Openbills and Darters doing well in the delta

Asian Openbills at Tra Su
A recent brief visit to Tra Su, a wetland site in the Mekong Delta, with my good friends Hanno and Ha Stamm was my first since 2000. Hanno and Ha had visited regularly during the time Hanno was managing the Victoria Hotel in nearby Chau Doc but it had also been a while since they had been there.

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.

Melaleuca plantation at Tra Su

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.

 

 

Grassland habitat at Tra Su
Common passerines at Tra Su included a large flock of White-shouldered Starlings, Streak-eared and Yellow-vented Bulbuls, Pied Fantail, Oriental White-Eye and Striated Grassbird. Flyeaters in particular were ubiquitous when we were there, their melancholy song ringing out from the melaleucas. A solitary Forest Wagtail was also found quietly minding its own business picking among the leaf litter on a shady dike. Only one duck species was seen during our day at Tra Su, Spot-billed Duck, of which we saw three pairs.