Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

October 1, 2012

Vietnam to Australia Birding

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 11:56 pm

Mui Ne to Newcastle.

This was one of my last days in Vietnam and I woke up and heard some birds chirping out the back of the hotel in Mui Ne. I had a quick look at first then rushed off to get the camera when I saw what they were.

Little Green Bee-eater
Little Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis)

There were half a dozen or so Little Green Bee-eaters flying off and on to the wires out the back of the next block.

Female House Sparrow
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

And a female House Sparrow. This one has got quite a bit of yellow on the breast.

Human Being (Homo sapiens)

Fast forward to Newcastle, Australia and these guys were flying too. Doing somersaults on the beach off a beach ball.

Crested Tern
Crested Tern (Sterna bergii)

Lots of Crested Tern were roosting on the rock shelf in front of the baths. Quite a few of them were in breeding plumage.

Australian Pelican
Australian Pelican

The same old pelican was roosting on the lights above the foreshore road.

Great Cormorant
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

So was this Great Cormorant.

September 17, 2012

Mui Ne

Filed under: General — Tags: — admin @ 7:32 am

Southern Coastal Vietnam.

I arrived in Mui Ne yesterday just ahead of a massive thunderstorm which caused a major flood out the front of my hotel. Mui Ne is on the coast about two hundred kilometers north of Ho Chi Minh City. It is a big tourist resort.

Mui Ne beach
The attraction to tourists

This is just south of where I am staying and looking north. There are not many places to access the beach because all these resorts hog the land next to the beach.

fishing boat
Fishing boat

And of course there are the fishing boats. I helped to pull in some nets on the beach this morning but they only caught a piddling amount. About a couple of kilo of tiny fish and a few squid and prawns. Not really worth all that effort in my humble opinion.

Develop at all costs
New High-rise

There are heaps of new resorts going up. I think they are trying to emulate the tackiness of the Gold Coast. Luckily they did not bring in any Khmer architects to design it or it would have looked ultra hideous.

Crap tailor
A crap tailor

This is rather an unfortunate name or it might mean something.

boats on the beach
Fishing boats on the beach

These fishing boats have a really curvy bottom. They get them out of the water by turning the boat around and around until it is up the beach a bit. It is very labour intensive. I used to use my car and a pulley to pull up my dinghy. Too bad I changed about three clutches.

A coracle

They use these coracles which are made out of bamboo slats and this one is sealed with tar. There are a lot of them that are made out of fiberglass. They use a single oar to scull them around.

Plastic beach
The fishing village at Mui Ne

The beaches are absolutely filthy with plastic and all sorts of junk like old nets all twisted together in these ugly mats of garbage.

My bike
My bike

This bike has brought me all the way from Hanoi to within a couple of hundred kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City. My mission is almost complete. It has been a gruelling couple of weeks. The distance from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City is about 1700 kilometers but I reckon I have done more than that going up and down the mountains.

September 15, 2012

Dalat Birding

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 1:22 pm

Tuyen Lam Lake, Dalat, Vietnam.

The last blog I posted was from Phong Nha Cave. Since then I have been to Hue, then up the mountains to Phuoc Son, Buon Ma Thuot and finally to Dalat. Tuyen Lam Lake is about five kilometers from Dalat. It is surrounded by pine forests. The birding here is quite good and better than any other place I have been to in Vietnam.

Eurasian Jay
Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius leucotis)

The Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius leucotis), race leucotis, has a black cap and a wide black moustachial band with white sides of the head and throat and buff underparts and back.

Black-collared Starling
Black-collared Starling ( Gracupica nigricollis )

These Black-collared Starling seemed to have a more creamy coloured head than the usual ones which are whiter. It took me a while to identify these because of the different coloured head.

Scaly-breasted Munia
Scaly-breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata)

I had not seen any Scaly-breasted Munia for awhile. They have been nearly everywhere in South-east Asia. Eating grass seeds is what they do.

Ashy Drongo
Ashy Drongo (Dicrurus leucophaeus bondi)

The Ashy Drongos were doing lots of hawking for insects from the pine trees. They would fly out, swoop around for a bit and then return to the tree branch. There were heaps of them around. They seemed to be race bondi which range from southern Vietnam, Cambodia possibly Thailand.

Ashy Drongo
Ashy Drongo (Dicrurus leucophaeus bondi)

Lesser Yellownape
Lesser Yellownape (Picus chlorolophus)

“The adult male Lesser Yellownape has a green head with a white throat. He has red markings above the eye and above the nape, and red moustachial stripes. Females have only a red patch above the ear coverts. Young birds are like the female, but duller.” (Wikipedia)

Grey Bushchat
Grey Bushchat (Saxicola ferreus)

Habitats for Grey Bushchat are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical moist montane forests. They range from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Slender-billed Oriole
Slender-billed Oriole ( Oriolus tenuirostris )

The Slender-billed Oriole has a much finer and thinner bill than the Black-naped Oriole and is the main distinguishing feature (and possibly the only one). They are found in Bhutan, China, India, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Little Pied Flycatcher
Little Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula westermanni)

Dalat Bird List

Ashy Drongo (Dicrurus leucophaeus)
Grey Bushchat (Saxicola ferreus)
Eurasian Jay ( Garrulus glandarius )
Black-collared Starling
Scaly-breasted Munia
Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier)
Little Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula westermanni)
Lesser Yellownape (Picus chlorolophus)
Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus) 6393
Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus)
Spotted Dove (Geopelia chinensis)
Oriolus tenuirostris, Slender-billed Oriole, TICK

Dalat Birding Resources

Dalat Birding

September 8, 2012

Phong Nha Birding

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 1:35 pm

Phong Nha National Park.

This afternoon I walked along the river towards Phong Nha cave. I left my motor-bike at the new national park headquarters and had a good look at the steep karsts along the river.

Spotted Dove
Spotted Dove (Geopelia chinensis)

Chinese Pond-Heron
Chinese Pond-Heron (Ardeola bacchus)

I had seen a few Chinese Pond-heron in the fields and water-ways as I have rode around North Vietnam but this is the first one I have captured in my camera. But it was a bit far away.


As usual there were lots of butterflies around.

Little Egret
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

mud nest
Mud nest

This neat little mud nest was in a tree by the river.

Common Woodshrike
Common Woodshrike (Tephrodornis pondicerianus)

And last of all I just managed to get a picture of this Common Woodshrike before the light went completely.

Phong Nha Cave

Filed under: General — Tags: — admin @ 7:03 am

Phong Nha Cave.

First thing this morning was some noodles – Phong Bo – and a hot black coffee. Then I was ready to go. I headed over to the wharf and there were already bus loads of tourists lining up to get on the boats. Luckily I found some strays to go in the boat with.

The waiting crowds

Weekends in national parks are a no-go area. There are crazy hordes of day-trippers. It is best to avoid and go during the week. I always seem to mis-time my visits to national parks so far.

Up the river

Here we are heading up the river to the caves. They were about a couple of kilometers from the wharf.

cave entrance
The entrance to Phong Nha Cave

Here is the entrance to the Phong Nha cave. We only went into the beginning of the cave and walked through them because the recent rains means that the river had risen and you would hit your head on stalagtites if you go in the boat through the cave.

Loooking out cave
Looking out

This is looking out from the cave about a hundred meters inside.

Limestone formation 2
Limestone formations

I cannot remember which is which stalagmites, stalagtites.

Limestone formation 1
More limestone formations

Limestone formation 3

Looking out

These were a couple of German-Vietnamese guys who were visiting. Their mothers are Vietnamese and their father is German. They can speak Hanoi Viet but cannot understand the local dialect.

Inside looking  out
Inside looking out

And coming back out of the cave. We had to bash aside all the local tourists to get out. It was a fight to the death.

The river downstream

And here we are coming down the river back to the town and the wharf. I am going to spend the rest of the day sleeping.

September 7, 2012

Phong Nha National Park

Filed under: General — Tags: — admin @ 1:51 pm

Phong Nha, North Central Vietnam

Well I made it to Phong Nha National Park late this afternoon after another dramatic day. Half an hour out of Vinh and the chain comes off the bike. So I wheel it to the bike mechanic (Rua Xe) and he fixes it and sends me on my way. Then about an hour or two later coming down a hill near Pheo on the Ho Chi Minh Highway the chain breaks.

River Karst
River side karst

So I roll down the mountain and wheel my bike through this village but there is no bike mechanic. So I wheel my bike another kilometer to another village and some guys call me over and offer to fix my bike. They proceeded to fix the chain with a couple of spanners, a file and a hammer. They were fair dinkum bush mechanics.

View from Wharf
View from the wharf

Then I am off again and I stop about an hour later for some lunch and these guys are at this truck stop and have been drinking. One of them tries to ride off on his bike and his mates try and stop him. He gets angry and his mate punches him and wrestles him off the bike. At this stage I escaped before any more fisticuffs took place.

Dropping off nets
Dropping fishing nets

I eventually made it to the town outside of Phong Nha National Park and found myself a hotel with TV and Air-conditioning for nine bucks a night. I think they have wifi downstairs which I will try later after I finish typing.

Looking down river
Looking down the river

Tomorrow I may go for a boat ride through the cave. I forgot to mention that I spent four days in Vinh because it was pouring bucket loads of rain every day and I could not get away. There was flooding and torrential rain. It was like a monsoon I reckon.

September 2, 2012

Cuc Phuong National Park

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 9:11 am

Cuc Phuong National Park, North Vietnam.

It take me ages to get to Cuc Phuong National Park. I thought I would be there in a couple of hours but it took me like seven or eight hours to get here. The last part when I got off the Ho Chi Minh Highway was horrendous. The dirt road had holes so big that trucks were getting lost in them.

The other side of Cuc Phuong
The other side of Cuc Phuong

This is the other side of the range of karsts that contains the Cuc Phuong National Park. The park is in a valley between two ranges of karsts.

Grey-hooded Warbler ???
maybe a Grey-hooded Warbler ???

I could not work this one out. It was mostly yellow with a black stripe through the eye and a rufousish mohawk. At first I thought it might be a Mountain Tailorbird, juvenile but no it is the wrong shape, the bill is not sharp enough and it is too large. Then I thought it might be a Grey-hooded Warbler but the crown is rufousish. I really am not sure.

camo dragonfly

There were thousands of butterflies around when I rode in to the park, but late in the afternoon I did not see many at all. There were lots and lots of grasshoppers but. And a few dragonfly.

Web work
Spider checking his nets

I like this shot of the spider pulling on his web.

Cicada-like insect
Noisy cicadaish thing

There was heaps of noise in the bush from these cicada-like creatures. I have no idea what they actually are but they sound like cicadas.


This is the same type of spider as above but the photo is a lot sharper.

squirrel up a tree

This squirrel ran up this dead tree and disappeared into the end of it.

Dark Hawk-cuckoo
Dark Hawk-cuckoo (Hierococcyx bocki )

Huge butterfly
Huge butterfly

This butterfly was huge, bigger than some birds. He had his proboscis out, eating a big hole out of the leaf.

Mountain Horned Dragon

This lizard was on the steps of the track down from the hill where the thousand year old tree is. He stayed there for heaps and was not afraid at all. A probable ID for this lizard is Acanthosaura lepidogaster.

pink dragonfly
pink dragonfly

The last morning it was pouring down with rain and I only had about an hour out in the bush and only got this shot of a pink dragonfly that was hanging out at the blue-green algae swimming pool.

August 30, 2012

Ba Vi National Park Birding

Filed under: Birds — Tags: — admin @ 10:27 am

Vuon Quoc Gai Ba Vi, North Vietnam.

I bought a motor-bike in Hanoi, a Honda Win. 100cc of pure power. Oh actually it might even be 110cc. I was really freaking out about driving out of Hanoi but it was not that bad at all. I started off at 5am and just followed my map and I was out of there relatively easily.

White-throated Bulbul
White-throated Bulbul (Alophoixus flaveolus) juvenile

The funny part was that I got lost out in the country side. I went to the wrong resort because people were telling me it was Ba Vi but it wasn’t. Eventually I got some correct directions and found the national park.


I went for a walk after I found a room in a hideously expensive guest house – $20. Ran into some more Sooty-headed Bulbuls. They are everywhere I go. Well, some kind of bulbul is.

Grey-throated Babbler
Grey-throated Babbler (Stachyris nigriceps)

It was pretty dark in the afternoon so I had to use flash on some of these shots.

gary come home

This snail was crawling out of the jungle. Check out his smile. He looks a lot like Gary, Spongebob Squarepant’s pet. I also saw a couple of Red-crowned Barbet (Megalaima rafflesii), but the photos are crap.

Grey Treepie
Grey Treepie (Dendrocitta formosae)

There were a bunch of Grey Treepie who were hanging out with a few Red-billed Blue-magpie (Urocissa erythrorhyncha) amongst the pine trees. It was so dark. arghhh.


And another day is over.

White-throated Redstart
White-throated Redstart (Phoenicurus shisticeps) female

The next morning I rode the bike up the mountain and stopped at some places along the road where there was a bit of light getting in.

Black-and-yellow Broadbill
Black-and-yellow Broadbill (Eurylaimus ochromalus)

There were quite a few birds around but it was really difficult to photograph them because there were clouds coming in and blanketing the whole area in fog.

Scarlet Minivet
Scarlet Minivet (Pericrocotus speciosus)

This is the female Scarlet Minivet.

Silver-eared Mesia
Silver-eared Mesia (Mesia argentauris)

After my morning birding I packed my bags and headed up the road, through some mountains, villages and dirt roads to Hoa Binh, which is south of Ba Vi.

Ba Vi Bird List

Sooty-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus aurigaster klossi)
White-throated Bulbul (Alophoixus flaveolus) juvenile
Grey-throated Babbler (Stachyris nigriceps)
Red-crowned Barbet (Megalaima rafflesii)
Grey Treepie (Dendrocitta formosae)
Red-billed Blue-magpie (Urocissa erythrorhyncha)
White-throated Redstart (Phoenicurus shisticeps) female
Silver-eared Mesia (Mesia argentauris)
Black-and-yellow Broadbill (Eurylaimus ochromalus)
Scarlet Minivet (Pericrocotus speciosus)

October 25, 2009

Vietnam Bird Watching

Filed under: Birds,General — Tags: — admin @ 7:50 am

Bird Watching in Vietnam

Most of these notes are taken from – Birding in Vietnam. And also , as well as Birding in Vietnam

Bird Watching Sites

Hue – boat trips on river. Phong Nha Hotel ~$10. Get there by bus or train. Hire a bicycle or motorbike.

Bach Ma National Park
1 hour from Hue and 4 kms from PhuLuc. Between Da Nang and Hue. 3km from Cau Hai town. You can book accommodation at the park’s guest houses, costing from 100,000-300,000VND. (Around $10). Guides per day cost 200,000VND.

Cat Tien National Park
3 hours and 150 kms north of Ho Chi Minh City. Get off at Tan Phu, and take the last 15kms by bike. Also see the nearby Tan Phu Forest Enterprises. 3-day tours cost from $50-300. There is a tree house in the middle of the forest. Accommodation available at park HQ and Bau Sau ranger station.

– Minh Travel Hotel

Dalat Plateau

Try for accommodation in Dalat at Peace 1 Hotel ~$10. Maybe hire a bike. Phuong Huy Hotel.
1. Mount Lang Bian – 12 km from Dalat.
2. Ta Nung – a forest valley on the road 15km from Dalat to Ta Nung
3. Ho Tuyen Lam – a lake near Dalat. 3km from Da Lat. An Excellent map by Florian Klingel
4. Deo Suoi Lanh – on road from Di Linh to Phan Thiet at 80km mark.

Ho Chi Minh City – Blue River Hotel.

Mekong Delta

1. Can Gio Biosphere Reserve – 40km South-east of Ho Chi Minh City. Its an island at the mouth of the Saigon River. Take a bike to Binh khanh and get the ferry. Guest houses at Can Gio Beach Resort.

2. Tram Chim National Park – 40km from Cao Lanh. Hire a boat. Guest houses at Tam Nong town and in park HQ. Guide is required.

3. U Minh Thuong National Park – 365km south-west of Ho Chi Minh City. Go from Rach Gia to An Minh, and get a boat. Contact park authorities before. Accommodation is basic, probably within park?

4. Ca Mau and Bac Lieu Bird Sanctuaries – Accommodation in Ca Mau and Bac Lieu towns.

5. Tra Su – 1 hour from Chau Doc, 15km north-east of the Mekong River. From Chau Doc go 17km to Nha Ban, then to Cam Mountain. Try a boat trip for about 300,000VND. Accommodation at Chau Doc at Thuan Loi or Trung Nguyen Hotels for ~$10.

6. Mui Ca Mau National Park – hotels in Ca Mau. Than Son Hotel.

My Tho – Rang Dong Hotel.

Ben Tre – Nha Khach Ben Tre Hotel – 38km to San Chim Vam Ho Bird Sanctuary by boat.

Cao Lanh – Binh Minh Hotel. Go to White Stork Sanctuary by boat. Then to Tram Chim NR.

Ha Noi – Thu Giang Guest House ~$5-10, City Gate Hotel. Book buses the day before. Cuong motorbike hire $5 per day.

Buon Ma Thuot – COFFEE! – Nguyen Nhi Hotel.

Yok Don National Park
Located in western Dak Lak province bordering Cambodia about 40km by bus from Buon Ma Thuot. There is guest house at park HQ or stay at Banmeco Tourism Area, 2 km from HQ. Lak Resort.

Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park
Get there from Dong Hoi town. A guest house at park HQ. Must have official guide.

Xuan Thuy National Park

150 km south-west of Hanoi in Red River delta. Take boat from park HQ, watch tides. Guest houses at park or Ngo Dong town or Quat Lam(40k away).

Tam Dao National Park
A hill resort near Hanoi. Guest houses range from >$8. Accommodation is available within park at Tam Dao town. Huong Lien Hotel, Green World Hotel. Buses run from Ha Noi to Vinh Yen, then hire bike to NP.

Haiphong – Hotel Du Commerce ~$10-20, There is no need to stay here. Catch bus from Ha Noi, get hydrofoil to Cat Ba.

Cat Ba national Park
On Cat Ba island in Hai Phong city, at southern edge of Ha Long Bay. Take boat from Hai Phong. You can rent a bike in Cat Ba for about $5 a day. Also hire kayak or rowboat. Guide fee ~$5/day. Several guest houses in Cat Ba. My Ngoi ~$5-10, Phong Lan Hotel.

Ban Be National Park – guesthouse ~175,00VND. Stilt house at Pac Ngoi village ~60,000VND.

Van Long Nature Reserve – 2km from Tran Me, get there from Ninh Binh from Cuc Phuong NP.

Cuc Phuong National Park
3 hours from Hanoi, has basic accommodation at the park from $5-25. From short walks to 3 day jungle treks. Go to National Park Road and Bong Substation as well as Headquarters.

Ba Vi National Park
50 km west of Hanoi. Guest House in park, hire a bike.

Sa Pa – Hoang Lien National Park

400 kms from Hanoi, catch overnight train to Lao Cai, then one hour to Sa Pa. Near China. Many hotels in Sa Pa. Lotus Hotel, bike hire.

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