On the afternoon of 19th November 2013 during a Vietnam Birding tour at Ba Be Lake, Richard Craik, Le Quy Minh, Simon de Albuquerque and Marcel Ashby, observed a familiar looking long-necked bird in the distance on the lake. As we manoeuvred our small motorised boat nearer to the bird our suspicions were confirmed and we were able to identify the bird as a Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus. A species that is well-known to European birders but a rare sight in South-East Asia where Robson (2011) lists it as a rare to uncommon winter visitor to parts of Myanmar and a vagrant to north-western Thailand. This would therefore appear to be the first record of the species for Vietnam.
The bird was in juvenile plumage with a blackish hindneck and dark brown facial stripes. It was behaving in typical grebe fashion, alternating between swimming on the lake and diving below the surface.
The next day following a pre-dawn visit to the lake to await the return of our target bird, White-eared Night-heron, to its daytime roost, we relocated the Great Crested Grebe in the same area of the lake and Minh was able to get some record shots. Other species observed on the lake during our boat trips on the 19 and 20 November were Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata, a group of nine consisitng of six adults and three juvenile birds, a pair of Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula and several small groups of Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis.
Contact Vietnam Birding at firstname.lastname@example.org for a tailor-made tour to Ba Be National Park to see the critically-endangered White-eared Night-heron and perhaps find a new bird for Vietnam at the same time – well you never know!