Bach Ma, National Park, Vietnam, October 2002

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT


Slaty-legged Crake

by Kevin Vang, Ahmet Bektas (copyright Slaty-legged Crake photo)
and Aaron Becker - October 2002


Bach Ma National Park is located in Thua Thien Hue Province about 20 km northwest of 16.05-16.16 degrees north latitude and 107.43-107.53 degrees east longitude. It is a tropical evergreen forest in the northern part of the Central Annam Bio-Unit. The elevation ranges from 200-1500 m. It is lowland evergreen forest from 200-900m and montane evergreen forest from 900-1500 m. It is one of the wettest areas in Viet Nam receiving over 7900 mm of rain annually on the summit of Mt Bach Ma.

A team comprised of Kevin Vang, Ahmet Bektas and Aaron Becker from the Australian Foundation for Asia and the Pacific (AFAP) spent 5 days, October 6-10, bird watching there and looking at the overall state of the park. We can be contacted on

We stayed at the lodge at kilometre post 17. The first day and the morning of the next was a torrential rainstorm which caused several landslides on the road blocking car traffic which helped to reduce overall noise in the park. The rest of time the weather was perfect and most of the birding was done from the afternoon of the 7th-10th October. Birding was primarily done along the road and many of the trails. The bush is very thick and fairly impenetrable, and there is still much unexploded munitions so off-road hiking is not feasible with out a guide and lots of time.


As it was during the boreal fall migration, we were very lucky to find two rare migrants, Fairy Pitta and Slaty-legged Crake. We were able to film the latter. Both these birds were discovered at night in the portico of the lodge where were many dead emperor moths due to the season. The bright lights of the lodges high atop Bach Ma Mountain have acted like a beacon to migrants. They would then land around the lodges, see all the moths and start feeding on them without paying attention to the fact they were in human areas. Both the pitta and the crake were easily approached and carefully studied. Unfortunately we could not get the video camera fast enough for the pitta, but we were ready the next night when the crake repeated the process.

Also there were some discrepancies with the older documentation, and some confusion in these surrounding the leaf birds, minivets and "Alcippe" fulvettas subspecies. We have taken careful notes, and people with some understanding of these species may be keen to do some DNA studies in these areas for some more clarification. We welcome any comments about subspecies in this area to assist with identification.

Helpful websites:

/mb/trips/vietnam-mw-0802.html This is a web address of the previous Vietnam trip report on Surfbirders by Moira and Graeme Wallace, Edinburgh, Scotland. It is a very useful and well-written report for Vietnam in general.


Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis

A cage full of cattle egrets brought into Bach Ma Park Headquarters and all individuals released, a few sick ones were still hanging around grounds, 10 October 2002.

Little Egret, Egretta garzetta

A cage full of cattle egrets brought into Bach Ma Park Headquarters and individuals released, a few sick ones were still hanging around grounds, apparently one little egret had also been in the cage, but had since flown off, 10 October 2002.

Black Eagle, Ictinaetus malayensis

Bach Ma National Park, one subadult seen soaring between km posts 13-14, mostly dark but some speckling and few whitish areas around base of upper tail/rump; on the hike out an adult was seen flying over the hills, 7 and 10 October 2002.

Slaty-legged Crake, Rallina eurizonoides

Bach Ma National Park, one adult entered lodge portico at km post 17 at night time apparently eating the many dead moths and other insects and was cornered in hall, filmed and chased out again, 8 October 2002.

Emerald Ground Dove, Chalcophaps indica

Bach Ma National Park, one seen flying across road between km posts 4-5, 7 October 2002.

Barred Cuckoo-Dove, Macropygia unchall

Bach Ma National Park, commonly seen flying over mountain forests and also occasionally perched in roadside trees, very noisy and loud whoo-UU, three times seen at very close range with clear green on hind crown, nape and upper back, km posts 15-summit (1000-1450m), 7-10 October 2002.

Green-billed Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus tristis

Bach Ma National Park, commonly seen at middle and lower elevations km post 7-11, one seen at very close range on Pheasant Trail, 7 and 9 October 2002.

Collared Owlet, Glaucidium brodiei

Bach Ma National Park. One seen perched in tree near roadside around the corner from the start of Rhododendron Trail at km post 15-16. The back of the head was not seen, nor was any sound made, but due to very small size, higher elevation and dense mountain forest habitat, it was called as G. brodiei over G. cuculoides. 10 October 2002.

Red-headed Trogon, Harpactes erythrocephalus

Bach Ma National Park, few seen in roadside middle altitude forest from km 9-15, occasionally perched in areas where bird waves were in action, 10 October 2002.

Green-eared Barbet Megalaima faiostricta

Bach Ma National Park, one see between km posts 11-12 in fruiting tree, seen near puff-throated bulbul and other birds in loose wave; on the last day another individual was seen at km post 9-10. 7 and 10 October 2002.

Golden-throated Barbet, Megalaima franklinii

Bach Ma National Park, seen in km wave at km post 15-16 with mountain fulvettas, golden babblers, and grey-cheeked warblers. Cap pattern was red-yellow-red with yellow throat, blue on face and blue outer wings. On the last day another adult and juvenile were seen. The juvenile had a freckled yellow face with some bluish underneath but in other ways was similar to adult, all individuals seen had clear blue outer wings, occasional load calls were heard, but they were not very vocal overall. 8 and 10 October 2002.

The 1996 WWF Booklet notes the common presence of Black-browed barbet, M. oorti at middle and upper altitudes of the park, but Robson, 2000, does not put the range of M. oorti in this area. The confusion likely arises from this subspecies of M. franklinii (perhaps a median form of "franklinii" and "auricularis") having dark and light blue on the face instead of the nominate grey-white which yields an eyebrow effect. This is complicated by the fact that the 'annamensis' subspecies of M. oorti begins to also take on characteristics of M. franklinii. However, all calls heard and the sightings from this trip noting the blue on wing and recent literature confirm that the likely barbet at middle and upper elevations of the park is M. franklinii, not M.oorti. There was no evidence that M. oorti was present at middle or upper altitudes in the park.

White-browed Piculet, Sasia ochracea

Bach Ma National Park, 2 seen on Pheasant Trail in large birdwave with bulbuls and babblers, one hammered loudly on branch, km post 8-9, 7 and 10 October 2002.

Fairy Pitta, Pitta nympha

Bach Ma National Park, seen at lodge area at night-time, 1000 m, km post 17. It had hopped into main hall of the lodge which was dimly lit and open to the outside to feed on the many insects on floor, it hopped about for some time, then flew out. It was viewed at very close range at one point less than a metre. It was also seen flying up to a cloths line where it tried to perch unsteadily with wings extended. Thus its small wing spot was clearly seen.

This was clearly a Fairy Pitta. In any case, the only other possibility for this pitta would be Blue-winged. Both have only rarely been recorded in Viet Nam on migration, and Blue-winged has never been record in North or North Central Annam. It was clearly distinct from Blue-winged Pitta by limited blue on wing cutting a thin epaulette into the shoulder and not a broad band following the edge of wing like with the Blue-winged Pitta. It also had only a small patch of white within the wing, and a clear deep rusty-chestnut brown crown stripe. It was not noticeably smaller than Blue-winged Pitta and had similar jizz. It also had the red belly strip, blue rump and black tail with blue terminus. 7 October 2002.

Blue-rumped Pitta, Pitta soror

Bach Ma National Park. One large subadult/juvenile seen bouncing along streamside flats at the entrance to the Rhododendron Trail at about 1000m. Juvenile-type-spotting seen on hind-neck but greenish on back, seen in failing light in dark forest, given the altitude, large size and face pattern, it is most certainly this species, but colours not seen in great detail. The only other medium altitude pitta is bar-bellied and there was no facemask. Blue-naped and Rusty-naped have never been recorded in park. 7 October 2002.

Returned next day and found the same bird in good light in the same area. It was confirmed to be a Blue-rumped Pitta subadult in 3/4 adult plumage with blue on nape and rump and green wings and back, but with juvenile speckles on crown, lower nape and wing edges. Belly was very rusty, but face was light colour as were legs and beak, seen twice more in same day and followed for several minutes, 8 October 2002.

Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea

Bach Ma National Park, individuals occasionally seen in rocky streams, along roads or in roadside stone gutters from km posts 11-14, 8-10 October 2002.

Grey-chinned Minivet, Pericrocotus solaris

Bach Ma National Park. One pair seen in large birdwave at km posts 17-18. Good views but in canopy. Male had a orange-red body certainly far more orange than scarlet minivet, longitudinal white patch on belly, one large comma-shaped orange-red wing spot, blackish-grey head darker in front but rather grey in front on throat but not whitish or light grey, tail very orange-red but with black median strip. Female bright yellow body with grey head and back, large comma-shaped yellow wing spot, seen with flock of white-browed shrike babblers, sultan tits and golden babblers. Probably 'deignani' subspecies due to clear grey-head of the female and grey-orange colours of male plus the wing spot but a variant of the 'annamensis' subspecies of long-tailed minivet is possible as 'annamesis' has same wing spot pattern. Plus, long-tailed minivets seem to commonly have this longitudinal white patch on belly although this is seemingly possible in any orange-red-yellow minivet species, 9 October 2002.

Puff-throated Bulbul, Alophoixus pallidus

Bach Ma National Park. Common and noisy among fruiting trees from km posts 11-13 and seemingly perhaps loosely with bird waves, seen next day in small flock on Rhododendron Trail at km posts 15-16; the last day a small group was seen between km post 10-11, 7-8 and 10 October 2002.

Grey-eyed Bulbul, Iole propinquus

Bach Ma National Park, few seen at km posts 9-10 in bird wave, light coloured grey-white iris was clearly visible but otherwise looks like a smaller, duller version of A. pallidus with a more subdued crest, 10 October 2002.

Stripe-Throated Bulbul, Pycnonotus finlaysoni

Bach Ma National Park, few seen in large bird wave on Pheasant Trail, 10 October 2002.

Blue-winged Leafbird, Chloropsis cochinchinensis

Bach Ma National Park, individuals occasionally seen at lower altitudes than C. hardwickii at km posts 7-11 and as pairs or individuals not in small groups, often associated with birdwaves but not always, 10 October 2002.

The 1996 WWF Birdlist seems to have the entry for these two leafbirds accidentally inverted, as C hardwickii was by far the more common and one of the commonest birds in the forest. But this may instead have been related to fruiting figs this time of the year and in any case, both entries should be updated.

Orange-bellied Leafbird, Chloropsis hardwickii

Bach Ma National Park. Very common and noisy among fruiting ficus-type trees from km posts 11-19, "melliana" subspecies. Often in pairs or forming flocks of one or few males and many more females/juveniles. Seen taking large ficus-type fruits and holding them. Also in their own groups or in bird waves of puff-throated bulbuls, yuhinas and fulvettas or laughing thrushes and treepies. Male's belly is more yellow than standard book picture but not quite as yellow as HK subspecies, they had an interesting way of eating figs somewhat reminiscent of the White-eared Barbet of Southern Africa. However, where the barbet puts the whole fig in its large mouth and rolls it around, crushing it down. The leafbird incises the outer layer with its small sharp beak and then rolls it. This serves to peel the hard outer layer off the fruit leaving the soft centre to be eaten, 7-10 October 2002.

Slaty-backed Forktail, Enicurus schistaceus

Bach Ma National Park. 3 seen in streams from 12-19+ km posts. 2 clearly did not posses white forehead patch (juvenile) but were in every other way in full adult plumage with slaty back. Seem to prefer bigger cascades. 1 seen next day on rhododendron walk did have white forehead, next day one is seen just above 19 km post along road by dried up stream, it also had white forehead, and last day downstream at km post 11, 7-10 October 2002.

Blue Rock Thrush, Monticola solitarius

Bach Ma National Park, one female seen on roof of lodge at km post 17 for 2 days in a row, 8-9th October 2002.

Mountain Fulvetta, Alcippe peracensis

Bach Ma National Park. Common in bird waves from 11-17 km posts. Probably annamensis subspecies, clear eye-ring, but some seemed more deep brown and others less so, seen again in bird waves next day at km posts 15-16 with golden babblers and grey-cheeked warblers, in the next days seen regularly from 11-16 km posts, 7-10 October 2002.

The 1996 WWF birdlist notes the common presence of medium altitude Alcippe poioicephala, but Robson, 2000, does not recognise that this bird is in Central Annam. Robson, 2000, has his own middle altitude Alcippe grotei. However, it seems to us that from about 600-1300 ms in this area, there is only one common species of Alcippe. For the time being, we are calling this is Alcippe peracensis based on thick black head stripe, grey crown and cheek of same colour and prominent eye ring seen in most birds.

Black-Throated LaughingThrush, Garrulax chinensis

Bach Ma National Park, few seen above 19 km post near summit with ratchet-tailed treepies and lesser necklaced laughing thrush and red-whiskered bulbuls, normal chinensis subspecies, 8-9 October 2002.

Lesser Necklaced LaughingThrush, Garrulax monileger

Bach Ma National Park. Large group of 25+ seen in forest across the road from the entrance to Rhododendron Trail, 16 km post, with a small group of ratchet-tailed treepies. Extensive rufous above necklace, seen again next above 19 km post near summit with more ratchet-tailed treepies and black-throated laughing thrushes and red-whiskered bulbuls, 8-9 October 2002.

Striped Tit-Babbler, Macronous gularis

Bach Ma National Park, seen in birdwave with Mountain Fulvettas and Orange-bellied Leafbirds 12-13 km posts, 7 October 2002. On the last day seen regularly in bird waves from 7-11 and on Pheasant Trail, 10 October 2002.

Streaked Wren-Babbler, Napothera brevicaudata

Bach Ma National Park. 1 seen and heard for some time at close range in roadside brush responded to tweeting. Others heard and seen quickly from km post 12-15, seen again at 16 km post in roadside foliage briefly perching on low cement marker when hearing tweeter to take a look before quickly taking cover in foliage again, 7 and 9 October 2002.

White-browed Scimitar Babbler, Pomatorhinus schisticeps

Bach Ma National Park, one seen at km 17-18 km post in area with Asian paradise flycatcher and grey-cheeked warblers, 9 October 2002.

White-browed Shrike Babbler, Pteruthius flaviscapis

Bach Ma National Park. 1 male seen near summit between 1300-1400 m and a large flock of about 10 seen mostly males but few females at km posts 17-18 in bird wave with golden babblers, white-browed shrike babbler, sultan tits and grey-cheeked minivets. Looked like typical 'aeralatus' subspecies but may be 'annamensis', 7 and 9 October 2002.

Golden Babbler, Stachyris chrysaea

Bach Ma National Park, several seen in birdwave at km posts 15-16, with mountain fulvettas and grey-cheeked warblers seen again at km post 17-18 in large bird wave with white-browed shrike babbles, sultan tits and grey-cheeked minivets, and again between 16-17 in another bird wave 8-10 October 2002.

Buff-breasted Babbler, Trichastoma tickelli

Bach Ma National Park, one seen in small stream undergrowth at 5-6 km posts, 10 October 2002.

Striated Yuhina, Yuhina castaniceps

Bach Ma National Park, large flock of 25+ seen on rhododendron trail (km post 15-16), 8 October 2002.

White-bellied Yuhina, Yuhina zantholeuca

Bach Ma National Park. Seen in bird wave with mountain fulvettas, and orange-bellied leaf birds at km post 11-12. Few seen next day with mountain fulvettas and golden babblers at km post 15-16. Seen again in another large bird wave at km post 17-18 with golden babblers, white-browed shrike babbler, sultan tits and grey-cheeked minivets, on last day seen regularly but in small numbers in bird waves from 9-16, it seemed to be the most altitudinally variable "timaliidae", 7-9 October 2002.

Dark-necked Tailorbird, Orthotomus atrogularis

Bach Ma National Park, common and noisy among roadside brush and bamboo, km posts 9-14, most males in non-breeding plumage, few had dark necks, but all with deep chestnut cap, green back and yellow undertail coverts, 7, 10 October 2002.

Arctic Warbler, Phylloscopus borealis

Bach Ma National Park, one seen in proximity to inornate warbler on Pheasant Trail, km post 8, so it was very good in comparing the more streamlined, slower arctic warbler from the fast moving, smaller and chunkier inornate warbler, 8-10 October 2002.

Inornate Warbler, Phylloscopus inornatus

Bach Ma National Park. Occasionally seen in canopy in small groups sometimes with other birds or in bird waves, at km posts 16 to summit area. On last day seen in proximity to arctic warbler on Pheasant Trail, km post 8, so it was very good in comparing the more streamlined, slower arctic warbler from the fast moving, smaller and chunkier inornate warbler, 8-10 October 2002.

Grey-cheeked Warbler, Seicercus poliogenys

Bach Ma National Park. Several seen in bird wave at km posts 15-16, with golden babblers and mountain fulvettas. Next day several seen with paradise flycatchers, inornate warblers and 1 scimitar babbler at km posts 17-18. Some had very prominent eye-rings and others less so, perhaps juveniles, one adult was seen to repeatedly fan tail very much like fantail flycatcher as he was feeding, last day seen in bird waves at km posts 16-17 and 12-13, 8-9 October 2002.

White-gorgetted Flycatcher, Ficedula monileger

Bach Ma National Park, one adult seen at km post 17-18 perched in low tree, white throat with black border clearly seen, excellent view before it flew into brush, 8-9 October 2002.

Azure Flycatcher, Hypothymis azurea

Bach Ma National Park, several male and female pairs seen on Pheasant Trail, the last pair was part of a large bird wave, km post 8-9, 10 October 2002.

Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone paradisi

Bach Ma National Park, one male seen at km posts 17-18, with several grey-cheeked warblers and one white-browed scimitar babbler; on last day another male seen on Pheasant Trail, 9-10 October 2002.

White-throated Fantail, Rhipidura albicollis

Bach Ma National Park, one seen in bird wave at km posts 18-19, with white-browed shrike babblers, sultan tits and grey-cheeked minivets, fanned tailed repeatedly; seen again last day in bird wave at 16-17 km post, 9-10 October 2002.

Black-throated Tit, Aegithalos concinnus

Bach Ma National Park, few seen in bird wave at km posts 15-16, with golden babblers and mountain fulvettas, 8 October 2002.

Sultan Tit, Melanochlora sultanea

Bach Ma National Park. Few seen in treetops at km posts 15-16, next day several seen in bird wave at km posts 18-19, with white-browed shrike babblers, sultan tits and grey-cheeked minivets. One was seen to jump into a large hollow in a tree and take a bath in a pool there, repeatedly entering splashing, exiting and then repeating this, all "gayeti" subspecies with all blue crown, 8-9 October 2002.

Crimson Sunbird, Aethopyga siparaja

Bach Ma National Park, 1 female at km posts 18-19, perched in tree top, seen briefly and matched the criteria of this species but was more olive on breast and had a more prominent eye ring or pattern, so the identification is uncertain. 8-9 October 2002.

Large-billed Crow, Corvus macrorhynchus

Bach Ma National Park, several seen overflying from 7-10 km posts, 10 October 2002.

Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Temnurus temnurus

Bach Ma National Park. Several seen in large group of lesser necklaced laughingthrushes moving through forest at km post 15-16, across the road from Rhododendron Trail. Seen again next day above km post 19 near summit again with lesser necklaced laughingthrushes and also black-throated laughing thrushes and red-whiskered bulbuls. One ratchet seen looked very full and obvious but several seem more worn and less clear, on the last day two single individuals were viewed lower down on the road from 5-7 km posts, 8-10 October 2002.


We are not completely sure if we have the correct scientific names, as our resources seem to be in conflict.

White/Buff-cheeked Gibbon, Hylobatidae leucogenys
Small family group seen and heard on Pheasant Trail.

Yellow-throated Martin, Martes flavigula
Two individuals seen on road at entrance to the Pheasant Trail.

Red-cheeked Squirrel, Dremomys rufigenis
Common in forest at all altitudes.

Striped Squirrel, Tamiops roddphii
Common at higher altitudes in forest.

Black Giant Squirrel, Ratufa bicolor
One seen in forest on Pheasant Trail.