Sunday, 19 February 2017

19th February 2017 Cat Tien NP

Currently it is not possible to hire a car in Vietnam. We therefore opted to have our logistics organised by Thang who is a professional bird guide who also offers a service of arranging cars and drivers and booking accommodation for independent birders. It is also possible to hire Thang as a guide, and as he is a first-class birder those who do so undoubtedly see more, but it obviously adds to the cost and we find that a large part of the enjoyment comes from finding our own birds. Thang was reassuring in stating that his drivers were always punctual, knew that early mornings were the norm plus they knew the birding sites and he kindly gave us some more specific details of some of the sites. This arrangement worked well and all the drivers we had were helpful and very accommodating. We said farewell to Lusi on the morning of her birthday as our driver Mr. Nam arrived to collect us at District 9 at 6.00am. Driving a new 4WD pick-up we found ourselves at the ticket office at Cat Tien NP by 8.30am and were soon on the ferry across the river to the HQ. There we were met by a Park ranger and a golf buggy and taken to our cabin that had excellent air-conditioning, good mosquito nets and was clean and comfortable - so much better than most reviews we had read. Even better, on leaving our cabin, we heard an endangered Yellow-cheeked Gibbon singing and we soon tracked it down to the tall trees on the edge of the HQ clearing - a good start. We easily found the start of the Museum forest trail and it was nice to be walking in the cool of the forest shade. Not far along the trail we came across a photographers hide, and as nobody was present, we spent 30 minutes or so inside seeing 2 Scaly-breasted Partridges and a Siberian Blue Robin. Continuing on down the trail for just a few minutes there were several hides - all but one being occupied. Nobody objected to us entering the empty hide and we were soon enjoying Abbott's Babbler, another Siberian Blue Robin, White-rumped Shamas, Tickell's Blue Flycatchers and then a pair of Bar-bellied Pittas entered the arena - absolutely stunning! It was difficult to tear ourselves away, not only because of the spellbinding views of the Pittas, but also not knowing what else might show-up but we eventually did so at around 2.30pm. We returned to the HQ with the idea of enquiring whether it would be possible to arrange a jeep ride into the western grasslands. On exiting the tail we saw a Japanese birder sat in the back of the jeep and the driver just entering the cab. On asking whether they were off to look for Green Peafowl the answer was positive so we asked if we could jump aboard. Understandably the Japanese birder was initially a bit perplexed at being hi-jacked as he had already paid for the jeep but soon warmed to the idea. In the event we were driven to the western grasslands and the driver dropped us there saying he would return at 5pm. Unsure quite how best to proceed we continued west on foot and the Japanese birder elected to remain where dropped. We walked past Observation Tower 2 but despite much scanning saw little in the heat. On returning to the drop-off point at 5pm the Japanese birder had had no more luck than ourselves and the conversation soon turned to Hegura-jima that the Japanese birder visits a couple of times annually and he was soon showing us some gripping images on his phone. Activity increased as evening fell with Red Junglefowl creeping out into the fields and flocks of Pigeons overflying and we also saw Wild Boar, Sambar Deer and a Mongoose. The driver arrived with the news that he had just seen a Green Peafowl cross the track and promptly disappear into the undergrowth - not really the news that we or the Japanese birder enjoyed hearing! After scanning for a while more we boarded the jeep and set-off back to the HQ. As we did so I saw a male Green Peafowl walk onto the track a good way ahead of us. The jeep stopped and panic ensued as the Japanese birder couldn't see it for what felt like eternity as he dismissed the distant dark shape with it being so large! I kept pointing, rattled off some photos and thankfully he saw it with enough time to also photograph it before it moved off. Thrilled with our success the Japanese birder wouldn't allow us to make a contribution to the cost of the jeep. The remainder of the drive back was uneventful but it had proved a fine end to a great day.

Purple Heron 1
Chinese Pond Heron 3
Intermediate Egret 1
Scaly-breasted Partridge 2
Red Junglefowl 4
Red-wattled Lapwing 6
Green Imperial Pigeon c.30
Red Turtle Dove c.50
Peaceful Dove 6
Red-breasted Parakeet 4
Indian Roller 2
Lineated Barbet 1
Swallow 2
Red-rumped Swallow 1
Sooty-headed Bulbul 2
Black Drongo 2
Ashy Drongo 6
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 1
Black-hooded Oriole 1
Large-billed Crow 2
Abbott's Babbler 1
Siberian Blue Robin 2
White-rumped Shama 2
Asian Brown Flycatcher 1
Tickell's Blue Flycatcher 2

Ferry to Cat Tien NP ours being the one on the left

River ferry crossing at Cat Tien NP

Female Siberian Blue Robin at Cat Tien NP

First-winter male Siberian Blue Robin at Cat Tien NP

Female Tickell's Blue-Flycatcher at Cat Tien NP

Male Tickell's Blue-Flycatcher at Cat Tien NP
The identification of male Blue-throated and Tickell's can be extremely challenging even with the best of views but most observers seem content that Tickell's is the common species at Cat Tien NP.

White-rumped Shama at Cat Tien NP

Abbott's Babbler at Cat Tien NP

Female Bar-bellied Pitta at Cat Tien NP

Male Bar-bellied Pitta at Cat Tien NP

Black-hooded Oriole at Cat Tien NP

Male Red Junglefowl at Cat Tien NP

Green Imperial Pigeon at Cat Tien NP

Sambar Deer at Cat Tien NP

Male Green Peafowl at Cat Tien NP