Vietnam, Day 11, 31 January 2019 - Mang Den

We awoke early again to see our surroundings in daylight for the first time as we'd arrived after dark the previous night. Mang Den is set at a similar altitude to Dalat and has the same slightly cooler climate. Indeed it has been billed as 'the 2nd Dalat' but judging by the number of half-finished new houses it's not quite taken off yet!

The good birding sites are about 10km NNW of Mang Den village so it was in this direction that we headed after breakfast. En-route several Chestnut-tailed Starlings and a Spotted Dove were perched up on dead trees. Walking the roads during both morning and afternoon sessions there was plenty of activity. First up was a small group of Vinous-breasted Starlings with a couple of White-shouldered Starlings and c6 Olive-backed Pipits. A pair of Stripe-breasted Woodpeckers were a welcome start to our main walk with a good numbers of Black Bulbuls including several stunning white-headed birds of the 'leucocephalus' form. I picked up a gorgeous Speckled Piculet which was quickly followed up by Scarlet, Grey-chinned and Long-tailed Minivets which provided a real id masterclass! Southern Jungle Crows were common here (the only place on the trip they were) and in roadside bushes we scored with Fork-tailed Sunbird and a pair of Black-throated Sunbirds (looking very different from their imminent split with Langbian Sunbird!) Fire-breasted Flowerpecker and Yellow-cheeked Tit were welcome trip ticks but were eclipsed by 2 Rufous-faced Warblers, a world tick!

As we walked back towards the bus an accipter shot past and we managed to find it a little further down the lane and confirm it as a splendid Besra. A group of c10 Asian House Martins were eventually positively id'd when we got to see their black underwing coverts!

Further north along the road Minh had a spot that came up trumps with several feeding Grey-crowned Parrotbills. What a curious genus this is!

We ventured into the forest a few times and tantalisingly heard Chestnut-eared Laughingthrush but did score nicely with 3 Black-hooded Laughingthrushes, a single Yellow-billed Nuthatch, Coral-billed Scimitar-babbler, Indochinese Wren-babbler, Two-barred Greenish Warbler, Mountain Fulvetta, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher plus Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Large Cuckooshrike, White-bellied Epornis and almost at dusk a superb Necklaced Barbet calling high up in a roadside tree.

At the hotel over lunch we were delighted to interupt our eating with a mixed flock of Silver-backed Needletails, Brown-backed Needletails and House Swifts as they screamed overhead.

Stripe-breasted Woodpeckers (m & f)

Olive-backed Pipit

Vinous-breasted and White-shouldered Starlings

Black-throated Sunbirds (f & m)

 Grey-crowned Parrotbill

Crested Serpent Eagle

    Necklaced Barbet

Brecks again! 27 February 2019

I dragged myself out of bed early this morning and was at the 'top secret' Goshawk site while there was still frost on the ground. I was greeted by loads of Woodlark action on both sides of the road and saw at least 6 birds. Then a surprise at 09.45 when a single Cattle Egret flew through and headed NE. Apparantly it's a Brecks mega! Then at 10.08 a male Goshawk circled up followed by a huge female to the left a little while later. The male reappeared at c11.00 for prolonged views including some 'semi' display. A Red Kite, c9 Common Buzzards and a few Yellowhammers wrapped things up before I left to drive the short distance to Redneck Heath close to Thetford Warren. After a long walk and a short wait the Great Grey Shrike popped up on top of a distant larch. Here it sat for a while returning a couple of times to the same spot but was always a long way away. The clearing also held Stonechat while another Goshawk and a large female Sparrowhawk also showed. Along the entrance track a Redpoll sp buzzed over and Siskins were all over.

Back at home in balmy warm sun my 4th sp of butterfly of the year - a Comma was by the patio. Crazy stuff so early!

 Goshawk (honestly!)


A springlike day down in the Brecks, 24 February 2019

A very early start had Jus, Andy and I down at Santon Downham by 07.30 with a sharp frost on the ground.

A walk west along the Little Ouse River with Siskins wheezing overhead and we were soon at 'the spot'. Luckily a pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers had already been showing in alders on the opposite (Suffolk) side of the river and we went on to get some views albeit into the sun. The male showed nicely though but the pair were very active. Fortunately they flew onto our side of the river after a while and showed well in much better light. 2 Mandarins flew east along the river and the trees were alive with several Nuthatches, Treecreepers, Marsh Tits and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. After wandering back along the riverbank we found a few Bramblings and Siskins feeding on the garden feeders in the village and a couple of showy Grey Wagtails before we headed up the lane so the boys could see the nice display of Spring Snowflakes near the church. Back over the railway line we quickly found a couple of Woodlarks, 2 Lesser Redpolls and a Mistle Thrush before quitting the scene and heading for Lynford.

At Lynford we spent a while looking for Hawfinches with no luck but did see a pair of nice Common Crossbills periodically coming down to drink near the bridge plus plenty of Common Buzzard activity and the usual common woodland birds. Walking back through the arboretum a singing Firecrest showed nicely in a bare deciduous tree. Within about 5 minutes we also clocked up an impressive 3 species of butterfly - several Brimstones plus a single Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

Grey Wagtails

Common Crossbills


After lunch we headed south to Lackford lakes where despite some searching couldn't find the hybrid Rosybill x Mallards (don't ask!) just a Kingfisher of note before we decided to return to Lynford for the remainder of the day. Or that's what we thought at the time!

Back at Lynford we had much more luck with 4 Hawfinches seen straight away feeding under a hornbeam in the paddocks. The Common Crossbills were also still about. With time now on our side we opted to return to Lackford armed with details of where the hybrid ducks had been the previous day. Despite this, and much walking we failed again! c50 Pochard, 8 Goldeneye, 3 Little Egrets and a Common Snipe was about it until the day had a sting in it's tail as I got onto the 2w Kumlien's Gull with a few other gulls (notably 6 Greater Black-backed Gulls) from Bess's Hide. It was 17.40 by now and getting quite dark so I snapped a few poor pictures before it got up and flew over the hide and west towards the sailing lake to roost.

Little Egret

Common Snipe

 Kumlien's Gull



Vietnam, Day 10, 30 January 2019 - Yok Don National Park

This morning was dedicated to an extended exploration of Yok Don before relocating to Mang Den in the afternoon.

A Black-naped Oriole outside the accommodation block kicked things off nicely before we got a lift over the river to where we would start the days birding. From here we walked the tracks and small paths through the open woodland. It proved to be quite a lively morning with 2 Shikras, Red-collared Dove, Spotted Dove, Green Imperial Pigeon, several noisy Lineated Barbets and a pair of Golden-fronted Leafbirds to start. An Asian Barred Owlet perched briefly in a tree but not long enough for a photo. Indian Rollers were also quite conspicuous and then we flushed a single Hoopoe, the only one of the entire trip. Woodpeckers were to the fore with a showy Rufous Woodpecker, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Greater Flameback and then a gorgeous Black-headed Woodpecker that sadly just flew away low through the trees. It was in the same area that a Black-hooded Oriole sat nicely, one of 5 we saw. Rufous Treepies were particularly numerous, we had c12. A male Purple Sunbird beside the track was a welcome trip tick and even more appreciated (by me anyway!) were 2 Cinereous Tits. 3 White-crested Laughingthrushes, low down in vegetation were accompanied by a single Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush.

A real purple patch then began. We'd gone into the trees to track down a red-headed female White-rumped Pygmy Falcon which showed nicely at range. Returning to the main track we had Plain Prinia and then Rufescent Prinia in trackside scrub before all hell let loose as a Collared Falconet appeared from nowhere and grabbed a Rufescent Prinia from right in front of us (literally feet away!). t carried it breakfast up into a tree where I managed a record shot for posterity. A male White-rumped Pygmy Falcon then showed and by creeping ever closer to it along the track I got a half decent photo.  2 Crested Treeswifts then circled over, as did an Indomalayan Honey Buzzard followed by 2 Red-wattled Lapwings, literally the only wader of the whole fortnight!
At an area by a river crossing/dam a large fruiting tree held a Coppersmith Barbet, Red-breasted Parakeet, c20 Common Hill Mynas and c5 Golden-crested Mynas.

Other species seen in a splendid morning were Crested Serpent Eagle, Vernal Hanging Parrot, White-throated Kingfisher, Common Woodshrike, Large Cuckooshrike, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Spangled Drongo, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Olive-backed Pipit and a few Southern Sooty-headed Bulbuls.

Black-naped Oriole

Golden-fronted Leafbirds

Southern Sooty-headed Bulbul

Rufous Woodpecker

Black-hooded Oriole

Plain Prinia

White-rumped Pygmy Falcon

Crested Treeswift

Collared Falconet (with Rufescent Prinia!)

Indomalayan Honey Buzzard

The rest of the day was spent on the long drive north to Mang Den. Birds were few and far between so I amused myself taking scenery photos through the minibus window!


Vietnam, Day 9, 29 January 2019 - Yok Don National Park

Today was mainly a travel day as we undertook the long drive north to Yok Don NP.

En-route, as usual there wasn't a huge amount to be seen but a Black-shouldered Kite as we left and a Jerdon's Baza were very welcome indeed. We 'insisted' on a stop at a large roadside lake/reservoir which proved to be a good call for some trip ticks - we managed  Black-backed Swamphen, 2 Greater Coucals, Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters, White-throated Kingfisher, Great White Egret, 2 Little Cormorants, Asian Palm Swifts and Ashy Woodswallows. I then ventured into some roadside reeds to get a little closer to the water and fortuitously flushed a Barred Buttonquail that I was the only one to see! The journey also yielded several Burmese Shrikes, 4 Black-collared Starlings, Black-crested Bulbul and Southern Sooty-headed Bulbul.

After checking in to the rather ropey NP accommodation at Yok Don we convened for a late afternoon walk. Crossing the bridge over the Srepok River (clocking Common Kingfisher, Grey-eyed Bulbuls and Sand Martin) we did a walk through refreshingly different habitat - open dry deciduous forest. Initially just Taiga Flycatcher and Lineated Barbet were seen but then a fly-through Asian Barred Owlet, a Greater Flameback and a group of 3 Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrushes certainly livened things up! A little later, as we made our way back along one of the main tracks we had some nice views of a Rufous Treepie and then, jackpot - a mega Black Baza!

Rufous Treepie

Lineated Barbet

That night we were 'treated' to what was one of the worst meals we had on the whole trip served in what looked like a disused warehouse! NP hospitality at its best!       


Vietnam, Day 8, 28 January 2019 - Ta Nung Valley & Tuyen Lam Lake

It was with great anticipation that we headed back to Ta Nung Valley this morning. Not least for those who had decided to sit it out yesterday - it didn't disappoint!

On the short drive there were several Vietnamese Greenfinches and a Spotted Dove on roadside wires and we soon pulled into the blissfully quiet entrance to Ta Nung. Just down from the carpark a Burmese Shrike was showing well on some wires and several Mountain Imperial Pigeons were making their morning flights. Pretty soon a Red-vented Barbet popped up into a tree and in pines we also scored with White-bellied Epornis, Green-backed Tit and Black-winged Cuckooshrike. Yesterday's Annam Sunbirds were around their usual bottlebrush tree whilst several White-rumped Munias were still present together with a pair of Hill Prinias and a showy Black-headed Sibia. A Blue Whistling Thrush was then picked up at the bottom of a slopes and a Large Niltava posed on top of a thatched roof in the same area.

Down at the stream area the pair of Slaty-backed Forktails were still on their territory and nearby we had Little Pied Flycatcher, Verditer Flycatcher and Grey Wagtail coming to drink at a small pool plus 2 Rufous-backed Sibia and Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher.   

On the walk back up the track a lovely male Mugimaki Flycatcher and another Large Niltava showed well before we dropped down slightly onto a flat grassy area that turned out to be the overflow carpark. It was here that things got very interesting as Minh picked up the call of Grey-crowned Crocias. About 10 minutes later it decided to show itself, what a moment! The species was only discovered in 1939 and then went 'missing' until 1995. Even now it is only known from handful of sites and has the honour of being on the Birding Vietnam logo! Things continued in a similar vein with the excitement of c4 Black-headed Parrotbills and a Red-billed Scimitar-babbler within minutes of each other. Up above the track we then had 2 Blue-bearded Bee-eaters.

During a superb morning we also saw Mountain Fulvettas, Plain Minla, Flavescent Bulbul, Ashy Bulbul, Mountain Bulbul, Black Bulbul, 2 Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrikes, Annam Barbet, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, 2 Crested Serpent Eagles and several Streaked Spiderhunters.

Burmese Shrike

Bat sp

Black-headed Sibia

Large Niltava

Blue Whistling Thrush

Verditer Flycatcher

Little Pied Flycatcher

Grey-crowned Crocias

 Red-billed Scimitar-babbler

The afternoon session was never going to live up to the morning, especially as it was back at the Secret Garden area to the west of Tuyen Lame Lake. It did have it's highlights though. A White-throated Fantail showed nicely first up with 2 Grey-crowned Tits and a White-tailed Leaf-warbler close by. Then, a venture deep into the woods and a great deal of patience eventually got us some views of 2 Indochinese Green Magpies that had been calling tantalisingly for ages! A typically elusive group of c6 White-cheeked Laughingthrushes rounded things off.

White-throated Fantail