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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Vietnam, 25 February-24 March 2006 ,
From 25 February to 24 March 2006 I made a birding trip to Vietnam in the company of my brother Frans.After consulting several trip reports we decided to spend 2 weeks in the south and another 2 weeks in the north, including a visit to Sapa, an old French hill station, close to the Chinese border, which would gave us another set of species.
As so many birders before us, we used the services of Vietam Travel in Vietnam to organise all our transport and accommodation, so that we could completely focus on birding.
We e-mailed our detailed itinerary to the owner of Vietam Travel, Mr. Viet van Nguyen and with some minor adjustement from his side, our itinerary was confirmed.
He can be contacted at email@example.com
His services included the following:
We had to pay Vietam Travel US$ 1059,- a person for all this. In my opinion this is a reasonable price for what he offered us. You can probably save some money if you only book your transportation with him and arrange everything else yourself.
All in all we were very satisfied with his service and the whole trip went smoothly.
A Visa is absolutely necessary for Vietnam.
We arranged that through our local travel agency and we paid some € 40.- for this visa , valid for 4 weeks.
GETTING THERE – FLIGHT
We flew with Malaysian Airlines from Amsterdam via Kuala Lumpur to Ho Chi Minh City and back from Hanoi via Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam.
We paid for a return ticket € 865,- including airport tax.
The currency used in Vietnam is the Dong (VND).
During our stay the exchange rate was :
1 US$ = 15.900 VND
We took some traveller cheques with us which we never used, a creditcard and some cash dollars (US$ 400,-). At airports and in larger cities you will find ATM machines where you can obtain cash money.
We twice changed US$ 100,- at the airports of HCMC and Hanoi and this was sufficient to cover all costs of food and drinks during our 4-week stay..
GETTING AROUND – CAR – ACCOMODATION – FOOD & DRINKS
As all logistics were arranged by Vietam Travel we did not have to bother about all this.
The food prepared in the national parks of Cat Tien and especially at Bong Sub Station in Cuc Phuong NP was surprisingly good and most places like Dalat, Tam Dao and Sapa have plenty of restaurants with a wide range of food which was both very tastful and very cheap.
Most of the time we had breakfast and sometimes also lunch out in the field. We generally bought fresh bread at the bakery at 5.30 am in the morning and together with some fruit, cheese (“La vache qui rit”) , marmalade and mineral water, which was widely available, this was our breakfast/lunch.
We changed US$ 100,- at the airports of HCMC and Hanoi and this was sufficient to cover all food & drinks for the entire period.
We usely paid around € 2,- to € 3,- for a meal with beer at a restaurant.
Surprisingly few people speak English so it is generally very difficult to communicate with the Vietnamese. Only at the reception of Cat Tien and Cuc Phuong NP, the hotels in Tam Dao and especially Sapa ( which is a tourist destination) people speak reasonable to good English.
I have mixed feelings about the weather conditions we encountered in Vietnam. In the south the weather was generally excellent. Nice, sunny weather in the Dalat area with only some fog in the early morning at Ho Tuyen Lam one day and some overcast weather conditions at Lang Bian. At Cat Tien it was warm/hot and even very hot between 12.00 and 15.00 pm.daily.
Different weather conditions were encountered in the north. At Xuan Thuy very gloomy, foggy weather and some rain, at Cuc Phuong one day with an ugly drizzle and cold, foggy on another day, at Tam Dao one very hot and sunny afternoon and also foggy and very foggy weather conditions, at Sapa we had all kinds of weather, nice and sunny, wind, some rain and also fog.
In retrospect I think February/March is an excellent period for the south but probably april is better in the northern part of the country. But it is still no guarantee that you will not encounter fog, especially at Tam Dao.
HEALTH & SAFETY
We did not have any real health problems during our trip.We never had any food related problems.
We were advised that it was not necessary to take any precautions against malaria in Vietnam.
The only place were we encountered some mosquitos was at Cat Tien. At Dalat I discovered a tick on my body which after removal itched for another month or so. It is rare, but Lyme and other tick related diseases do occur in the temperate zones in Vietnam.
Only a few leeches were found at Cuc Phuong.
The Vietnamese are a friendly, easygoing people and backpackers told me that getting around the country is easy and generally hassle-free. Street crime is hardly excisting but it is advised to take the “normal” precautions at busy places like bus- and railwaystations against pickpockets.
Our itinerary worked out fine. We both felt that we generally had enough time to cover the sites properly. But especially in the north, also because of the weather conditions, we had to work hard to find the good stuff. Bird activity sometimes very low and we also observed low numbers of birds. Of several species we saw only 1 or 2 birds.
But perseverance paid off, as in the end of the trip we had observed an impressive number of good birds. We daily birded from dawn to dusk with only short breaks in the middle of the day for lunch or (Cat Tien) because of the heat.
Most identification challenges we had with seicercus warblers and phylloscopus warblers.
In total we observed some 380 species in 4 weeks and some of the best species observed included: Silver Pheasant, Siamese Fireback, Germain’s Peacock Pheasant, Green Peafowl, Pale-headed Woodpecker, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Red-vented Barbet, Orange-breasted Trogon, Pied Falconet, Black-faced Spoonbill, Eared Pitta,Bar-bellied Pitta Blue-rumped Pitta, Blue-winged Pitta, Dusky Broadbill, White-winged Magpie, Indochinese and Green Magpies, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Swinhoe’s Minivet, Japanese Thrush, Green Cochoa, Japanese Robin, Fujian Niltava, White-tailed Flycacther, Hainan Blue Flycatcher, Golden-crested Mynah, Yellow-billed Nuthatch, White-tailed Nuthatch, Grey-crowned Tit, Collared Finchbill, Chestnut Bulbul, Brown Bush Warbler, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Grey-bellied Tesia, Buff-throated Warbler, Chinese Leaf Warbler, Broad-billed Warbler, Yellow-bellied Warbler, Grey-cowned Warbler, Bianchi’s Warbler, Black-hooded Laughingthrush, Grey Laughingthrush, White-cheeked Laughingthrush, Orange-breasted laughingthrush, Hwamei, White-browed Laughingthrush, Collared laughingthrush, White-browed Scimitar Babbler, Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Red-billed Scimitar Babbler, Limestone Wren Babbler, Pygmy Wren Babbler, Spot-necked Babbler, Grey-faced Tit Babbler, Cutia, Spectacled Barwing, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, White-browed Fulvetta, Rufous-throated Fulvetta, Rusty-capped Fulvetta, White-hooded Babbler, Grey-crowned Crocias, Black-headed Sibia, White-naped Yuhina, Whiskered yuhina, Black-chinned Yuhina, Grey-headed Parrotbill, Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Ashy-throated Parrotbill, Golden Parrotbill, Short-tailed Parrotbill, Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Fork-tailed Sunbird, Asian Golden Weaver, Vietnamese Greenfinch and Vietnamese Crossbill.
I brought a small Leica telescope with me, which I only used at Xuan Thuy for scoping waders and Black-faced Spoonbill and at Crododile Lake (Cat Tien NP) for scoping from the platform (a.o. Green Peafowl).
I also used a small cassette player with a good (Sennheiser) microphone and this was very valuable in taping in species.
Further I collected a good selection of vocalisations on a I-Pod. I collected vocalisations from the CD-Rom of Birds of tropical Asia which can be ordered at Bird Songs International B.V. – www.birdsongs.nl or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia: Graig Robson (2002 edition)
The birds of South Asia: The Ripley guide Vol. 1 & 2. P.Rasmussen & J.Anderton (2005)
The Lonely Planet Guide of Vietnam: Lonely Planet 2005
Vietnam, 7 November – 5 December 1996: Brian Gee. OBC publication
This is one of the older reports but still very accurate maps.No maps of Ta Nung Valley, Deo Nui San and the Sapa area.
Vietnam Nov/Dec.1999 Paul Holmes, OBC publication.With maps
Vietnam, 7 March – 4 April 2002 Sam Wood & Andy Adcock, OBC publication. With maps.
Other trip reports provided by other birders and/or found on the internet:
Birding Trip Report to Northern Vietnam jan.2002 Remco Hofland et al.
Vietnam, 21 February – 20 March 2002 Moira & Graeme Wallace.
Birding Vietnam, April 8 – 5 June 2003 Frank Rheindt.Worldtwitch.
Birdingtrip to Vietnam, 12 March – 12 April 2004 Peter Logtmeyer
Northern Vietnam February 2004 Rob Goldbach
Vietnam, 15 march – 3 April 2004 G.W.Allison.Surfbirds
Vietnam, 10 – 29 March 2005 Denis Teece & Andy Mears. Surfbirds
Good map of Deo Nui San (Di Linh)
Grey-crowned Crocias – OBC Bulletin 19 Jonathan Eames
Special Issue on Vietnam – OBC Bulletin 33 Jonathan Eames.
I have included maps, as situations have changed slightly at the different sites since the reports of Brian Gee, Andy Adcock and Paul Holmes and I have also added some new ones.
Therefore at the end of my report, after the annotated checklist, I have added a map section with maps which birders can use in the field.
I like to thank Peter Logtmeyer and Remco Hofland who gave us plenty of good pre-trip information about birding in Vietnam.
Ronald Jansen and Indira for good company in the Da Lat area.
In this report I have tried to be as accurate as possible but if somebody needs more or additional info feel free to contact me.
5665 JM Geldrop
Dalat is an old French hill station some 300 km.east of Ho Chi Minh City and situated at an elevation of around 1500 m. It takes 5 to 6 hours by car to reach Dalat from HCMC.
Around town are some birding sites which can be easily reached from Dalat. Mostly tracts of pine forest but also some remnant patches of montane evergreen forest which holds most of the specialties. The specialties are the rare Yellow-billed Nuthatch and 4 vietnamese endemics: Grey-crowned Crocias, Collared Laughingthrush, Orange-breasted Laughingthrush, Vietnamese Greenfinch and Vietnamese Crossbill ( a likely future split)
1. Ho Tuyen Lam
This is a man-made lake some 4 km. south of Dalat. The interesting patches of evergreen forest are found at the southern end of the lake.
In the early morning we drove to the lake and arranged a boat at the lake side. ( 150.000 VND)When we were there the water level was very low , so we were unable to reach the furthest point where most birders are dropped to start their birding.(30 minutes by boat)
We were instead dropped at the second tourist camp ( left side of the lake) and from there we started searching for a nice patch of evergreen forest with a trail going through it , in which we finally succeeded.
During our second visit they were doing maintenance works at the lake shore which ment that half of the lake was empty and no boats were allowed on the lake.
Fortunately there is now a new road along the lakeside which goes as far as the first tourist camp. So you are faster and cheaper in good habitat this way and no need to take a boat. From there it is only a 5 minute walk to the second tourist camp and then it takes some 45 minutes to reach the good montane evergreen forest patch we found during our first visit.
On our second visit we birded this patch from 7.15 – 11.30 am and found some good birds like Red-vented Barbet, Yellow-billed Nuthatch, Orange-breasted Laughingthrush, White-tailed Robin, Cutia, Slender-billed Oriole, Vietnamese Greenfinch and Vietnamese Crossbill.
I think this patch has a lot of potential , also because of the good trail going through it. We only explored the first part of this trail and the only persons encountered were 2 tourists with a guide, walking to the so-called stone chicken village, apparently a tourist destination!!
In my opinion this site is a very good alternative for the original site described in other trip reports ( Brian Gee, Andy Adcock , Paul Holmes) if the water level is too low to get there.
I have not visited the original site but this “new” site might even be better. A large tract of good forest with a fine trail going through it.
I will try to describe as accurate as possible how to get there:
It takes about 40 to 45 minutes from the second tourist camp to reach this forest.
2. Mount Lang Bian
This site is situated some 10 km. north of Dalat. The peak of the mountain is almost 2200 metres high. The weather at this site can be unpredictable. In the morning we had excellent weather but later in the day it became overcast with a little rain.
Before dawn we drove to the entrance of the parc where you have to pay a small entrance fee and where you will find the jeeps who will take you to the start of the trail , leading to the top of the mountain. I believe we paid 100.000 VND for the jeep.
You can also walk the 4 km. up to this point. Despite the fact that we arrived very early at the entrance gate our driver arranged very fast a driver with a jeep to take us up the mountain. You could also send your driver the day before to the checkpoint to arrange an early morning ride up. Normally they start at 7.00 am but by that time we were already in good habitat up the mountain.We also arranged that the jeep would pick us up again at 14.00 pm. The track initially goes to open pine forest and then descends steeply down to a gully. (a 30 minutes walk). After this gully the track goes up again , going through rather degraded evergreen forest and sometimes thick scrub along the trail. After about a kilometre you get to a junction. The right track goes further up the mountain and the left one continues more or less level and deteriorates fast after a few hundert metres. We found most of the specialties between the gully and the junction of the 2 trails and along the first few hundert meters along both trails.
Some of the best species seen were: Large Cuckoo-Shrike, Grey-crowned Tit (split from Black-throated Tit), the endemic Collared Laughing-Thrush, Cutia, White-browed Scimitar-Babbler, Lesser Shortwing, Grey-bellied Tesia, Pygmy Wren Babbler, Ashy-throated Warbler, White-spectacled Warbler, Vietnamese Greenfinch and Vietnamese Crossbill.
3. Ta Nung Valley. (1300 – 1400 m. elevation)
About 8 km. north-east of Dalat on the lower hillsides of a small wet valley lies a small remnant patch of evergreen forest. Higher on the hillside you will find grassy areas and pine forest. A small stream flows through this valley and along this stream you will find a small trail.
Most of the specialties can be found along this trail which is roughly only 1 km.in length.
We were dropped by our driver at the entrance of a wide track , above the valley. From here you walk down (1 km.) to a small settlement ( 2 houses) with a deerpen.
Before the deerpen you turn sharply right and walk on the edge of the rose fields and the scrub towards the edge of the forest. In the early morning, right at the edge of the forest, we had excellent and close views of a small flock of Grey-crowned Crocias. A track here enters the forest ( climb over a fence). After 100 meter or so you will see a small track going left to the bottom of the valley. This track reaches the trail described above which follows the stream. We birded this trail to the left and to the right.
We stayed in this small but excellent area from 6.15 am.to 16.00 pm.
Some of the best species seen were: Grey-crowned Crocias, Orange-breasted Laughing-Thrush, Black-hooded Laughing-Thrush , Grey-bellied Tesia, Long-tailed Broadbill, Black-throated Sunbird and a Lanceolated Warbler.
4. Datanla Waterfall
We birded the area one late afternoon and it was not very productive.
In a report written by B. Johansen we read that White-cheeked Laughingthrush is easily found in the scrubby habitat just opposite the Waterfall area. Initially we failed to find the right entrance track but when we found it we observed within minutes a flock of White-cheeked Laughingthrushes.
If you leave the Datanla Waterfall parking area, turn left on the main road, towards Da Lat town and after some 300 meters (opposite a golden Buddha on the left side of the road) you turn right on a wide track (under an arch) and here close to the main road, along the track we observed the Laughingthrushes.
5. Di Linh Pass – Deo Nui San. ( 1200 – 1300 m. elevation)
Di Linh is situated approximately halfway between Da Lat and Bao Loc. It takes another 20 minutes from Di Linh to reach the site at Deo Nui San. We left Bao Loc very early to get there at dawn. (1,5 hour drive).
We birded mainly along the main road between km.76 and km.78. and along the trail which goes uphill through good forest, and starts behind a small shop/teahouse just after the km. 76 marker. Your driver will know where to go. The trail will finally reach the remnants of a wooden hut and from there a wide trail goes steeply up to another jeep track. Other birders mention chainsaws and other activities in the general area but we found it very quiet and we did not encounter any other persons during our 2 visits to the area.
Best species seen here was undoubtedly the unexpected observation of a male Eared Pitta.
It is south of his normal range and also at a higher elevation as it usually occurs.
Other species seen at this site include Great Hornbill, Blue Pitta (H), Black-hooded Laughingthrush (H), Orange-breasted Laughingthrush, White-cheeked Laughingthrush,Grey-headed Parrotbill ssp.margaritae, Green Cochoa, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Black-headed Sibia (common), Red-flanked Bluetail and Spotted Forktail.
Another track worth some exploration is some 2 km.back towards Di Linh on the left side of the main road. A wide track which passes through rather degraded forest and looked promising. We did not have the time to explore it properly.
CAT TIEN N.P. ( 150 m. elevation)
It takes roughly 3 hours to reach Cat Tien N.P. from HCMC and from Dalat 4 to 5 hours.
We drove from Bao Loc to Cat Tien in 2½ hours.
The forest at Cat Tien is mostly semi-deciduous forest interspersed with lakes/wetlands, grassland areas and patches of bamboo and secondary scrub.
We had booked a bungalow for 2 persons but for one reason or another they put us in 2 separate rooms , next to each other. Very luxurious as we both had a complete accommodation for ourselves. Nice, clean rooms with mosquito nets and airco.
Nearby a restaurant where we had lunch and dinner and where reasonable good food was served. When we were there a nature group with Phil Benstead as leader had arranged early breakfast every day at 5.30 am and we just joined them at that time.
The weather was excellent during our stay. Only between 13.00 and 15.00 it became a little too hot and at that time we had lunch and a little siësta.
We spent 4 full days at Cat Tien, which in my opinion you really need to cover the site(s) more or less properly. We birded along the main track towards Dac Lua (the first 4 km), the track from the junction to Heaven’s Rapids, the Lagerstroemia and Uncle Dong Trail.
One morning we were dropped at the start of the Bau Sau or Crocodile Lake Trail (12 km. from the HQ) and birded along this excellent trail to Crocodile Lake (5 km. from the start of the trail). We spent the night at the basic guesthouse at Crocodile Lake. A nice meal was prepared by the local staff. We also spent a very nice afternoon at the platform from where we scoped the surroundings. The next morning we birded around the lake and walked back to the main road where we were picked up by our jeep at 13.00 pm.
Note: The park officials insisted that we took an official guide with us on our hike to Crocodile Lake.This was non negotiable. In the end we were accompanied by a nice youg guy who spoke some English and was eager to learn from us.
The total price for the jeep, guide and accommodation at Crocodile Lake was 550.000 VND.
We also explored the grasslands and scrubby areas south-east of the HQ by bike on one late afternoon.
We opted not to visit the bamboo hills near Dac Lua to try for the Orange-necked Partridge as first of all we reckoned that our chances to find the species at that site were very slim ( you have to be there at dawn) and secondly we needed more time at other sites nearby. Peter Logtmeyer saw 2 years ago Orange-necked Partridge at a nice bamboo patch near Heaven’s Rapids. We only saw Scaly-breasted Partridge but had good views of a responsive Pale-headed Woodpecker at that site.
Best species seen were: Germain’s Peacock Pheasant: good views along the Uncle Dong Trail and the Bau sau Trail, Green Peafowl: a displaying male and an immature male gave excellent views in the scope in the early morning at Crocodile lake, Siamese Fireback: excellent views along the main road to Dac Lua, Grey-headed Fish-Eagle, Lesser Fish-Eagle, Red-vented Barbet, Pale-headed Woodpecker: bamboo patch just before Heaven’s Rapids, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Black & Buff Woodpecker, Orange-breasted Trogon: nice male seen along the main road near the HQ and more heard, Bar-bellied Pitta: excellent and close views along the lac. And Uncle Dong Trail and along the Bau Sau Trail, Blue-rumped Pitta: at least 4 along the Bau sau Trail seen, Blue-winged Pitta: 1 along the Trail, Black & Red Broadbill, Dusky Broadbill: Heaven’s Rapids Trail, Golden-crested Mynah: rather commonly observed, Grey-faced Tit-Babbler, Swinhoe’s Minivet: 1 pair along the Heaven’s Rapids Track, Asian Golden Weaver: small numbers seen from the platform at Crocodile Lake including some males in breeding plumage.
Other good species seen by others include: Orange-necked Francolin (rare), Black Baza ( a rather unexpected dip for me), Schrenck’s Bittern, Indochinese Green Magpie and Great Slaty Woodpecker.
CUC PHUONG NP. ( 200 – 600 m. elevation)
In this park you find extensive tracts of primary lowland evergreen forest interspersed with more degraded secondary forest and some clearings. Another feature of this park is the steep limestone crags at certain places which hold the rare Limestone Wren-Babbler.
It takes roughly 2 hours to reach Cuc Phong from Hanoi (south). Some reports mention that it can be busy at week-ends but that was certainly not the case during our stay. But that could be blamed on the weather conditions maybe.
You have to report at the HQ first before entering the park. From the HQ it takes another 30 minutes by car to reach Bong Sub-Station where we stayed 4 nights at a nice bungalow. (nowadays with good, hot showers) .We opted to stay our last night down at the HQ area where we also had a very nice, new room, to increase our chances to find White-winged Magpie, which had eluded us until then.
I can only say that the staff at Bong looked very well after us and they provided us with very good and variable meals. There were hardly any other visitors during our stay.
Unfortunately the weather was not very cooperative as we had at least 2 cold , wet and foggy days. For instance the pitta’s were not vocal at all and we only heard Bar-bellied Pitta twice.
At Bong we birded along the main road, back towards the HQ for 5-6 km., the loop trail which was not very productive, the grid-system near Bong, the clearings near Bong and several times the Valley Trail.
Despite the unfavourable conditions we still saw good stuff. Best species seen by us were:
Pied Falconet: perched on bare branches almost next to our bungalow on 3 dates, Silver Pheasant: astonishing close views of a male along the main road, Ratchet-tailed Treepie: near Bong and along the Valley Trail, Red-vented Barbet: nice views of a perched bird near our bungalow, Fujian Niltava: 1 male only along the Loop Trail, Hainan Flycatcher, Rufous-throated Fulvetta: common near Bong along the main road and Grid, Silver-breasted Broadbill: commonly observed in flocks, Long-tailed Broadbill, Limestone Wren-Babbler: Valley Trail, Rufous-tailed Robin, Japanese Robin: 1 female along the Valley Trail, Indochinese Green Magpie & Green Magpie: 1 mixed flock in the Grid, White-winged Magpie: 7-8 birds in the Botanical gardens near the HQ, Yellow-bellied Warbler: bamboo along the valley Trail, Asian Stubtail, Japanese Thrush: 3 only, White-tailed Flycatcher: twice seen, Sulphur-breasted Warbler and Fork-tailed Sunbird.
Grey Peacock Pheasant was briefly heard along the Loop Trail. Other good species seen by others include Red-collared Woodpecker, Brown-cheeked Hornbill and Rusty-naped & Eared Pitta.
TAM DAO (900 – 1200 elevation)
Tam Dao is a hill resort 80 km.north of Hanoi and is reached within 2 hours by car.
Around the town you will still find large areas of evergreen (montane/sub-montane) forest.
At the moment there are 2 factors which have or can have a negative effect on the birding around Tam Dao. First of all the weather and especially the fog can ruin your birding completely at this site. Ronald Jansen visited the site 1 week before us and could hardly do any birding. We had more luck as we had one afternoon with beautiful, sunny weather and 2 days with overcast and foggy weather conditions but we could continue birding for most of the time. On our second day we had to return to our hotel from 10.00 – 15.00 because the fog became too thick for birding.
Secondly the so-called Watertank track which gave good access to the evergreen forest has deterioated largely (some people would say has been completely destroyed) because of extensive road works along this track/road. Along the first 3 to 4 km. the vegetation along the road has been removed completely and road workers and their machines make birding not very easy and pleasant. They also camp along this road ( at least 3 camps) so one can imagine what an impact this has on the birds. I knew this before I made our itinerary but we took our chances. Having said this, we still found good birds along this track.
Within half an hour we observed Grey Laughingthrushes, White-hooded Babblers and Chestnut Bulbuls. Especially the last 500 metres or so were rather productive. At the end of the “road”3 small trails continue through the bamboo. One of the left trails looked very promising and we probably should have spent more time along this one.
We also birded twice the Transmitter Trail (The Steps) and this was also rather productive.
A nice flock of Red-billed Scimitar-Babblers, Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Short-tailed Parrotbill, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Spot-necked Babbler, Silver-eared Mesia, Grey-cheeked Laughing-Thrush, White-hooded Babbler and Black-chinned Yuhina.
So in the end I can only conclude that it is still worthwhile to visit Tam Dao in the future. It will take some time before this Watertank Road will be finished and the vegetation along this road will be recovered but there is still the option of the Transmitter Trail and I would certainly recommend to bird the small trail at the end of the road, which goes to nice bamboo scrub. If you want to increase your chances of good weather (no fog) , you should consider a visit in april.
We stayed at the very nice Green World Hotel which is only 200 meters from the start of the Transmitter Trail. The start of the Watertank trail is lower down in the village and the people at the reception can give you info how to get there.
This ramsar site is situated 120 km. south-east of Hanoi, on the south side of the Red River Delta, and it takes at least 4 hours by car to get there.
The area is a maze of sparsely vegetated sandy shores, mudflats, mangroves and shrimp ponds.
The main attraction for birders is the fact that it is an important wintering site for some rare and threatened species like Black-faced Spoonbill, Nordmann’s Greenshank, Spoonbilled Sandpiper and Saunders Gull.
I knew from previous trip reports of some of the hassles birders encountered when visiting this site and this was later confirmed when I talked to Ronald Jansen, who visited Xuan Thuy before us and because of misunderstandings he dipped both the Spoonbill Sandpiper ( he never even reached the right spot) as well as the Black-faced Spoonbill.
I suggest that if you want to increase you chances of observing the Spoon-billed Sandpiper you plan at least 2 nights at the site so you have more flexibility in arranging things/boats on the spot.
As we had planned only 1 full morning at Xuan Thuy and I was lucky enough to have seen the gull , Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmann’s Greenshank elsewhere, Frans and I agreed beforehand that only if the tide was favourable at the morning of our visit we would go for the Sandpiper. But when we arrived at dawn the tide was already dropping so we focussed on our target species the Black-faced Spoonbill which we found without difficulty.
The situation at Xuan Thuy has changed recently as they are building a new HQ/visitor centre with also a new accommodation building at the back, which is roughly 6 km. from the original HQ. But at the nearby village of Giao Thuy (15-20 minutes by car) is now a fine hotel which can easily be used as a base for visiting Xuan Thuy which we did.
So future visitors have 2 options for staying in the area and I reckon they are both a lot better than the rundown place mentioned in previous reports.
Finding out when the tide is favourable and arranging the right boat from the right place is an important condition for observing the Spoon-billed Sandpiper. And hopefully the weather is not too foggy.
During our morning the place was wet, foggy, very muddy and in fact a bit depressing.
We knew that the Black-faced Spoonbills were at the shrimp ponds near to the old HQ but the track was too muddy for the car and they refused to arrange motorcycles to take us to the site.
So our only option was to hire a boat (US$ 30,-) and a guide (100.000 VND) to take us there.
And so we did. Several times we stopped for scoping waders on exposed mudflats and finally we were dropped at a small canal and after a short walk we found a group of 32 Black-faced Spoonbills.
On our way back we also saw a lonely Black-faced Spoonbill on a mudflat. When we returned to the HQ we made a 2-hour walk along mangroves and shrimp ponds before it started to rain and we left for Cuc Phuong.
SAPA (1600 m. elevation)
Situated in a beautiful valley, in north-west Vietnam close to the chinese border, Sapa is a former French hill station.
The valleys and villages around Sapa are home to several hill tribe people who come to the market of Sapa to sell/trade their goods. That is why Sapa is becoming an important tourist destination and as a result access is easy and there are plenty of accommodation choices in town.
Also the highest mountain of Vietnam, the Fansipan ( 3140 m.) is closeby and Sapa is the place to be if you are planning to hike to the summit.
We did not undertake this but if you do, you will cross reasonable untouched primary forest and the rewards can be observing some very good species.
But fortunately there are some good forest fragments within easy reach of the city. Also for instance the jeep track at O Qui Ho which goes through rather disturbed and degraded habitat but still holds surprisingly good species.
To reach these sites there are 2 options. You can use the motorcycles which can easily be contacted outside your hotel and after some negotiating they can drop you of and pick you up at the birding sites. We opted for the services of a taxi, arranged through our hotel. The car is much faster and comfortable at the spot than the motorcycle and with 2 people just a little more expensive. With 3 to 4 people a car is even cheaper.
Sapa is easy to reach. You take the night (sleeper) train from Hanoi to Lao Cai on the Chinese border and from there a minibus or taxi to Sapa (less than 40 km. and roughly 40 minutes)
The return trip from Hanoi to Sapa was perfectly organised for us by Vietam Travel.
We stayed at the Sapa Royal Hotel (next to the wellknown Mountain View Hotel) where we had a nice room with good views of the surrounding landscape.
Like more sites in the north, the weather and especially fog can be a disturbing factor for visitors and especially birders. We spent 4 full days in the area and we lost several birding hours to fog. Very frustrating when you hear birds calling around you and all you observe are shadows in the fog.
1. HamRong Gardens
The entrance to the gardens is close to the city centre and our hotel. The gardens are certainly worth a couple of visits and are nicely layed out on a hill side overlooking the town.
You can stroll around easily and especially outside the week-ends the birding can be both pleasant aswell as productive. As mentioned by Frank Rheindt the playing of loud music can be a nuisance. It is difficult to say which part of the gardens are best but some of the more remote enclosed areas near the top gave us species like Rufous-capped Babbler, Rusty-capped Fulvetta and a flock of Vinous-throated Parrotbills. The latter we also found along the steeper trail going up towards the transmitter. At the top ( near the Ostrich enclosure) we observed singing Buff-throated Warblers.
1a. Scrubby hillside below the transmitter/Hamrong Gardens.
On one late afternoon I decided to go down the hillside from the top of the Hamrong Gardens and I followed a small trail, used by local people working on agriculture fields below the gardens, towards the town. Eventually I reached a scrubby hillside , just below the transmitter (outside the real gardens) and just above the main street where among others our hotel was situated. My main target was the White-browed Laughingthrush was had eluded us until that time. And sure enough I had excellent views of several White-browed Laughingthrushes at that hillside. It turned out that this hillside was quickly and easily reached from our hotel (5 – 10 minutes). Coming out of hotel Royal or Mountain View you turn right along the main street. After 100 metres or so there are no more buildings at the left side of the road. A bit further a small, steep trail goes up the hill and within minutes you reach the scrubby hill side.
I do not know how much longer this area will be productive as local people were busy cultivating large patches of this hillside.
When I returned with Frans to show him the White-browed Laughingthrushes we unexpectedly found beside these also 2 Hwamei and Spectacled Barwing. Little Bunting, Black-headed Greenfinch were common and also twice we encountered a flock of Vinous-throated Parrotbills.
2. The Jeep-Track at O Qui HO ( KM 8)
Just 8 km. from Sapa in the direction of the Tram Ton pass and near (after) the village of O Qui Ho a jeep track branches of to the right from the main road. This is where the main road curves sharply left.The first two hundred metres this tracks runs parallel to the main road , then curves right around a pine tree plantation and ascends to a small pass. (less than 1 km.)
After this small pass the track goes down into the valley beyond. There is also a track which branches of to the right, shortly after this pass, which is a dead-end road. However there is a patch of promising, degraded forest just after where this road ends, which looked promising. Behind a yellow building a small trail was going down and then right into the next small valley but we did not have time to explore this properly.
We mainly birded the first 4 to 5 km. along the main track, after the junction. The habitat along this track is degraded forest fragments, (bamboo)scrub, grassland, and small cultivation fields and can be surprisingly birdy. We visited this site twice. On one hot afternoon and one full morning. Unfortunately during our second visit our birding was severely hampered by fog.
The first time we hired 2 motorcycles for which we paid US$ 7,- and the second time a taxi for US$10,-
Best species seen by us were: Great Barbet, Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, White-browed Laughingthrush, White-collared and Whiskered Yuhina, Collared Finchbill, Golden Parrotbill, Red-billed Leiothrix, Black-throated Tit, Golden Babbler, Brown-breasted Bulbul, Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler.
3. Hoang Lien Nature Reserve – Tram Ton Pass. ( 1700 – 1800 m.elevation)
Previous reports mention a nice small valley near a wooden hut, roughly 1 km. below Tram Ton Pass. This wooden hut has now been replaced by a large pink house which is the HQ/Visitor Centre of Hoang Lien Nature Reserve. ( 15.000 VND entrance fee)
Beside it is a large parking area and at the back 2 trails are signposted. The left goes up the Fansipan. We did not take this trail but I think it goes through nice habitat and could be productive. The right trail is called the “Golden Stream Love Waterfall” Trail. (What’s in a name!!). We followed this trail down through degraded forest and (bamboo) scrub to a large grassy clearing. Follow the trail to the other side of the clearing. There is trail going straight through scrub and bamboo but there is also a trail going left over a stream and then enters a small valley. It is this valley which in reports is mentioned as Ward’s Valley, named after Ward Vercruysse, a Belgian birder who might not be the first birder here but certainly the first who made this site public. At the start of the trail you see an obvious green sign up in a tree and then you know you have reached the right spot.It takes roughly 20 minutes to reach this valley from the beginning of the trail at the HQ area.
To be frankly we found the spot slightly disappointing but I think that it has deteriorated a lot since Ward’s pioneering visits. The first km. up to a small wooden hut was still rather productive and it was here that we regularly encountered mixed flocks. But further on we noticed extensive bamboo cutting and the only way to continue into the valley was crawling along the stream as there was no more trail visible.
We visited the area twice and some species encountered were: Slaty-bellied Tesia (common), Brown Bush-Warbler (grassy clearing), Black-faced Warbler, Broad-billed Warbler, Chinese Leaf-Warbler, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Pygmy Wren-Babbler, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Rufous-capped Fulvetta, White-browed Fulvetta, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, White-tailed Nuthatch, Yellow-browed Tit, Red-billed Magpie and Red-billed Leiothrix.
On the way from Sapa to Hoang Lien Nature Reserve we stopped twice at the Thac Bac waterfall ( 10 km. from Sapa). We were hoping to find Plumbeous Redstart and White-capped Redstart here but surprisingly we dipped. Instead we observed Blue Whistling Thrush and had excellent views of a Little Forktail.
Again we used the taxi from our hotel to get to this site. Both times we left at 5.30 am and arrived 30 minutes later at Hoang Lien. With motorcycles it takes almost 1 hour.!!
We paid US$ 20,- for this service.
Additional sites not visited by us were BACH MA NP, BA VI AND OTHERS.
Bach Ma NP is situated in north/cantral Annam.
The habitat is lowland to montane rainforest. Target species here include Crested Argus, Annam Partridge, Coral-billed Ground-Cuckoo, Blyth’s Kingfisher, Red-collared Woodpecker, White-winged Magpie, Bar-bellied pitta, Blue-rumped Pitta and Short-tailed Scimitar Babbler
Logistics to this site can also be arranged through Vietam Travel.
If you want more info about Bach Ma and others I recommend reading Frank Rheindts report. ( See references section). He gives most detailed info about these sites.
Day 1: Saturday February 25 Amsterdam – Kuala Lumpur – Ho Chi Minh City
At 7.00 am in the early morning we took the train from Eindhoven to Schiphol Airport.
After a smooth check-in we left with a 45 minute delay from Amsterdam. (12.45)
A large group of Swedes were also on board , very load and some rather drunk. Fortunately most of them fell asleep after an hour or so. After an 11 hour flight we reached Kuala Lumpur at 7.15 am the next morning.
Day 2: Sunday February 26 Kuala Lumpur – Ho Chi Minh City – Da Lat.
At 9.00 am. we left KL for the short flight to HCMC.
After we had collected our luggage we quickly changed each US$ 100,- for vietnamese Dong (VND) and met our driver Thanh at the arrival hall. He was accompanied by a representative of Vietam Travel who gave us all the vouchers for our accommodation with the exception of Sapa and our ticket for the flight HCMC to Hanoi. We also paid the rest of the money we owed Vietam Travel.
At 11.00 am. we were on our way and after the hectic traffic of HCMC (never seen so many motorcycles in my life) we drove in a relaxt way on a mostly good 2-lane road to Dalat. It took us almost 6 hours to reach Da Lat.
On our way we had lunch at a roadside restaurant in the city of Bao Loc.
We had a comfortable room in hotel Thanh The in Dalat. First we changed our room to the backside of the hotel because the front room was a bit too noisy (traffic) and we needed a good night sleep.
Then we met Ronald Jansen and his girlfriend Indira who started their Vietnam trip one week earlier and who had birded Mount Lang Bian today. They got pretty wet in the afternoon on the mountain. We went to dinner with them at a good nearby restaurant and talked about their birding in Cat Tien and our plans for tomorrow. Ronald told me that he had visited Ho Tuyen Lam 2 days ago and had been unable to find the good evergreen forest.The boat was, because of the low water level, unable to reach the right drop-off point and so he had tried to reach the good area on foot but failed. He was dropped on the right hand shore and he thought that it was better to start on the left hand side from the second tourist camp. We will see tomorrow.
Day 3: Monday February 27 Ho Tuyen Lam Datanla Waterfall
In the early morning we bought fresh bread at the bakery and drove to Ho Tuyen Lam where we arrived at 7.15 am. This turned out to be the only morning that we did not start birding at 6.00 am.
Our driver quickly arranged a boat for us and we left at 7.30 for the boat ride to the far end of the reservoir. Unfortunately it was rather foggy and it was extremely difficult to navigate the boat and for us to orientate ourselves properly. The boatman first tried to drop us at the same point were Ronald was dropped 2 days earlier but when the fog lifted a bit we noticed the tourist camp on the other site of the lake. From here we started our exploration of the area. We told the boatsman to collect us at 15.00 pm.
After we had passed the tourist camp we saw our first species: Rufous-backed Sibia, Burmese Shrike and in the pines Vietnamese Greenfinches, Verditer Flycatcher and Chestnut-vented Nuthatch. Frans was the only one to observe a gliding Black Baza.
First we climbed up the steep ridge at the back side of the camp but we could not find any good forest. We did have very good and close views though of 1 pair of Cutia’s.
Then we retraced our steps and found another trail which crossed over to the other side of the inlet. With trial and error we continued our way and finally we reached a very good patch of evergreen forest with also a good trail going through it. But by that time it was already late and pretty hot. (11.30 am ) We spent roughly 2 hours in the forest but we did not run into a good flock during that time. Some birds we did see were: Grey-headed Woodpecker, Long-tailed Minivet, Flavescent Bulbul, Mountain Bulbul, White-tailed Leaf-Warbler, Mugimaki Flycatcher, White-tailed Robin, Rufous-capped Babbler, White-browed Shrike-Babbler, Blue-winged Minla (without a blue wing), Mountain Fulvetta, Green-backed Tit, Maroon Oriole, the very distinctive black-capped leucotis ssp. of Eurasian Jay and Black-collared Starling.
Frans and I decided to pay this forest a second visit on our last day in the Dalat area.
On our way back we noticed a soaring adult White-bellied Sea-eagle above the lake and also in the sparse reedbeds some Yellow Bitterns.
In the late afternoon we paid the Datanla Waterfall a visit.
Not much activity but we observed Chestnut-fronted Shrike Babbler, Yellow-browed Tit , Ashy Bulbul and a Red-throated Flycatcher.
During dinner that evening we decided to spend another full morning together at nearby Ta Nung Valley to try mainly for Grey-crowned Crocias. Ronald and Indira had to leave around noon the next day for the continuation of their trip to Bach Ma.
Day 4: Tuesday February 28 Ta Nung Valley Scrub Datanla Waterfall.
After another very early visit to the bakery for fresh bread we drove to nearby Ta Nung Valley where we started to bird at 6.00 am. First we walked down to the dam area where we heard but did not see Black-hooded Laughingthushes. Some Pigeons were identified as Wedge-tailed Pigeons. At 7.00 am, we walked along the deerpen and the nearby fields to the forest edge and there we bumped into a flock. It was Ronald who discovered the first Grey-crowned Crocias. They were very vocal and after just a little playback of their calls they came in and were observed at a distance of less than 10 meters!! ( 5-6 exx.). One bird even came down to the flowering scrub bordering the field and was seen at eye-level. After this great success we continued our exploration of this tiny but bird-rich forest patch.
Several times we heard Grey-bellied Tesia but it took a while before we all got good views of one. When I played the song of Orange-breasted laughingthrush to Ronald we were surprised to get an immediate response nearby. We tried to tape it in but did not succeed in the beginning. Ronald and Indira had to leave at noon and we asked them to tell our driver to return to the site to pick us up at 16.00 instead of 13.00 pm. we arranged before.
After Ronald left we decided to crawl into the forest a bit further and try for the Laughingthrush again and after some hide and seek we both had good views of it.
We spent all day on the short trails and saw among others: Black-browed Barbet, good views of Long-tailed Broadbill, Ochraceous Bulbul, a Lanceolated Warbler in the grassy area, Grey-cheeked Warbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, White-cheeked Laughingthrush (poor and brief views) and the beautiful red-breasted ssp. klossi of Black-throated Sunbird
Just before we left the area I heard again Black-hooded Laughingthrush calling. and this time we succeeded in obtaining brief but good views of a small flock of this species.
Late afternoon was spent in the scrubby area just opposite the parking lot of Datanla Waterfall. We failed to find White-cheeked Laughingthrush.
Night in hotel Thanh Thé
Day 5: Wednesday March 1 Mount Lang Bian Scrub Datanla Waterfall.
We arrived at the entrance gate before dawn. Thanh arranged for us a jeep and that we could pay our entrance fee. Normally they open at 7.00 am. We drove the 4 km. up to the start of the track to the summit of the mountain where we arrived at 6.35 am. Arranged a pick-up at 14.00 pm. First we walked through open pine forest where we had good views of a perched Vietnamese Crossbill. Then we descended to a gully and then we entered the area for the endemic Collared Laughingthrush.I did not take long before we heard several birds calling but it took some time and crawling around before we obtained reasonable views of one. We also saw a male Snowy-browed Flycatcher in the proces.
A little further we first explored the lefthand (Cattle Track) Trail. Along this stretch we found Black-headed Sibia, Grey-crowned Tit, Pygmy Wren Babbler, Grey-bellied Tesia, Lesser Shortwing (heard only), White-spectacled Warbler, Yellow-cheeked Tit and a pair of very vocal White-browed Scimitar Babblers.
Later we explored the first part of the trail going to the top. And then we had excellent views of a small flock of Collared Laughingthrushes, just along the main track.
The klossi subspecies of Rufous-winged Fulvetta was also seen.
After this succes we slowly birded back to the main road. Some Vietnamese Greenfinches and Large Cuckooshrikes were seen and best was the observation of another pair of Cutia which could be observed for as long as we wanted.
We decided to spend late afternoon again in the scrubby habitat, opposite the Datanla Waterfall to try for the White-cheeked Laughingthrush again.
And this time we were succesful as we saw a large flock of them. We also flushed and observed a perched Grey Nightjar and heard an Indian Cuckoo.
Night in hotel Thanh Thé again.
Day 6: Thursday 2 March Ho Tuyen Lam Drive to Bao Loc.
At exactly 6.00 am. we arrived at the jetty of Ho Tuyen Lam. But to our great disappointment it was today impossible to go out with a boat. Because of maintenace work on the lake they had lowered the waterlevel in a way that it was impossible to navigate on the lake. But the owner of the shop explained to our driver that a new road along the lake was almost completed and surfaced up to the first tourist camp. So we decided to take our chances and drive to that point. Only the last 2 km. were not tarmac and though our driver was at first reluctant to drive on the dirt track we persuaded him to continue. From the road we walked wthin 5 minutes to the first tourist camp, within another 10 minutes to the second tourist camp and within 40 minutes to the good evergreen forest we had “discovered”on our first visit.
At 7.25 we started to bird the forest and we spent 4 hours here.
On the way up we observed several Slender-billed Orioles and a perched Vietnamese Crossbill, while Frans flushed a Silver Pheasant of the dark-backed ssp.annamensis. Several times we came across a small flock but at 10.00 am. we hit the jackpot.
While scanning through a flock we found 2 Yellow-billed Nuthatches and they could be observed very well for several minutes as they were foraging mostly lowdown on the tree trunks.
Other species recorded included Red-vented Barbet, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Lanceolated Warbler, Large Niltava, 3 Orange-breasted Laughingthrushes, White-cheeked Laughingthrush, Spot-throated Babbler, Chestnut-capped Babbler, Little Spiderhunter and Maroon Oriole. On our way back to the boat we flushed a Pintail Snipe.
With all the possible endemics and most specialties found around Dalat we returned very satisfied to our hotel. After lunch we left for the 3 hour drive to Bao Loc.
We stayed at the Seribank Hotel in Bao Loc. The room we got was rather basic and they offered us a better room for the next day. In the evening we visited a nearby internet café to contact family back home.
Day 7: Friday 3 March Deo Nui San near Di Linh
We left our hotel very early (4.50 am.) for the 1 hour drive to the pass at Deo Nui San.
First we birded for 1 hour along the main road from km.76 to km.78 near the teastall.
Almost no traffic along this road and birding was good.
A flock of 4 pigeons flying over contained either Pin-tailed or Yellow-vented Green Pigeons.
We had good views of the very distinctive black-capped margaritae Grey-headed Parrotbill.
Also Indochinese Cuckooshrike, White-crested Laughingthrush, White-cheeked Laughingthrush, Gould’s Sunbird and Fire-breasted Flowerpecker.
Then we hiked up the hill along the small trail , which started behind the teastall.
We heard Black-hooded Laughingthrush, Orange-breasted Laughingthrush and Blue Pitta.
Unexpectedly we flushed twice a male Eared Pitta on a steep stretch of the trail. According to Robson new to South Annam. Unfortunately we were unable to relocate the bird.
Higher up the mountain we had good views of several Orange-breasted Laughingthrushes but were unable to find the Dark-sided Thrush observed by Ronald Jansen a few days before our visit. Twice we heard a Green Cochoa calling but no response to the tape.
Black-headed Sibia was rather common. An Orange-flanked Bush-Robin was also a good find. Several times we heard Great Hornbill but we never really saw one.
Other birds seen include Collared Owlet (H), Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Bay Woodpecker, Spotted Forktail, Red-billed Scimitar Babbler (H), Eye-browed Wren Babbler, Grey-throated Babbler and Mugimaki Flycatcher.
In the afternoon we returned to Bao Loc. Night: Hotel Seribank
Day 8: Saturday March 4 Deo Nui San Cat Tien NP.
Another full morning was spent at Deo Nui San.
We staked out the area were we had seen the Eared Pitta the day before but no succes.
The highlight was the brief and rather unsatisfying observation of a Green Cochoa.
After we heard 1 bird calling along the jeep track we saw it, after playback, fly in over the valley where it landed high in the canopy just above us. But unfortunately under light conditions that made it impossible to observe any colour details of the bird. Shortly after, it disappeared.
Some other species not observed on march 3 were Black Eagle, Long-tailed Broadbill, Indochinese Cuckooshrike and Streaked Wren Babbler.
At 11.00 am. we left for the drive via Bao Loc to Cat Tien NP. where we arrived at 14.30 pm.
We took the ferry to enter the park. We said goodbye to Thanh who would return after 4 days to drive us to HCMC airport. When we checked in at the HQ it turned out that one of the beds in the large bungalow we had booked, had broken down. So instead they offered us 2 separate rooms next to each other. No problem.
From 15.30 – 18.00 pm we birded the first stretch of the main road and along the Lagerstroemia trail. As soon as we entered the Lagerstroemia trail we observed a female Bar-bellied Pitta. Shortly after we saw a male nearbye and I decided to play the tape to lure this bird closer into view but the result was amazing. First I saw a bird fly in on a branch and when I focussed my binoculars on it I observed a very exciting wingflapping Blue-winged Pitta!! I observed this bird for 15 to 20 seconds before it flew off, never to be seen again.. Unfortunately I was unable to get Frans onto the bird in that time. Meanwhile the male Bar-bellied Pitta walked in and passed us in full view at a distance of less than 10 metres.
What a start at Cat Tien!!
Some other birds seen during that first walk were Green-eared Barbet (1), Lineated Barbet, Ashy-headed Green Pigeon (split from Pompadour Green Pigeon), Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Green Imperial Pigeon, Red-breasted Parakeet and Common Hill Mynah in a fruiting tree, Oriëntal Pied Hornbill, Laced Woodpecker, our first Stripe-throated Bulbuls, Puff-throated Bulbul, Golden-fronted Leafbird and Black-hooded Oriole.
At dusk we got Great-eared Nightjars at the bungalow area.
Day 9: Sunday March 5 Cat Tien NP Main Road + Uncle Dong Trail
We spent all morning on the Uncle Dong Trail. Untill 10.00 am this was ok but after that time several flocks of noisy highschool kids made birding along this trail rather unpleasant.
So we decided to continue birding along the main road.
After lunch and a short siësta we birded again along the Uncle Dong Trail.
Highlight was the superb observations of several Germain’s Peacock Pheasants along this Trail. Other notable birds include Silver-backed Needletail, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Great Hornbill, White-browed Piculet, Black & Buff Woodpecker, a few more Bar-bellied Pitta’s, Puff-throated Babbler and good views of several Golden-crested Mynahs.
During lunch we met Phil Benstead who was leading a nature tour (Green Tours) in Vietnam.
He invited us to join him in the evening for a spotlighting tour in the park.
So after dinner we drove along the main road the the start of the Bau Sau Trail.
The start of the Bau Sau Trail is a good spot for Javan Frogmouth but we dipped. We did see some mammal species like Palm Civet, Mouse Deer and Flying Squirrel.
During our short siësta time we had also arranged a trip to Crocodile Lake for the next day, where we would spend the night. A guide was obligatory and we had to pay 550.000 VND for this trip. This include the guide fee, the transportation to/from the beginning of the Bau Sau Trail and accomodation at Crocodile Lake.
Day 10: Monday March 6 Cat Tien NP Bau Sau Trail – Crocodile lake
After a very early breakfast (5.30 am) we left for the drive to the start of the Bau Sau Trail.
Along the main road we had excellent, close views of a pair of Siamese Firebacks and also brief views of a Black & Red Broadbill.
Phil Benstead also walked the same trail with 2 members of his group on a day trip to Crocodile lake. As we wanted to find Blue-rumped Pitta we split up to maximise our chances to observe this species. Easier with a small group. We had great views of at least 2 different male Blue-rumped Pitta’s along the Bau Sau Trail. They were not vocal and we just found them by slowly and silently walking the trail and listening for the rustling of leaves. Again Germain’s Peacock Pheasant was seen well as were Scaly-breasted Partridges , White-bellied Woodpecker but we failed to find the reported Great Slaty Woodpecker at a stake-out.Around 11.00 am. we arrived at the accomodation and platform of Crocodile Lake. The staff was very friendly and helpful. We could have as much tea and peanuts as we wanted on the platform.
Untill 15.00 pm. we stayed on the platform from where we scoped the area.
We scoped several males Asian Golden Weavers in the small weaver flock present at the lake side.
Other species recorded around the lake were several species of heron, a Darter, 2 Lesser Adjutants in flight, a flock of 200+ Lesser Whistling Ducks, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Black-backed Swamphen, Bronze-winged Jacana, several Great Hornbills and a lonely Grey-headed Lapwing.
In the scrubby area in front of the platform we saw Black-browed Reed warbler, Oriëntal Reed Warbler and Dusky Warbler.
Late afternoon we made a walk along the edge of the lake which was rather productive.
We observed a.o. Orange-breasted Pigeon, Oriëntal Pied Hornbill, Yellow Wagtail ssp. macronyx, Racket-tailed Treepie, Paddyfield Pipit and Vinous-throated Starlings.
After a great sunset we were served a good meal and went to sleep.
Day 11: Tuesday March 7 Cat Tien NP Crocodile lake – Bau Sau Trail – Grassland area
Up at dawn after a good night sleep. We went straight to the platform where we witnssed the sunset while having breakfast. Around 7 am. an immature male Green Peafowl flew in and gave reasonable views in the scope. At 7.15 suddenly an adult male emerged from the forest at the edge of the lake (left side of the lake) and started to display in full view.
While waiting for the Peafowl to appear we observed a flock of Swiftlets over the lake. At first I thought they were Germain’s Swiftlets (most people see this species at Cat Tien) but when I scoped some birds flying low over the service I noticed an all dark rump!!
We think they were Himalayan Swiftlets.
Having achieved our main goal we decided to make a small trip on the lake with a canoe before leaving on the Bau Sau Trail.During this trip we were lucky to observe a Wreathed Hornbill, Eastern Marsh Harriër and 2 Whiskered Terns.
At 9.30 am. we started to walk back on the Bau Sau Trail (5 km.) Again good views of 1 pair of Blue-rumped Pitta’s. We identified several Grey-faced Tit Babblers, Black-naped Monarch and more Puff-throated Babblers.
When we arrived at the start of the trail at 13.00 pm. no jeep. It took another 30 minutes before our car arrived. They had almost forgotten us.
After lunch and a short rest we hired some bikes and explored the grassland area at the other side of the HQ. Here we encountered the regular open country species which we had not seen yet on this trip. We intended to visit some fish ponds but we failed to find them.
Some species seen were Black-shouldered Kite, Crested Goshawk, Lesser Coucal, Oriëntal Turtle Dove, Greater Flameback, Pied Bushchat, Siberian Stonechat, Brown Shrike and Ashy Woodswallow. On our way back we observed a small flock of Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters.
Day 12: Wednesday March 8 Cat Tien NP Heaven’s Rapids Track – Lagerstroemia Trail
At 6.00 am we started at the beginning of the broad track to Heaven’s Rapids. We birded a full morning along this trail.
Best species was a Pale-headed Woodpecker which responded well to the tape. This bird was seen at an obvious bamboo patch just before Heaven’s Rapids. Another notable species seen this morning was a Dusky Broadbill which performed well. The same applies for a male Orange-breasted Trogon. A male Heart-spotted Woodpecker made a brief appearance and unexpected was the observation of a pair of Swinhoe’s Minivets.
After lunch we birded again along the main road and the Lagerstroemia Trail.
Nothing new was added to our list.
Day 13: Thursday March 9 Cat Tien NP Drive to HCMC – Flight to Hanoi
Drive to Gaio Thuy, Red River Delta
We made just a casual stroll around the main road from 7.30 to 8.30 am.
Added a fine male Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher to our list.
Thanh would pick us up at 9.00 am and he showed right on time.While waiting at the jetty we saw our only Stork-billed Kingfisher of the trip, some more Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters and in a mixed flock of swifts we saw Silver-backed Needletails and Germain’s Swiftlets. At least 3 birds with obvious pale rumps.
After an uneventful drive (3 hours) to the airport of HCMC .(Surprisingly we did not hit anybody) we said goodbye to Thanh.Unfortunately our plane was delayed for more than an hour which ment that we had to drive partly in the dark from Hanoi to Giao Thuy.
Instead of 15.00 pm. we arrived at 16.15 am at Hanoi airport.
We quickly changed some dollars and met our new driver Phu. This was not such a nice driver as Thanh in the south. He did not speak one word of english, was stubbern/thick-headed/unpolite and not a good driver at all.
First we had to cross Hanoi. The traffic was unbelievable. We witnessed a traffic jam of several km. of only motorcycles. Imagine 15 motorcycles next to eachother and then 2-3 km. long . What a pollution of the air that must be. It took us at least an hour to reach the other side of Hanoi and from there it took another 4 hours to reach Giao Thuy. It also started to rain and our driver had to stop regularly to ask for directions. In the end we arrived at a brandnew hotel at the outskirts of Giao Thuy. Our driver took us to a nearby restaurant where we had a good dinner for which we paid far too much. We forget to ask beforehand how much it would cost. Pretty tired we went to bed at 10.00 pm. after we had made it clear to our driver that we wanted to be at the HQ of Xuan Thuy NP at 6.30 am.early next morning.
Day 14: Friday March 10 Xuan Thuy NP – drive to Cuc Phuong (Bong substation)
We were a bit worried about our driver but he showed up right on time and it took less than 20 minutes to reach the HQ/visitor centre of Xuan Thuy NP. We noticed immediately that the tide was dropping fast so there was no chance to try for Spoonbilled Sandpiper. As our main target was the Black-faced Spoonbill we tried to arrange transport to the shrimp ponds near to the old HQ where the birds are usually found (6 km.)
But the park ranger told us that it was impossible to reach that area by bike because of the extremely muddy conditions of the track and that the only way to get there was with a boat.
After some discussion we agreed and with a guide we took a boat out . Several times we passed exposed mudflats with waders and with the use of the scope we identified most wader species. Finally we entered a small canal where we left our boat and it took another 20 minutes before we located a group of 32 Black-faced Spoonbills at one of the shrimp ponds.
With some difficulty , as the tide was still dropping fast, we left again and at 9.30 am. we were back at the HQ. We decided to bird from the HQ along the main stream towards the sea for roughly 1½ hour. The weather was stark overcast with some drizzle and the whole area was wet, foggy, muddy and in fact rather depressing. People are literally living in the mud.
During our stroll we still managed to find some new species. We observed Purple Swamphen, Crested Mynah, a few Red-billed Starlings, Rubythroat, several Dusky Warblers, Ligth-vented Bulbul but not the wanted Slaty-breasted Rail.
At 11.00 am we decided to leave and head for Cuc Phuong. We paid US$ 30,- for the boat and 100.000 VND for the guide and left.
We reached Cuc Phuong ahead of schedule at 15.30 pm. We reported at the HQ/reception at the entrance of the park and continued for another 20 km. to Bong substation. We were shown our bungalow and made some arrangements for dinner. We got a sketch left behind by Ronald Jansen and on it some info about good birds observed by him the week before.
Good birds seen by him included Red-collared Woodpecker in a mixed flock, Blue-rumped Pitta and Greater Scimitar Babbler.
The weather was overcast but dry and from 16.00 – 17.30 we birded around Bong and the Grid. Next to our bungalow we observed a perched Pied Falconet. Other species encountered included a small flock of Silver-breasted Broadbill and our first Rufous-throated Fulvettas, which showed well in the undergrowth and were very vocal. Nice song.
Had a good dinner at the restaurant. Only one other bungalow was occupied so it was very quiet.
Day 15: Saturday March 11 Cuc Phuong NP Valley Trail – Grid – Main Road
From info in previous reports we feared that it would be very crowded and noisy during the week-ends but all in all this turned out not to be the case. Possibly also because the weather conditions this week-end were not too good.
Today the weather was not bad, overcast weather conditions, some sunshine from time to time but rather cold.
Today we started at the clearing around Bong and then we continued along the Valley Trail.
Unexpected was the observation of a female Japanese Robin along the Valley Trail.
A soon as we arrived in the area with obvious limestone crags and I briefly played the song of Limestone Wren Babbler a bird responded and showed well.
After lunch we birded along the main road and in the grid.
Some species recorded today included Pied Falconet, Red-headed Trogon, good views of Red-vented Barbet, White-browed Piculet, Amur Wagtail, Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike, Japanese Thrush, Asian Stubtail, Sulphur-breasted Warbler, Yellow-bellied Warbler 1 in the bamboo, Bianchi’s Warbler, Hainan Blue Flycatcher, Limestone Wren Babbler and Streaked Wren Babbler, Mountain Fulvetta, White-bellied Yuhina, Yellow-cheeked Tit and good views of Ratchet-tailed Treepie.
Day 16: Sunday March 12 Cuc Phuong NP Valley Trail – Loop Trail
Today we were accompanied by one of the local guides who had told us that he was able to show us stake-outs of species like Rufous-naped Pitta, Eared Pitta, White-winged Magpie and Red-collared Woodpecker. We were sceptic about this and rightly so but anyway we had a nice day’s birding with this guy. We weather was overcast again with some fog and drizzle.
First we birded the Valley Trail early in the morning to try for White-winged Magpie but no luck. After a late breakfast we did the Loop Trail. Except one large, noisy group of vietnamese tourists , of which the ladies were walking the muddy, steep trail on high heels!!, we were the only ones on the trail. No Pitta’s and we only heard Fork-tailed Sunbird but we had brief but good views of a male Fujian Niltava which turned out to be the only one of the trip.After lunch we birded again along the Valley Trail.
Some other species observed today include: 3 migrating Grey-faced Buzzards, Black Eagle, Chestnut-necklaced Partridge (H), Grey Peacock-Pheasant (H), a group of Silver-backed Needletails with 2 Brown-backed Needletails, Bar-bellied Pitta (H) , Grey-eyed Bulbul, Large Scimitar Babbler (H), Eye-browed Wren Babbler, Rufous-capped Babbler but not our target species.
Day 17: Monday March 13 Cuc Phuong NP Grid – Main Road – Valley Trail
When we got up the weather was terrible. Cold and rainy.
But anyway we started to bird along the main road near the grid from under our umbrella.
We observed a pitta right in the middle of a track in the grid for at least a minute but because of the very bad light conditions (we needed a good torch for this one) we were unable to put a name on this one. The bird made an overall brownish impression with a brown head and a small black stripe behind the eye. Possibly a Rusty-naped Pitta ( a lifer for us) but we could not exclude Blue-rumped Pitta, which it probably was.
It rained most of the day untill late afternoon. We mostly birded from under our umbrella around the restaurant area and the first 4 km. along the main road. Here we encountered some nice mixed flocks.Late afternoon we did the Valley Trail again.
Despite the weather we did observe some new birds like a beautiful male Silver Pheasant, a male Asian Emerald Cuckoo, Green-eared Barbet, Bay Woodpecker, another Yellow-bellied Warbler, Snowy-browed Flycatcher and best of all excellent and close views of a male Fork-tailed Sunbird.
Day 18: Tuesday March 14 Cuc Phuong NP Main Road – Valley Trail – HQ area – Botanical Gardens
Fortunately we had very nice weather today. First we started to bird along the first 4-5 km. along the main road. We encountered several small flocks but nothing we had not seen before.
At noon we had , as usual, lunch at the outside restaurant, just next to the grid system. Suddenly I heard a small flock coming in which I thought were Green Magpies. We jumped up and entered the grid searching for this flock. During the next couple of minutes we observed a small mixed group of Common Green and Indochinese Green Magpies.
Satisfied we finished our meal.
After lunch we walked for the last time the Valley Trail. Here we added a nice male White-tailed Flycatcher to our list.
We had arranged a car at 14.00 pm. to drive us down to the HQ area to spend the last night in the lower section of the park. One of the local guides had told us that White-winged Magpie, which has eluded us sofar, is often seen in the Botanical Gardens, late afternoon. And as this was a priority species for us we had arranged this with the park officials.
They gave us a nice brandnew room and soon we entered the Botanical Gardens. And at the back of the gardens we had good views of a small flock of this huge magpie species.
We had dinner at the small restaurant which was OK but certainly not as good as the meals they prepared for us at Bong substation.
Day 19: Wednesday March 15 Cuc Phuong NP – HQ area - Tam Dao
In the early morning we birded from 6.00 – 8.00 am along the main road towards the reservoir (2 km). Very birdy. We had more views of drinking White-winged Magpies , a male White-tailed Flycatcher in full display, a very obliging Pale-footed Bush Warbler but not the White-bellied Green Pigeon which is regularly recorded from this area.
At 9.00 am our driver Phu turned up and we left Cuc Phuong for the drive through Hanoi to Tam Dao. We arrived at Tam Dao, the Green World hotel, at 14.00 pm. We had a very nice room in this recently renovated hotel and the man at the reception who spoke excellent english told us where to find the start of the Water Tank Trail. The weather was superb. Clear blue skies, no clouds and fine temperature. We knew that this was an exception so we quickly grabbed some bread and water and headed straight for the Water Tank Trail.
As soon as we reached the Water Tank Trail, actually a road, we saw the destruction of good habitat along this track. At several sites along this track the road workers had constructed primitive camps where they sleep, eat and whatever they do. Actually one of the camps was right next to the Water Tank. At the moment the first 2 km. are tarmac but it will take some time to finish the job. All this people obviously have great impact on birdlife as beside the general disturbance they cause, they trap birds and use catapults to shoot them. Soon after the last camp, past the watertank we started to bird up to the end of the road and despite all the destruction, we still saw some good species.
Good views of 2 flocks of Grey Laughingthrushes, Golden-throated Barbet, 2 Chestnut Bulbuls and White-hooded Babbler. Not bad for a first introduction.
We had a good dinner at our hotel and when we went to sleep we noticed a clear sky so we were optimistic for tomorrow’s weather.
Day 20: Thursday March 16 Tam Dao – Water Tank Trail – Transmitter Trail
So it was a major disappointment when we noticed, when we got up, that it was FOGGY weather. We still decided to bird along the Water Tank Trail.
Sometimes the fog would lift for 10 minutes but it was still rather frustrating.
We stopped birding at 10.00 am because it became impossible to bird.
Species seen that morning were a perched Collared Owlet, Grey-throated Babbler, Spot-necked Babbler, a flock of Striated Yuhina’s, a few Black-chinned Yuhina’s, Sultan Tit and 2 Tristram’s Buntings.
From 10.00 – 15.00 we stayed in our room with a short lunch break at nearby hotel Mela.
At 15.00 pm. the fog lifted a bit and we decided to try our luck at the nearby steps/Transmitter Trail. This turned out to be a good gamble.
In 2 hours we observed among others a flock of Red-billed Scimitar Babblers (5-6 exx.) with possibly also a Coral-billed S.Babbler but because of the fog we were unable to make a positive ID on this one. We also observed at least 1 Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill in this flock as well as several White-hooded Babblers. Twice we heard a Slaty-bellied Tesia and observed 3 Silver-eared Mesia ssp. ricketti with an orange-red throat/breast, Golden Babbler, another Spot-necked Babbler, Grey Laughingthrushes and Bianchi’s Warbler.
In the evening the owner of our hotel joined us at our meal and offered us drink after drink.
Some local heavy stuff. We slept very well that night.
Day 21: Friday March 17 Tam Dao – Transmitter Trail – Water Tank Trail.
Drive to Hanoi Railway station – Train Hanoi to Lao Cai.
This day started again very foggy but we decided to bird the Transmitter Trail again. While birding this trail it suddenly became clear and sunny.
We opted to abort our birding on the Transmitter Trail and to walk the Water Tank Trail.
Best species seen on the Transmitter Trail was a lonely Short-tailed Parrotbill with a flock of Grey-cheeked Fulvettas.
Most of the day was spent along the Water Tank Trail. Unfortunately the weather changed again : foggy intermitted with short clear periods.
Along one of the small trails at the end of the Water Tank Trail we found a White-gorgetted Flycatcher. New birds seen were White-browed Shrike Babbler and Sulphur-breasted Warbler.
At 17.00 pm. we were picked up by our driver Phu and we drove straight from Tam Dao to the railway station of Hanoi. Our fantastic driver almost succeeded twice in hitting a cyclist.
We waited from 19.30 to 21.00 pm at the railway station for our train to depart.
We had a delay of 1 hour because of “technical”problems. We had a nice sleeper cabin for 4 persons and we slept surprisingly well.
Day 22: Saturday March 18 Lao Cai – Sapa – O Qui Ho Track
At 6.30 am. we arrived at the railway station of Lao Cai at the chinese border.
We were welcomed by a driver from Hotel Royal in Sapa who held a sign with my name on it. So with a big, luxurious Ford 4x4 we drove the short distance (36 km.) to Sapa, where we got a nice room with great views over the surrounding valley.
After an extended breakfast at the nearby Mountain View hotel we explored the city, the market and we photographed the colourful people of the local tribes.
We also made a first stroll (2 hours) through Hamrong Gardens. The weather was excellent, nice, sunny, even hot. At the top of the gardens we observed at least 2 singing Buff-throated Warblers, Green-tailed Sunbird and a few Common Rosefinches. Brownish-flanked Bush Warblers were common.
After lunch we chartered 2 motorcycles to drive us to the start of the O Qui Ho Track.
We birded along this track (4-5 km.) from 14.00 to 17.30 pm. It took us 30 minutes for the 8 km.ride for which we paid US$ 7,- for the both of us. Birding was rather slow this afternoon, maybe this was caused by the heat.
Best species seen were 2 Golden Parrotbills in a scrubby bamboo patch. Other species seen included Fork-tailed Swift, Brown-breasted Bulbul (common), Hill Prinia, Gray-crowned Warbler, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler (1), the huge White-naped Yuhina, Black-throated Tit , Little Bunting (common) and Black-headed Greenfinch.
Had a not so good and expensive pizza at the Delta Restaurant.
We arranged at the reception of our hotel a car for the drive, early next morning, to Hoang Lien NP. This would cost us US$ 20,- for drop-off and pick-up.
Day 23: Sunday March 19 Sapa – Hoang Lien NP.
We left at 5.30 am. with the same car/driver we had for our drive from Lao Cai to Sapa.
We bought fresh bread at the market and at 6.00 am. we arrived at the entrance gate of Hoang Lien NP. This is roughly 1 km. below the Tram Ton Pass. At first we thought we were at the wrong place (the maps/info we had were a bit confusing) and therefore we decided to start birding along the main road.
Birds seen included Spectacled Barwing, Aberrant Bush Warbler, Russet Bush Warbler (H), Blue-winged Minla, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Red-tailed Minla, Whiskered Yuhina and Black-throated Tit.
At 9.00 am. we took the trail down from the parking lot of Hoang Lien HQ to the grassy area.
This trail is signposted “Golden Stream Love Waterfall” trail. We crossed the grassy area and found the start of the trail (green sign) into a small valley after we crossed a small stream. This valley is sometimes called Ward’s Valley after a belgian birder Ward Vercruijsse who first mentioned this site. We found the trail after some 500 metres heavily overgrown and difficult to follow. In the open area near a wooden hut with some large trees we had some nice flocks with quite some phylloscopus warblers.
Just near the stream we had good views of a few Golden-breasted Fulvettas, 2 White-crowned Forktails and also 3-4 White-browed Fulvettas. Slaty-bellied Tesia was commonly heard and seen in the valley.
In the flocks we saw Pallas’s Warbler, Eastern Crowned Leaf Warbler, Blyth’s Leaf Warbler, White-tailed Leaf Warbler, Sulphur-breasted Leaf Warbler, Black-faced Warbler and best of all a very cooperative Broad-billed Warbler. We could not identify Chinese Leaf Warbler though in this flock. On our way back we saw 1 Red-billed Leiothrix.
At 15.00 pm we were back at our hotel.
After a late lunch at restaurant Mimosa we just relaxed a bit. From now on we had lunch and dinner at this very cosy, good and cheap restaurant.
Day 24: Monday March 20 Sapa – Hamrong Gardens
Our plan was to bird extensively early morning at Hamrong Gardens but again it was the fog and rain which hindered our birding at this site.
Despite the fog we still found some nice species like some very tame Rusty-capped Fulvettas, a lonely Blue Rock Thrush, Siberian Rubythroat, Grey-crowned Warbler, Rufous-capped Babbler, Black-throated Sunbird, Japanese White-eye and finally a flock of Vinous-throated Parrotbills. But we could not find any White-browed Laughingthrush.
Most of the day we spent in the centre of town , buying some souvenirs and just hanging around a bit as it was too foggy for serious birding.
Late afternoon we made a random stroll along a small road out of town and found some degraded scrubby habitat where we encountered a large flock of Vinous-throated Parrotbills.
As we have read that sometimes Ashy-throated Parrotbil is found within these flocks we carefully scanned this flock which showed nicely. And sure enough we identified several
Ashy-throated Parrotbills in this flock.
In the evening we again arranged the car/driver for another visit to Hoang Lien NP, early next morning.
Day 25: Tuesday March 21 Sapa – Hoang Lien NP
On our way to Hoang Lien we observed 3 Red-billed Magpies along the road.
At exactly 6.00 am we descended to the grassy area along the Golden Stream Love Waterfall Trail. But again fog and rain untill 7.30 am. In the grassy clearing we taped in a Brown Bush Warbler which gave good views. When the weather cleared we entered Ward’s Valley again.
New species include White-tailed Nuthatch, good views of a taped in Pygmy Wren Babbler, Rusty-capped Fulvetta, Rufous-winged Fulvetta , Yellow-bellied Fantail and we identified twice a Chinese Leaf-Warbler.
On our way back we made an extensive stop at Thac Bac Waterfall. Instead of the expected Plumbeous Redstart and White-capped Redstart, which we did not see, we had great views of a Little Forktail.
Frans stayed at our hotel in the afternoon while I decided to stroll around Hamrong Gardens in search especially for White-browed Laughingthrush. Birded slowly up the gardens to the top and from there I walked out to the scrub at the back side of the Gardens and from there down towards town. Besides Green-headed Greenfinches and Little Buntings not much.
At one time I reached a scrubby hillside below the transmitter and there I finally connected with a few White-browed Laughingthrushes and had good views. Quickly I walked further down to the main street and our hotel (5 minutes) and warned Frans.
When we reached the scrub we saw a Laughingthrush popping up from a bush. But not a White-browed Laughingthrush but a Hwamei, a lifer for both of us.
After that we saw another Hwamei, 3 White-browed Laughingthrushes and 2 Spectacled Barwings.
In the evening we arranged transport to the start of the O Qui Ho Track for the next morning.
Day 26: Wednesday March 22 Sapa – O Qui Ho Track – Lao Cai
From 6.00 am. to 13.00 pm. we birded along the O Qui Ho Track. But again birding was severely hampered by fog, especially lower down. Rather frustrating when you hear birds, you see shadows of birds but you cannot identify them.
Decided to retrace our steps to the first part of the track. Had poor views of Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler, a singing male Small Niltava, a few Collared Finchbills showed nicely, a Silver-eared Mesia, White-naped Yuhina and 2 Black-throated Tits.
There is some discussion about the seicercus warblers ocurring around Sapa. We found several singing Grey-crowned Warblers (S. tethrocephalus) along this track which I tape recorded. We did not identify any Bianchi’s Warbler (S. valentini) around Sapa, which should also occur and is reported regularly by other birders.
We also checked the dead-end road which branches of to the right after 1 km. from the start of the track. Found some White-browed Laughingthrushes and the last addition to our list was a lone Great Barbet.
After lunch we birded a little near our hotel on the scrubby hillside below the transmitter.
Again good views of White-browed Laughingthrushes.
At 18.00 pm. we were driven to the railway station of Lao Cai. This time the train left right on time at 20.45 pm.
Day 27: Thursday March 23 Lao Cai – Hanoi – Kuala Lumpur - Amsterdam
After a good night sleep we arrived at 5.00 am. at Hanoi.A couple of days earlier I had mailed Mr. Viet van Nguyen to arrange a room and breakfast at the Sao Ma hotel in Hanoi to get some rest before our flight back home. He arranged that for us, free of charge!!
It turned out that our driver Phu had overslept and so we took a taxi to the nearby Sao Ma hotel. The staff of this hotel paid us back the money for the taxi and after an early breakfast we took a rest at our room untill 11.00 am.
Drove for the last time, straight through Hanoi, to the airport.
At exactly 14.40 we left for Kuala Lumpur where we had a 4 hour stop-over.
Just before midnight we left Kuala Lumpur for the 12 hour flight to Amsterdam
Day 28: Friday March 24 Amsterdam – Eindhoven
Arrived at 5.30 am. at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam.
Took the train to Eindhoven where we arrived at 9.00 am.
February 25 Flight from Amsterdam to Ho Chi Minh City via Kuala Lumpur
February 26 10.00 am. Arrival HCMC. Drive to Da Lat.
February 27 Ho Tuyen Lam to 15.00 pm. Datanla Waterfall.
February 28 Ta Nung Valley to 16.00 pm. Scrub opposite Datanla waterfall.
March 1 Mount Lang Bian to 14.00 pm. Scrub opposite Datanla waterfall.
March 2 Ho Tuyen Lam to 13.00 pm. Drive Da Lat to Bao Loc.
March 3 Pass near Di Linh: Deo Nui San.
March 4 Pass near Di Linh: Deo Nui San untill 11.00 pm. Drive to Cat Tien.
Afternoon 15.30 – 18.00 Lagerstroemia & Uncle Dong Trail.
March 5 Uncle Dong Trail and along the main road.
March 6 Bau Sau Trail + Crocodile Lake.
March 7 Crococdile Lake + Bau Sau Trail + grasland area by bike.
March 8 Heaven’s Rapids Track + Lagerstroemia/Uncle Dong Trail.
March 9 Main Road Cat Tien – Drive to Airport HCMC – Flight to Hanoi –
Drive Hanoi to Giao Thuy.
March 10 Xuan Thuy untill 11.30 am – Drive to Cuc Phuong NP, Bong Substation – late afternoon birding around Bong.
March 11 Around Bong – Grid system – Valley Trail – Main Road.
March 12 Valley Trail – Loop Trail – Main Road.
March 13 Grid System – Main Road – Valley Trail.
March 14 Valley Trail = Main Road – Grid System. Drive down to HQ area.
Late afternoon in the Botanical Gardens.
March 15 Untill 9.00 am. birding along the main road. Drive to Tam Dao.
Afternoon birding along the Water Tank Trail.
March 16 Early morning Water Tank Trail. Afternoon Transmitter Trail.
March 17 Morning Transmitter Trail and Water Tank Trail.
Afternoon drive to Hanoi. Nighttrain to Lao Cai.
March 18 6.30 am. arrival at Lao Cai. Drive from Lao Cai to Sapa. (8.00 am.)
From 10.30 – 12.30 Hamrong Gardens. 13.30 – 17.00 O Qui Ho Track.
March 19 6.00 – 13.00 main road near Tran Ton Pass and Ward’s Valley.
March 20 6.00 – 12.00 Hamrong Gardens.
March 21 6.00 – 13.00 Ward’s Valley. 15.30 – 17.30 Hamrong Gardens.
March 22 6.00 – 13.00 O Qui Ho Track. 15.30 – 17.30 Hamrong Gardens.
18.00 drive to Lao Cai. 20.30 pm. Night train from Lao Cai to Hanoi.
March 23 5.30 am. arrival at Hanoi. Taxi to hotel Sao Ma.
11.00 Taxi to International airport of Hanoi.
14.40 Flight from Hanoi to Kuala Lumpur.
23.45 Flight from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam.
March 24 5.30 am. arrival at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam.
7.00 am. train to Eindhoven where we arrived before 9.00 am.
Taxonomy, sequence and nomenclature follow “A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia”by Robson (2000) with some recent taxonomic changes included. Especially Rasmussen & Anderton (2005)