, CP, 10/1. Finally, 4 were heard from the main road on 11/1.
81. Elliot's (Bar-bellied) Pitta - Pitta
One was heard from the grid trails in late afternoon, CP, 8/1. Three were heard from the main road, while 1 was heard from the Valley Trail, about 2 km from Bong, CP, 9/1. Two were heard from both the Loop Trail and the main road on 10/1. Finally, two males were seen briefly from the main road about 4 km south of Bong, while a male was seen superbly for about 3 minutes on end (twice, both times reacting to tape playing) about 2.5 km south of Bong, CP, 11/1. 8 more males were heard calling and singing along the main road within 4 km south of Bong on 11/1.
82. Long-tailed Broadbill - Psarisomus
One was seen, more heard, at the eastern side of the Loop Trail, CP, 10/1 (RH only).
83. Silver-breasted Broadbill - Serilophus
Heard from the main road near Bong, CP, on 8 and 11/1. 8 in a mixed species flock at the northwestern end of the Loop Trail, and 15+ along the main road about 1 km south of Bong, CP, 10/1.
84. Blue-winged Leafbird - Chloropsis
About 15 along the main road near Bong, with 2 at the Valley Trail, CP, 9/1. 10+ main road, CP, 10/1. 2 at the Valley Trail, CP, 11/1. 2 at the Watertank Trail and 3 at the Contour Trail 'A', TD, 16/1. 1 along the steps to the transmitter, TD, 17/1.
85. Brown Shrike - Lanius cristatus
7 seen from the car between Hanoi and XT, 5/1, with 3+ seen between XT and CP, 8/1.
86. Long-tailed Shrike - Lanius schach
At XT, birds were recorded as follows: 10 on 6/1; 8 on 7/1 and 2 on 8/1; 1 was seen at Bong, CP, on 8/1. On 15/1, 1 was seen at Ham Rong Botanical Gardens, SP. Finally, 3 were seen at TD on 17/1.
( ) Lanius schach tricolor / (longicaudatus)
1 in the Ham Rong Botanical Gardens, SP, 15/1. According to Robson (2000), this black-capped subspecies does not occur in West Tonkin.
87. Grey-backed Shrike - Lanius tephronotus
At Bong, CP, 2 were seen on 9/1, with a single bird there on 10 and 11/1. One was also seen at Contour Trail 'A', TD, on 16/1.
88. White-winged Magpie - Urocissa
One immature bird (i.e. yellowish bill and pale body) at the northern part of the Loop Trail, CP, 10/1 (RH only). Heard along the main road on both 9 and 11/1.
89. Common Green Magpie - Cissa chinensis
2 along the steps to the transmitter, TD, 16/1 (CQ only).
90. Ratchet-tailed Treepie - Temnurus
One briefly seen from a grid trail, CP, 11/1 (CQ and RV only).
91. Maroon Oriole - Oriolus traillii
A male was seen from the main road, about 2.5 km south of Bong, CP, 9/1.
92. Black-winged Cuckooshrike - Coracina
Two males plus a pair at Bong, CP, on 9/1. Birds resembled Indochinese Cuckooshrike C. polioptera but showed a graduated tail with narrow white tips underneath.
93. Grey-chinned Minivet - Pericrocotus
A calling male was seen from the Contour Trail 'B', TD, 17/1.
94. Scarlet Minivet - Pericrocotus
Male at Bong, CP, 9/1. 5+ observed from the main road near Bong, CP, 10/1.
95. White-throated Fantail - Rhipidura
Singles were seen in the mangroves at XT on 6 and 7/1, and along the Loop Trail, CP, on 9/1. At SP, 2 were seen at Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan pass, on 13/1 and 14/1. Furthermore, singles were seen at Ham Rong Gardens, SP on 15/1, and at the Watertank Trail, TD, on 16/1.
96. Black Drongo - Dicrurus macrocercus
Most of the 48 drongos, seen along the road between Hanoi and XT on 5/1, were of this species, while 2 each were seen between XT and CP on 8/1 and between TD and Hanoi on 17/1.
97. Ashy Drongo - Dicrurus leucophaeus
At XT, 1 was seen in the mangroves on 7/1 and 3 on 8/1.
( ) Dicrurus leucophaeus salangensis
1 along the Valley Trail, CP, 11/1.
98. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo - Dicrurus
2 seen in the evening of 9/1 turned out to be excellent mimics along the Valley Trail, CP. We thought we had tracked down some Ratchet-tailed Treepies Temnurus temnurus....One seen from a grid trail, CP, on 11/1.
99. Great Iora - Aegithina lafresnayei
Singles were seen from the main road, CP, on 8 and 9/1, and at the grid trails on 9/1.
100. Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush -
A male flew overhead near O Quy Ho, SP, on 12/1.
101. Blue Rock Thrush - Monticola
Single males were seen on the police station (when collecting our permits for XT), Giao Thuy, on 5/1, and at Ham Rong Gardens, SP, on 15/1.
102. Blue Whistling Thrush - Myiophonus
One was seen from the main road, about 1 km south of Bong, CP, 9/1. On 15/1, one was seen at the Ham Rong Gardens, SP.
( ) Myiophonus caeruleus caeruleus
Birds of this dark-billed race were seen as follows: singles at the Contour Trail 'A' while two were seen at the steps to the transmitter, TD, on 16/1 and 17/1.
103. Scaly Thrush - Zoothera dauma
Seen daily at CP, with 5 recorded on 8/1; 2 on 9/1; 1 on 10/1 and 5+ on 11/1. Usually, one was present with other thrushes on the first stretch between Bong and the Valley Trail. However, it was most easily seen from the car when driving the main road between the entrance and Bong. One was flushed from the secondary forest between the open area and Ward's valley, SP, on 14/1.
104. Black-breasted Thrush - Turdus
Rarely recorded at CP, with a male and a female near Bong on 8/1; 2 at Bong on 9/1; a female at Bong and 3 females near the entrance of CP on 11/1.
105. Japanese Thrush - Turdus cardis
Quite common at CP, with 25+ recorded on 8/1; 15+ on 9/1; 12+ on 10/1 and 15+ on 11/1. Several were seen daily on the lawns at Bong, but it was most easily seen on the tennis court next to the entrance. Also recorded in the middle of the Loop Trail forest.
106. Eurasian Blackbird - Turdus
3 seen in the vicinity of the Giao Thuy police station, 8/1, while 4 were seen at CP that day. Two males were seen at Bong daily from 9-11/1, with another male recorded at the entrance to CP on the latter date.
107. Lesser Shortwing - Brachypteryx
Heard only, in song, close to the Valley Trail, CP, 9/1.
108. Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher - Ficedula
Single males were seen halfway Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan, SP, on both 13 and 14/1, and at the steps to the transmitter, TD, on 17/1.
109. Snowy-browed Flycatcher - Ficedula
A male was seen in the vicinity of the 'thousand year old tree', Loop Trail, CP, 10/1 (RH and CQ only).
110. Verditer Flycatcher - Eumyias
A male was seen at the Ham Rong Gardens, SP, 15/1.
111. Large Niltava - Niltava grandis
One extremely shy male was seen on both visits to Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan, SP, on 13 and 14/1.
112. Fujian Niltava - Niltava davidi
Only males were noted, with 1 at the main road / Loop Trail intersection, CP, in the evening of 8/1; 2 at the Loop Trail (1 near the southernmost clearing and 1 in the vicinity of the 'thousand year old tree'), CP, on 10/1; 1 at the grid trails, CP, on 11/1 and 1 at the Watertank Trail, TD, on 16/1.
113. White-tailed Flycatcher - Cyornis
A male was seen at the northernmost grid trail, CP on 9/1 with a female there on 10/1.
114. Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher -
Culicicapa ceylonensis calochrysea
Only recorded at CP, where most easily seen from the main road: 1 on 8/1; 3 on 9/1 and 1 on 10/1, while on the latter date 2 were also seen on the Loop Trail.
115. Rufous-tailed Robin - Luscinia
Only one was seen, along the main road close to Bong, CP, on 10/1.
116. Orange-flanked Bush Robin - Tarsiger
cyanurus cyanurus / rufilatus
At CP, about 4 were recorded daily, most conspicuously along the main road. 10+ were seen when walking from O Quy Ho, SP, following the jeep trail into the mountains, 12/1. At Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan, SP, 6 were seen on 13/1 and 4 (including an adult male) on 14/1. Two were encountered at the Ham Rong Gardens, SP, 15/1. Singles were also seen at TD: at the Watertank Trail, the Contour Trail 'A' and the steps to the transmitter on 16/1, and again at the Contour Trail 'A' on 17/1.
117. Oriental Magpie Robin - Copsychus
Two were seen from the motorcycle, between XT and Giao Thuy, 8/1, while on that date 1 was seen at the entrance to CP. A single male was seen at Bong, CP on 9/1. Another male was sighted between CP and Hanoi on 11/1. Finally, one male was seen on the lawn next to Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum, Hanoi, on 17/1.
118. White-rumped Shama - Copsychus
At CP, 2 were seen from the main road on 8/1 and 3 on 11/1, while 2 were encountered along the Loop Trail on 10/1.
119. Black Redstart - Phoenicurus
A winter-plumaged adult male and at least 2 first-winter birds were seen at the Ham Rong Gardens, SP, 15/1. Unfortunately, attempts to take record shots of these birds failed. According to Robson (2000), this species is a vagrant in West Tonkin.
120. Blue-fronted Redstart - Phoenicurus
Two different males were seen about 800 m up the jeep trail from O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1. In this location, a first-winter male was seen and a second bird heard on 14/1. On 15/1, a male and a female were seen at the Ham Rong Gardens, SP. At the latter location, record shots were taken of the male. According to Robson (2000), the status of this species is uncertain in West Tonkin.
121. White-capped Water Redstart - Chaimarrornis
An (as always superb) individual was seen and photographed at the waterfall at TD, 16/1.
122. White-crowned Forktail - Enicurus
One was seen and heard on the Loop Trail, close to the 'children's waterfall', CP, 10/1. A Forktail Enicurus, seen in flight only at Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan, SP, on 13/1, was thought to be this species, since on 14/1 we saw two White-crowneds here.
123. Eastern Stonechat - Saxicola
Male between Hanoi and XT, 5/1. 4 between XT and CP, 8/1. 4 males between Lao Cai and SP, 12/1. A single male and 9+ birds between SP and the Fan Si Pan pass on 13 and 14/1 respectively. 5+ at the Ham Rong Gardens, SP, with 6 at the dammed 'lake' in SP village, 15/1.
124. Grey Bushchat - Saxicola ferrea
2 in the open area near the Fan Si Pan pass, SP, 12/1, with singles in that vicinity on 13-14/1. A pair at the Ham Rong Gardens, SP, 15/1. A male seen on the descent from TD towards Vinh Yên, 17/1.
125. Red-billed Starling - Sturnus
A single female in the garden of the police station, a pair on the nearby powerlines and 20+ in flight over the village of Giao Thuy, 8/1.
126. Common Myna - Acridotheres tristis
2 in flight between Hanoi and XT, 5/1. One over the Temple of Literature, Hanoi, 17/1.
127. Chestnut-vented Nuthatch - Sitta
At Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan, SP, one was seen on 13/1 and two on 14/1.
128. White-tailed Nuthatch - Sitta
At Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan, SP, 2-3 were seen on 13/1 and two on 14/1.
129. Brown-throated Treecreeper - Certhia
At Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan, SP, 2 were seen on 14/1, of which one was singing.
130. Yellow-cheeked Tit - Parus spilonotus
Two were seen from the jeep trail going up from O Quy Ho village, SP, 12/1. At Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan, SP, 10+ and 20+ were seen in mixed species flocks on 13 and 14/1, respectively.
131. Yellow-browed Tit - Sylviparus
At Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan, SP, 3 and 4 were seen in mixed species flocks on 13 and 14/1, respectively.
132. Sultan Tit - Melanochlora sultanea
A pair along the Valley Trail near Bong, CP, on 9 and 11/1. One at the Loop Trail and 3 seen from the main road, CP, 10/1. Four in a mixed species flock near the waterfall at TD, 16/1.
133. Black-throated Tit - Aegithalos
Two were seen from the jeep trail going up from O Quy Ho village, SP, 12/1. At Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan, SP, 10+ and 1 were seen in mixed species flocks on 13 and 14/1, respectively.
134. Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
7 flew high over XT on 7/1, while 2 were seen between XT and CP on 8/1.
135. Nepal House Martin - Delichon
4 were seen over transmitter hill at TD on 17/1. 8 martins, seen in a heavy fog on the previous morning, were strongly suspected to be of this species.
136. Crested Finchbill - Spizixos
40+ were seen from the jeep trail, going up from O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1. They were very conspicious in early evening, congregating in large groups. Small groups were seen passing that same general area on our way to and from the Fan Si Pan pass, 13-14/1.
137. Collared Finchbill - Spizixos
3+ were seen from the jeep trail, about 1 km from O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1. Beautiful bird.
138. Black-crested Bulbul - Pycnonotus
5 were seen along the Loop Trail, CP, on 10/1.
139. Red-whiskered Bulbul - Pycnonotus
At CP, birds were seen at the entrance (4 on 8/1) and at the Valley Trail, with 6 on 9/1 and 4 on 11/1. About 10 at the Temple of Literature and West Lake, Hanoi, 17/1.
140. Brown-breasted Bulbul - Pycnonotus
50+ were seen from the jeep trail, going up from O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1. Small groups were also seen passing that same general area on our way to and from the Fan Si Pan pass, SP, 13-14/1. 4 at the Ham Rong Gardens, SP, 15/1.
141. Light-vented Bulbul - Pycnonotus
A pair in a mangrove bush, seen while waiting for the boat to Con Giao Xuan, XT, 7/1.
142. Stripe-throated Bulbul - Pycnonotus
Small numbers seen at CP, with 1 on 8/1; 2 at Loop Trail, 9-10/1, and 2+ at Valley Trail, 11/1.
143. Puff-throated Bulbul - Alophoixus
Quite common at CP, with about 10 seen daily from 8-11/1, usually in small groups.
144. Grey-eyed Bulbul - Iole propinqua
10+ at Loop Trail, CP, 10/1, with 3 at the main road on 11/1.
145. Black Bulbul - Hypsipetes leucocephalus
4+ were seen from the jeep trail, going up from O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1. Few were also seen at Contour Trail 'A' and the steps to the transmitter, TD, 16-17/1.
( ) Hypsipetes leucocephalus leucocephalus
20+ were seen from the jeep trail, going up from O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1. About 10 were seen at the steps to the transmitter, TD, 16-17/1.
146. Zitting Cisticola - Cisticola
A single individual was noted at the dammed 'lake' next to SP village, 15/1.
147. Hill Prinia - Prinia atrogularis
Three at the small valley east of the jeep trail, O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1. One at Fan Si Pan pass, SP, 13/1. Two between SP and the Fan Si Pan pass, 14/1. 5+ at Ham Rong Gardens, SP, 15/1. 3+ at TD, 16/1.
148. Rufescent Prinia - Prinia rufescens
About 4 along the Valley Trail, CP, on 10 and 11/1.
149. Yellow-bellied Prinia - Prinia
Three birds of this well-marked subspecies were seen near the HQ of XT, 7/1.
150. Plain Prinia - Prinia inornata
One near Binh My, between Hanoi and XT, 5/1. At the XT mangroves, 7 and 10+ were seen on 7/1 and 8/1 respectively.
151. Chestnut-flanked White-eye - Zosterops
Up to 2 were seen in the mangroves near the XT HQ, from 6-8/1.
152. Japanese White-eye - Zosterops
Up to 6 were seen in the mangroves near the XT HQ, from 6-8/1.
153. Chestnut-headed Tesia - Tesia
One reacted to pishing and was consequently seen briefly at Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan, SP, on 13/1 (RH only). Calls of 5+ birds thought to be of this species were heard at Ward's valley on both 13 and 14/1.
154. Slaty-bellied Tesia - Tesia
Four seen and 3+ heard calling at Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan, SP, on 13/1, with 2+ seen there on 14/1. Two heard calling at the Watertank Trail, TD, 16/1.
155. Pale-footed Bush Warbler - Cettia
One seen very well, since it was constantly alarming for a resting snake, along the Watertank Trail, TD, 16/1. It was actually when I focused on the bird, flickering about next to my feet, that I got the snake into view!
156. Manchurian Bush Warbler - Cettia
Single birds seen daily at the edge of the mangroves, close to XT HQ, from 6-8/1.
157. Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler -
Cettia fortipes davidiana
One seen very well, other warblers Cettia heard nearby probably of this same species, along the steps to the transmitter, TD, 17/1.
158. Common Tailorbird - Orthotomus
Only recorded near Bong at CP, with 1 on 7/1; 2 on 8/1; 3+ along the Valley Trail on 9/1 and 2 along the main road on 10/1.
159. Dark-necked Tailorbird - Orthotomus
atrogularis subspecies nova (cf. Robson (2000)
Three and 2+ seen respectively in the scrub next to the main road, close to Bong, CP, 10 and 11/1. Two in a mixed species flock near the waterfall at TD, 16/1.
160. Dusky Warbler - Phylloscopus
Quite common at XT mangroves, with 2 recorded on 6/1; 15+ on 7/1 and 3 on 8/1.
161. Buff-throated Warbler - Phylloscopus
A single bird was seen at the Ham Rong Gardens, SP, 15/1.
162. Ashy-throated Warbler - Phylloscopus
Four were seen along the stream at the start of Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan, SP, on 14/1.
163. Pallas's Leaf Warbler - Phylloscopus
Three at the Ham Rong Gardens, SP, 15/1. Four along the Watertank Trail and 12+ in a mixed species flock along the Contour Trail 'A', TD, 16/1, with 2+ along the steps to the transmitter, TD, on 17/1. Although pale individuals were noted at TD, no certain Lemon-rumped Warblers P. chloronotus were seen.
164. Chinese Leaf Warbler - Phylloscopus
One seen and heard calling in the bamboo on our descent from the main road towards Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan, SP, 13/1. Two at Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan, SP, 14/1.
165. Yellow-browed Warbler - Phylloscopus
Quite common at all sites visited. A record 10+ were heard between SP and Fan Si Pan, 14/1. Several were also heard at the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, 17/1.
166. Sulphur-breasted Warbler - Phylloscopus
3+ in a mixed Phylloscopus flock, Loop Trail, with one along the main road, CP, 10/1 (RH and CQ only).
167. Grey-crowned Warbler - Seicercus
Up to 2 daily at CP, seen at Loop and Valley Trail, as well as from the main road, 9-10/1. Three along the Watertank Trail, TD, 16/1.
168. Broad-billed Warbler - Tickellia
Two seen and a few heard at Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan, SP, on both 13 and 14/1. Call resembles that of Chestnut-headed Tesia Tesia castaneocoronata.
169. Black-faced Warbler - Abroscopus
At Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan, SP, 20+ and 8+ were seen on 13 and 14/1, respectively.
170. Yellow-bellied Warbler - Abroscopus
One in a mixed species flock at the northwestern end of the Loop Trail, CP, 10/1 (RH and CQ only).
171. Grey Laughingthrush - Garrulax
Regularly heard from the Watertank Trail, the Contour Trail 'A' and the steps to the transmitter, TD, on both 16 and 17/1, with 6 seen at the latter site on 17/1. Birds looked darker grey that is depicted in Robson (2000).
172. Black-throated Laughingthrush -
Garrulax chinensis chinensis
A single individual was briefly seen at Contour Trail 'A' (CQ only), with three birds seen briefly at the steps to the transmitter (RH only), TD, 16/1. Birds resembled the ones seen in cages at SP and Hanoi, being all-dark grey, including the mantle.
173. White-browed Laughingthrush - Garrulax
2+ were seen in a flock with Spot-breasted Parrotbills Paradoxornis guttaticollis and Spectacled Barwings Actinodura ramsayi from the jeep trail about 1 km up from O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1. A group of 8+, with 2 Spot-breasted Scimitar Babblers Pomatorhinus erythrocnemis, was heard and consequently seen between SP and the Fan Si Pan pass, 14/1. Another group of 8+ birds was seen quite well at the transmitter hill at the Ham Rong Gardens, SP, 15/1.
174. Puff-throated Babbler - Pellorneum
Two each were seen from the main road and along the Valley Trail, CP, 9/1.
175. Scaly-crowned Babbler - Malacopteron
Only recorded at CP, with 3 at the main road and 15+ along the Valley Trail on 9/1, and 8+ and 5+ at the main road on 10 and 11/1 respectively.
176. Large Scimitar Babbler - Pomatorhinus
One gathering nesting material at the main road, about 1 km south of Bong, CP, 9/1. Heard at roughly the same spot on 11/1. Heard duetting at the Watertank Trail, TD, 16/1.
177. Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler
- Pomatorhinus erythrocnemis odicus
Two were seen in a group with several White-browed Laughingthrushes Garrulax sannio between SP and the Fan Si Pan pass, 14/1.
178. Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler
- Pomatorhinus ruficollis reconditus
Two heard at the small village along the jeep trail up from O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1. One heard along the Watertank Trail, TD, 16/1.
179. Limestone Wren Babbler - Napothera
5 seen exceptionally well as they foraged on and between rocks in the forest at the eastern end of the Loop Trail, where this intercepted with a side trail leading to a small cave, CP, 10/1.
( ) Wren Babblers - Napothera brevicaudata
Two singles were seen on and off as they foraged in the dark cover of leaves along the northwestern end of the Loop Trail, CP, 9/1. Another two were seen briefly from the main road at CP, 11/1. Most likely to have been Scaly-breasted Wren Babblers.
180. Pygmy Wren Babbler - Pnoepyga
Up to 5 heard singing at Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan, SP, on both 13 and 14/1. Birds responded to pishing, whistling, playing recorded tape (although the recording of Jelle Scharringa's South-east Asia CD-ROM, first press, is a somewhat faster version of the song heard) and playback, but still not a movement, let alone a bird, was seen.
181. Long-tailed Wren Babbler - Spelaeornis
Halfway Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan, SP, one was seen on both 13/1 and 14/1.
182. Golden Babbler - Stachyris chrysaea
5+ at the various trails at TD on 16/1, with 2 at the steps to the transmitter, TD, 17/1.
183. Grey-throated Babbler - Stachyris
At CP, recorded as follows: 2 at the Loop Trail, 8/1; 3 at the main road and 8 at the Valley Trail, 9/1; 2 at the Loop Trail, 10/1. At TD, 8 at the Watertank Trail, 2 near the waterfall and 10+ at the Contour Trail 'A' on 16/1, with 2 at the transmitter steps, 17/1.
184. Striped Tit Babbler - Macronous
At CP, recorded as follows: 2 at the Valley Trail and 20+ at the main road, 9/1; several at the Loop Trail and along the main road, 10/1; a group of about 10 alarming for a Collared Owlet Glaucidium brodiei at the grid trails, 5+ at the Valley Trail and 15+ at the main road, 11/1. According to Ward Vercruysse and also Robson (2000), the birds at Cuc Phuong have a very different local song type (that we unfortunately didn't hear).
185. Red-billed Leiothrix - Leiothrix
15+ in the bamboo along the jeep trail up from O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1. 4+ at the start of Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan pass, SP, 12/1.
186. White-browed Shrike Babbler - Pteruthius
At least a pair, with possibly a second male, in a mixed bird flock, encountered twice at Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan pass, SP, 12/1.
187. Black-eared Shrike Babbler - Pteruthius
5+ in bird flocks at Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan pass, SP, 11/1, with a single male seen there on 12/1. Birds were very different from the ones depicted in Robson (2000), with little chestnut on the breast and a markedly pale, greyish face.
188. White-hooded Babbler - Gampsorhynchus
Two heard along the Watertank Trail, TD, 16/1 (RH only).
189. Spectacled Barwing - Actinodura
10+ were seen in a flock with Spot-breasted Parrotbills Paradoxornis guttaticollis and White-browed Laughingthrushes Garrulax sannio from the jeep trail, about 1 km up from O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1.
190. Blue-winged Minla - Minla cyanouroptera
About 10 were seen in several bird flocks, from the jeep trail going up from O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1. At Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan pass, SP, 4 were sighted on 13/1, with 3 there on 14/1. A flock of 7 was encountered twice at Ham Rong Gardens, SP, 15/1.
191. Chestnut-tailed Minla - Minla
20+ were seen in several bird flocks, from the jeep trail going up from O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1. At Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan pass, SP, 3 were seen on 13/1, with 2 there on 14/1.
192. Red-tailed Minla - Minla ignotincta
3 were seen from the jeep trail going up from O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1. At Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan pass, SP, 2 were seen on both 13 and 14/1.
193. Golden-breasted Fulvetta - Alcippe
At Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan pass, SP, 8 were seen on 13/1, with 25+ on 14/1. Nice bird!
194. Rufous-winged Fulvetta - Alcippe
40+ and 20+ were seen on 13/1 and 14/1 respectively, at Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan pass, SP. Possibly, also subspecies castaneceps was involved, since some individuals had more pronounced white-scaled caps than others.
195. Rufous-throated Fulvetta - Alcippe
At CP, birds were mostly recorded from the main road, with up to 5 daily from 8-11/1. Also, several were seen at the Loop Trail on 10/1.
196. Rusty-capped Fulvetta - Alcippe
6+ were seen from the jeep trail, about 1.5 km past O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1.
197. Black-browed Fulvetta - Alcippe
At CP, birds were mostly recorded from the main road, with 5 or less seen daily from 8-10/1. On 11/1 however, 40+ were seen there. In addition, 5 were recorded at the Valley Trail on 9/1, with several at the Loop Trail on 10/1.
198. Grey-cheeked Fulvetta - Alcippe
3+ were seen from the jeep trail, about 1.5 km past O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1. This species was quite common at TD, with birds heard and seen in every bird flock encountered, from 16-17/1.
199. Whiskered Yuhina - Yuhina flavicollis
20+ were seen from the jeep trail, going up from O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1.
200. Stripe-throated Yuhina - Yuhina
4 at the pine plantation at O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1. A single bird was sighted at the start of Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan pass, SP, 14/1.
201. White-collared Yuhina - Yuhina
30+ were seen from the jeep trail, going up from O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1, including an unmixed flock of over 20 birds, encountered some 3 km past O Quy Ho village.
202. White-bellied Yuhina - Yuhina
At CP, birds were mostly recorded from the main road, with several seen daily from 8-10/1. On 11/1 however, 10+ were seen there. In addition, 5 were recorded at the Valley Trail on 9/1, with several at the Loop Trail on 10/1. At Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan pass, SP, 2 were seen on 13/1, with at least 1 on 14/1. Furthermore, 4 were sighted at the Watertank Trail and 1 at Contour trail 'A', TD, on 16/1, while several were at the steps to the transmitter, TD, on 17/1.
203. Spot-breasted Parrotbill - Paradoxornis
5+ were seen in a flock with Spectacled Barwings Actinodura ramsayi and
White-browed Laughingthrushes Garrulax sannio from the jeep trail, about 1 km up from O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1.
204. Golden Parrotbill - Paradoxornis
A group of 15+, mixed with Golden-breasted Fulvettas Alcippe chrysotis, rushed by through the bamboo within two minutes, halfway Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan pass, SP, 14/1. An incredibly beautiful bird!
205. Short-tailed Parrotbill - Paradoxornis
A group of 10+ rushed by within two minutes, in a mixed species flock, about 900 m up the Watertank Trail, TD, 16/1. Another flock of most probably this species had rushed us by half an hour earlier, without a proper look on any of the birds.
206. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker - Dicaeum
Single females were recorded at the entrance to CP on 8/1, and at the steps to the transmitter, TD, on 17/1.
207. Green-tailed Sunbird - Aethopyga
Three pairs were recorded about 1.5 km up the jeep trail from O Quy Ho, SP, on 12/1, with a male and a female seen at Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan pass, SP, on 13/1.
208. Fork-tailed Sunbird - Aethopyga
A male and a female were seen at the main road close to the intersection with the start of the Loop Trail, CP, 8/1. A pair was recorded at the Loop Trail, CP, on 10/1, with a male seen at the main road that day. Another male obliged at a grid trail, CP on 11/1. Furthermore, 3 males and a female were noted along the Watertank Trail, TD, on 16/1.
209. Crimson Sunbird - Aethopyga
A male was briefly seen at the entrance to CP on 8/1.
210. Little Spiderhunter - Arachnothera
A noisy group of at least 4 was encountered along the main road, CP, just south of the first clearing, on 11/1.
211. Streaked Spiderhunter - Arachnothera
Singles were recorded at the main road, CP, on both 8/1 and 10/1, while 2 birds were seen at the Valley Trail, CP, on both 9/1 and 11/1.
212. Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Passer
Several were recorded at CP on 8/1. At SP, several were seen and/or heard daily from 12-15/1. Also seen in Hanoi on 5/1 and 17-18/1.
213. White Wagtail - Motacilla alba
A male was recorded upon entering the highway towards the Red River Delta, 5/1. Two birds were seen daily at Bong, usually near the pool, from 8-11/1. On 10/1, 5 were foraging on the road near the start of the Loop Trail, CP. A single male was noted at the paddies near Vinh Yên, between TD and Hanoi, 17/1.
( ) Motacilla alba ocularis
A male in winter plumage was seen amongst leucopsis White Wagtails at the southern start of the Loop Trail, CP, 10/1.
214. Yellow Wagtail - Motacilla flava
Over 100 Yellow Wagtails were heard and seen over the Giao Thuy police station at dusk on 5/1, possibly all this (sub)species. Two unidentified yellow wagtails were seen over XT on 7/1. Two males in the ditch in front of the Giao Thuy police station on 8/1 definitely belonged to this subspecies.
215. Grey Wagtail - Motacilla cinerea
A single bird was recorded daily at SP village, from 12-15/1. Single birds were seen at the waterfall and over TD village on 16/1. Also, 1 was seen at West Lake, Hanoi, 17/1.
216. Olive-backed Pipit - Anthus
Up to 4 were seen at the lawns at Bong, CP, from 9-10/1. 5+ were foraging amongst the Japanese Thrushes Turdus cardis at the tennis court at the entrance of CP, 11/1. 15+ were seen along the jeep trail going up from O Quy Ho, SP, 12/1, while 4 hid in the bamboo between the road and the open area near Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan pass, SP, 14/1. Two were noted at Ham Rong Gardens, SP, on 15/1. A single bird was heard and seen in flight between TD and Hanoi on 17/1.
217. Black-headed Greenfinch - Carduelis
At least 5 birds, of which two were singing (very much like a Eurasian Greenfinch Carduelis chloris) at the dispersed pines some 800 m up the jeep trail from O Quy Ho village, SP, 12 and 14/1. 4 in pine trees opposite the football pitch at SP village, 13/1. Finally, two were recorded over the Ham Rong Gardens, SP, on 15/1.
218. Little Bunting - Emberiza pusilla
About 5 at the dispersed pines some 800 m up the jeep trail from O Quy Ho village, SP, 12/1. 30+ seen well, in the open area near Ward's valley, Fan Si Pan pass, SP, 13/1. One noted on our stop (because of White-browed Laughingthrushes Garrulax sannio and Spot-breasted Scimitar Babblers Pomatorhinus erythrocnemis crossing the road) somewhere between SP and the Fan Si Pan pass, 14/1. 30+ seen easily at the Ham Rong Gardens, SP, on 15/1.
219. Black-faced Bunting - Emberiza
A group of three foraging at the embankment about 2 km north of the XT HQ, 7/1.
Other animals recorded in Northern Vietnam
Brown Rats were very much in evidence, for example in our Bong accommodation at Cuc Phuong and also at the Prince Hotel at Sa Pa.
A brown-with-black snake was seen and photographed well at the Watertank Trail at Tam Dao, 16/1 - it might be some kind of venomous snake, since a kid from Tam Dao that accompanied us was pretty scared of it.
Geckos were present at our Xuan Thuy Headquarters accommodation.
Dragonflies were unfortunately only seen in flight, and were only recorded at Xuan Thuy: 10+ of a Libellula-type foraging over the beach at Con Giao Xuan, and several of a Crocothemis-type seen in the mangroves at Xuan Thuy.
Not many butterflies were seen, species nor numbers, except at Tam Dao where about 20 species were recorded in only 1.5 day.
Appendix A: Birds recorded at Hong Kong (18/1)
1. Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
30+ at Deep Bay.
2. Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope
35+ at Deep Bay.
3. Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha
haringtoni / zonorhyncha
30+ at Deep Bay.
4. Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
250+ at Deep Bay.
5. Northern Pintail Anas acuta
100+ at Deep Bay.
6. Garganey Anas querquedula
About 20 at the duck pond.
7. Common Teal Anas crecca crecca
About 40 at the duck pond.
8. Little Grebe Tachybaptus
9. Common Kingfisher Alcedo
10. White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon
11. Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis
12. House Swift Apus nipalensis
500+ hunting low over some pools just outside Mai Po at dusk.
13. Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia
14. Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis
15. White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis
Only 1 seen.
16. Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
17. Common Coot Fulica atra atra
Only 1 seen.
18. Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
100's seen from the hide at Deep Bay, Mai Po.
19. Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
At least 30 at about 1 km distance, seen from the hide at Deep Bay, Mai Po.
20. Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Several dozens seen from the hide at Deep Bay, Mai Po.
21. Probable Vega Gull Larus
Only about 40, most adult, large white-headed gulls were seen from the hide at Deep Bay (permit area), Mai Po. Probably L. vegae was involved, but the distance of about 1 km prevented us from making a positive ID.
22. Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
1,000's at about 1 km distance, seen from the hide at Deep Bay (permit area), Mai Po.
23. Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus
2 at Hong Kong Airport, 5/1.
24. Osprey Pandion haliaetus haliaetus
Two on posts, with prey, seen from the hide at Deep Bay (permit area), Mai Po, with one seen in flight.
25. Black Kite Milvus migrans lineatus
10+ in various places of Hong Kong.
26. Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila
One aquila seen in flight over Mai Po prior to dusk, was probably this species.
27. Little Egret Egretta garzetta
28. Pacific Reef Egret Egretta sacra
29. Grey Heron Ardea cinerea jouyi
30. Great Egret Casmerodius albus
31. Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus
50+ seen at Mai Po.
32. Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax
Common at Mai Po.
33. Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus
15 at about 1 km distance, seen from the hide at Deep Bay (permit area), Mai Po.
34. Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea
43 at about 1 km distance, seen from the hide at Deep Bay (permit area); 55 in one of the gei wai (shrimp pools) between Deep Bay and the Panda shop, Mai Po.
35. Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach
Only 1 seen.
36. Black-billed Magpie Pica pica
37. Collared Crow Corvus torquatus
Two just outside Mai Po at dusk.
38. Orange-flanked Bush Robin Tarsiger
Only 1 seen.
39. Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus
Only 3 seen.
40. Red-billed Starling Sturnus sericeus
100's over Mai Po reserve on their way to (a roost in) China, at dusk. 10+ perched near the fence between Mai Po reserve and China, at dusk.
41. Black-collared Starling Sturnus
10+ near the Panda shop, Mai Po.
42. Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus
Several dozens seen in treetops along the road between Hong Kong Airport and Mai Po.
43. Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus
10+ perched near the fence between Mai Po reserve and China, at dusk.
44. Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus
200+, mostly seen near the fence between Mai Po reserve and China, at dusk.
45. Plain Prinia Prinia inornata
Only 1 seen.
46. Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia
Only 1 seen.
47. Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus
48. Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni
hodgsoni / yunannensis
49. White Wagtail Motacilla alba
50. Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
One heard only.
51. Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza
A male perched in a treetop, near the first hide when entering Mai Po from the Panda shop.
52. Black-faced Bunting Emberiza
1 near the first hide when entering Mai Po from the Panda shop.
Top Ten Most Beautiful (New) Birds (according to RH at least
1. Elliot's Pitta
2. Golden Parrotbill
3. Black-capped Kingfisher
4. Saunders's Gull
5. Fujian Niltava
6. Fork-tailed Sunbird
7. White-crowned Forktail
8. Spoon-billed Sandpiper
9. Golden-breasted Fulvetta
10. Grey-headed Lapwing
1. Girl in white shirt, Prince Hotel, Sa Pa
2. Girl with hat & gloves, Prince Hotel, Sa Pa
3. Long-haired girl, Prince Hotel, Sa Pa
4. Manager of Prince Hotel, Sa Pa
5. Girl, glimpsed as she passed us by on her bike at Xuan Thuy
6. Check-in girl, Hanoi Airport
7. Girl on back of motorcycle, Hanoi (1)
8. Girl on back of motorcycle, Hanoi (2)
9. Girl on back of motorcycle, Hanoi (3)
10. All other girls between 18-35, N Vietnam
Inquiries about this trip report can be made by writing
Aert van Neslaan 336
2341 HN Oegstgeest
Oegstgeest, Sept 15th 2003 (with the birdlists already finished in Febr 2002!)