On our last day at Cat Tien we took a boat trip along the Dong Nai River which forms a boundary on two sides of the Park. Not scheduled but I had a feeling it would be worthwhile and arranged it privately. The River is beautiful, peaceful and quite natural, I felt a sense of calm and well-being here, a small part of this Earth unspoilt by the human virus.
This was a great way to watch birds. Pied Kingfishers were plying their trade from the overhanging branches. They were matched in numbers by White Collared kingfishers, similar in size but more colourful. It was a sign of a healthy river to see so many fishermen, mostly avian but a few local human ones too.
The Stork Billed Kingfisher is the largest of all in SE Asia. Around 40+cm in length it is am imposing sight as it plunges into the water. The huge bill is ideal for scooping up quite sizeable fish, probably bigger than other kingfisher species can manage, giving it a natural advantage.
Kingfishers were not the only birds on display. The Blue Bearded Bee-eater is quite different from its Spanish counterpart or the local Chestnut Headed variant. Much stockier in shape with a shaggy blue beard and streaked yellow undersides it is a fine sight, particularly when perched in such a colourful tree.
The Darter is a close relative of its North American cousin the Anhinga, which we encountered in the Everglades. These are highly specialised fishermen with extremely long flexible necks. In the water they swim with body submerged and only the neck and head with spear-like bill visible above the surface, somewhat like images I have seen of the mythical Loch Ness monster. They are however extremely powerful in flight and can soar to great heights to ride the thermals. An impressive bird indeed.
Here´s a familiar face for a change. The Grey Heron is not uncommon out here, nor is the Purple Heron. In fact there are at least twelve species of Heron and we were fortunate enough to see seven of them, including the rare Malayan Night Heron.
This is a Little Heron, not one we see in Europe but fairly common here in SE Asia. They are mainly seen around the coast so this one is an exception by the Dong Nai River, it is a long way to the sea from here.
Another look at the Pied Kingfisher, quite a striking bird to see flying across the river and well worth a second look. As is the Collared Kingfisher, this time with a slightly better view of those dazzling pale blue feathers, quite a different shade of blue from the Common Kingfisher that we all know in Europe.
This was an opportune shot. Peering through the bushes I spotted this Common Iora with a large termite in its beak Click! death of a termite, on record.
Other birds seen this morning include a Woolly-necked Stork, Plain Backed Sparrows, Javan & Chinese Pond Herons, Dark Necked Tailorbird, Ashy Headed Bulbul and a nice Black Hooded Oriole. I also snapped a Cambodian Squirrel, these small striped squirrels are very common but are worth a look.
Cat Tien Birding had been an amazing experience. It had whetted my appetite for more, particularly forest birds so we tried to go to another well know birding location in South Vietnam, Da-Lat. This is famous for its cooler climate, being in a mountainous area, and for its natural beauty, plenty of pristine forest ideal for birding. Unfortunately our trip co-incided with National Holidays on April 30/May 1st and all accommodation was fully booked, as were flights from Saigon. So we decided not to waste any more time & headed back to Bangkok to try the National Parks in that region of Thailand.