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inyathi
1 hour ago, Chakra said:

You are doing a great service to the wildlife of Vietnam

 

@Chakra Thanks, I hope so, because Vietnamese wildlife needs all the help that it can get, there are undoubtedly Vietnamese people doing really great work to protect wildlife, but I fear there just aren't enough of them yet, to bring about complete a change in attitude towards wildlife, across the country which is what is needed, but I'm hopeful that things will change eventually. 

 

Day 4

 

 

The plan for the morning was to bird in another area of forest where a large troop of Annamese silvered langurs had been seen the day before. After breakfast we drove back along the main road the same way as the previous morning, but turned off down another dirt road through the forest. Once we’d gone far enough in, we got out, agreed with the driver, that he would return to this spot to collect us at the end of the morning, we then started walking along the road deeper into the forest.

 

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In the forest, Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam by inyathi, on Flickr

 

 

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Rainforest tree

 

 

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Green-billed malkoha

 

 

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lesser yellow-nape (woodpecker)

 

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Heart-spotted woodpecker

 

 

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Laurel clock vine or blue trumpet flower

 

 

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We managed to see some great birds like the gorgeous banded kingfisher, and a common Asian species rare in Vietnam the magnificent great hornbill. At one point two quite small mammals ran across the road, we only glimpsed them but concluded that they were young northern pig-tailed macaques, we waited hoping that the rest of the troop might cross, but they’d perhaps already done so, for we saw no more. These were the only monkeys we spotted, sadly no langurs appeared, as the end of the morning approached, we turned around, needless to say when we got back to where we were dropped off, there was no car waiting. Eventually after some wait, a large national park truck arrived and took us back to the lodge, clearly the national park drivers are pretty unreliable, but you have to use their vehicles and drivers, because you can't bring your own vehicle over on the ferry and into the park.

 

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Golden-fronted leafbird at Forest Floor Lodge

 

 

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Neon blue lizard, Forest Floor Lodge

Edited by inyathi
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inyathi

In the afternoon we drove back over to Grassland Area, walked through a ranger post out to some artificial ponds and wetlands, here we saw a variety of waterbirds including woolly-necked storks and even a few waders which are not common anywhere in Vietnam.

 

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Landscape Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam by inyathi, on Flickr

 

We were also pleased to see an osprey fly in.

 

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Osprey, egrets and woolly-necked storks

 

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Osprey

 

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Egrets and jungle

 

Driving further on, we were disappointed to see a vehicle, driving off the road out into the grasslands by the second tower, they were clearly photographers and presumably had permission to be there, but their presence meant we had no chance of seeing more green peafowl here. Not surprisingly there were no gaur to be seen either, we drove on to the boundary of the park, then turned around and returned to the first tower, we didn’t expect to see anything, but went up just in case and saw nothing. Heading back, at one point we passed a high fence clearly surrounding a large enclosure, we didn’t see what was inside, but learned that this is a bear sanctuary, sun and moon bears rescued from a horrendous life on bear farms, where their bile is extracted for traditional medicine are brought here to live out the rest of their lives. Although we didn't do so, I believe it is possible to visit the bear sanctuary. Going back to the HQ at dusk, we spotted a few sambars and muntjac and a wild boar that was running along the fence of a small enclosure, until it found a hole and disappeared underneath, it was then straight back to the lodge for dinner.

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inyathi

Day 5

 

The plan for our last morning was to see buff-cheeked gibbons, as we’d seen none so far, we had however, heard gibbons from the lodge first thing in the morning. This was no great surprise, in the middle of the Dong Nai River, is a large island, located on the island is the Dao Tien Primate Rescue Centre, slender lorises, doucs and gibbons that have been rescued are released onto the island, in preparation for being returned to the wild in the park, except that sadly lorises often can’t be returned to the wild, because they have a venomous bite, captive lorises often have their teeth taken out. When female gibbons with babies are killed by hunters, the babies if they survive are sold as pets, often it seems ending up at petrol stations, when these animals are found, they’re confiscated and taken to Cat Tien some of them are kept in cages at the HQ, before eventually being moved to Dao Tien.

 

Gibbon families always sing to proclaim their territories at dawn and for a very short time afterwards, for the rest of the day they are quiet, to hear them you have to be out at this time and this is obviously also the best time to try and see them.

 

After early breakfast, we went with our luggage in the golf cart over to the ferry crossing, since we would be leaving Cat Tien fairly shortly, it may no sense to have to go back to the lodge,  we met Dak and then walked a few hundred yards over to an accommodation block next to the HQ, pretty soon we could hear gibbons singing loudly. Dak then led us a very short distance along a path into the jungle and pointed up into the trees, in the tree tops above us were three gibbons, a pair with their daughter. The sound of their singing was extraordinary, listening to wild gibbons singing is one of the great wildlife experiences, it’s a major reason why I love this part of the world.

 

When gibbons are singing the whole family usually joins in, the males normally climb higher than the rest of their family, going right up into the tree tops, so that they can look out for other gibbons, when we were right under the tree with the male in it, I knew I had to take some video, purely to capture some of their extraordinary singing, I wasn’t that bothered about actually getting the animals in shot, as that was quite challenging, my priority was simply not missing too much of the singing. So, this short video isn’t the best footage of gibbons, and not as long as I would have liked, but they didn't keep singing. 

 

 

 

The male buff-cheeked is all black except for his pale buff-cheeks, the female is a pale buffy-brown with a black cap on her head, curiously females are born pale, then become dark, until they reach maturity, when they turn pale again.

 

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Female buff-cheeked gibbons, the darker one is the young female

 

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Male buff-cheeked gibbon

 

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After watching them briefly the two females quickly moved off back in the direction of the HQ, the male then moved on as well.

 

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Young female 

 

We followed them watching them in the trees behind the accommodation block, the other side of fence were some cages, inside one of which was a female gibbon, the young female came down and sat on the cage, then she and mother went back off up into the trees and swung away at speed.

 

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The male rather than follow hung around by the cages, this family have taken up residence in this area around the HQ, apparently so we were told, the male found his mate in one of the cages and they paired up after she was released.

 

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 A rescued female in one of the cages

 

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Young female 

 

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We spent a good deal of time watching them, I was quite amused when a young couple cycled passed along the road as the gibbons were singing, she heard the singing saw us and realised that we were watching them, so she called out to her boyfriend, who carried on cycling, maybe he couldn’t hear her, but he just kept on going, oblivious to the gibbons, I rather wondered why he’d come to Cat Tien. Also while we were watching the gibbons a French couple came over, we let them have a look through the scope at one of the gibbons, our bird guide Ken speaks French, they asked if it was possible to go inside and look at the captive gibbons in the “zoo” he explained that this was not allowed, we were bemused why did they want to see the captive gibbons, when there were wild gibbons right in front of them.

 

We also saw a few birds

 

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Bronzed drongo

 

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Blue-eared barbet

 

With the females no longer visible, we decided we had to leave and walked back down to the ferry, loaded our luggage on to the boat and crossed back over the Dong Nai River to our minibus.

 

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All of the material for the road building has to be brought across on the ferry

 

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Our park ranger/guide Dak is sitting in the middle in the camouflage shirt.

 

 

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inyathi

It was a shame to have missed the Annamese silvered langurs, but I have seen other species of silvered langur in Malaysia, so I wasn’t too disappointed and also not to have seen gaurs, but Cat Tien had been a great success otherwise.

 

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I'd been a bit concerned when we first arrived in Cat Tien, that these wooden deer might be all we would see

 

Before moving on a bit about the lodge

 

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Forest Floor Lodge, Cat Tien National Park

 

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Forest Floor Lodge is a nice place to say, the view from the terrace looking at the forest across the Dong Nai River is great, if you are lucky you may see hornbills fly past, we didn’t see any, first thing in the morning you should hear the gibbons in the sanctuary at Dao Tien singing. The lodge is probably the nicest place to stay in Cat Tien, but it’s really not as great as it could be, it’s just not as well run as it should be. The front of house staff were young Westerners presumably on their gap year, the guy mostly running the bar and taking the restaurant orders was a young English guy, there with his Canadian girlfriend, he was nice enough and was I think an entomologist. His young colleague who may have been Spanish or from some other part of Europe may also have been an entomologist or perhaps a herpetologist. Their main role seemed to be to communicate with the guests, because I don’t think any of the Vietnamese staff spoke English, their being there was a good thing from that point of view, but I don’t think they had enough experience of managing hotels, to ensure that everything was always as it should be. It just needed slightly better management to be a great place. The food wasn’t really wasn’t bad, but the Vietnamese dishes had perhaps been slightly Westernised and so weren’t as authentically Vietnamese as they might have been.

 

It does seem that most of the foreign visitors to Cat Tien are backpackers, although I think that the park is included on a few general tours of Vietnam, as there were certainly a few tourists who didn’t look like they were backpackers. I did also see at least a couple of people who had binoculars and seemed to be birders and when we first saw the brown fish owl, there was a young Asian photographer there with a long lens, who cycled over, I don’t know if he was Vietnamese or from elsewhere. There were just a few other people at the lodge, we almost had the place to ourselves and the park wasn't packed with tourists, like most places if you are planning to visit, it's best to avoid weekends and local holidays because then it can get busy.  

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inyathi

Our next destination was Di Linh in the Central Highlands, soon after leaving Cat Tien we stopped at a coffee shop, Vietnam grows a lot of coffee, mostly robusta which doesn’t produce the best coffee and they like to drink it strong and sweet, made with condensed milk, a preferred way to make it is with an individual percolator placed over your cup or glass. We opted for black coffees, unfortunately most of the percolators proved rather temperamental taking an age to work, the coffee wasn’t bad though. We were also given tea, everywhere you go in Vietnam you get given Vietnamese tea whether you want it or not, I'm not much of a tea drinker and didn't develop a taste for it when I first visited Vietnam, nor this time.

 

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Making coffee the Vietnamese way by inyathi, on Flickr

 

It was a very scenic drive up into the hills.

 

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Driving up into the hills we stopped in the town of Bao Loc outside a supermarket, the other side of a wall was a large garden with some good sized trees, occasionally the rare pale-capped pigeon has been seen here, searching the trees from the outside, revealed no pigeons, so we decided to see if we could get in, the garden turned out to be the grounds of a college.

 

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When Thien explained to the security guard, that we just wanted to look for birds in the garden, he was very happy to let us in, on one condition, he produced a very large yellow plastic spray bottle and duly sprayed our hands with a substantial dose of disinfectant, with the fear of coronavirus hanging over the country, he wasn’t taking any chances.

 

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Bao Loc College of Technology and Economics

 

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Walking around we found a large hawk cuckoo, but no pigeons.

 

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Large hawk cuckoo

 

Orchids are extremely popular in Vietnam, we passed several people on the pavement, selling beautiful orchids.

 

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Dendrobium nobile

 

Di Linh

 

We carried on to the town of Di Linh, stopping there for lunch in sort of shopping mall, with help from Thien we tended to order a selection of different dishes and then just share.

 

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Our accommodation for the night Ivory Falls Lodge was on beyond Di Linh, we checked in and then drove on up into the hills.

 

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Ivory Falls Lodge, near Di Linh

 

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Church

 

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The road went through beautiful moist evergreen forest, we stopped at suitable point and walked up the road, our driver Liam followed along behind catching up with us every 20-30 minutes.

 

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The road was very picturesque and it was fantastic to see so much great looking forest, but it was almost totally dead as far birds were concerned, we were hopeful that there were birds around, they just weren’t active much in the afternoon, we would put this to the test in the morning.

 

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In the absence of too many birds, some of the other road users provided some additional interest.

 

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Indochinese barbet

 

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Despite being communist, Vietnam is still very religious with Catholic churches everywhere, I've no doubt that many people are still Buddhist, but it appeared to me that there were more churches than temples.

 

With so few birds around we decided not to stay out too late and return to the lodge.

 

Day 6

 

After a good breakfast in the morning we returned to the same road, thankfully we were proved right about the birds and saw plenty of different species, although no laughingthrushes these birds are amongst those most often trapped for being great songsters.

 

 

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Mountain imperial pigeon 

 

 

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Grey-crowned tit 

 

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Ruby-cheeked sunbird 

 

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Long-tailed broadbills 

 

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Maroon oriole

 

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There seemed to be plenty of beautiful looking forest in the area where we were birding, forest that should be home to both black-shanked doucs and buff-cheeked gibbons amongst other primates, but I fear both are long gone, I neither saw nor heard anything to indicate the presence of either, although one afternoon and a morning is hardly long enough to judge. However, I feel confident that were I visiting a similar habitat somewhere in say East Africa where monkeys are not hunted, I would have seen at least some monkeys. Gibbons sing every morning without fail and we’d arrived to start our mornings birding at roughly the same time that we saw the gibbons singing in Cat Tien, I feel certain that had there been any gibbons anywhere in the vicinity, we would have heard them, even if they were far off in the distance. The distribution map for the buff-cheeked gibbon does however, suggest that there are or should be gibbons in the area around Di Linh.

 

Buff-cheeked gibbon map

 

Of course I don’t know what sort of protection these forests enjoy, as we weren’t in a national park.

 

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We returned to the lodge mid-morning and then left for our next major stop Da Lat, stopping on the way for iced coffees.

 

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Liam in a coffee shop, Di Linh,

 

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TonyQ

Seeing, and hearing the gibbons is a real treat 

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inyathi

After watching the Berlin Wall come down and the demise of communism in Europe on the news all those years ago, it seemed rather odd to be travelling through a country that still displays the hammer and sickle everywhere.

 

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Hammer and sickle, Vietnam by inyathi, on Flickr

 

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In the UK these days it has become quite rare to see people smoking, unfortunately in Vietnam it seems that all men smoke, despite cigarette packets having warnings on them, I’d wondered back in Cat Tien why at moments our guides Thien and Dak would keep temporarily disappearing and soon realised it was to light up, they never smoked around us. On the way towards Da Lat, Thien suggested a restaurant for lunch, there seemed to be a wedding taking place, so it was very busy and when we went in, we found it was full of smokers, so we quickly left. We drove on and found somewhere else.

 

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Pho with egg

 

Unfortunately, in common with many restaurants and shops in Vietnam, there was a bird in a cage hung in front of the shop 

 

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Prisoner, red-whiskered bulbul

 

This is why you seldom see red-whiskered bulbuls in the wild in Vietnam.

 

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On the way to Da Lat

 

 

Đà Lạt

 

I visited Da Lat on my previous trip to Vietnam and remembered it as being quite small but in fact it is a big city, I can only assume it’s grown very considerably. Being high up in the Central Highlands Da Lat was used as a hill station by the French during colonial times, allowing them to escape the heat and humidity of Saigon. It’s now become a major tourist destination for Vietnamese. Our interest was in all of the endemic birds found in the surrounding forests, the Central Highlands host most of the country’s endemics, a good many endemic subspecies have been or likely will be elevated to full species. On my previous visit, I didn’t have my own transport, so I wasn’t able to get out of the city into surrounding forest to look for birds, I did though visit a couple of waterfalls, hoping that I might get to see a few birds, but I only succeeded in spotting a greater flameback woodpecker, one of the very few wild birds I saw on that trip. This time I was confident I would see a lot of great birds, not least because there are now several bird hides, just outside Da Lat, which I understood would be amazing for birds.

 

Here are some photos from my previous visit.

 

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The last emperor Bao Dai's Art Deco palace

 

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Thien Vien Truc Lam Pagoda

 

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Waterfall near Da Lat

 

 

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Railway station

 

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Lake with swan pedalos, Valley of Love Da Lat

 

A few shots taken on the way into Da Lat on this trip.

 

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Riding sidesaddle 

 

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Lake with swan pedalos

 

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Roundabout 

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This is a fascinating and very informative report, thank you. I hope Vietnam can restore some of its natural heritage. As you mentioned the green peafowl, I was lucky enough to photograph some in the wild, in Huai Kha Kaeng (Thailand). I hope to make a trip report about that, later.

 

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inyathi

@ajma Grest shots, that long crest is something special, I would love to visit Huai Kha Khaeng some day, I believe it's one of the few places left in Thailand that does have a good population of green peafowls, I will look forward to your report, especially if you had good views of banteng, as they're pretty close to the top of my list of Asian mammals, that I'd love to see in the wild, I've only seen them in captivity thus far. :)  

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inyathi

We checked into the Dreams Hotel in the city clearly a popular hotel with birders. 

 

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Then set off for Hoa Son Dien Trang a rather odd place, I initially wrote extremely odd, but then after remembering my previous visit to Da Lat, I decided it wasn’t so odd, just very Vietnamese, it is what I can only describe as a ‘selfy park’. This newly created park is in a beautiful forested valley, that happens to be the best place to see the rare endemic grey-crowned crocias, only found in the Da Lat area, the park consists of a series of extraordinary ‘sets’ where people can pose for photos, visitors mostly young couples, but also families, walk from set to set to take selfies or pose for their partners, for those who can’t be bothered to walk the short distance down the hill, there are buggies to drive people around. While it may seem a slightly bizarre place, it is a very good birding site as well as an interesting people watching site.

 

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Forest Dien Hoa Son Trang, Da Lat, Vietnam by inyathi, on Flickr

 

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Selfy spot

 

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The net is clearly there in case you are not paying attention while striking a pose, step backwards and fall off

 

 

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Mugimaki flycatcher

 

 

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Rufous-backed sibia

 

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Grey-crowned tit

 

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More my sort of backdrop

 

 

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Fake painted rocks

 

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Hill prinia

 

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Shrine

 

 

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Fake tree

 

We didn’t spot the crocias, so would return in the morning and try again, before visiting the hides.

 

After returning to the hotel we walked to a nearby restaurant.

 

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Street food

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Chakra

The time  and effort  spent on this meticulous planning and construction of selfie seeker's heaven must be considerable.  A fraction of that directed towards nurturing nature would be wonderful.  I think I'd have worn an eye patch in this weird forest of fake  rocks. 

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xelas

Well, we do have Minimundus and Disneyworld etc. I can still see more of the nature at that place then I have seen it in MM or DW. Just sayin' ;)!

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ForWildlife

What a wealth of information! Not too long ago I stumbled upon some accounts of US soldiers killing tigers during the Vietnam war, something which seemed quite common unfortunately. Like you mentioned, they often shot at anything moving. I can imagine not much is needed for highly stressed soldier coming across a tiger in the forest, with weapons in their hands, to use those weapons.

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inyathi

Day 7

 

The hotel laid on a veritable feast for breakfast, with fresh fruit, mini-baguettes, fried eggs, bacon, sliced ham, Laughing Cow cheese, tomatoes, sliced cucumber, jam. After our early breakfast we returned to Hoa Son Dien Trang, for some great birding, because in the morning the place was all but empty, we had it to ourselves and after some searching found the crocias.

 

 

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White-cheeked laughingthrush, Hoa Son Dien Trang, Da Lat,  Vietnam by inyathi, on Flickr

 

 

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@xelas you have a point, you wouldn't get a view like this from Disneyworld

 

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Pallas's squirrel, one of the most common mammal's in Vietnam's forests

 

 

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Grey-crowned crocias

 

 

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Blyth's leaf warbler

 

The ‘selfy park’ is very new it’s only been open a couple of years, but while the valley might have been a better place before the park was put in it, it doesn’t seem to have harmed the crocias or other birds too drastically.

 

Our plan was to go onto one of the bird hides, which are located in Bidoup Nui Ba National Park, but we needed to go back into Da Lat first, to visit a bakery in order to buy our lunches, the bakery sold all sorts of sandwiches, pastries and cakes, and had a banh mi counter, banh mi is like a Vietnamese version of Subway, a mini-baguette split-open and stuffed with whatever fillings you choose. After buying our lunches, we visited La Viet coffee shop.

 

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La Viet coffee shop

 

 

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Cold brew

 

 

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La Viet coffee shop

 

We then set off for one of the hides, we'd had time to visit Dien Hoa Son Trang and go into Da Lat to sort out food and stop for coffee first, because you don’t actually have to be at the hide very early.

 

One thing that has changed around Da Lat and made the place rather less scenic, is that plastic greenhouses have sprung up everywhere, little valleys that would have just had open fields in the bottom of them on my last visit, are now filled with greenhouses

 

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On our way to the hide, we came across a man selling durians, on previous visits to the region, I’d always avoided tasting this stinking fruit, but our guide Ken loves durian, so insisted we buy some, and all try a bit. He and Thien jumped out, and duly bought some, the man prepared the durian and put the pieces in a polystyrene take-away box and then in a plastic bag, which was then put in the bus. The difficulty if you’ve never tasted durian, is overcoming the horrible smell, it smells something like a combination of over ripe cheese and rotten onion, amazingly it doesn’t taste like it smells, and doesn’t actually taste that bad, although not like any other fruit I've ever eaten. I didn’t entirely take to it, but felt if I kept trying it for long enough, I could learn to like it, even so we weren't persuaded to eat more and left the remainder in the box and placed it down the back of the bus. 

 

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Durians

 

 

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Durian seller

 

The smell of durian is so strong and all pervading, that it is not uncommon to see signs indicating that durians are banned, notably on public transport and in hotels, this sign was in a hotel in Thailand, when I last went there.  

 

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No smoking, no dogs and no durians

 

 

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Bidoup Nui Ba National Park

 

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The hides obviously have to be booked, and to protect the birds they are well hidden, there’s nothing to indicate from the road where they are. The first hide we went to was pretty close to the road, when sat in the hide you could hear cars and trucks going noisily past, but the hide was just far enough in, that you couldn’t see it at all from the road. This time I did make sure I had my monopod, I don’t think my photos from the Cat Tien hides, suffered too much from not having it, but obviously given that the light level can be quite low when you are in a hide in the forest, it’s probably better not to shoot handheld and certainly I find a monopod very useful, when I want to shoot a bit of video.Taking our packed lunches with  us, we sat down in the hide for several hours and watched the most amazing selection of birds parade in front of us. We were astonished when one of the first birds to come in was a slaty-legged crake, this is a very shy bird, that you would just never see while walking in the forest, but one that seems happy to come to hides, I've seen shots online of the same species taken at hides in Thailand. 

 

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Slaty-legged crake

 

This next bird also known as the Langbian lesser shortwing, may be a full species rather than a subspecies of the lesser shortwing, and is endemic to Vietnam and Laos.

 

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Lesser shortwing

 

 

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Large niltava male and female

 

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White-tailed blue robin

 

 

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Mountain fulvetta

 

 

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Siberian blue robin female

 

 

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Verditer flycatcher

 

 

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White-spectacled sibia

 

The white-spectacled sibia was considered to be a subspecies of the black-headed sibia, but has been elevated (by some) to a full species, it's a Central Highlands endemic, 

 

A pair of spotted forktails then appeared, providing views that you would never normally get of these stunning birds.

 

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Spotted forktail

 

This very confiding robin almost came into the hide, it seemed to have its eye on my lunch, after a few photos, I dissuaded it of that idea.

 

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White-tailed blue robin

 

 

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Rufous-browed flycatchers

 

 

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Slaty-legged crake

 

 

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Spotted forktail

 

 

 

 

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Bird hide

 

After we’d sat for long enough and the birds had quietened down a bit, we decided to leave, to do some walking and birding on the road, we saw a few birds,

 

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Dalat shrike-babbler

 

 

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Mountain hawk-eagle

 

but then the  weather took a turn for the worse, it had started raining, we thought it best to give up and take shelter in the bus, but of course by now the entire bus smelled of durian. Our original plan had been just to spend a bit of time on the road and then to go back to the hide, in the hope of scoring a rusty-naped pitta, this lovely bird tends to only appear late afternoon. We cancelled this idea and decided to drive to a different area, the other side of Da Lat, in the hope of getting away from the rain.

 

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Da Lat

 

We were then at least able to do a bit more birding, I was very glad that I’d kept a pan au chocolat that I’d got from the bakery, just the thing to keep me going, on what had turned into not such a great afternoon.

 

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Chestnut-vented nuthatch

 

Almost every forest we visited throughout the country had signs telling people not to light fires, I wouldn't have thought this was a big issue in moist evergreen forest, whereas in pine forest I would assume that fire can be more of an issue.

 

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Burnt pine cone,  as this cone is still intact, I imagine that it was just blackened in a quick grass fire.

 

Once back in Da Lat we walked from the hotel over to the same restaurant for dinner.

Edited by inyathi
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inyathi
On 4/14/2020 at 4:34 PM, ForWildlife said:

What a wealth of information! Not too long ago I stumbled upon some accounts of US soldiers killing tigers during the Vietnam war, something which seemed quite common unfortunately. Like you mentioned, they often shot at anything moving. I can imagine not much is needed for highly stressed soldier coming across a tiger in the forest, with weapons in their hands, to use those weapons.

 

@ForWildlife

Yes, I'm sure that was the case, I've watched plenty of Vietnam War filmd over the years, but didn't have a special interest in the war, until my first visit and then I developed a bit more of an interest, a few years ago I bought a novel about the war called Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes, the author is a decorated US Marine Corps veteran who was there, the book tells the story of a Marine firebase codenamed Matterhorn, that they establish on a forested mountain south of the Dimilitarised Zone. It's a good book, I'd never read a Vietnam War novel before, I decided to buy this one, because aside from being a recent book (2010), I'd read about it on a website about tigers and knew that there is a scene in the book, where a Marine is killed by a tiger and that the author had based this on a real incident. This was his first novel, it took him over 40 years to get to the point where he was able to face writing about the war. There must have still been plenty of tigers in those days, and while incidents of man-eating as in this novel would have been rare, I'm certain soldiers would have encountered tigers from time to time. There is a fictional encounter in the film Apocalypse Now, where the US soldiers get off their boat, somewhere on the way towards the border with Cambodia where they were going to, to explore the jungle beside the Mekong and run into a tiger. I also watched a documentary a while back, about the Malaya Emergency, part of a series called something like Great SAS Missions, an old veteran SAS trooper, explained how one day while walking down a trail through the rainforest, on patrol with his Sten gun, he walked straight into a Malayan tiger coming the other way, I think they both ran in opposite directions, he thankfully didn't have to kill it and didn't try to. Of course, I wouldn't know whether the rainforest where this happened is actually still there. 

 

I know that a few years ago tigers were declared functionally extinct in Cambodia and Vietnam and it was just recently reported that tigers are now extinct in Laos, so I wouldn't think there are any wild Indochinese tigers left anywhere in Vietnam, very sad, there has been talk of reintroducing tigers to Cambodia, but whether anything will ever come of that idea, I don't know. 

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Atravelynn

No need to apologize for a Feb 8 departure.  From a "civilian" perspective things still looked fairly rosy at that time.  Your comment about poachers intruding in areas that birdwatchers and wildlife watchers had made safe is disturbing, but we know it happens.  

 

Love the pheasants and pajamas story!  Those hides were very productive.  I was impressed with both the birds, reptiles, and other wildlife you saw.  My husband told me about the punji sticks in the jungles of Vietnam and how they would be covered in fecal matter or poison to make them even more menacing. He never shot a tiger, I swear!

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Atravelynn
On 4/13/2020 at 1:27 PM, Chakra said:

The time  and effort  spent on this meticulous planning and construction of selfie seeker's heaven must be considerable.  A fraction of that directed towards nurturing nature would be wonderful.  I think I'd have worn an eye patch in this weird forest of fake  rocks. 

I don't get the colored rocks.  Is that all it is, a bunch of painted rocks?

 

On a better note, I was glad to learn there were sanctuaries for the bears that had been so mistreated for bile harvest.

 

What a primer on birding in Vietnam!

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inyathi

@Atravelynn Thanks, 

 

I was told the rocks are fake, so I assume they are cast concrete, people stand next to them to have their photo taken, and who wouldn't want a nice souvenir photo of themselves next to some garish rocks, to look at when they're back in their apartment in Saigon, to remember their happy few days holiday in Da Lat. 

 

I don't suppose the bears can ever be released into the wild, but their lives are immeasurably better, which is a great thing, and maybe if Vietnamese visitors to Cat Tien, go to see them, that might help change attitudes.  

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inyathi

Day 8

 

Since it hadn’t been that cold, stupidly, in the morning I went out with just a long-sleeved shirt, having decided not run back upstairs to get my sweatshirt or my micro-fleece and had even left my poncho in the room. After another visit to the same bakery to acquire our lunches, we headed out of Da Lat.

 

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View of Da Lat, Vietnam by inyathi, on Flickr

 

 A good area of forest north of Da Lat is protected in Bidoup Nui Ba National Park. There are two types of forest in the park, moist evergreen broadleaved forest and pine forest, the latter is comprised almost entirely of one species, the Da Lat pine Pinus dalatensis, in places the pine forest was comprised of another species, the Khasi pine Pinus kesiya, although there are a few birds living in the pines, it’s not the richest habitat, the majority of species live in the evergreen forest and that is where the hides are. After a little birding on the road.

 

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Hume's treecreeper

 

 

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Vietnamese cutia

 

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In some places both types of forest grow together

 

we headed for a new hide, this one was slightly more difficult to get to, up quite a steep but fairly short path, not too much of a challenge.

 

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The birds were fantastic, but I quickly began to regret not bringing warm clothes, as it proved to be a pretty cold day, luckily it didn’t rain.

 

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Siberian thrush male and female

 

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White-browed scimitar-babbler

 

 

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Northern grey-crowned babblers

 

 

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White-tailed blue robin

 

 

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Collared Laughing thrush, this gorgeous Vietnamese endemic was one of the stars of the show

 

 

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Orange-headed thrush

 

 

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Blue pitta female and male

 

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Snowy-browed flycatcher

 

 

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Rufous-browed flycatcher

 

 

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White-spectacled sibias

 

 

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Mountain fulvetta

 

 

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Orange-breasted laughingthrush another beautiful endemic

 

 

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Grey-bellied tesia, this tiny bird is so active, it was a devil to photograph

 

 

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Female large niltava

 

 

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Black-crowned fulvetta (endemic)

 

 

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Verditer flycatcher

 

 

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White-spectacled sibia

 

 

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Blue pittas

 

 

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Orange-headed thrush

 

 

This hide had really delivered, giving us great views of various Vietnamese endemics and the fabulous blue pitta, a bird I'd seen very briefly in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand, not only had we had stunning close up views of the pittas, but there's over two hours between my first pitta photo and my last one, so they had been coming in and showing themselves, on and off for all of that time, which was most of the time we were at the hide. Once we’d eaten our lunches, we left the hide to bird along the road, apparently as I was walking away a pair of spotted forktails appeared, after the views I'd had the day before I couldn't complain at missing them, the hides are fantastic, but sitting for long periods on low seats gets pretty uncomfortable, it was great to get out and do some walking.

 

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Necklaced barbet

 

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xelas

While there might be not that many birds in Vietnam, those that exist are fantastic! Tripod is an obligatory item for bringing, as is the fastest glass one has. Was anyone allowed to use flash?

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inyathi

@xelas There are a lot of different species of laughingthrushes, but the collared must rank as one of the most beautiful, certainly of the few that I have seen. We weren't using flash, I posted a photo of sign showing the rules for bird photography in Cat Tien NP back in post 11 and looking at it again now, I think one of things it shows is no flash, but whether that would apply at all other hides, I don't know, I didn't ask. 

 

Later in the afternoon we returned to the first hide for the rusty-naped pitta, while we waited another new species came in, the near endemic short-tailed scimitar-babbler or Indochinese wren babbler and then the crake put in another appearance.

 

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Short-tailed scimitar babbler (Indochinese wren babbler), Bidoup Nui Ba National Park, Da Lat,  Vietnam by inyathi, on Flickr

 

 

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Slaty-legged crake

 

It took a while for the pitta to appear and at first it wasn't very easy to see.

 

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Rusty-naped pitta

 

But then it came right out into the open and showed off really well. 

 

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Once we'd bagged the pitta, we decided to call it a day and head back into Da Lat.

 

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Reservoir 

 

 

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Greenhouses

 

Back in Da Lat we returned to La Viet coffee shop, to buy some coffee (our guide Ken loves coffee), they have a shop that sells packets of beans or ground coffee and bars of Vietnamese chocolate, while there we were given a brief tour of part of the factory at the back. They are involved in an interesting project, to encourage farmers to grow more arabica, this produces better quality coffee than robusta, their aim is to improve the quality and thus the reputation of Vietnamese coffee.

 

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La Viet coffee shop

 

 

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Da Lat 

 

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We then headed straight for a barbecue restaurant, this meant barbecue Vietnamese style, essentially you have a mini charcoal barbecue in the middle of the table, once you’re seated hot coals are delivered and then a whole selection of little pieces of raw meat, bits of octopus, vegetables, whatever you choose to order, you then cook it yourself over the coals and dip it in to the various sauces provided.

 

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I'm not sure about being ready to party, but we were certainly hungry

 

 

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Thien, insisted on including chicken’s feet in our order, the idea really didn’t appeal to me that much, but once cooked the edible parts were actually very tasty.

 

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The place was pretty full, we were the only foreign tourists, this is clearly a popular way Vietnamese people to eat when they go out, certainly a fun experience, I'm glad that we came here instead of just returning to the same restaurant.   

 

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xelas
43 minutes ago, inyathi said:

(our guide Ken loves coffee)

 

My kind of guide :)!

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inyathi

@xelas it's interesting that coffee culture has really taken off recently in Vietnam, I don't recall coffee shops from my last visit, now they are everywhere, apparently Starbucks did try to come in, but the Vietnamese said no thanks we prefer our own coffee and they packed up and left.

 

I've just edited post 44 after I realised that I failed to put in the short video I took at that hide :rolleyes: so there is now a video in that post.

 

Day 9

 

When we had arrived at the hotel we’d pretty much had it to ourselves, but on our last night a group of six Asian bird photographers had turned up, from Malaysia I think, I could see at breakfast that they were well equipped for a day in the hides, with lots of camouflaged clothing and armed with some rather bigger lenses than mine.  I suspect the Da Lat, hides have become well known within the Asian bird photography community. 

 

For this final Da Lat morning, I made sure to put on all my warm clothes, after checking out of the Dreams Hotel we spent a few hours birding in a different area, on the outskirts of Da Lat, a mixture of farmland and forest, we picked up a few new species. 

 

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Flavescent bulbul, Da Lat, Vietnam by inyathi, on Flickr

 

 

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Artichoke fields 

 

 

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Artichokes

 

 

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Chestnut-capped babbler

 

 

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Birding around Da Lat

 

 

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Grey bushchat

 

 

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Southern sooty-headed bulbul

 

 

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Vegetable field

 

 

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Little pied flycatcher

 

 

Besides birds, we heard a black giant squirrel, but didn’t see it, they must be shy to survive in Vietnam. The only mammals I saw while in Da Lat were Pallas's squirrels, however, I did read online about trekking in Bidoup Nui Ba National Park and saw that early in the morning you can apparently hear gibbons, I mentioned this to Ken with some scepticism and he told me that yes that is the case and there are actually still buff-cheeked gibbons in the park. If there are any gibbons in the area where the hides are, I think we would have been there too late in the morning to have heard them singing, so perhaps there are, I don't know. 

 

Our next destination was Da Nang on the coast, but while still part of the old South, it’s a long way north of Da Lat, so to get there we'd opted to fly. We drove to the airport down below Da Lat, said goodbye to our guide Thien and driver Liam, donned our face masks and checked-in.

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Treepol

Da Lat has certainly changed in the last 25 years as my memories are of a gracious, faded French Hill Resort. It’s good to see that some of the villas have been restored and the French character retained. The coffee shops and restaurants look fabulous- in 1996 our iced coffees were made hot and rapidly cooled in a tall glass with heaps of ice.

 

The pho and breads were consistently good throughout the country. I remember Laughing Cow cheese, tinned Plumrose ham and Table Cape long life milk which is produced in northwest Tasmania. 

 

The hides certainly get you you close to some beautiful birds, the pittas are beautiful. I’ve checked out the TB itinerary and moved it further up the bucket list!

 

 

 

 

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michael-ibk

Love the Pittas - and the food! :)

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