Vietnam, Day 6, 26 January 2019 - Bidoup National Park & Tuyen Lam Lake, Dalat

This morning, after a nice breakfast of bacon baggettes and plenty of coffee (!) we headed north out of Dalat to the Bidoup National Park.  

On the way we scored with a roadside Blue Whistling Thrush hopping around a small carpark.

Initially our efforts were concentrated on a roadside area of open pine woodland where we stopped for a little while. A Black-naped Woodpecker flew into the top of a bare pine and began calling in the early morning sun quickly followed by c4 Slender-billed Orioles which is a habitat specialist of these open coniferous woodlands. The same spot also held a few Vietnamese Greenfinches, a fly-over White-faced (Eurasian) Jay and Black Bulbul.

Further up the road, again at a roadside stop by a vegetated stream we scored with Mountain Fulvettas, Grey Wagtail and a White-tailed Leaf Warbler before we began a longish walk along a track that would it's way up and down through promising looking evergreen forest. Things were very quiet however until we came across a pair of Chestnut-crowned Warblers nesting under an overhang. A little further on I eventually got onto White-spectacled Warbler and we then hit a little pocket of birds which included 2 Scarlet Minivets, Grey-chinned Minivet, Little Pied Flycatcher, Plain Minla, 2 Mrs Gould's Sunbirds, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike and White-bellied Epornis. It was then that Minh heard a familiar (to him) call some way away in the woodland to the left. After much playback and a lengthy trek into the trees to a large depression we finally clapped our eyes on 2 Collared Laughingthrushes. What a special moment and what a looker! On the walk back a Mountain Hawk Eagle soared over when we were nearly back at the bus. It was here that I bumped into Tim Dinh, a local birder who I'd made contact with on Facebook. After introducing myself he apologised profusely because he thought I was a girl - lol!

Black-naped Woodpecker

Slender-billed Oriole

Chestnut-crowned Warbler

 Collared Laughingthrush

After lunch at the 'Restaurant Chocolate' (our designated eatery while we were in Dalat) and a break we ventured out again for our afternoon session. It was to the west side of Tuyen Lame Lake, specifically the area known as the 'Secret Garden'. On the way we connected with a White-breasted Waterhen, Little Grebe, 2 Ospreys and Burmese Shrike. Unfortunately it proved to be one of the most disappointing sessions of the whole trip. A distant Common Crossbill, Dalat Shrike-babbler, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, c5 Mountain Bulbuls, a Large Niltava sat still in dark woodland and a an elusive flock of 11 White-cheeked Laughingthrushes that played 'follow-my-leader' through the undergrowth but refused to show well was about it.

               

Vietnam, Day 5, 25 January 2019 - Di Linh & Tuyen Lam Lake, Dalat

It was  mega early start today with a quick coffee in the hotel lobby and a visit to a local bakery at 04.30 for baggettes. Can you imagine finding a bakery open at that time at home?! We were back up at the top of the Nui Sam Pass for a breakfast in the field and straight into birding.

The plan was pretty much the same as yesterday but being early morning the bird activity was much greater, and thankfully the traffic was much quieter too. We walked downhill from the top of the pass notching up Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Mountain Fulvetta and Annam Barbet before we came across a 'bird wave' close to a hut which a guy was sleeping in! The next 20 minutes or so flashed by in a blur of activity and at times it was difficult to know what to look at - Long-tailed Broadbill, Grey-crowned Tits, Black Bulbuls, Ashy Bulbul, Mountain Bubuls, Scarlet Minivets, Ashy Minivets, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Maroon Oriole, Black-chinned Yuhinas, Grey-cheeked Warbler, White-tailed Leaf Warbler, Verditer Flycatcher and Mugimaki Flycatcher! After recovering from that excitement a little further down the hill were Red-headed Trogon, 4 Grey-throated Babblers, Black-headed Sibia (of the 'spectacled' race), White-bellied Epornis, 3 Bay Woodpeckers and Hainan Blue Flycatcher.

Ventures off the road along small forest paths were undertaken a couple of times. The first time it was to persue a Long-tailed Broadbill but inadvertently gave us 2 Vietnamese Cutia high in the canopy. The second time was truly memorable in that we finally scored with a pitta - a mega male Blue Pitta which did laps around us responding to playback. I got some great views although the bird always kept its distance. 

A stop on a bend for a perched Square-tailed Drongo-cuckoo also gave us a couple of White-cheeked Laughingthrushes, Streaked Spiderhunter and a typically skulking singing Spot-throated Babbler which I luckily saw very well through a 'window' in the dense undergrowth.

We visited the viewing screen for 2nd dabs at the Orange-breasted Laughingthrushes and this time had 7 plus a female Siberian Blue Robin. Down near the small shop/cafe where we were picked up in the minibus was an obliging Brown Shrike plus Spangled Drongo.

It had been an awesome morning but we had to drag ourselves away and get to Dalat via a lunch in Di Linh.

Red-headed Trogon

Black Bulbul

Ashy Minivet

Grey-crowned Tit

Long-tailed Broadbill

Scarlet Minivet

Ashy Bulbul

Brown Shrike


Siberian Blue Robin


Orange-breasted Laughingthrush

Square-tailed Drongo-cuckoo



Arriving in the former French colonial city of Dalat we immediately headed SW to the south side of the picturesque Tuyen Lam Lake. Roadside birding here got off to a great start with several Vietnamese Greenfinch in the bag quickly plus a Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Annam Minivet, Dalat Shrike-babbler and then a brief view of a calling roadside Collared Owlet.  A little further along a superb male Clicking Shrike-babbler showed very nicely followed by Little Pied Flycatcher and Plain Minla

We then walked through an area of open pine forest adding Grey Bushchats, White-throated Fantail, several Green-backed Tits, 2 Sooty-headed Bulbuls and Flavescent Bulbul. Then Minh heard a distant call of Oriental Scops Owl from down a steep slope and after much effort we got to see 2 these, both of the rufus phase. We finished with a couple of distant Black-collared Starlings and a considerably closer Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker.  

The lake area itself gave us our first Osprey plus 3 Little Grebes and Grey Wagtail.

Checking in to the Dreams Hotel in central Dalat I was delighted to find our home for the next 4 nights was really rather nice!

Annam Minivet

Vietnamese Greenfinch


Clicking Shrike-babbler


Grey Bushchats

 Oriental Scops Owls

Black-collared Starlings and Black Bulbuls

Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker



        

Vietnam, Day 4, 24 January 2019 - Cat Tien National Park & Di Linh

Our last morning at Cat Tien before taking the ferry back over the river and relocating north to Di Linh.

As we only had a couple of hours it was a leisurely stroll back in the direction of the 'grasslands' area of the park. And it proved to be very pleasant indeed with more than a few good birds to look at. The first stretch had c6 Oriental Pied Hornbills returning regularly to a fruiting tree and a perched Green Imperial Pigeon. Golden-crested Mynas were very conspicuous with c50 seen plus a couple of Common Hill Mynas at distance. A very welcome Black-and-Buff Woodpecker showed all too briefly before vanishing and c3 Laced woodpeckers were also in the same area together with a Racket-tailed Treepie. Great White Egret was added to the trip list and then a couple of showy Dark-necked Tailorbirds had everyone with a camera clicking away! A male Hainan Blue Flycatcher was also more than welcome. Then we got onto a shrike which was initially called as a Brown Shrike but clearly wasn't this species at all. It was in fact a Tiger Shrike (very unusual in winter and listed as a scarce passage migrant) that went on to pose very nicely in trackside bushes. Other goodies on the walk were Lineated Barbet, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Black and Red Broadbill, Black-naped Oriole, Van Hasselt's Sunbird, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Bronzed Drongo and the usual selection of bulbuls.     

The return walk gave us the first Chestnut-headed Bee-eater of the trip, a Common Iora lingered long enough for some photographic attempts and both Taiga Flycatcher and Yellow-browed Warbler were added.


Then it was a quick pack-up and we were soon back over the river and heading north to the uplands of Di Linh.

Oriental Pied Hornbill

Green Imperial Pigeon

Golden-crested Mynas

Hainan Blue Flycatcher

Laced Woodpecker

Tiger Shrike

Golden-fronted Leafbird

Dark-necked Tailorbird

Taiga Flycatcher

Yellow-browed Warbler

Common Hill Mynas

Common Iora


Bronzed Drongo




 Buff-cheeked Gibbons




We made straight for the Nui San Pass at Di Linh and almost as soon as we get off the minibus a splendid male Langbian Sunbird (soon to be split from Black-throated Sunbird) showed nicely around a flowering shrub quickly followed by our first Flavescent Bulbul. Leaving the bus we then walked downhill along the road from the top of the pass. Despite roadside birding being constantly disturbed by passing traffic we notched up an impressive list with Long-tailed Broadbill, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, 2 Grey-headed Canary Flyctachers and a delightful Grey-crowned Tit that joined a small group of Black-chinned Yuhinas. I was also pleased to find an id a Kloss's Leaf Warbler too and the sky was also full of Red-rumped Swallows. A diversion into the woods down a short path brough us to a viewing screen. Frustratingly I got onto a pitta 'shape' as it ran over a dark log but it wasn't to be this time. We could hardly complain when a splendid male Orange-headed Thrush popped up into view though, followed by a Hill Blue Flycatcher. It was to get even better at the next viewing screen further down the road. After a scramble up a steep bank 4 Orange-breasted Laughingthrushes hopped into view followed by a brief male Siberian Blue Robin!

We waited until dusk back at the top of the pass but only heard Hodgson's Frogmouth. A Grey Nightjar flying along the road was some consolation though.

We returned to the small town of Di Linh, checked in to the 'quirky' Mai Kahnh Hotel (complete with Hello Kitty bedspread!) and had dinner in a rather plush local restaurant.      

Langbian Sunbird

Flavescent Bulbul

Orange-headed Thrush


    Orange-breasted Laughingthrushes