Summary of Records from Red River Island, March 5th to May 16th 2016

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A rare clear day in Hanoi, looking north from the edge of the North Wood towards the Red River and airport bridge (photo taken on May 16th).

Site: Red River Island, Hanoi, Vietnam (Google Maps location)
Visits/days: 43 visits covering 42 days, between March 5th and May 16th
Months (days) visited: March (15), April (18), May (10).
Species recorded: 176
General notes: At least 90% of my time was spent in the North Wood and surrounding farmland/grassland at the northern tip of the island, with infrequent visits to other areas. Almost all of my visits were between the hours of 7.00am and 12.00pm, with a typical duration of between 2 and 3 hours. I was usually alone, but sometimes joined by other birders – most often Hung Le and Joy Ghosh.

In the table below, the second column indicates the number of visits on which the bird was recorded (out of 43). The third column is the high count for that species. The fourth column contains notes about a species’ status in the area, or other general comments. Thanks to Dave Sargeant (North Thailand Birding) for inspiration about how to present this information!

Common Name Number of Visits High Count Notes
Japanese Quail 3 1 Presumably a regular migrant
Little Grebe 3 3 Single group on pond along western edge
Asian Openbill 3 42 Occasional flocks soaring high to the east
Yellow Bittern 1 1  
Cinnamon Bittern 2 1  
Grey Heron 4 9  
Purple Heron 2 1  
Cattle Egret 3 2  
Chinese Pond Heron 21 10  
Striated Heron 2 1  
Black-crowned Night Heron 1 11 Single flock
Black-shouldered Kite 26 2 Resident pair
Oriental Honey Buzzard 3 1  
Jerdon’s Baza 2 3 Seen twice in April, coinciding with heavy passage at Tam Dao
Black Baza 1 7 Single flock
Grey-faced Buzzard 8 4  
Pied Harrier 1 1 Male
Crested Goshawk 1 1  
Chinese Sparrowhawk 1 1 Male
Japanese Sparrowhawk 4 1  
Black Kite 1 1  
White-breasted Waterhen 7 3  
Ruddy-breasted Crake 3 2 One seen, the others heard only
Common Moorhen 3 2  
Grey-headed Lapwing 1 1  
Red-wattled Lapwing 1 1  
Kentish Plover 1 1  
Little Ringed Plover 21 4 Presumably attempts to breed in the area
Common Sandpiper 10 2  
Green Sandpiper 7 2 Perhaps overwinters
Common Greenshank 3 11  
Barred Buttonquail 8 2 Scarce resident
Oriental Pratincole 1 1  
Rock Dove (feral) 12 5  
Oriental Turtle Dove 14 4 Regular migrant
Red Collared Dove 16 10  
Spotted Dove 14 8  
Wedge-tailed Pigeon 4 2 Photos show that these birds are all Wedge-tailed and not the perhaps more expected White-bellied
Chestnut-winged Cuckoo 3 1  
Large Hawk Cuckoo 3 1  
Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo 2 1  
Indian Cuckoo 2 1 Heard only
Common Cuckoo 4 2 Other “cuculus sp.” unidentified
Oriental Cuckoo 4 1 Other “cuculus sp.” unidentified
Plaintive Cuckoo 40 6 Common and vocal resident
Asian Koel 2 1  
Greater Coucal 38 3 Common resident
Lesser Coucal 9 2 Unclear whether resident or migrant
Northern Boobook 1 1  
Grey Nightjar 3 1 Three singles in North Wood
Large-tailed Nightjar 1 1  
Germain’s Swiftlet 4 5  
Asian Palm Swift 3 2  
Common Kingfisher 7 2  
White-throated Kingfisher 1 1  
Black-capped Kingfisher 6 2  
Pied Kingfisher 21 5 Presumably resident
Dollarbird 2 1  
Eurasian Wryneck 2 1  
Eurasian Kestrel 3 2  
Eurasian Hobby 1 1  
Peregrine 1 1  
Red-breasted Parakeet 3 1 Presumably escapee(s)
Ashy Woodswallow 1 2  
Ashy Minivet 3 2  
Rosy Minivet 2 4 Only in March
Black-winged Cuckooshrike 6 2  
Tiger Shrike 4 1 Only in May
Brown Shrike 18 10 Most numerous in May
Burmese Shrike 21 10 Recorded throughout the period
Long-tailed Shrike 1 1  
Black-naped Oriole 14 10 Fairly common migrant, often with drongos
Black Drongo 8 12 Many drongos in banana plantations not specifically identified
Ashy Drongo 24 15 Common migrant, some individuals of leucogenis and salangensis races
Crow-billed Drongo 7 5 Late April onwards. Presumably a regular late season migrant but difficult to tell from other drongos at a distance
Hair-crested Drongo 19 65 Common migrant
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 1 1 Recorded in March, well before the start of other drongo passage
White-throated Fantail 19 3 Resident in the Hanoi area
Black-naped Monarch 26 5  
Amur Paradise-Flycatcher 3 2 Scarce migrant in late April/early May
Blyth’s Paradise-Flycatcher 4 1 Passage at same time as Amur
Red-billed Blue Magpie 20 5 Resident in the area, numbers apparently decreased from 5 to about 2 during the period
Racket-tailed Treepie 1 1  
Grey-throated Martin 22 60 Fairly common resident
Barn Swallow 30 12 Common migrant
Red-rumped Swallow 13 15 Regular migrant
Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher 10 5 Late March/early April
Japanese Tit 15 2 Resident
Chinese Penduline Tit 1 2 Regularly winters in area but hard to locate
Red-whiskered Bulbul 18 12  
Light-vented Bulbul 21 15  
Sooty-headed Bulbul 27 10  
Black Bulbul 1 1 White-headed race, in early March
Pale-footed Bush Warbler 4 3 Only located when singing, so others perhaps overlooked
Asian Stubtail 12 3 Regular early season migrant
Manchurian Bush Warbler 4 1 Presumably regular migrant
Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler 1 1 Probably overlooked due to very skulking habits
Dusky Warbler 38 15 Common migrant
Radde’s Warbler 17 3 Regularly seen, especially late in the season
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler 1 1  
Yellow-browed Warbler 34 10 Commonly seen until late April
Arctic Warbler 10 8 Not seen before end of April
Pale-legged Leaf Warbler 7 1  
Eastern Crowned Warbler 8 3  
Claudia’s Leaf Warbler 17 2 Common migrant in small numbers in March and April
Sulphur-breasted Warbler 4 1 Mainly in March
Grey-crowned Warbler 2 2 Many seicercus warblers didn’t call and therefore remained unidentified
Bianchi’s Warbler 2 1 Many seicercus warblers didn’t call and therefore remained unidentified
Thick-billed Warbler 18 12 Infrequently seen until early May when it became very common
Oriental Reed Warbler 5 1  
Black-browed Reed Warbler 25 12 Common migrant
Lanceolated Warbler 2 1 Probably overlooked due to very skulking habits
Baikal Bush Warbler 1 1  
Zitting Cisticola 40 7 Very common resident
Common Tailorbird 40 5 Very common resident
Yellow-bellied Prinia 43 20 Abundant resident
Plain Prinia 43 20 Abundant resident
Chestnut-flanked White-eye 2 2 Only in March
Japanese White-eye 38 40 Migrant/resident status unclear
Masked Laughingthrush 19 4 Resident in the area
White-crested Laughingthrush 4 2 Presumably escapees
Black-throated Laughingthrush 2 1 Presumably escapee(s)
Chinese Hwamei 3 2 Probably escapees
Blue-winged Minla 1 1 Presumably escapee
Dark-sided Flycatcher 11 3  
Asian Brown Flycatcher 19 8  
Grey-streaked Flycatcher 2 1 Individual for a few days in May
Oriental Magpie Robin 1 1 Surprisingly rare
Hainan Blue Flycatcher 12 4 Common early season migrant
Hill Blue Flycatcher 12 3 Common early season migrant
Blue-and-White Flycatcher 6 2  
Rufous-tailed Robin 1 1 Presumably regular migrant but very skulking
Japanese Robin 1 1  
Siberian Blue Robin 4 2 Very skulking here
Bluethroat 10 2 Presumably winters
Siberian Rubythroat 25 5 Common migrant and probable winterer
Blue Whistling Thrush 6 2 Both yellow-billed and dark-billed races seen
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher 13 3 Late April onwards
Green-backed Flycatcher 1 1 Male in April
Mugimaki Flycatcher 14 4  
Slaty-blue Flycatcher 1 1 One individual in March
Taiga Flycatcher 31 10 One of the few species that tolerates banana plantations
White-throated Rock Thrush 4 1 Two individuals (1m, 1f)
Siberian Stonechat 36 15 Last recorded at the beginning of May
Pied Bushchat 1 1 Male in March
Grey Bushchat 1 1  
Siberian Thrush 1 1 Adult male
Orange-headed Thrush 2 1 Two individuals
Grey-backed Thrush 6 1  
Black-breasted Thrush 1 1  
Japanese Thrush 8 6 Regular in March
Eyebrowed Thrush 4 7 Not seen outside of April
Daurian Starling 1 1 Female in March
Great Myna 1 2  
Crested Myna 3 2  
Olive-backed Sunbird 2 2  
Forest Wagtail 4 3  
Eastern Yellow Wagtail 2 2  
Citrine Wagtail 11 12  
Grey Wagtail 4 1  
White Wagtail 16 6  
Richard’s Pipit 27 6 Common migrant
Paddyfield Pipit 34 8 Common resident
Olive-backed Pipit 19 13 One of the few species that tolerates banana plantations
Red-throated Pipit 12 7  
Crested Bunting 3 1 Two different individuals seen
Tristram’s Bunting 6 2 Fairly regular in March but skulking
Little Bunting 12 10  
Yellow-breasted Bunting 6 7 Long-staying flock in dead cornfield
Chestnut Bunting 2 1  
Black-faced Bunting 13 4 Only in March
Common Rosefinch 2 3  
Oriental Greenfinch 11 35 Erratic
Eurasian Tree Sparrow 34 40  
White-rumped Munia 12 8  
Scaly-breasted Munia 37 40  

The following additional species were among those reported by other observers during the same period: Yellow-legged Buttonquail, Short-eared Owl, Blue-throated Bee-eater, Swinhoe’s Minivet, and Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher.


Red River Island, Hanoi, April 20th-May 1st

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Chinese Hwamei, a bird that has been hunted to near-extinction in Vietnam, but which turns up occasionally in Hanoi. This bird was singing loudly on my balcony one morning, within earshot of the Red River Island, and I saw another later the same morning in the North Wood. We must assume the origins of these two to be dubious at best!

I visited the Red River Island on eight mornings between April 20th and May 1st, spending almost all of my time in the North Wood and surrounding areas of grassland and farmland. Happily no one seemed to be bird-hunting in the area during the period, and the destruction of the North Wood has been temporarily suspended. In fact, one good strip of habitat in the wood is still completely untouched – I was told that the family who own this strip haven’t got around to cutting it down yet. The felling of the remaining trees seems inevitable but I am crossing my fingers that they wait just a couple more weeks until spring migration is over ….

On the negative side, the overgrown field immediately to the west of the North Wood – a favorite recent haunt of Japanese Quail – has now been destroyed and planted with crops, and a decent patch of trees and scrub to the south – which hosted a male Siberian Thrush early in the period – was bulldozed overnight to become just another bare earth field.

Yet more habitat destruction on the Red River Island. Until a week ago, this was an interesting patch of trees and scrub which hosted a male Siberian Thrush on April 21st.

Full sightings list from my visits on April 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 25th, 27th, 29th, and May 1st:

Japanese Quail – one flushed on 20th and 23rd  in the now-destroyed overgrown field next to the North Wood.
Asian Openbill – a flock of 42 soaring over the Red River on 23rd.
Striated Heron – one in the North Wood on 27th.
Cattle Egret – single bird on 21st and 23rd.
Chinese Pond Heron – peak count of 10 on 21st.
Black-shouldered Kite – resident, 1-2 birds seen most visits.
Japanese Sparrowhawk – male hunting in North Wood on 23rd.
Chinese Sparrowhawk – male over on 27th.
Eurasian Hobby – one over the North Wood on 1st.
White-breasted Waterhen – single bird around the edges of the North Wood on two dates.
Ruddy-breasted Crake – heard singing near the North Wood on 20th but not seen.
Grey-headed Lapwing – one poorly photographed on 29th in farmland south-east of the North Wood.
Little Ringed Plover – 1-2 seen most visits.
Common Sandpiper – occasional singles.
Common Greenshank – flock of 11 on the Red River sandbar on 20th, single still present on 22nd and 23rd.
Barred Buttonquail – scarce resident, one south-east of the North Wood on 1st.
Oriental Turtle Dove – four on 21st and one on 22nd.
Red Collared Dove – seen on most visits with a peak count of 8 on 27th.
Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon – single male on 21st and 23rd. Now four records in the North Wood this spring. All the birds have appeared very uniform yellow-green below with no hint of a white or whitish belly.
Spotted Dove – one on 29th.
Chestnut-winged Cuckoo – one on 1st.
Large Hawk Cuckoo – one in the North Wood on 21st and 22nd.
Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo – one showed very well in the North Wood on 25th.
Oriental Cuckoo – singles on 21st and 23rd.
Indian Cuckoo – one singing on 1st, 0.4km south of the North Wood, but not seen.
Plaintive Cuckoo – commonly heard, occasionally seen.
Greater Coucal – common resident, more often heard than seen.
Lesser Coucal – singles seen on two dates during the period.
Grey Nightjar – one in North Wood on 27th, my personal third record of the spring here.
Germain’s Swiftlet – five over on 29th.
Black-capped Kingfisher – single on three dates.
Pied Kingfisher – common resident, peak count of 5 on 29th.
Black-winged Cuckooshrike – 1-2 on three dates.
Tiger Shrike – male on 25th.
Burmese Shrike – common migrant throughout April but not seen since 27th. Peak count of 4 on 25th.
Brown Shrike – becoming more numerous as Burmese Shrike declines, peak count of 6 on 1st.
Black-naped Oriole – seen on most dates with a peak count of 10 on 23rd.
Black Drongo – 12 passing through on 23rd during a morning of heavy drongo passage.
Ashy Drongo – common migrant with a peak count of 10 on 23rd.
Hair-crested Drongo – common on most dates during the period with a peak count of 65 during very heavy rain on 22nd.
Crow-billed Drongo – at least two on 27th, and some distant drongos flying through on this date may also have been this species.
White-throated Fantail – resident in the Hanoi area, 1-2 occasionally seen in North Wood.
Black-naped Monarch – 1-2 on most dates.
Blyth’s Paradise-Flycatcher – male on 25th.
Amur Paradise-Flycatcher – two females on 27th, told from Blyth’s by sharp demarcation between black throat and grey breast.
Red-billed Blue Magpie – resident in the area, up to four seen on most dates.
Grey-throated Martin – just one bird recorded during the period.
Barn Swallow – small numbers on passage with a high count of 6 on 21st.
Red-rumped Swallow – small numbers on passage with a high count of 5 on 23rd.
Japanese Tit – one on several dates in patch of trees south of the North Wood.
Sooty-headed Bulbul – up to five on several dates.
Red-whiskered Bulbul – three on 21st was the only record during the period.
Light-vented Bulbul – just one record of one bird on 1st.
Dusky Warbler – common migrant with a high count of 15 on 22nd.
Radde’s Warbler – less common than Dusky. Up to three on most dates.
Yellow-browed Warbler – sharp decline during the period, from 7 on 21st to none at all on 1st.
Arctic Warbler – three on 29th and five on 1st, with several birds in song.
Pale-legged Leaf Warbler – single(s) on five dates. This species prefers more enclosed forest and is usually 4-6 feet off the ground.
Eastern Crowned Warbler – one on 20th and three on 25th.
Claudia’s Leaf Warbler – regular migrant throughout April but not seen since 22nd.
Grey-crowned Warbler – on 22nd, one seen and a second individual heard, distinctive soft double-note call.
Bianchi’s Warbler – one on 20th. Distinctive call, a soft, slightly cracked-sounding “heu”. Other seicercus warblers seen during the period didn’t call, so ID not certain, but they resembled Bianchi’s in plumage with greenish forehead and crown-stripes not extending to bill base.
Thick-billed Warbler – one on 22nd, then a noticeable increase late in the period with two on 29th and four on 1st.
Black-browed Reed Warbler – a common migrant throughout the period, often heard singing, with a high count of 12 on 29th.
Oriental Reed Warbler – singles on 20th and 22nd.
Zitting Cisticola – common resident.
Common Tailorbird – common resident, pair observed nest-building along edge of North Wood.
Yellow-bellied Prinia – abundant resident.
Plain Prinia – abundant resident, generally preferring more open/grassy areas than Yellow-bellied.
Japanese White-eye – 1-6 on all dates, much reduced in number compared to earlier in the spring.
Masked Laughingthrush – single very vocal bird, heard on every visit and seen on several dates, apparently now the only survivor of the flock of up to 5 that were formerly resident in the area.
White-crested Laughingthrush – one, almost certainly an escapee, on 1st, accompanied by a second bird that resembled a White-crested Laughingthrush but had apparently been dyed yellow.
Chinese Hwamei – one in the North Wood on 22nd. There is also a long-staying bird just outside the area, singing regularly in gardens near my house off Phan Lan Street, and photographed on my balcony on the same date as the North Wood bird. Presumably both birds are of dubious origin!
Dark-sided Flycatcher – singles in the North Wood on four dates.
Asian Brown Flycatcher – common migrant with high count of 5 on 21st.
Hainan Blue Flycatcher – one on 20th was the last record of the spring – this species was commonly observed in late March/early April.
Blue Whistling Thrush – one on 23rd.
Siberian Rubythroat – sharp decline since early April, with only one individual remaining by 1st.
Siberian Blue Robin – male on 27th and two on 29th.
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher – seen on three dates with a high count of three on 1st.
Mugimaki Flyatcher – seen on five dates with a high count of four on 20th.
Taiga Flycatcher – common migrant, seen on every visit with a high count of 5 on two dates.
White-throated Rock Thrush – male seen in the small patch of trees south of the North Wood on 20th, 21st and 23rd.
Siberian Stonechat – very common migrant with a high count of 15 on 21st, noticeable decline late in the month.
Siberian Thrush – adult male in the now-bulldozed patch of trees south of the North Wood on 21st.
Eyebrowed Thrush – two on 20th were the last records of the spring.
Crested Myna – two flying over on 22nd, and three unidentified mynas that were perhaps this species distantly on 1st.
Citrine Wagtail – one on 21st and a flock of 12, the majority apparently adult males, flying north on 25th.
White Wagtail – just one seen during the period, on 20th.
Forest Wagtail – one in the North Wood on 29th.
Richard’s Pipit – 2-4 birds on most dates, usually in farmland south-east of the North Wood.
Paddyfield Pipit – fairly common resident seen or heard on most dates.
Olive-backed Pipit – late singles over on 22nd and 25th, this was a common bird earlier in the spring.
Red-throated Pipit – single over on 22nd.
Oriental Greenfinch – four on 23rd.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow – occasional individuals recorded, this species is much more common in urban areas.
White-rumped Munia – singles on two dates.
Scaly-breasted Munia – erratically recorded, with a peak count of 20 on 25th.

Total species observed during the period: 98
Total species I have observed at Red River Island since March 5th: 171