Tag Archives: Bluethroat

Birding Laos

With Scoot flying direct to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, it was an easy decision to go and check out some of the flora and fauna of this landlocked country. This completed my birding visits to all the nine Asean countries, which includes working visits to Brunei.

Open country and farmland habitat at the Phou Phanang National Biodiversity Conservation Area with the hill forests in the background.

As it was a sight seeing holiday with my wife, we went to only two sites to bird. The first was Phou Phanang National Biodiversity Conservation Area, about 45 minutes drive north of Vientiane and the other was Beung Khiet Ngong Wetlands, a Ramsar site, at Southern Laos.

Tad Yuang Waterfalls at the Bolaven Plateau

Most grateful to Ding Li for introducing Santi St to us. He is lecturing at the Environmental Science at the University of Laos and former consultant with IUCN. He drove us to Phou Phanang, an easy flat open forest fringed grassland habitat dotted with rice fields and lotus ponds. It was quite birdy with the expected open country and forest species competing for our attention. We end the morning with 41 species thanks to Santi’s local knowledge and experience.

Convenient Wealth Coffee Cafe for breakfast at the start of the walk at Phouphanang.

While I did not get any lifers, I was happy to get re-acquainted with the Indonchinese Rollers, Burmese Shrike, Streak-eared Bulbul, Black-collared Starling and native Red Avadavats. You can get a nice breakfast at the Wealth Coffee Cafe at the carpark to start your day. How nice!

Sooty-headed Bulbul Phouphanang

Ding Li recommended that I visit the Beung Khiet Ngong Wetlands since I am going to Pakse, southern Laos. We were glad to be able to spend an overnight at the Kingfisher Ecolodge overlooking the wetlands and bird there.

Panoramic view of the Beung Khiet Ngong Wetlands from a viewing pavilion.

We were not expecting such a luxury lodge but soon realized that this lodge was owned by an Italian who sold it to an Vietnamese American. The individual bungalows we stayed in were huge and well designed. The balcony, viewing pavilions and restaurants all have a full view of the wetlands. But I loved the one of its kind swimming pool built right up to the edge of the marshes, best. You can bird watch with a BeerLao in your swimming trunks. How cool is this?

The owners of the Kingfisher Ecolodge build a pool right at the edge of the wetlands for bird watching.

Birdlife around the lodge was good. First bird we saw was a Shikra perched outside of bungalow. Most of the trees were left intact and it was easy birding walking along the boardwalks around the lodge. Got some great photos of the Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher just outside of my bungalow.

Grey-headed Canary Flycartcher.

The main birding is done from the viewing pavilions that acts as open hides with panoramic views of the wetlands. The setting sun behind us was perfect for catching the egrets, herons, swamphens, martins, swallows, drongos, ducks, lapwings and jacanas going about their pre-roost routine. Best bird and lifer for me were the Common House Martins, which was only identified after processing the photos. These are the eastern race, with some authorities listing it as the Siberian House Martin, Delichon lagopodum. It has a deeper fork tail and an extended white rump down the tail when compared to the Asian House Martin.

Common House Martin Eastern race as listed in ebirds also listed as Siberian House Martin after the split.

The tour agency Biig Travel arranged a resident bird guide to take us around the village and farms surrounding the wetlands. Lae, a suntanned resident bird guide in his 50s is familiar with the birdlife here, but I can see that he finds it hard to identify the more difficult species. But the two hours morning walk before breakfast was very productive. I get to walk through the village and see the villagers going about the morning activities.

Tad Yuang Waterfalls view point and surrounding forests.

I added a breeding male Bluethroat to the list for this site when I photographed one at the edge of a cassava farm.

Male breeding Bluethroat, a old world flycatcher with a wide range across Europe and North Asia.
Male Chinese Blue Flycatcher at the Tad Yuang Waterfalls, new addition for the site.

The disappointment was not seeing a single bird at the Mekong River despite crisscrossing and cruising on it for most of our time there. The consolation was picking up a stray bird here and there while visiting the waterfalls and temples. My wife saw two forktails while we were having lunch next to a small waterfall. I missed it! But not the Chinese Blue Flycatcher and the Yellow-bellied Warbler at the Tad Yuang Waterfalls and a Hill Prinia that allowed us to get close at the UNESCO Wat Phou.

Yellow-bellied Warbler Tad Yuang
Plain Prinia a common open country resident taken at Phou Wat.

The bird to see in Laos is of course the endemic Bare-faced Bulbul. But the site was not on our itinerary which means that we will have to come back to Laos to bird again. All in it was good to have a feel of the birdlife in Laos which shares borders with five countries and their similiar fauna.


Santi St for guiding us at Phouphanang and where to bird in Laos.

Yong Ding Li for his help to identify the birds.

Lae for guiding us at Beung Khiet Ngong.

Birding Israel with Leica V-Lux


One of the perks of a Leica sponsored trip to Israel for the “Champions of the Flyway” Bird Race is the use of Leica cameras and binoculars. I was given the Leica V-lux, a bridge camera to try out. A handy travel camera with a generous 20.1 megapixels and a large 1″ CMOS sensor, a combination of comparable high end cameras.  A fast F2.8 to f4, 25-400 mm zoom lens ( 16X zoom) that performs just as well shooting desert beetles to flying swifts and eagles. What impressed me was the surprising fast auto focus especially for flying birds. The best part is that once the camera locks on the subject, the image stays in view. The 12 frames per second made sure every action is captured. It is packed with all the must have features like manual focus assist, stabilizer and DIY function buttons for quick adjustments while shooting. The coolest feature for me is the wireless remote control with my smart phone, a feature that will be very useful for shooting nesting birds. It allows the photographer to be away from the nest and yet able to see the action and adjust zoom and other setting before clicking. 4K video is standard.

Sharing some of the photos taken by the V-Lux in Eilat. Still getting use to the camera.

Over looking to Jordan

The different hues of the desert landscape from buffy brown to dark grey are captured in this shot. Taken from the north south highway in southern Israel, Jordan is in the background.

Flying V Formation

Slender-billed Gulls flying in formation under a beautiful blue sky. 1/1800 F4 ISO 200

Alpine Swift

Swifts are small and fast flying. Capturing them in flight usually needs a high end DSRL camera. This elegant Alpine Swift was flying against strong head winds, just slow enough for me to get a respectable image. 1/4000 F5 ISO 640


Beetle mania in the desert. These are tough survivors in the barren desert landscape. Fights over food is common. The V-lux can focus up to 3 cm for marco shots.

Goat herd

I like the depth of field of this shot. Precious herd of goats will provide the required sustenance for the local people staying in the Kibbutz. 

Slender-billed Gulls

Slender-billed Gulls returning to their roost shot against a setting sun. 1/1800, F4 ISO 320.


This Bluethroat is shot under the shade so the colors are a little muted but still rich.


Steepe (Common) Buzzards are the most common raptor migrating through the Eilat Mountains during Spring. 45,000 were counted in one day alone on 25th March. Most were of intermediate and rufous morph. I was able to freeze this flying buzzard shooting at a slow 1/500 sec hand held. 


Blue skies contrasting with a grey hillside. A balance exposure is needed to show off both shades. This is one of the counting points for the migrating raptors at Eilat Mountains.

Hooded Whaetear

Getting the details of a black and white bird like this Hooded Wheatear needs almost prefect exposure. The blurred background helps to define the subject.