Welcome to Birding in Taiwan
INTERNATIONAL TAIWAN BIRDING ASSOCIATION 臺灣國際觀鳥協會
|Birding in St.Lucia|
May (7)8–20, 2007
TRIP REPORT: BIRDING IN TAIWAN,
November 6–18, 2007
Leaders: Simon Liao and Jo Ann MacKenzie
Text and photos: Jo Ann MacKenzie
Endemic species in BOLD
Taiwan is a mountainous island in the South China Sea, about 175 km (110 mi.) off the Chinese mainland. The forested beauty of the island led Portuguese sailors in 1590 to call it Ilha Formosa, meaning “Beautiful Island.” The Tropic of Cancer passes through the southern part of the island.
Tuesday, Nov. 6 Taipei to Dasyueshan
After picking up participants in Taipei and early-morning arrivals at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, we headed south. It was raining (which continued off and on all day), a remnant of a late-season typhoon in the Philippines. We stopped for some breakfast, and later, for fruit and snacks at Dongshih, then continued up the Mt. Tahsueh Road with birding stops at kilometre 15, elev.1000m where [Taiwan] Hwamei, Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler, Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Collared Finchbill, Rufous-capped Babbler, Plumbeous Redstart, Striated Heron, Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, Grey Wagtail were seen; at kilometre 23 (White-eared Sibia, Vivid Niltava, and a heard-only Collared Owlet that refused to come closer and show itself) and kilometre 35 (White-backed Woodpecker, Green-backed Tit and Black-throated Tit, another Striated Heron and a large black endemic subspecies of Staghorn Beetle, Dorcus titanus sika). Farther along, a works crew was cleaning up a post-typhoon mud-slide that partially blocked the road.
Arriving at Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area (not raining), we began walking Trail 210 (1860m; (6100 feet) elevation, seeing Mikado Pheasant at close range, about one kilometre from the trailhead. A Large Hawk-cuckoo was heard calling. It was late afternoon; the light was beginning to fail, so we returned to our van and began the drive farther up to our lodging. We’d not gone far when a male Swinhoe’s Pheasant walked out of the forest and began to forage in the roadside vegetation. We watched it for several minutes; it ignored us. Both major pheasants on the first afternoon! Elated, we continued to the Snow Mountain Resort (elev. 2275m; 7,470 ft.) and our cabins.
Wednesday, Nov. 7 Dasyueshan
We did some pre-breakfast birding in the visitor area, having excellent views of several Taiwan Barwing, White-eared Sibia, Taiwan Yuhina, Flamecrest, White-whiskered Laughingthrush, Steere’s Liocichla, Black-throated Tit, Green-backed Tit, Varied Tit, Coal Tit (crested race P. a. ptilosus) Eyebrowed Thrush, Pale Thrush, Eurasian Nuthatch, Blue-and-White Flycatcher, and a fly-by Crested Goshawk. The temperature at 6 a.m. was 15°C (59°F).
After breakfast, we drove up to Hsaiolaishan (Shiaosyueshan), at 2600m (8,530 ft.) to look for species of higher elevation. We walked service roads finding Collared Bush-Robin, Red-flanked Bluetail, Eurasian Nutcracker, Eurasian Jay, Large-billed Crow and Gray-headed Bullfinch. Rain began again, making it difficult to see anything. Birds sought shelter, and so did we, paying a visit to the park office, where we draml hot tea while looking at photos of some of the birds and animals of Dasyueshan, including a recent photo of Formosan Black Bear, Selenarctos thibetanus formosanus. It is good to know that some native bears remain in the forest. The left-over rain from the Philippine typhoon continued to make birding difficult for us for the rest of the day. After supper, the rain stopped, and Northern Boobook (Brown Hawk Owl), White-faced Flying Squirrel, Large Red Flying Squirrel and Reeves Muntjac (Barking Deer) were heard. More rain off and on all night.
Thursday, Nov. 8 Dasyueshan to Huisun
No rain this morning, so we returned to Trail 210. We had a good morning, with more Steere’s Liocichla, White-browed Bush-Robin, Pygmy Wren-Babbler, White-browed [Taiwan) Shortwing, an astonishing 17 Rusty Laughingthrush in a single flock, Black-throated and Green-backed Tit, White-tailed Robin, and Eurasian Nuthatch.
In the late morning, we left Dasyueshan and descended to the lowlands, with birding stops along the Mt. Tahsueh Road on the way. During one stop, a flock of 50 House Swifts and 6 Silver-backed Needletail circled overhead. During another stop at a stream, we saw Formosan Magpie, Brown Dipper and more Taiwan Barwing. Reaching Taichung city, we stopped for lunch, then continued on to Huisun Forest Station, arriving in the late afternoon. We birded the area around the entrance, looking (unsuccessfully) for Maroon Oriole, which had nested close by in the spring. We continued on to our rooms, birding the grounds until dark. Returning from the restaurant after supper, a Mountain Scops-Owl called from the trees, and we eventually got good looks.
Friday, Nov. 9 Huisun to Aowanda
In the early morning, a Malayan Night-Heron adult foraged on the lawn opposite our building. Gray-chinned Minivets worked the trees; a Little Egret visited the pond; two Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers called from the undergrowth. We checked out of our rooms and moved down to the coffee shop for breakfast. While thick toast and excellent locally grown coffee were being prepared, we watched Daurian Redstart, Black Bulbul, White Wagtail, Gray-capped Woodpecker, Black-naped Monarch and Bronzed Drongo. A Mountain Hawk-Eagle passed overhead. After breakfast, we drove farther down; Great Mormon Swallowtail, Papilio memnon heronus butterflies fed in the ornamental plantings around the forest station entrance.
We continued on to Aowanda National Forest Recreation Area, stopping to look at a recently-dead Big-eyed Rat Snake, Zaocys dhumnades on the road. Taiwan has many snake species, but we seldom see any. Arriving at Aowanda, a climb up the trail beside Naoliao Creek to the Galloping Waterfall produced two Little Forktails, while Plumbeous Redstarts patrolled the creek below. We watch the trees near the park entrance, seeing Yellow [Taiwan] Tit, Taiwan Yuhina, Formosan Magpie, Gray Treepie, Gray-cheeked Fulvetta, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Japanese White-eye, Eurasian Jay, Large-billed Crow. After supper, we saw a Northern Boobook (Brown Hawk Owl) in a tree near the restaurant.
Saturday, Nov. 10 Aowanda to Tienhsiang
Morning birding at Aowanda. We left the park, and as we passed Wanda Reservoir, we stopped for Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler and Rufous-capped Babbler. We also had close looks at Moltrecht’s Tree Frog Rhacophorus moltrechti and Swinhoe’s Frog Rana swinhoana in the roadside ditch. We continued on, and up; lunch in Chingjing. Going on, we entered the western gate of Taroko National Park, stopping at Wuling (“Big Wind”) elev. 3,275 m (10,750 ft.), the highest point of the cross-island highway, for White-whiskered Laughingthrush and Alpine Accentor. On the drive eastward down through the park, and to lower elevation, we saw four Chinese Bamboo Partridge and an Arctic Warbler. We arrived at the Leader Village Taroko Hotel in Tienhsiang after dark. A Northern Boobook was heard calling during the night.
Sunday, Nov. 11 Tienhsiang to Taitung
Before leaving Tienhsiang, we turned back a short distance in the park to walk the famous Marble Gorge part of the Taroko Gorge. The marble walls of the steep-sided canyon were spectacular; we saw three Formosan Whistling-Thrushes, a Plumbeous Redstart and many House Swifts during our walk. Before exiting the park, we paused at the Visitor Center where we saw our first Styan’s Bulbuls, an endemic species confined to the extreme east and south of Taiwan. Several Hummingbird Hawk Moths Macroglossum bombylans, fed in lantana ornamental plantings. (Distance from western gate of park at Wuling to the Visitors Center/Park Headquarters: 90 km; 56 miles).
Leaving the park, we turned south. By the time we reached Hualien city, it was lunch time. We had excellent wonton soup, while watching the staff make more wontons as fast as they could. We kept going south; past the Tropic of Cancer monument. Along the way, we saw introduced Common and Javan Mynas. In the late afternoon, we searched the grassy fields of the Taiwan Sugar Company property near Chihshiang, finding five native Ring-necked Pheasants. A continued search discovered a very large migrating flock of over 100 pipits, a mix of Pechora and American Pipits. We kept watching until evening darkness made it impossible to see more. We continued to Taitung, a seafood supper, then the Golden Hill Village B & B for the night.
Monday, Nov. 12 Taitung to Kenting
We went out early to bird the grounds, seeing the first of many introduced Jungle Mynas. The Taiwan Air Force began take-off and landing practice at 07:00; the runway was within sight of our B and B. It was good that we were already awake!
We spent the morning birding the Licha trail above Taitung city, seeing eight Chinese Bamboo Partridge, Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, Black-naped Monarch, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Crested Serpent-Eagle, Crested Goshawk, Eurasian Kestrel, Long-tailed Shrike, Blue Rock-Thrush, many Styan’s Bulbul, and an Emerald Dove. The morning was sunny, but in the afternoon, the sky clouded over and the seasonal northeast winds began to blow strongly. We continued on to Kenting, and walked to the Long Luan Tan Nature Center in Kenting National Park. From the Center’s long window, we saw many distant Tufted Ducks and some Spot-billed Ducks on Long Luan Tan (“tan” = “lake”). The lake’s water level appeared to be unusually high. After the Center closed for the day, we proceeded to the Kenting Youth Activity Center for the night. This is a charming, yet modern complex built in the architectural style of old China.
Later, back the hotel, an endemic Formosan House Gecko scampering about on an exterior wall.
Tuesday, Nov. 13 Kenting to Kuangtselin
We returned to Long Luan Tan’s east end at 06:30, and were astonished to find the lake water level was indeed very high and the harvested rice fields under so much water that waterfowl—“Chinese” Spot-billed Duck, Anas poecilorhyncha zonorhyncha (which lacks any red at the base of the bill), and Garganey, Common Moorhen and Eurasian Coot—were swimming over the fields. A large flock of Tufted Ducks were seen in the distance. Usually, this end of the lake has a little water, and is a good spot for crakes, waterhen, etc. but there was too much water, the fields having become an extension of the lake. Great Egret and a Purple Heron stalked the edges. An Osprey and a Common Kingfisher flew by. On a sandbar in the distance, Common Greenshank, Common Sandpiper; Little Ringed Plover fed. Styan’s Bulbuls were plentiful in the trees.
At 08:00, we returned to the hotel for breakfast, then checked out and went to Sheding Nature Park, an upland area of Kenting National Park. In spring, during the migration of the Gray-faced Buzzard, a raptor monitoring station is active in this area. In March, our driver and companion for this part of the tour, Lee Gin-hong, is in charge of the station. In mid-November, there was comparatively little raptor movement; just two Chinese Goshawk, a Japanese Sparrowhawk, a single Oriental Honey-buzzard, a Eurasian Buzzard and five Eurasian Kestrel. In the grass, we found five Richards’ Pipit, 20 Oriental Skylark and a Siberian Stonechat. Blue Rock-Thrushes stood on walls and buildings here and there. Another Arctic Warbler foraged in a small tree. Brown Shrikes perched on fence posts. Returning to the shore, we walked to the “Southernmost Point of Taiwan” marker, noticing five endemic Taiwan Large Grasshoppers, Chondracris rosea, 10cm (4 inches) long in the vegetation.
With its sun, white sand beaches and cerulean blue water, it’s no wonder that Kenting is popular with beach tourists. Kenting National Park, Taiwan’s first national park (of six) was opened on Jan. 1, 1984. It covers 333 sq km of land and sea, and is known for its diversity: mountains, forests, lakes, sand dunes, beaches and coral reefs.
After lunch, we drove north, we watched for any migrant starlings or other open-country species. We found a flock of 20 White-shouldered Starlings (wintering from the Chinese mainland) near Madan village; not quite what we had hoped for, but a good sighting nevertheless. We continued up into the hills to Kuangtselin for the night.
Wednesday, Nov. 14 Kuangtselin to Tainan
From Kuangtselin, it was a short trip to Green Mountain in the Tsengwen Dam area. We walked the road to the dam; along the way finding White-eared Sibia, Dusky Fulvetta, Gray Treepie, Bronzed Drongo, White-bellied Yuhina, Black Bulbul, Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, and after much patience, six Spot-breasted Scimitar-Babblers. In moist undergrowth, almost hidden, was a dragonfly, a Red Percher, Neoruthemis ramburii ramburii. After lunch, we headed for Kwantien to the Pheasant-tailed Jacana Reserve where we stayed until dusk, watching 18 Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, a mix of Great, Intermediate, Little and Cattle Egrets; Black-crowned Night-Heron, Chinese Pond-Heron, Yellow Bittern, a juvenile Black Bittern (considered Vagrant in Taiwan); Ruddy-breasted Crake; Eurasian Wigeon and Teal; Mallard (uncommon in Taiwan), Northern Pintail, Garganey and Northern Shoveler; Common Moorhen, Common Snipe; and Gray Wagtail. We drove into Tainan city for a comfortable night at the Evergreen Plaza Hotel.
Thursday, Nov. 15 Tainan to Kwanghua
After breakfast, we had help during the morning from a local birder Phillip Kuo, who is also Chairman of the Wild Bird Society of Taiwan. We drove to the Black-faced Spoonbill Reserve at Chiku, where much of the world population of Black-faced Spoonbill winters. That morning’s official count was 808 spoonbills. Also in the lagoon and nearby wetlands were hundreds of egrets and herons, 15 Saunders’ Gulls (a wintering species in Taiwan), Black-headed Gull; Gull-billed, Whiskered and Caspian Tern; Black-bellied Plover; three Asian Dowitcher, Far-eastern Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Gray-tailed Tattler, Common Greenshank; Spotted and Common Redshank; Marsh, Wood, and Curlew Sandpiper; Ruddy Turnstone, and Red-necked Stint as well as three Eurasian Magpies.
After lunch, we headed inland and up, toward Alishan, but going only as far as Kwanghua village. The purpose of coming here is to search for Taiwan Partridge, and we were successful. We walked the road through the forest at dusk and found 4 of these very shy birds. Night at the Firefly B & B.
Friday, Nov. 16 Alishan
We drove higher, to the Alishan National Forest Recreation Area, where we had another chance for high-mountain species. We found three Mikado Pheasants (1 male and 2 females), Gray-chinned Minivet, Blue Rock-Thrush, Scaly Thrush, Yellowish Bellied Bush-Warbler, Rufous-faced Warbler, Vivid Niltava, Collared Bush-Robin, Daurian Redstart, White-tailed Robin, Black-naped Monarch, White-whiskered Laughingthrush, Steere’s Liocichla, Streak-throated and Dusky Fulvetta; White-eared Sibia, White-bellied Yuhina; Black-throated, Green-backed and Yellow [Taiwan] Tit; Plain and Fire-breasted Flowerpeckers; Eurasian Nutcracker, Brambling, Large-billed Crow and White-rumped Munia. Night at the Alishan Youth Activity Center.
Saturday, Nov. 17 Alishan to Changhua
In the morning, we drove higher, to the Tataka Recreation Area, elev. 2600 m (8,536 ft.), in Yushan National Park, looking for Golden Parrotbill, but without luck. We did see White-bellied Pigeon, Olive-backed Pipit; Japanese and Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler; Rufous-faced Warbler, Collared Bush-Robin, Steere’s Liocichla, Rufous-capped Babbler, Taiwan Barwing, Gray-cheeked Fulvetta, Coal Tit (crested race), and more Green-backed Tit.
We left the high mountains and returned to lowland habitats. In Changhua county, we birded a farming area at Huatan, where the damp post-harvest rice fields produced Watercock (very much unexpected), Ruddy-breasted Crake, Little Ringed Plover, Common Snipe, Wood Sandpiper; and Yellow, Eastern Yellow and Gray Wagtails. The shrubby edges of the fields held Yellow-bellied and Plain Prinia; Brown and Long-tailed Shrike; Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Nutmeg Mannikin; wintering Black-faced Bunting and Siberian Rubythroat. Our last night in Taiwan was at the Formosa Hotel in Changhua.
Sunday, May 20 Changhua to Taipei
Back to Taipei in the morning, and back to drizzling rain. This was a relaxed day of sightseeing at the Taipei 101 Building, and a little shopping. After supper, it was time to go to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport for our flights home after a very successful trip.
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Fourteen of the 15 endemic species were seen. Taiwan Bush-Warbler was missed.
The total bird species for the tour was 187.