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Bach Ma National Park

VIETNAM | Tuesday, 19 March 2024 | Views [47]

Sunrise, Bach Ma National Park

Sunrise, Bach Ma National Park

AS WE ASCENDED INTO THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS of Vietnam the quality of our lodging began to decline. We spent Saturday night at the Green Hotel in Khe Sanh, a step below our place in Phong Nha. When I mentioned we were near where for the first half of 1968, two divisions of the North Vietnamese Army besieged about 6000 US Marines, all I got were blank looks—the Vietnamese guide’s parents hadn’t been born yet, our Canadian birders couldn’t have cared less and Andre fit both categories. Nor would you know it by the restaurants, neon lights and party atmosphere of Khe Sanh today.  

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                 Khe Sanh back in the day (internet photo)

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         Khe Sanh today, hardly recognizable 

Our rooms at Bach Ma Villa in the national park of the same name weren’t too bad, considering, and the food was surprisingly good. There was no wifi, of course, and the shower flooded the bathroom floor but all-in-all. . . . Bach Ma is near the coast yet in the mountains, about half-way between Hue and Danang so it was pretty busy this weekend.

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                  Good Morning, Vietnam; Bach Ma National Park

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                        Curious neighbor, Redshanked Luoc Lemur

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                   Stuttin' his Stuff

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                    Giving him the Cold Shoulder

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                       Back in time for Breakfast, Bach Ma Villa

Despite the whinging I do about “0-dark-30” wake-up calls, spectacular sunrises can make it worthwhile—if the weather cooperates. And the earlier the better to see birds. Mile-high Bach Ma provided both—plus some curious Langurs. So we started out before dawn, driving back and forth on the park roads searching for Silver Pheasants. After a fruitless 90 minutes I thought we had struck out. Persistence pays off and we saw a spectacular male and his lady crossing the road—just in time for us to return to the lodge for breakfast.  

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               In the "Bush"

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            Official Rockjumper leech protection 

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         Leeches start small but quickly fill with blood—your blood!

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                      Andre ain't afraid of no leeches

This morning Quang led us on several hikes into the forest in search of the more elusive species. This is leech territory and the most ardent Rockjumpers came equipped with “leech socks” while we made-do by tucking trousers into our socks. So far, so good. Andre stuck with his tried-and-true flip-flops, even when venturing into the thick brush searching for  the reclusive Hodgson’s Frogmouth.

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               Sign outside of a Bach Ma tunnel

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       NVA stayed inside during the day—but Charlie ruled the night

The entire area around Bach Ma suffered deforestation from “Agent Orange” during the Vietnam War, the idea being without forests for cover North Vietnam Army soldiers would be easy to spot. As usual, the NVA out-maneuvered us—they hid in tunnels during the day, some right under the noses of us “imperialist, dupe puppet soldiers.” Fifty-something years later, the forest has regrown but I’m afraid the wildlife hasn’t fully recovered and the birding is slow.

 

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                Black-naped Monarch

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                 Collared Owlet

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          Ratchet-tailed Treepie

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            Silver-breasted Broadbill

During our two days in Bach Ma we saw only seventy different species, ten that were new to us. Of note were the Black-naped Monarch, Collard Owlet, Masked Laughing Thrush, Ratchet-tailed Treepie and Black-throated Bushtit. Our favoriteIt was the Silver-breasted Broadbill that sat patiently over the trail while we snapped our photos.

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                    Stalking the elusive Frogmouth

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                  Hodgson's Frogmouth

This would be our last chance for the Hodgson’s Frogmouth. We could hear it’s call but it took a lot of crawling through the brush by both Quang and Andre to triangulate its location. We slithered down the hillside and took turns at the single “window” through the leaves to get a look—and a photo!

 

 

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