Northern Vietnam pagoda Tam Chuc a sanctuary of birds

 Peaceful islands surrounding Tam Chuc Pagoda in Ha Nam Province are home to many bird species and a preferred destination among nature-loving photographers.

Located around 65 kilometers from Hanoi in Kim Bang District, the 5,100-hectare Tam Chuc Pagoda complex boasts greenery and peaceful scenery, making it an oasis for various bird species.

The pagoda put Vietnam firmly on the international Buddhist map when it hosted the UN Vesak Day in May 2019, celebrating the birth and enlightenment of the Buddha. Thousands of guests from more than 100 countries and territories attended the event. The pagoda dates back to Dinh Dynasty (968-980 CE), with its latest makeover not subtracting from its tradition.

By the end of 2020, passionate bird photographers Vo Rin, Nguyen Hong Huy, Ha Vu Linh and Nguyen Thuy Linh visited the pagoda. They are authors of this series of photos.

In the photo, gray herons fly over Tam Chuc Lake, considered a mini-version of UNESCO heritage site Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh Province, home to numerous small islets.

Linh, 27, said he was impressed with Tam Chuc's large grey heron population, comprising up to thousands.

Gray herons and large storks on their artificial island habitat.

The management board of Tam Chuc only allows visitors to travel around by boat and prohibits hunting.

Compared to other bird sanctuaries in Vietnam, Tam Chuc Pagoda's diverse habitat typically draws grey herons, fire herons, storks along with jays, pepper bananas and hawks

"On our survey trip, the team recorded nearly 30 species of birds in the area," said Vo Rin.

The Eurasian coot, also known as the Common coot, or Australian coot, is a member of the rail and crake bird family. The species lives in swamps and freshwater lakes and is now rare in Vietnam.

The team had to travel two hours by boat in the early morning to capture the grebe or Tachybaptus ruficollis.

Long-tailed Shrike, a shy bird, are about 25 centimeters long and have a long black tail, gray head, and brown back. They live in areas of over 2,000 meters above sea level.

Brown-headed leopard, about 12 centimeters long, usually live among grass or bushes.

During the trip, the group rose at 5:30 a.m. to prepare for a day of shooting, making use of electric bicycles en route.

Napothera crispifrons, an endemic species of Vietnam recorded in Tam Chuc. This species has an average size of about 20 centimeters and has a predominantly gray-brown color with many white, scaly feathers on the upper body, many large, dark stripes on the neck and light brown lower body.

"Through the series of bird photos in Tam Chuc, the group wants to convey the message of nature conservation, especially for rare species," said Nguyen Hong Huy.

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