I have written often about the wide contrasts experienced in Southeast Asia and Vietnam is a prime contributor. After my senses were somewhat blasted by the organized chaos of the land and floating markets, they were blissfully bathed in the serenity and natural elegance of our next stop: the Bang Lang Bird Sanctuary of Thot Not.
The grounds cover over 1.3 hectares (approximately 2.5 acres) of lush trees and grasses, Although it is known as a “stork garden” the majority of the birds belong to the heron family and there are over 150,000 birds making their homes in this beautiful haven. It is not a difficult area to get to, but in keeping with our rather unique modes of transport, after leaving the Mekong Princess at the riverbank we were all loaded onto open flatbed trucks for the short road to the sanctuary.
We were also given straw hats that served a dual purpose. It was extremely hot and sunny and the hats provided shade for our faces. Now I did have my trusty safari hat with me but I was very glad to be given the straw conical hat as the second reason will confirm: protection against kamikaze bird droppings – after all, with over 150,000 birds in an open area, the odds were against us going unscathed. Not my best millinery fashion, but perfectly functional:
For the first section of our visit we followed a winding, broken path that winds thru the center of the sanctuary, past streams and brush. By watching carefully I was able to catch white flashes of the bright plumage some herons foraging on the ground. These birds are very shy and I am not particularly adept at walking silently so there weren’t many opportunities to catch a photo. It was nevertheless lovely to just be walking through an area with no sounds other than birds, water and the gentle rustling of the slight breeze through the leaves.
The next portion was literally heaven, but of course to get there, once again there was a challenge – walking up a very rickety wrought iron winding staircase to get to a platform that was above the tree canopy. As with any precarious climb, my camera was safely tucked away, but this internet photo of a similar staircase gives you an idea of the spiral path to the sky:
Only a few of us opted to take the stairway to paradise. Up on top, there was no cover and the sun was a blasting furnace. It was worth every drop of sweat. Without further ado – here is a sampling of my view – with the help of my most beloved zoom lens:
Situated in a nest in the middle of the tree foliage was a mother “little white” egret and two very hungry babies. Enjoy as I did the typical exasperation of a mom whose kids won’t leave her alone:
Momma’s face in the last pick is priceless.
The next two appear to be immature plumed egrets:
Her are some gorgeously plumed egrets:
Those wispy white feathers you see are breeding plumage – used for attracting females.
My favorite are these – cattle egrets. They are smaller and more stocky that the ones above – but their short stature is more than made up by some spectacular coloring:
A bird in the hand…