Tra Su is part of Vietnam’s Special-use Forest network and covers an area of 2,000 hectares with 1,000 hectares at the centre designated as a nature reserve. The habitat is a mixture of melaleuca plantation, seasonally inundated grassland and swamp.
The nature reserve contains a huge heronry where thousands of Little Egrets and Black-crowned Night Herons breed and roost. There is now also a large breeding colony of Asian Openbill numbering in the hundreds. This is pretty remarkable as this species wasn’t present at all during my last visit to Tra Su eight years earlier. The Openbill is a scarce bird in Vietnam and is listed in the Vietnam Red Data Book as vulnerable so this is very good news indeed.
Another species from Vietnam’s Red Data Book that seems to be doing very well at Tra Su nowadays is Oriental Darter. As Hanno and I stood at the top of a lookout tower late in the afternoon watching birds streaming back to Tra Su from their feeding grounds over the border in Cambodia we estimated we must have seen well over 200 fly-by Darters within the space of an hour.
Some more common birds found at Tra Su in good numbers were Red-collared Dove, Black-backed Swamphen, Little Cormorant, Grey and Purple Herons and Yellow Bittern. A couple of flocks of another scarce bird in Vietnam, Black-headed Ibis, were seen overhead during the day but there was no sign of Glossy Ibis on this occasion.