Saturday 25 February 2023

Southern Vietnam - February 2023 : Part 3


Day 6 - 

This was our only full day at Deo Nui San Pass, the plan was to bird along the road in the morning and move into the bird hide later in the afternoon to hopefully try for Black-headed Parrotbills again. On our way from Di Linh we stopped at a lookout and saw a few Vinous-breasted Mynas perched on top of some bamboo. A few Hair-crested Drongos also joined in.

Vinous-breasted Myna

Hair-crested Drongo

The van parked by the roadside and we birded along the road, the QL28 is a twisty mountain road that runs south from Di Linh, the road lead toward Binh Thuan province. Things started off well here, with lots of birds in the morning, including a flock of Large Wood Shrikes, these were accompanied by a Maroon Oriole as well as other smaller birds such as minivets. A Black-winged Cuckooshrike also dropped by. 

Large Wood Shrike

Maroon Oriole - male

Black-winged Cuckooshrike

Further along, we added Grey-faced Tit-Babblers and Pin-striped Tit-Babblers, both species looks quite similar but Grey-faced as its name suggests, have a more prominent greyish face and no supercilium. A few Black-crested Bulbuls were aded, along with Black-chinned Yuhinas.

Grey-faced Tit-Babbler

Pin-striped Tit-Babbler

Black-crested Bulbul

Black-chinned Yuhina

On a distant tree there were a few Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters, I kept scanning for Blue-bearded Bee-eater but with no success. Indochinese Barbets were pretty common here, but as always not easy to see. One of the more exciting moment was when a Red-headed Trogon crossed the road, but it was too quick for any of us to get a photo.

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater

Indochinese Barbet

A few Black-throated Tits came through, allowing relatively good views, although they always prefer to stay high up in trees, making them a nightmare to photograph. Things started to quiet down by late morning and the gang was split into two smaller groups, just as we were about to head towards the cafe to rest, Kenneth ran up the hill to call us back, turns out he found a Blue-bearded Bee-eater! We all rushed back down hill and luckily the bird was still there, although it was quite far away, this was a 'half lifer' for me, as I've only heard the call of this species but never actually seen one.

Black-throated Tit - race annamensis

Blue-bearded Bee-eater

After the slight excitement, we rested at the roadside cafe during the mid-day heat, the damp ground here provided plenty of puddling butterflies to keep Kenneth and I entertained for a while.

Chestnut Tiger

Colour Sergeant


Before we headed for lunch, Tien wanted to try for the Annam Prinia, an endemic now split from Brown Prinia. We stopped at a graveyard with tall grass, all was quiet at first, so quiet in fact that we were looking at damselflies along the stream. Suddenly, Duc and Michelle called out that they located our target! Sure enough, one perched up nicely for everyone to see. This one was carrying spiderwebs that is likely for nest making, so it is highly likely that a pair is breeding in the area. The bird flew around for a bit before disappearing back into the tall grass.

Heliocypha biforata

Neurobasis chinensis

Annam Prinia - a plain looking endemic

After lunch most of us rested back at the hotel while Kenneth went out to look for butterflies at the graveyard. We picked him up later on when we headed back out to the bird hide, as it was much hotter than the day before, we were hoping this may get more birds to come to the bird bath. Things started off much the same, with common species similar to the day before, such as female White-throated Rock Thrush, Hainan Blue Flycatcher, White-bellied Erpornis, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and many Orange-headed Thrush...

White-throated Rock Thrush - female

White-bellied Erpornis

Hainan Blue Flycatcher - klossi male

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo

Orange-headed Thrush - race innotata

Orange-headed Thrush - race aurimacula

A Mugimaki Flycatcher with an injured left foot was seen, it couldn't stand properly, therefore not able to perch on branches very well, although it seems to be feeding fine at the feeding station. A female Blue-rumped Pitta came through, as did an Alstrom's Warbler, which added a bit of excitement.

Mugimaki Flycatcher
Blue-rumped Pitta - female

Alstrom's Warbler

Indochinese Green Magpie and White-browed Scimitar-Babblers both came to feed and to take a dip into the water. These guys provided plenty of entertainment when nothing much was happening at the bird bath.

Indochinese Green Magpie - race hypoleuca

White-browed Scimitar Babbler

Suddenly, a gang of Silver-breasted Broadbills started dropping down from above, and soon we had a bunch of these stunners perched right in front of us. These canopy dwellers were not at all interested by the mealworms on offer, but were coming down to drink and bath, we enjoyed excellent views of up to eleven birds. The gang all left as soon as all of them took a dip into the water.

Silver-breasted Broadbill

The female Blue Pitta came in every so often, but it was when I noticed a male towards the back of the feeding station that i really felt we had a good chance the male may come out eventually! We waited and waited, trying not to make any sound as much as possible. But, the male never came out, and I was left with just a record photo of this stunning looking bird, I was still pretty happy that we at least got to see a male on this trip, good photos will have to wait!

Blue Pitta - female

Blue Pitta - brilliant looking male...

We again waited till dark for the Mountain Scops Owl, they were less cooperative today and we ended up not getting any photos. As it was already quite late when we got back to town, it took Tien a bit of time to find somewhere that still served food. In the end we had noodles call Mi Guang, it is quite different from the Pho we had on previous days, supposedly a more central Vietnamese dish, the broth made with pork and prawns.

Day 7 -

For the last remaining morning at Deo Nui San Pass, we decided to go early to the bird hide to try for the male Blue Pitta one last time. When we got there we heard the Blue Pitta calling from inside the forest, we sat down and waited. The female took no time to come out, but the male was nowhere to be seen. Other than the female Blue Pitta, lots of other species we've already seen and photographed showed up.

Blue Pitta - female

We waited till 9am and decided it just wasn't the time for us to see the male, we packed our things and headed back to the road to hopefully find a few more birds before we depart. The first birds we saw were Swinhoe's Minivets, a relatively common winter visitor to Vietnam. A few Black-throated Tits joined in, as always they were difficult to photograph, but a few came down low enough to allow us to get most of the key diagnostic features of race annamensis.

Swinhoe's Minivet

Black-throated Tit - race annamensis

Tien kept trying to call in Red-vented Barbets, while we heard one calling back it never came any closer, we saw a few Indochinese Barbets instead. A Blue-winged Leafbird was also seen.

Indochinese Barbet

Blue-winged Leafbird

We heard the call of a Blue-bearded Bee-eater, and a pair of these came into view shortly after, giving relatively good views, a huge improvement to the day before!

Blue-bearded Bee-eater

A brief stop at an area of tall grass added brief views of Chestnut-capped Babblers, but too quick for any photos. A handsome Burmese Shrike posed nicely for everyone.

Burmese Shrike

After a brief lunch break at Di Linh, we continued our journey to Cat Tien, our last birding location. Cat Tien is one of the prime lowland rain forest of South Vietnam, and a must visit for birders, with a lot of key species such as Germain's Peacock Pheasant, Green Peafowl and Siamese Fireback, Cat Tien National Park boast some of the country's best birding. It took over two hours to get from Di Linh to the entrance of Cat Tien National Park, where we had to get off our vans and go across the Dong Nai River by boat. As we waited for the boat, Kenneth spotted a few Vernal Hanging Parrots feeding on a flowering tree. An Oriental Honey Buzzard also gave brief views.

Vernal Hanging Parrot

Oriental Honey Buzzard

River crossing to Cat Tien National Park

After we arrived at our lodge within the headquarters, Kenneth and I decided to explore the grounds nearby as the group rested. Streak-eared Bulbuls were pretty common here, as were Ashy Drongos. There were also a few Bronze Drongos, and definitely the most friendly ones I've seen. Changeable Lizards were very common around the lodges.

Main entrance to Cat Tien National Park

Streak-eared Bulbul

Ashy Drongo

Bronzed Drongo

Changeable Lizard

At 4pm, Tien and Duc met us to do a bit of late afternoon birding. Temperature here is a lot hotter than Dalat and Di Linh, but being the dry season it didn't feel too humid. We headed into the forest, one of the first bird we heard was the Banded Kingfisher, but it didn't want to show itself. A Black-and-Red Broadbill came in for a brief view, but it was a Banded Broadbill that really stole the show!

Black-and-Red Broadbill

Banded Broadbill

Further into the forest, we got brief views of a few primates up above, these were Black-shanked Douc Langurs, only Kenneth managed a record shot of these beautiful primates before they disappeared. Captain found us an Orange-breasted Trogon, a species I've only seen once before.

Black-shanc Douc Langur - photo by Kenneth Lam

Orange-breasted Trogon

Back on the main road, I spotted a Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo. Things got real exciting when Tien shouted 'Red-vented Barbet!', a species that we failed to find at Dalat and Di Linh where they are supposed to be easier, therefore it was a real surprise that we found one here at Cat Tien! Things got even better when a Green-eared Barbet came onto the same tree, another species I needed! Getting two lifers all at once is always a nice feeling.

Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo

Red-vented Barbet

Green-eared Barbet

Some more common bird came through in form of a few Racket-tailed Treepies, these were fairly common at Cat Tien, but it doesn't seem to make them any easier to photograph. Two Green-billed Malkohas were also present. A Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker was seen near the restaurant.

Racket-tailed Treepie

Green-billed Malkoha

Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker

Just before Dusk Tien got a call to inform him that the other bird guide from his company had fallen ill and had to be hospitalised. Therefore, Duc had to leave us early to go help out for the other tour. We bid our farewell to him and headed towards a clearing, hoping to see some nightjars coming out from the roost. There were still a little sunlight left for us to observe a Common Flameback.

Man on a mission...

Common Flameback - female

Just past 6pm we started hearing the call of the Great Eared Nightjars, and very soon we saw their silhouettes gliding above our heads. With modern technology, it wasn't actually that difficult to take photos of them inflight even in extremely dim situations! With the help of the torch light from Tien, we got some phenomenon flight views and some record shots of this magnificent species inflight.

Great Eared Nightjar

After dinner, Kenneth and I went out to look for other animals, while we didn't find any snakes in the end, we had quite a few frogs, including a funny looking Burmese Squat Frog, Asian Common Toad, Round-tongue Floating Frogs, possibly Annam Wart Frog(?), numerous Brown Tree Frogs, and a beautiful Mada Paddy Frog.

Burmese Squat Frog

Asian Common Toad

Round-Tongue Floating Frog

Annam Wart Frog - maybe?

Brown Tree Frog

Mada Paddy Frog

We found two scorpions, one was quite small and was found just outside our room's door, likely from the genus Raddyanus, whereas Kenneth found an impressive looking Heterometrus silenus under a large rock. Whip Scorpions were fairly common and easy to find near houses.

Raddyanus sp.

Heterometrus silenus

Whip Scorpion

Nearby we found an Asian Palm Civet foraging on the ground, on a very tall tree we spotted something with an eye shine, turns out it was an Indochinese Spotted Flying Squirrel. Tokay Geckos were very common here, but they often move off before we can get closer for a good photo.

Asian Palm Civet - photo by Kenneth Lam

Indochinese Spotted Flying Squirrel

Tokay Gecko

Day 8 -

This was our only full day of birding at Cat Tien. We met for breakfast at the restaurant, it was a very misty morning, a few Racket-tailed Treepies were present, but through the mist it was impossible to get any good photographs.

Racket-tailed Treepie

For the morning session, Tien suggested we first go to the bird hide for Siamese Fireback and Germain's Peacock Pheasant. Things started off pretty quiet, with common species such as White-rumped Shamas Greater Coucals and Stripe-throated Bulbuls coming into feed.

White-rumped Shama - female

Greater Coucal
Stripe-throated Bulbul

A Scaly-breasted Partridge brought some excitement, race here is cognacqi and sometimes known as the Green-legged Partridge. The partridge came through quite a few times throughout the morning.

Scaly-breasted Partridge

I was relieved when a family group of Siamese Fireback finally decided to come in, having missed the opportunity to take good photos at Tan Phu Forest, I am glad we got a second chance! This extremely good looking species is monotypic and ranges throughout lowland forests of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. This is one of the very few species of pheasant where female is very good looking in its own right.

Siamese Fireback - male

Siamese Fireback - female

Soon after the Siamese Fireback came through, I noticed a smaller pheasant walking out from within the thickets. Since I was sitting on the left side of the hide, I got good views of the bird coming out from the right hand side, and soon I realize it was the Germain's Peacock Pheasant! It slowly came out facing us, at that moment only Captain, Kenneth and I could see the bird, while views were blocked for others from our group. Thanks to the silent electric shutter I was able to get photos of the bird as it turned slowly sideways, just as I thought it will walk out into the open a squirrel startled it and it bolted back into the thickets! I was able to get a clear side on view before it ran off, while most of the group barely even saw the bird!

Germain's Peacock Pheasant - a truly magnificent species

We waited a little longer for the pheasant to return, but it never did. After a while, Captain decided to head out of the hide, while rest of us stayed on a little longer. I wish I had followed him out as soon he reported Golden-crested Mynas outside! Since I already got a fairly decent photo, I decided to give up before lunch time, while a few continued to wait. Outside, the Mynas were long gone, but I did get good views of a Common Flameback.

Common Flameback - male

I decided to continue birding outside on my own before lunch, a few Ashy Woodswallows flew around quite high, while near the main entrance there were Dark-necked Tailorbirds and Bar-winged Flycatchers-shrikes.

Ashy Woodswallow

Dark-necked Tailorbird

Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike

I didn't see a lot inside the trail, a friendly Abbott's Babbler was a nice addition, while I did manage to see a Scaly-breasted Partridge trotting along the forest floor. A nice looking male Blue-crested Lizard was about the best I could manage by mid-day.

Abbott's Babbler

Blue-crested Lizard - a very colourful species

After lunch, Kenneth and I once again ventured out in the heat to hopefully get a few more birds. A Green-billed Malkoha showed very well along the road, while we spotted another primate in form of a Pig-tailed Macaque. A few Ruby-throated Sunbirds were about the only bird we added before we decided to go back to the lodge.

Green-billed Malkoha

Pig-tailed Macaque

Ruby-cheeked Sunbird - male

In the afternoon, Peter and James decided to continue their waiting game with the Peacock Pheasant, the rest of the group followed Tien for some birding outside. The main target in the afternoon was Green Peafowl, we followed the main road heading southwards and birded along the way. Great Ioras and Black-naped Monarchs were seen, while we saw yet another Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo. More Green-billed Malkohas were spotted.

Great Iora

Black-naped Monarch - female

Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo

Green-billed Malkoha - inflight

Tien kept trying for the Pale-headed Woodpecker along a bamboo forest, and perseverance paid off when one flew out and landed closer towards us! I had brilliant flight views of the bird, it took us a little while to locate it within the dense bamboo. I mustered a record shot of this species.

Pale-headed Woodpecker - best I could manage...

Not long after we saw the woodpecker, Tien heard the call of a Banded Kingfisher! He located the bird soon after and we got some pretty good views of this incredible looking species. This is by far one of my favourite kingfisher species, having seen them at Sepilok (a different subspecies) doesn't make this encounter any less exciting!

Banded Kingfisher - male

An open top truck came and pick us up at 4:30pm to drive towards the Green Peafowl habitat, the mixed bamboo forest opened up to scrubland and grassland. Here we saw a few Red Jungle Fowl feeding in the grass as well as other open area species such as Red-wattled Lapwings.

Red Jungle Fowl - male

Red-wattled Lapwing

It wasn't long until we spotted our first Green Peafowl, the National Park management seems to have cut patches of grass shorter so that it is easier for people to see these large birds as they walk along the road. Over the course of 30 minutes we spotted up to 10 of these magnificent birds. While I've seen this species up close in Northern Thailand, the setting here seems more natural and the birds feels more 'wild'. 

Green Peafowl - female

Green Peafowl - male

A few Red Muntjacs came out into the open to feed, while this species is usually very shy in Hong Kong, here they seemed to be relatively tolerant of people. While driving back towards park HQ, we spotted an Asian Wholly-necked Stork as it flew between the trees! It was too quick for a photo, but I was very glad we saw this one, as it was also one of my target species of this trip.

Red Muntjac

Back at HQ, we met up with Peter and James, who stated that the Germain's Peacock Pheasant never came out in the afternoon. It was such a shame that it didn't appear despite their perseverance, they were very determined and was willing to try again the next morning. As night fell we tried again for Great Eared Nightjars, but there were less of them this evening, however a few Large-tailed Nightjars did came through, one even perched on a tree stump briefly.

Large-tailed Nightjar

That evening while Kenneth and I were out looking for herps, we spotted a pair of Brown Boobooks near the park entrance! They were probably pairing up to prepare for breeding, the male was catching insects under the street light and feeding them to the female. I ran back to the lodge to change my lens and informed the others. We managed to get some good views of the pair sitting together

Brown Boobook

No comments:

Post a Comment