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Day 6

           Bidoup National Park


ForestIt took atleast half an hour to drive to the locations in the national park where we were to do our birding. Apparently, there is no feeding of the birds allowed in here, and so any setting up of feeding stations would be illegal. So we spent 6 hours of the morning at 2 good viewing areas waiting for any birds to come. Within a short time, a pair of Large Niltavas appeared, and it was apparent that they had a family nearby judging by the amount of worms that were taken. A pair of Snowy-browed Flycatchers followed shortly afterwards, although they weren’t quite as showy as the Niltavas. Other birds were much more skittish and didn’t use the viewpoint. Mountain Fulvetta stuck to the higher branches, whereas a White-tailed Robin would not come very far out of cover. Only other bird was a White-throated Fantail overhead, but there was no sign of any hoped for laughingthrushes.

We spent much more time at the second viewing point – just over 4 hours. This had possibly the best birding so far, not through numbers of species or quantity of birds, but the quality of the main 3 species which turned out here. A trio of Collared Laughingthrushes were relative latecomers to the show, but took central stage when they were present. Best of all for us was the almost constant performance put on by a pair of Grey-bellied Tesias and a Pygmy Cupwing. Both were difficult to pin down for any length of time to begin with, but the Tesias in particular eventually showed well. One even did a slow circuit behind where we were hidden, calling all the time, once less than a metre from where we sat. For some reason, they didn’t tolerate the presence of the laughingthrushes, scolding much of the time they were there. The Cupwing was very brief to start with, darting in for food, but gave better views with time. White-tailed Robin and Snowy-browed Flycatcher were much more obliging here, as was a single Large Niltava male. On response to playing a call, a female Mrs Gould’s Sunbird was going ballistic in front of us, and a Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher almost as much to the side.

After a quick lunch of egg in noodles, we headed for the third viewing area to again try to see some forest birds. This was down a tricky steep decline through the forest, and wouldn’t have been a joke in wet weather. We stayed here for only about an hour since it seemed obvious that there was going to be very little activity, save for a skittish White-tailed Robin and difficult to see Grey-throated Robin. However, on the drive there we did disturb an Eastern Jungle Crow from the road, and had both Eurasian Jay and Black-collared Starling over the road on the way back to Da Lat.

Collared laughingthush Pygmy Cupwing Grey-bellied Tesia
Collared Laughingthrush Pygmy Cupwing Grey-bellied Tesia
White-tailed Robin Large Niltava Snowy-browed Flycatcher
White-tailed Robin Large Niltava Snowy-browed Flycatcher


           Tiuclam Monastery, Da Lat


So a change of tack and scenery was called for. We crossed a lot of the bustle of the city to pull into the car park for this religious Buddhist site. Naturally there were people everywhere, taking selfies by the shedload and generally getting in the way. A far cry from the peace of the forest earlier. There was a target in mind though. This is supposed to be a good location for Vietnamese Greenfinch, since they tend to seek shelter with the monks in the restricted access part of the monastery. We ignored the gawping of the passers by, keeping eyes peeled on the tops of the trees to stand for a while just next to where the birds could be expected. First blood was the surprise of only the first Common Myna of the trip, as well as Green-backed Tits and Chestnut-vented Nuthatches in the pines to the front of us. The wait was in vain for the finches, but did turn up a very smart Black-headed Sibia just before we were due to leave.

Monastery Black-headed Sibia
Monastery grounds Black-headed Sibia


           Road aboveTuyen Lam Resort


RoadYet another change of tactic for the last outing of the day, and this turned out to be a major bonus. We decamped from the car just around the corner from the resort gates, and walked slowly up the hill and along, birding the forest which was mainly to our left on the way. The sun was also shining against this side of the road, which may even have urged the birds on to a better performance. The road itself was also generally fairly quiet, with only a few scooters and vehicles passing by. The initial avian interest was much of what we had seen already in the form of Black-crested Bulbuls, the first of a few Grey Bushchats, and a Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike. As we neared the corner, looking above us in the trees on the opposite side of the road were a few active Black-throated Bushtits. This was the start of a good series of birds in a very short distance. Before we crept on, however, we doubled back a little for a few Vietnamese Greenfinches in a much smaller tree which were much less active, just next to the opposite side of the road. Venturing further up, but only for 50 metres or so, the road bent to the right, and the nearby forest above the elbow of the bend was electric for variety of birds in the strong sunshine. It was kicked off by a Blue-winged Minla flying in, so we set down backpacks and rested against the crash barrier while staring up. First in was a female Mrs Gould’s Sunbird, not to be outdone some time later by a stunning male. Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo on a bare branch higher up was in the company of Eastern Crowned Warbler, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, and a pair of Indonesian Barbets which were visiting a nest hole. We had to crane our necks downwards from this to watch the usually hidden pair of Hill Prinias at the side of the road. Continuing the higher vigil were the delights of Black-throated Sunbird and Chestnut-capped Warbler, as well as a couple of other small warblers which weren’t seen well enough for identification.

We tore ourselves away from the feast to amble further along the road, where the entrance structure to a spa resort sported its very own Cambodian Striped Squirrel. The pines to the left of the descent from here were to be the last of the day’s birding and were just as good as earlier. Ashy Drongo started the balled rolling, with a Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker tending a hole in a tree. A couple of White-cheeked Laughingthrushes was moving between low bushes, and a trio of Black-headed Sibias did likewise further down. Last and by no means least, a Vietnamese Cutia had been heard some way into the forest, but with patience and a bit of persuasion it was drawn a lot closer to us. This was at first in the expected high canopy, but for some strange reason it flew down to a much lower tree opposite us giving crippling views. Great way to end the day.

Cutia Vietnamese Greenfinch Striped Squirrel
Vietnamese Cutia Vietnamese Greenfinch Cambodian Striped Squirrel

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