Birding in Taiwan

 

 
Birding Stories

 

David Stirling

 

Macdonald Burbidge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr.Rob Butler

 

Karen Shih

 

Madelon Schouten

BIRDING TAIWAN, MAY 2–11, 2005 — A PERSONAL VIEW

 

George Clulow

 

Bill Keay

 

Simon Liao

 

Yang Chung-Tse

 

Allan Ridley

 

Hue Mackenzie

 

Hugh Currie

 

Kijja Jearwattanakanok

 

Peter Candido -

Re-Tern to Taiwan

 

Dave & Carol Roelen

 

Mark Wilkie

 

Phil Rostron

 

Héctor Gómez de Silva

Hanno Stamm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TAIWAN IN MAY

Taiwan, September 18–30, 2007

Hanno Stamm

Phan Thiet, Vietnam

Introduction:

Taiwan had never really figured very highly on our list of places to go birding in, I did not even know it had birds. However, I did come across a trip report by Mike Kilburn from Hong Kong on the BirdForum earlier this year, read up a little, and had lots of information material sent to me by Mark Wilkie, yet another BirdForum member who lives in Taiwan. One thing led to another, and soon enough Luong Thanh Ha, my wife, and I were booked on a flight to Taipei.

 

Books:

We used A Field Guide to the Birds of China by John MacKinnon & Karen Phillipps and a Chinese-language book Guide of Taiwan Wild Birds ISBN 957-9578-00-1 at NT$ 900.00, with bird names in English, obtained through the Wild Bird Society of Taipei. This book is easier to carry than the field guide; the only downside is that many of the bird names are antiquated. I also got Birdwatching in Taiwan ISBN 957-98751-9-7 at NT$ 600.00 from the latter, with a lot of useful information on birding sites. It was the Lonely Planet Guide to Taiwan that got us on the touristy things.

There is a complete list of books, as well as a lot of useful information on the "Stop Hushan Dam" Blog. If you have any interest in the bird and wildlife of Taiwan, this site deserves your fullest support.

Blog:

For a day-to-day account, go here: Taiwan Blog

Map:

For a map showing our travels, and some points of interest, go here:

Taiwan Map

Special thanks to Jing-Hong Lee who showed me how to make a map using "Google Map"©

Special note of thanks, and disclaimer:

Obviously, we have to thank Mike Kilburn, whose trip report got us thinking about Taiwan in the first place.

Mark Wilkie sent us tons of fliers and brochures on Taiwan in general, and birding there in particular. He also helped me a lot with all the splitting that has been going on over there, as well as with some of the insect ID's. Great stuff! And he likes a cold beer, what else can you ask of a bloke?

Jo Ann MacKenzie is the Chair of the Friends of Taiwan Associations (Canada West) as well as the Executive Secretary of the Taiwan International Birding Association (Canada). She was in charge of putting our program together and also did her bit to help us with Ha's visa.

Simon Liao helped us to put the trip together; Simon's help also was invaluable in securing the visa for Ha.

Ms. May of the Wild Bird Society of Taipei got us the books we needed.

Simon was also our guide, at least for the first few days' after which Jing-Hong Lee took over. Both are great birders; luckily they also enjoy good food. Lee is also more than just a capable driver, a fact appreciated by us both.

As mentioned earlier, the Taiwanese were fantastic throughout. From the 7/11 cashier to the guesthouse owner every single one went out of their way to make our trip an enjoyable one.

As usual, no trip would be fun without Ha at my side. The only annoying thing is that she is now a better birder than I am. Ah well, as long as she continues to make tea for me...........

 

 

18th of September:

The previous evening we had watched the weather forecast which had announced a tropical storm heading Taiwan's way. When we woke up this morning, the storm had grown into Typhoon "Wipha."  Whilst forecasted to just miss Taiwan, the weather was decidedly nasty, with very strong winds and heavy rain. Simon did nothing for our mood when he casually mentioned that it could rain like that for a week!

Anyway, the car was booked and we headed off for Huisun Forest Station in Central Taiwan. With the rain getting steadily worse, we stopped a couple of times to pick up provisions. The only birds seen during the trip were Black Drongo, Black Bulbul, House Martin nesting under a bridge, and a couple of very miserable and wet Large-billed Crows.

Once at Huisun, we checked into our brand-new, basic, but very clean, accommodation and headed for lunch. The meal was a highlight of the day, very good and enough to feed an army.

After that, we hang around (well, Ha slept) all afternoon, but the storm never did ease off. All that was left for us to do was have another fantastic meal and chug a couple of beers.

For once, we decided not to choose a "Bird-of-the-day", we didn't really see any birds.

 

19th of September:

We awoke to steady rain, but it had begun to ease off a little bit. From our window, we watched a feeding flock move through, with plenty of Grey Treepies, Black Drongos, a couple of Bronzed Drongos, a few Japanese White-eyes, and very brief views of a single Varied Tit, a stunning bird and a lifer for me. Finally some birds, and we decided to go on a trail that apparently is good for Swinhoe's Pheasant. Never did see them, nor anything else for that matter. We therefore decided to head back to the guesthouse, check out, and get some breakfast a bit further down the mountain.

I do not know what the place was called, but it is apparently famous for the coffee, and the peanut butter toast is great, but even better were the birds around there. As we are heading for brekkie, Ha spotted a few long-tailed birds crossing the valley and, sure enough, they were Formosan Magpies, at least six of them with one getting harried by a Besra. After this, things happened just at a rapid pace: we were still congratulating ourselves about our find (actually twice, we had to repeat the whole show for the journo), when the call of "Babbler" went up. A panicked fumbling for bins and, right in front of us, were two Streak-throated Scimitar-Babblers. Apparently, they are another sure split, if that hasn't been done already. Whilst still admiring the birds, Lee called out to us and we sprinted up the road. A stand of trees there was full of Black Drongos as well as a pair of Bronzed Drongos. Grey Treepies were everywhere, whilst the two Maroon Orioles were a lot harder to find.

After breakfast, Ha tried eggs boiled in Oolong tea and quite liked them, we hit the road once more towards Puli. It was a good morning for raptors, with Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Goshawk, and Chinese Goshawk encountered along the way. We also saw a single Taiwan Macaque, as well as a couple of introduced Common Mynas. Just before lunch, we stopped at a place that Simon knew and, sure enough, we saw two Dusky Fulvettas within minutes.

Lunch was a quick affair at a 7/11, easily one of the poorer meals we had during the trip, before it was on to Chingjing. A short stop produced a Black-naped Monarch, seen by Ha only, as well as a pretty male Plumbeous Water Redstart. By the time we checked in, the rain had started again. Nevertheless, we decided to head out again, heading for the famous "Blue Trail 1". Don't look for the blue gate that used to mark the start of the trail, apparently it was stolen a couple of weeks back. In spite of the drizzle, it was a good thing we did go, with Black-throated Tit, a single male White-tailed Robin, and a male Ferruginous Flycatcher. The first endemics of the afternoon were a group of 6 or so Taiwan Yuhinas, followed by a pair of Steere's Liocichla. Yellowish-bellied Bush-warblers were fairly common, but frustratingly difficult to get a glimpse of. After an Ashy Wood-pigeon overhead, we finished the day with two more endemics, White-eared Sibia and Taiwan Yuhina. All in all, not a bad day, rounded off with a decent feed and a couple of cold Taiwan beers.

"Bird-of-the-day" for Ha was Steere's Liocichla, I preferred the Streak-throated Scimitar-babblers, anticipating their split in the not too distant future.

 

20th of September:

After a good breakfast produced by the two Indonesian ladies working at the guest house, and hearing but not seeing Chinese Bamboo Partridge, we headed back to the "Blue Trail 1". A lot of the same birds as the previous afternoon, but Ha did see another endemic: Yellow Tit. Obviously, I was not the least bit envious of her! The Grey-headed Bullfinches seen just a couple of minutes later did not quite have the same appeal. However, great views of a pair of Pygmy Wren-babblers almost, but not quite, made up for missing the Tit. Back at the entrance to the trail, the air was full of Highland Red-belly Swallowtails, a Taiwanese endemic butterfly.

Just before lunch, we headed to "Blue Trail 2", but the weather was quite good and warm for a change and there were few birds, apart from a solitary Black Eagle. Lee did however chance upon a Formosan Salamander, a rare find indeed.

After lunch, we headed back to "Blue Trail 2". There wasn't much new here, but we did add a pair of Eurasian Nuthatches and had excellent views of a couple of Blue Shortwings, another probable split in the future. For one, it isn't even blue, but brown! A Ferruginous Flycatcher rounded off the day.

Ha obviously chose the Yellow Tit as "Bird-of-the-day", as I did not see it, I took the Shortwing. Not that I was in the least bit envious of Ha!

 

21st of September:

We woke up to a friendly-looking dawn and to what would prove one of the best days of the trip, not that we knew it then.

It started off well enough whilst we were having breakfast, with a very nice Bamboo Partridge being visible from the dining room window. The surrounding fields were crawling with Yellow Wagtails, with the odd Grey Wagtail and White Wagtail thrown in for good measure. Brown Shrikes were also all over the place, they would prove to probably be one of the commonest birds during the entire trip. As a matter of fact, we would end up distinctly disliking them, we just stopped too often for yet another one of them.

Back into the car it was, with a stop near "Blue Trail 1". Well worthwhile, as we had great views of Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, a gorgeous male Vivid Niltava, a few Eurasian Jays, loads of Black-throated Tits, and two to three Rufous-capped Babblers here. I also almost jumped out of my skin when I saw what I thought was a snake, turned out it was a Giant Earthworm, a good meter in length! Don't see many birds taking a shot at that!

From warm and sunny we climbed to foggy and bloody freezing. A sign at the Hehuan Pass announced just over 9 decrees Centigrade, but temperatures were forgotten as we got to the parking lot. Right in front of us were Taiwan, or White-whiskered, Laughingthrushes, Collared Bush-robins, about 10 Vinaceous Rosefinches, and 3-4 Alpine Accentors, all feeding on biscuits somebody had thoughtfully strewn about. Actually, "right in front of us" doesn't cut it, they were hopping around our feet! Absolutely awesome, not just because of the endemics, but apparently the last three birding groups had dipped on the accentors. An Eastern Crowned Warbler completed the cast.

A bit further down from the pass, I was fortunate enough to put my bins on a branch that two Golden Parrotbills chose to perch on for two seconds. Whilst heard by everyone, nobody else saw them. Whilst looking for the endemic Taiwan Bush-warbler, which we never would see, we did see a Brownish-flanked Bush-warbler, whilst a Spotted Nutcracker observed us from a nearby tree.

Thankfully, it did get warmer as we headed lower again, and we soon stopped for lunch. As I crossed the road, I saw a lot of birds in a tree behind the restaurant. Taking a closer look, the first thing I saw were two Taiwan Barwings. Luckily, everybody else also managed to get onto the birds and we proceeded with lunch, quite pleased with ourselves.

After lunch, we traveled a bit further before stopping in Cihen. Again, the trees were full of birds, we figured that they were all hungry after three days of miserable weather. A feeding flock here produced a few more goodies in the shape of two Yellow Tits, a bird I missed before, Grey-chinned Minivets, another Taiwan Barwing, and a Rufous-faced Warbler.

We took a short walk at Taroko Gorge. Certainly an impressive piece of landscape, it did not produce much in the way of birds, the river was way too swollen and turbulent. The only thing we saw here were a couple of Plumbeous Water-redstarts.

A fantastic day, which finished with Styan's Bulbuls just before we checked into the Leader Village Taroko. Done up in the style of a tribal village, it was actually pretty nice, and the food was great, both dinner and breakfast.

"Bird-of-the-day" for Ha was the Collared Bush-robin, I chose the Taiwan Barwing, not least of all because I actually spotted it first.

 

22nd of September:

We woke up to miserable weather, it was pouring down. We had a boat to catch, so we set off for Taitung. There were plenty of Spot-billed Ducks besides the road, as well as Common Myna. The latter are not tickable as they are an introduced species. The same was not true for the two male Common, or Ring-necked, Pheasants we saw on a farm near Taitung. Like most Europeans, I had seen plenty of those before, but never the real deal.

Due to the bad rain, we were late in arriving at Fugang Harbor, from where we would take the boat to Lanyu, or Orchid, Island. Not a big deal, as it was impossible to get lunch anyway, everything was sold out. This was the start of the long Mid-Autumn Festival weekend, and all boats to Lanyu and Green Islands were absolutely packed.

For Ha, not having lunch turned out to be a good thing, immediately after leaving the harbor the sea got very rough, and Ha tossed her cookies (as did a large proportion of the passengers). Staying indoors was not an option, it was absolutely freezing inside, and the smell of people being sick was soon overpowering. Luckily, I felt pretty good, and managed to add Wedge-tailed, Sooty, and Short-tailed Shearwaters to the list. I also saw two Flying Fish, a highlight for me as I had never seen one of those before.

Almost 3 hours later, the roller-coaster ride came to an end, not a second to soon for Ha, who by then had turned a lovely shade of green. We hopped onto the scooters that Simon had arranged and rode a couple of miles to our very basic hotel. We took a quick spin before dinner, and saw one of the birds we had come to Lanyu for: Brown-eared Bulbul.  After dinner, and with the weather marginally better, we hopped on our steeds again to a place Simon knew where, within seconds of arriving, we managed to connect with Lanyu Scops-owl.

A couple of contenders for "Bird-of-the-day", but Ha enjoyed the Common Pheasant most. I always particularly liked owls, the Lanyu Scops-owl was a foregone conclusion as my day's prize.

 

23rd of September:

The night ended none too soon. The weather looked better then it had for a few days and Ha and I headed to the beach across from our hotel. There were a few waders feeding off the garbage that was everywhere, including a Grey-tailed Tattler, a couple of Common Sandpipers, as well as a Pacific Golden Plover.

Simon lead us to the nearby Yakem Café for breakfast. Good choice, too: the owner spoke fluent English and served up a fantastic breakfast of steamed buns and fried eggs on toast. The food was so good that we went back there for an excellent Curry-chicken lunch later in the day.  Back on our trusty bikes to a nearby school, the lawn of which apparently attracts migrants. On the way we stopped at the Lanyu Airport and watched a Whiskered Tern quartering the airstrip. At the school we had the first unexpected bird of the day, a Little Curlew. This bird is certainly not common anywhere, and both Simon and Lee were well chuffed.

We continued our tour of the island, ticking off Pacific Reef Egret and Ruddy-breasted Crake along the way. We stopped off not far from where we had seen the scops-owl the previous night and a little search in the forest there came up with another Lanyu specialty, Philippine Cuckoo-Dove. Like all of its cousins it was actually bloody hard to find, sitting almost motionless and without a sound.

We stopped a wee bit further down the road to look for quail, without success, but Ha first found three Violet-backed Starlings and then a flock of about 15 Ashy Minivets, both not common birds in Taiwan. As a matter of fact, the Starlings were new for Simon. We also saw a few Grey-streaked Flycatchers, before checking out and heading back for the port. Ha listened to her husband for a change and took her motion-sickness pill and thus saw a couple of the shearwaters as well as flying fish on the way back.

That particular ferry stopped at Green Island as well and we did not make it back to the mainland until about 19:00.  We checked into the Golden Hill Village Hotel, a lot of mirrored glass outside but a rather nice room inside, and headed out for yet another excellent dinner.

Ha's "Bird-of-the-day" was Grey-streaked Flycatcher for some inexplicable reason,  I chose the Little Curlew.

 

24th of September:

Breakfast was not so good, at least not for a non-Asian; I never did manage to develop a taste for congee, or rice soup, but Ha was happy. Simon had heard Hwamei behind the hotel earlier, but we only turned up a pair of Plain Prinias when we looked for them.  Setting off, we first headed for the Jhihben Wetlands which were heaving with Brown Shrikes. However, we also heard a couple of birds singing their hearts out and, sure enough, they turned out to be what we had come for: Hwamei. As a matter of fact, Mark pointed out to me that this bird has already been split and is now Taiwan Hwamei, an added bonus.  The organizational demands of an impending conference required Simon’s return to Taipei, so we carried on with Lee.

After quickly adding Nutmeg Manikin to our trip list, we moved on towards Kenting, in the very south of Taiwan. We did stop so Ha could by some huuuuge Custard Apples and had lunch at yet another "Taiwan New Beef Noodle Soup". As the day progressed, the weather got worse and, by the time we reached Kenting, it poured down once again; the Black-winged Stilts by the side of the road were hardly more than outlines.

We got to the Kenting Youth Activity Center late in the afternoon, without any sign of the weather getting better. The rooms here were basic, but adequate, and the hostel itself is quite nice, styled as a traditional Chinese House.

We first headed for yet another great dinner in a restaurant found by Lee, and then for the Kenting Night Market. The place was absolutely heaving as it was still the long Mid-autumn-festival weekend. Ha had fun shooting things whilst Lee and observed thousands of Cattle Egrets migrating overhead, surely a good omen for the next day?!  A rather dull bird was unanimously elected "Bird-of-the-day": Taiwan Hwamei. After all, its looks belie its singing skills, and it was an endemic lifer.

 

25th of September:

I love all sorts of Asian food, but when it comes to breakfast I do admit to preferring the odd omelet with toast or two. It wasn't to be this morning and it was on a rather empty stomach, for me anyway, that we headed for the hills behind Kenting. The place is famous for migration, especially of Chinese Goshawk and Grey-faced Buzzard. There were plenty of birders around, but absolutely no birds, apart from a few Oriental Skylarks and a late Lesser Coucal. Apparently, the wind was just too strong that morning (we learned later that the next day 33,000 raptors passed through the next day!). Only a little disappointed, we had seen a number of raptors on the way already, we drove to Long Luan Lake, ticking off a Peregrine Falcon on the way.

It was really too early in the year for ducks and the only ducks we saw, apart from Spot-billed, were Mallards. There were hundreds of mostly Cattle Egrets in the reeds, and "new" birds seen here were Common Kingfisher, Oriental Reed Warbler, and a pair of Black-headed Munias.

Once again, the weather got worse during the day, apparently this turned out to be one of the wettest Septembers on record, and we kept on going for Tainan. A bit of a surprise was another Ring-necked Pheasant right next to the highway. It seemed very confused, running up and down the highway, and almost gave us all a heart attack when at one stage it flapped right into the middle of it! Luckily, it managed to get its bearings and disappeared in the undergrowth. The only other noteworthy bird for the rest of the day was a Black Kite crossing above us.

We checked into the Evergreen Plaza Hotel in Tainan. Very modern, very functional.  I hate to sound repetitive, but we had yet another great dinner near the hotel. After dinner, Ha and I went out for a little stroll. There were a lot of fireworks as this was the most important evening of the mid-autumn festival. I can understand why fireworks are illegal here in Vietnam, it is dangerous in crowded areas, but it still was fun to watch. Ha took care of our spiritual well-being and prayed in a Pagoda, and we headed back for a very comfortable night's sleep.

Not too much in the way of exotic birds, so we both took the Peregrine Falcon as "Bird-of-the-day".

 

26th of September:

I think I can safely say that we all had the best breakfast of the trip this morning. The choice was enormous and, whilst there was plenty of Asian food, there were excellent pastries, breads, eggs, cheese, cold cuts, yoghurt…  Sorry, got carried away there for a second.

A short drive found us in the Chigu Wetlands. The first Black-faced Spoonbills for the season had been reported here a day earlier, but we completely failed to see them. No surprise here, the area is huge.

There were, however, plenty of waders about, with Spotted Redshank, Long-toed Stint, Greenshank, Dunlin, and Wood Sandpipers all making an appearance. Really nice were a pair of Painted Snipe, but the highlight came when I was interviewed during a chance encounter with a journalist from  the "Liberty Times": I noticed movement in a bush behind the journo and we all got good looks of a Wryneck, apparently not a very common migrant in Taiwan.

Pretty happy with ourselves, we went a little further to Guantian, a known haunt of Pheasant-tailed Jacana. Sure enough, we spotted an adult and 2 fledglings from the hide. We also saw the only Cinnamon Bittern of the trip here.

The jacanas out of the way, we headed for an excellent lunch at the "China Northern Wheaten [sic] Product" in Chiayi. A small restaurant, the food was to die for. I absolutely stuffed myself on the Beef noodle soup and dumplings.

Somewhat bloated, we hit the car once again and tackled the climb up to Alishan (Shan means ‘mountain’ in Mandarin). The mountain is famous for being foggy most days of the year; it would manage to maintain its reputation that day as well. Luckily, the fog was not thick enough to prevent us from seeing a female Emerald Dove; Ha also got views of a Taiwan Weasel. On the way up, we also saw White-bellied Yuhinas as well as South-eastern (Taiwan) Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, another recent split from what used to be Grey-cheeked Fulvetta.

A little further it was Ha that struck again: she asked Lee to stop at a small waterfall to take a look at a Plumbeous Water Redstart, only to discover a Little Forktail! I just love going birding with her, a good eye and not a little luck have put me on many birds whenever I am with her.

It was Lee that got us onto the next prize bird though, a female Mikado Pheasant with a juvenile right next to the road. Greedy as I am I would have preferred to see a male, but seeing this species took a lot of pressure off Lee.

We headed back down a little again to check into the "Alishan Youth Activity Center". Not many youths, or much activity for that matter, but like its sister property in Kenting, the room, or rather bungalow, was very nice and impeccable. They even had free Wifi.

That evening we had hot-pot. One of Ha's favorite dishes, I am less of a fan but the rather coolish temperatures that prevailed made the meal actually quite enjoyable. I stuck to my usual "Taiwan Gold Beer", but Ha managed to secure a bottle of rice wine produced by the Aborigines and polished off most of it.

I think it was the rice wine that made Ha choose the Little Forktail as "Bird-of-the-day", I went with the "must-see-bird" up here, the Mikado Pheasant.

 

27th of September:

No breakfast, and both Ha and I had our problems with this morning's 04:30 start. Ha because she was feeling the effect of the rice wine she had drunk the evening before, I because shorts and short-sleeved T-shirt just were not enough for temperatures around the 13°C. mark. Regardless, there was birding to be done and Ha soon enough managed to catch up with a bird she had missed at the beginning of the trip, Varied Tit. A right smart bird, but regrettably outclassed by another Taiwan Endemic, two Taiwan Flamecrests. We visited the Tataka Visitor Center in the hope of getting something hot to drink. In vain, it was still closed, but we did see a single Mountain Hawk-eagle here. Another star bird was White-browed Bush-robin but we could have stayed in bed much longer, as the reason we got up that early did not show until 11:30: another Mikado Pheasant, but a male this time.

Back it was down to Guanghua village, stopping for a forgettable lunch on the way. On the very rare occasions that we had lousy food we were lucky enough to always find a 7/11 near by. Actually, not so much a matter of luck I guess, it has more to do with the fact that there must be thousands of 7/11's in Taiwan.

Anyway, a chocolate bar-and-a-half later we arrived at our home for the next two nights, the Firefly B & B. There are a number of home stays in the area, but I can certainly recommend this one. Not only is the owner, and his family, extremely nice; his wife is also a good cook, and the place is close to where Swinhoe's Pheasant and White-faced Flying Squirrels are found. As a matter of fact, the owner used to hunt the latter, but now protects them to the extent that the locals would reports us a number of times to him when they saw us birding in the area.

After a dinner that more than made up for the lousy lunch, we headed for the forest just behind our abode. Once there, we promptly came across a calling Mountain Scops-owl but the highlight, for me at least, were two White-faced Flying Squirrels. Cute little buggers, with their large, shiny eyes. We all had large, shiny eyes later that night as the home-stay owner threw a little party with copious amounts of rice wine (Ha and Lee) and beer (yours truly).

Ha did take the Mikado Pheasant as "Bird-of-the-day" today, for me it was the Flamecrest.

 

28th of September:

Off for another shot at Swinhoe's Pheasant. I was getting seriously tired of the road leading into the forest. It is very steep, very narrow, and the locals that use it as an access to the famed Oolong tea plantations do not exactly drive slowly. To distract myself, I read up on Mountain Scops-owl when the unimaginable happened: a pair of Swinhoe's Pheasants crossed the street in front of us. Ha and Lee got brief looks, I missed it completely. I am not a hardcore birder, I like my beer too much for that, but I must admit that I started chewing my arm in frustration at that point.

We continued to drive and walk up and down that bloody road the whole day, without so much as a whiff of the pheasants. Taiwan Partridges were pretty vocal early on but, as usual, impossible to see. The White-tailed Robins, a species I only know as a shy skulker, were exactly the opposite; at times it seemed there was one on every bush and prominent branch. The only bird even more common here were very noisy White-eared Sibias.

Still somewhat ticked off, (me, not Lee or my wife, but then they did see the BLOODY PHEASANTS, DIDN'T THEY!!!!!) we headed back for lunch. The "boss" as everyone seemed to call our host, suggested that we head for a nearby temple; he felt that few people had seen the pheasants without praying there first. Desperate times call for desperate measurers and I burned my share of joss sticks.

I guess my accent screwed things up, as we did not see the pheasants that afternoon. However, it was not a complete wash-out. Lee left Ha and me on foot, and we walked up and down a few times, without seeing anything to exciting. Completely knackered, we sat down by the road and, for want of anything better to do, I played the partridge call. We almost jumped out of our skins when we heard a reply, and some rustling, right next to us. Encouraged, I played the tape again (and please, no lectures on using tapes here) and sure enough, a bird flew across the road and settled on the other side. The two seconds we had before it flew back and disappeared were enough to make sure that it was indeed a Taiwan Partridge.

Not a completely miserable day after all. We finished it off by visiting the bamboo grove behind the restaurant where we soon discovered dozens of fluorescent mushrooms, a really ghostly sight. Makes you understand how people come to believe that there is "something out there".

"Bird-of-the-day" for both of us was the Taiwan Partridge. Ha had seen the pheasants in the morning, but she felt the views were to brief to give it the coveted prize.

 

29th of September:

We had French Toast of all things, Lee had showed the boss's wife the previous day how to prepare that, and then it was off for a last try at the pheasants. Once more, we hit the road but, after a couple of times up and down, Lee let us out at a trail head. It was very hot and there weren't many birds. We did come across another Flying Squirrel that gave us the evil eye from its hole, but maybe it was just annoyed at all the mosquitoes.

Just before the end of the trail, something (fate, movement out of the corner of my eye, or the prayers the previous day?) made me train my bins at the road below and if there wasn't a pair of Swinhoe's Pheasants right there! Luckily, I managed to get Ha onto them before a car came along, I would have had serious doubts about my sanity otherwise (it was hot).

Not much birding for the rest of the day. Instead, we went back to the temple to thank for the good luck, drove to Lukang to check in at the Leader Hotel Lukang, which was not quite as nice as its sister hotel in Tienhsiang Village. Obviously, I celebrated the pheasants, and the partridge, with a couple of beers in the back of the car.

In the evening we had the pleasure of meeting up with Mark Wilkie, a chap who was of incredible help in getting this trip organized. I felt a bit sorry for him, as I had promised him a nice dinner, but there was some misunderstanding by Lee and we ended up having Chinese food. Ah well, next time.  The beer was cold and, if I remember correctly, we had fairly large amounts of it.

Mark is involved (correct me here if I am wrong, Mark) with the "Wild at Heart Defense Association, Taiwan". Like everywhere, they are facing an up-hill battle in protecting the environment and wildlife, from the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin to the Fairy Pitta.

There can be absolutely no doubt about the "Bird-of-the-day", it has to be the Swinhoe's Pheasants for both of us.

 

30th of September:

Lordy, did I feel rough this morning! Nothing to do with the 17 beers the previous evening, I suspect that there is too much formaldehyde in the beer, that tends to be the reason for the odd hang-over I have here in Vietnam anyway.

We headed for the Kao Mei Wetlands for the last official birding of the trip. It was absolutely boiling that day; luckily Lee was decent enough to go and get a bit of the old "hair-of-the-dog" for me (but the following sightings were all confirmed by Lee). Feeling much better, we first watched the antics of the thousands of Monk Crabs, so called as their grey color recalls the robes of the Buddhist monks. There were a large number of Common Tern, a few Far-eastern Curlews, and at least 2 Saunders’ Gulls amongst all the Black-headed Gulls. We also had a fast fly-over by an ibis. I first dismissed it as an introduced  Sacred Ibis but, after some reflection, am not so sure anymore as it did not show the black trailing wing edge the former should show. Would anyone out there care to comment on the likelihood of Black-headed Ibis?

Well scorched, we got under way to Taipei. We did stop at Shin Shie village and, finally, got onto another endemic we had been desperately looking for, Taiwan Whistling Thrush. Only a juvenile, but at least we had it out of the way. I could hear the stone that dropped of Lee's heart.

Back at the Grand Hotel in Taipei, we were knackered and, after biding farewell to Lee, decided to have dinner in the hotel's restaurant. The food, and views of Taipei at night, were fabulous.

Another unanimous decision on the "Bird-of-the-day": Taiwan Whistling Thrush, the last endemic, and indeed new species, we would add to our list.

 

Summary

We saw a 157 species, not bad as it was too late for the summer visitors, and too early for the winter ones. We also saw 17 endemics out of currently 18 (there might be the odd split down the road), only missing the Taiwan Bush-warbler, an almost impossible-to-find bird when not singing.

Feel free to contact me for any additional information at: hannostamm(at)hotmail.com.

List of Birds seen:

(Bold = Taiwan Endemic)

1

Little Grebe

Tachybaptus ruficollis  

2

Bulwer's Petrel

Bulweria bulwerii  

3

Wedge-tailed Shearwater

Puffinus pacificus  

4

Sooty Shearwater

Puffinus griseus  

5

Short-tailed Shearwater

Puffinus tenuirostris 

6

Gray Heron

Ardea cinerea   

7

Great Egret

Ardea alba   

8

Little Egret

Egretta garzetta   

9

Pacific Reef-heron

Egretta sacra   

10

Cattle Egret

Bubulcus ibis   

11

Black-crowned Night-heron

Nycticorax nycticorax   

12

Malayan Night-heron

Gorsachius melanolophus   

13

Yellow Bittern

Ixobrychus sinensis   

14

Cinnamon Bittern

Ixobrychus cinnamomeus   

15

Mallard

Anas platyrhynchos   

16

Spot-billed Duck

Anas poecilorhyncha   

17

Oriental Honey-buzzard

Pernis ptilorhynchus   

18

Black Kite

Milvus migrans   

19

Crested Serpent-eagle

Spilornis cheela   

20

Crested Goshawk

Accipiter trivirgatus   

21

Chinese Goshawk

Accipiter soloensis   

22

Besra

Accipiter virgatus   

23

Black Eagle  

Ictinaetus malayensis   

24

Mountain Hawk-eagle  

Spizaetus nipalensis   

25

Peregrine Falcon

Falco peregrinus   

26

Taiwan Partridge

Arborophila crudigularis   

27

Chinese Bamboo Partridge

Bambusicola thoracicus   

28

Swinhoe's Pheasant

Lophura swinhoii   

29

Mikado Pheasant

Syrmaticus mikado   

30

Ring-necked Pheasant

Phasianus colchicus   

31

White-breasted Waterhen

Amaurornis phoenicurus   

32

Ruddy-breasted Crake

Porzana fusca   

33

Common Moorhen

Gallinula chloropus   

34

Pheasant-tailed Jacana

Hydrophasianus chirurgus   

35

Greater Painted-snipe

Rostratula benghalensis   

36

Black-winged Stilt

Himantopus himantopus   

37

Pacific Golden-plover

Pluvialis fulva   

38

Little Ringed Plover

Charadrius dubius   

39

Snowy Plover

Charadrius alexandrinus   

40

Greater Sandplover

Charadrius leschenaultii   

41

Common Snipe

Gallinago gallinago   

41

Little Curlew

Numenius minutus   

43

Whimbrel

Numenius phaeopus   

44

Far Eastern Curlew

Numenius madagascariensis   

45

Common Sandpiper

Actitis hypoleucos   

46

Green Sandpiper

Tringa ochropus   

47

Gray-tailed Tattler

Tringa brevipes   

48

Spotted Redshank

Tringa erythropus   

49

Common Greenshank

Tringa nebularia   

50

Wood Sandpiper

Tringa glareola   

51

Ruddy Turnstone

Arenaria interpres   

52

Long-toed Stint

Calidris subminuta   

53

Dunlin

Calidris alpina   

54

Black-headed Gull

Larus ridibundus   

55

Saunders' Gull

Larus saundersi   

56

Whiskered Tern

Chlidonias hybrida   

57

Common Tern

Sterna hirundo   

58

Rock Pigeon

Columba livia   

59

Ashy Wood-pigeon

Columba pulchricollis   

60

Oriental Turtle-dove

Streptopelia orientalis   

61

Red Collared-dove

Streptopelia tranquebarica   

62

Spotted Dove

Streptopelia chinensis   

63

Philippine Cuckoo-dove

Macropygia tenuirostris   

64

Emerald Dove

Chalcophaps indica   

65

Lesser Coucal

Centropus bengalensis   

66

Mountain Scops-owl

Otus spilocephalus  Heard

67

Lanyu Scops-owl

Otus elegans botelensis

68

Silver-backed Needletail

Hirundapus cochinchinensis   

69

House Swift

Apus nipalensis   

70

Common Kingfisher

Alcedo atthis   

71

Taiwan Barbet

Megalaima nuchalis

72

Eurasian Wryneck

Jynx torquilla

73

Gray-capped Woodpecker

Dendrocopos canicapillus   

74

Gray-faced Woodpecker

Picus canus   

75

Oriental Skylark

Alauda gulgula   

76

Bank Swallow

Riparia riparia   

77

Barn Swallow

Hirundo rustica   

78

Pacific Swallow

Hirundo tahitica   

79

Asian Martin

Delichon dasypus   

80

Striated Swallow

Cecropis striolata   

81

Richard's Pipit

Anthus richardi   

82

White Wagtail

Motacilla alba   

83

Yellow Wagtail

Motacilla flava   

84

Gray Wagtail

Motacilla cinerea   

85

Ashy Minivet

Pericrocotus divaricatus   

86

Gray-chinned Minivet

Pericrocotus solaris   

87

Collared Finchbill

Spizixos semitorques   

88

Styan's Bulbul

Pycnonotus taivanus   

89

Light-vented Bulbul

Pycnonotus sinensis   

90

Brown-eared Bulbul

Ixos amaurotis   

91

Black Bulbul

Hypsipetes leucocephalus   

92

Flamecrest

Regulus goodfellowi   

93

Alpine Accentor

Prunella collaris   

94

Blue Rock-thrush

Monticola solitarius   

95

Formosan Whistling-thrush

Myophonus insularis   

96

White-browed Shortwing

Brachypteryx montana   

97

Zitting Cisticola

Cisticola juncidis   

98

Yellow-bellied Prinia

Prinia flaviventris   

99

Plain Prinia

Prinia inornata   

100

Brownish-flanked Bush-warbler

Cettia fortipes

101

Yellowish-bellied Bush-warbler

Cettia acanthizoides

102

Oriental Reed-warbler

Acrocephalus orientalis   

103

Eastern Crowned-warbler

Phylloscopus coronatus   

104

Rufous-faced Warbler

Abroscopus albogularis   

105

Gray-streaked Flycatcher

Muscicapa griseisticta   

106

Asian Brown Flycatcher

Muscicapa dauurica   

107

Ferruginous Flycatcher

Muscicapa ferruginea   

108

Vivid Niltava

Niltava vivida   

109

White-browed Bush-robin

Tarsiger indicus   

110

Collared Bush-robin

Tarsiger johnstoniae   

111

Plumbeous Redstart

Rhyacornis fuliginosa   

112

White-tailed Robin

Cinclidium leucurum   

113

Little Forktail

Enicurus scouleri   

114

Black-naped Monarch

Hypothymis azurea   

115

Taiwan Hwamei

Garrulax taiwanus

116

White-whiskered Laughingthrush

Garrulax morrisonianus   

117

Steere's Liocichla

Liocichla steerii

118

Spot-breasted Scimitar-babbler

Pomatorhinus erythrocnemis

119

Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler

Pomatorhinus ruficollis   

120

Pygmy Wren-babbler

Pnoepyga pusilla   

121

Rufous-capped Babbler

Stachyris ruficeps   

122

Taiwan Barwing

Actinodura morrisoniana   

123

Streak-throated Fulvetta

Alcippe cinereiceps   

124

Dusky Fulvetta

Alcippe brunnea   

125

Taiwan Grey-cheeked Fulvetta

Alcippe morrisonia   

126

White-eared Sibia

Heterophasia auricularis   

127

Taiwan Yuhina

Yuhina brunneiceps   

128

White-bellied Yuhina

Yuhina zantholeuca   

129

Golden Parrotbill

Paradoxornis verreauxi   

130

Black-throated Tit

Aegithalos concinnus   

131

Coal Tit

Periparus ater   

132

Green-backed Tit

Parus monticolus   

133

Yellow Tit

Macholophus holsti   

134

Varied Tit

Sittiparus varius   

135

Eurasian Nuthatch

Sitta europaea   

136

Plain Flowerpecker

Dicaeum concolor   

137

Fire-breasted Flowerpecker

Dicaeum ignipectus   

138

Japanese White-eye

Zosterops japonicus   

139

Lowland White-eye

Zosterops meyeni   

140

Maroon Oriole

Oriolus traillii   

141

Brown Shrike

Lanius cristatus   

142

Long-tailed Shrike

Lanius schach   

143

Black Drongo

Dicrurus macrocercus   

144

Bronzed Drongo

Dicrurus aeneus   

145

Eurasian Jay

Garrulus glandarius   

146

Formosan Magpie

Urocissa caerulea   

147

Gray Treepie

Dendrocitta formosae   

148

Eurasian Magpie

Pica pica   

149

Eurasian Nutcracker

Nucifraga caryocatactes   

150

Large-billed Crow

Corvus macrorhynchos   

151

Chestnut-cheeked Starling

Sturnia philippensis   

152

Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Passer montanus   

153

White-rumped Munia

Lonchura striata   

154

Nutmeg Mannikin

Lonchura punctulata   

155

Chestnut Munia

Lonchura atricapilla   

156

Vinaceous Rosefinch

Carpodacus vinaceus   

157

Gray-headed Bullfinch

Pyrrhula erythaca   

                                           

 

 

List of Mammals:

Taiwan Macaque

Macaca cyclopis

Formosan Red-bellied Squirrel

Callosciurus erythraeus yaiwanensis

Formosan Striped Squirrel

Tamiops martinicus formosanus

White-faced Flying Squirrel

 Petaurista alborufus lena

Taiwan Weasel

 Mustela formosana

Sika Deer

 Cervus nippon

And Toads, Tree frogs, Formosan Salamander, Japaluras, Giant Earthworm, gazillions of Butterflies and Moths..........