After a 12+hour flight from Heathrow to Ho Chi Minh and then a 4 hour drive following a swift pickup from the airport by Quang, our bird guide, and his driver, we found ourselves at the river ferry crossing that separated the main road from the reserve of Cat Tien. The drive itself was unproductive for birds as predicted, since most of the journey was through busy building lined roads, but there was a stark contrast when we were on the tin lid that passed as the ferry. The forests of the reserve opposite beckoned, with the welcoming committee of a Grey-headed Fish Eagle in the distance. We were shuttled straight to our rooms, with the welcome order that we would be birding in 10 minutes. Suitcases had contents strewn over the beds while we searched for important items (tripod, caps, leach socks, etc) and we met up with Quang outside the room. He explained that the best times of day were the usual morning and evening, so we would do a quick reconnoitre locally to give us a flavour. We hadnít bargained on how good that flavour would be. A brief and loud singing Rufescent Prinia ushered in a show put on by Lesser Yellownapes, Black-and-red Broadbills and performing Bronzed & Greater Racket-tailed Drongos. As we slowly meandered along the track , we constantly added new birds, with Violet Cuckoo, Racket-tailed Treepie, and various Bulbuls (Streak-eared & Stripe-throated being the most common). Black-naped Oriole we had thought would have migrated by now, but we did expect the Black-hooded Orioles. The only Minivet was a young male Scarlet, with a second Violet Cuckoo for good measure. The return took us toward the restaurant for lunch, where we munched after adding Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike.
The plan was then to rest up until mid afternoon, when we would be heading out again to catch the birdlife waking up again after a siesta. The distractions of the birds we had quickly totted up put paid to that however. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker was the intro to Large Woodshrike and Indochinese Cuckooshrike. Much better views of the rather loud Rufescent Prinia were had, and an equally loud call led to the first of 3 White-breasted Kingfishers. A Great Iora added to the Common Iora earlier on, and while watching one of a few showy White-rumped Shamas, a Racket-tailed Treepie crossed and landed in the distance from the track. More Black-hooded Orioles were in the company of an Ashy Drongo, and a Common Tailorbird. Now it really was time to drag a hot and sweaty body from the high temperatures before the afternoon sortie began.
We were back out of the accommodation again at 3.30 prompt and met Quang as he exited his. The plans had changed slightly Ė due to the very high temperatures (mid 30ís C) we would walk half an hour or so around the accommodation blocks first, giving the other location time to cool (relatively) a little. We walked slowly along the track, and it was obvious that there was less evidence of bird life than even an hour or so ago, save for adding Grey-eyed Bulbul to the dayís sightings. As we were starting to stake out a potential show for Silver Pheasant, the truck pulled up and we hopped on board. The rear of the truck was open, and the rush of air from the movement of it was pleasant in the still high temperatures. We were heading straight along the track from the headquarters to an area called Elephant Hills which had been developed into short rides between higher vegetation to encourage Peafowl. We were tasked with looking along these as we drove, which didnít yield much save for a lone young Sambar at one of the distant waterholes. We then decamped after around 6 miles of driving, where the challenge was now to walk back to Headquarters and look for birds. Luckily, it didnít take too long for a Green Peafowl to be spotted in one of these said areas, along with 2 separate Red Junglefowl. The walk back was particularly notable for Parakeets, with a good number of busy and noisy Red-breasted being joined by lesser, and just as vocal Blossom-headed. At the drop off point, a Yellow-bellied Prinia was just as musical as the earlier Rufescent Prinias, although not quite as showy. Sooty Bulbuls were a welcome change from a couple of their commoner cousins. A good number of Coucals were mainly seen and occasionally heard, all but one being Lesser. A pair of Common Flamebacks was seen flying away. Overhead, mainly Barn Swallows were interspersed with Pacific, but the Swiftlets with them, although likely to Germainís, needed to be better seen before a decision as made. The fun came to a premature end when it actually started to rain, so owl watching was knocked on the head, and a ride back the order of the early evening. I assumed the Vietnamese weather wasnít aware of the fact that this was still the dry season!