There had been reports from one of the other guides that both Blue-winged & Bar-bellied Pittas had been seen at the first hide we visited on the first day, so it was obvious where we were going to head this morning. Quang had forgotten his keys as we approached the hide, so his “run” back to get them gave us time to catch up on Black-headed Bulbul and a brief Blue-winged Pitta. Back in the familiar surroundings of the plastic seats and roughly cut slits in the black plastic hides, we settled back for a wait. Which is why, after an immediate appearance of a family of 4 Abbott’s Babblers, the slow approach of a Blue-rumped Pitta was a massive surprise. Quang had apparently been playing all 3 pitta calls in rotation, but there hadn’t been a sniff of this species so far. It and a female continued to put in sporadic cameos throughout our vigil, usually staying to the rear in the shade, but the male occasionally came out for the mealworms. On cameos, a couple of Wild Boars approached the feeding area, but were startled before they came out into the open. During the watch, the usual White-rumped Shamas and Abbott’s Babblers were constant, but a Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher was a late entrant to the scene. As we packed up again to go for breakfast, the Buff-cheeked Gibbons stepped up the morning chorus, and were then spotted hanging around the primate enclosures – no doubt taunting the captives within! Bizarrely, each departure from a hide had given us a good bird. This morning was no different. A Collared Falconet flew over the headquarters buildings, and landed on a bare branch, then to be joined briefly by a second.
Post breakfast walk as almost a fill in before leaving. We walked for around half an hour in the Elephant Hills direction, but all was very quiet until we reached the turning point. Then more Blue-winged Pittas called, with one almost flying between us to the other side of the track. On the return, a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo preceded a mini eruption in birds – 2 Great Ioras and an active Dark-necked Tailorbird, with backdrop of more White-rumped Shamas and Streak-eared Bulbuls. As we neared the room to collect the luggage, both of the Black-and-red Broadbills were tending to their nest building duties.
And so it wasto our second birding destination. A 3 hour drive and good lunch on the way, passing through the decent sized city that is Di Linh, found us at a much greater altitude than of the last few days (approximately 900 metres here). This meant that there was a noticeable drop in the temperatures, from very hot to just hot, and a resultant reduction in the chances of leaches in the forest. The landscape here is predictably mountainous, with a lot of forest near to our designated birding area, much of which has been cultivated on the route to there (quite a few tea plantations were evident). The forest is actually quite thick, and whilst harbouring a very good range of birds, the company here has cut rough trails through at certain spots, and then made small clearings for feeding stations with blinds (the concept of a hide is a little off the mark for these!).
For most of the afternoon, we went to three of these and tried our luck – the variety of species (if any) tends to vary each day and at each hide, so that the expected birds don’t always play ball. This was certainly true of the first one we went to. After gently moving on a trio of hunters (they flout the law presumably with bribes to catch and sell birds, orchids, felled trees, and anything else they can sell), we parked the car on a roadside gravel pull in and ascended a tricky but short dirt track to a blind which itself was on a slope. Mealworms and bird recordings in place, we called time after only 20 minutes or so when it was obvious nothing was playing ball. A short hop in the car found another, whose track descended about 100 metres to a much more substantial area, which had a better feel to it (the sighting of a Pale-legged Leaf-warbler as we parked helped here). We again waited about 20 minutes (at the same time munching on a superb jackfruit) before Quang decided this was also too quiet. The pair of Orange-headed Thrushes and Siberian Blue Robin that did deign to show might have thought otherwise. Then on to the third feeding station, where another member of the tour company was already waiting. Apparently this chap has the job of keeping all the 7 feeding stations stocked up. He doesn’t even watch the birds, but does kip in the area during the heat of the afternoon.
This last feeding station was the absolute opposite of the first two. Quang had stated earlier that all died down after 4pm which is when we would be leaving. Yet good birds were still popping in by 5:20pm. No sooner had the mealworms been replenished when the first of a pair of Buff-breasted Babblers muscled in on the grub (!!!). These birds had more obvious streaking on the breast than the plainer chested ones at Cat Tien. Shortly after, a female Siberian Thrush paid its one and only visit. Then the rush started. In a short space of time, female Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher, and then pairs of Black-throated Laughingthrush and White-browed Scimitar Babbler called in. All 3 species would be regular returnees before we left. A couple of Orange-headed Thrushes were also regular, and appeared to be of different subspecies, one with plain face, the other having two shadowy vertical dark stripes. There was a bit of a lull in new species, and then a male White-throated Rock Thrush preceded a stunning Indonesian Green Magpie. This was the last new species to enter the dining area, but there was still time left for the male Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher to step in.
There wasn’t much time left in the day after such an excellent sit in at the feeding station, so we ambled down the gradient of the mountain road to pick up any roadside birds, then to be picked up by the driver and taken to the accommodation. Straight away, a fairly elusive Indochinese Barbet was picked out of the canopy before it flew to the opposite side of the road not to be seen again. One had been calling not too far from the feeding area so it was good to catch up. Not much more of note happened bar a trio of Black-crested Bulbuls and a pair of overflying Vinous-breasted Starlings.