IN TAIWAN, NOV. 8–17, 2004
Simon Liao and Ten-Di Wu
Jo Ann MacKenzie, except as noted
(E) = Endemic
Taiwan is a mountainous island in the
South China Sea, about 160 km (100 miles) off the Chinese mainland.
The forested beauty of the island led Portuguese sailors in 1590 to name it
Ilha Formosa, meaning “Beautiful
Island.” The tropic of Cancer passes through the southern part of the
had intended to go to An Ma Shan Forest Reserve, where we had been so
successful in November, 2003, for our high mountain habitat days. However,
severe typhoons in August and September destroyed road access to that area,
making An Ma Shan temporarily inaccessible. We went to the Meifeng area, in
pronounced “sahn”, means “mountain” in Mandarin.)
Monday–Tuesday, Nov. 8–9 Day 1
The EVA Airways flight from Vancouver, BC, Canada arrived about 5:30 a.m., Nov. 9, having departed
night before. After loading our gear into our small bus with the aid of our
helpful driver, Mr. Chen, we set off southward toward Taichung, where we
would pick up co-leader, Ten-Di Wu. As soon as the early morning light
permitted, our birding began. Black-crowned Night-Herons streamed overhead,
heading inland to spend the day. In rice paddies along the way, there were
Grey Herons, Great and Little Egrets. High above the right-hand side of the
bus a Black-faced Spoonbill was flying parallel with us.
After Ten-Di joined us, we turned east, leaving the heavily populated
western plains, and beginning to climb. We noted Red-collared Dove and
Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Crested Myna, Black Drongo,
Light-vented Bulbul, and Pacific Swallow.
we arrived at the Atayal Resort in the Huisun Forest Station, elevation 770
m (2530 feet). Moments after leaving the bus, we saw our first
endemic, two Formosan Magpies (E) in the trees beside the parking
area. Within a few more minutes, we spotted a Malayan Night-Heron under
small trees at the edge of the forest on the mountainside. That was
followed by Daurian Redstart.
afternoon, we went up the steep path (200 steps) on the slope above the
resort and into mixed deciduous-conifer forest. We came out onto a gravel
roadway, with another path continuing steeply upward. Taking that path, we
found Ashy Wood-Pigeon, Black-browed Barbet and Gray-capped Woodpecker.
Small birds seemed to be everywhere. We descended the high path and began
to walk up the less steep rough roadway. There was much to see:
Gray-chinned Minivet, Grey Treepie, 14 Black Bulbuls, Pale Thrush, Rufous-capped
Babbler, White-bellied Pigeon, and White-bellied Yuhina. Eight Chinese
Bamboo Partridge burst from the narrow ditch beside the roadway,
disappearing into the undergrowth.
The late afternoon light was fading, so we turned around and started down.
Suddenly, far ahead, there was a male Swinhoe’s Pheasant (E) on the
road! Elated, we returned to the resort for supper.
November 10 Day
2 Huisun to Chingching
we gathered on the road above the resort. In the far distance, a Mountain
Scops-Owl was calling. We trekked up the 200 steps into the forest area
that had been so productive the previous afternoon. Our early start was
rewarded with 3 Swinhoe’s Pheasants (E)! Two more Formosan
Magpies (E) seemed to follow us, sometimes accompanied by Gray Treepies.
There were more Gray-cheeked Fulvettas, Black Bulbuls, Green-backed Tits,
Varied Tits, Japanese White-eyes and House Swifts overhead. Two Maroon
Orioles flew out from the forest edge, and immediately back in again; a
quick glimpse for only part of the group.
After breakfast, we left Huisun Forest Station. Our destination was high
mountain habitat in the Meifeng area, but to get there, it would be
necessary to go down, then back up by another route, passing through the
city of Puli, the approximate geographic centre of Taiwan. We stopped in a
scrubby area outside of Puli to search among graves and along field edges
for Golden-headed Cisticola, but were not successful.
Following lunch in Wushe, we detoured farther east to Auwanda National
Forest Recreation Area, elev. 1200 m (3900 feet). The stream was being
patrolled by a pair of Plumbeous Redstarts. We also saw Emerald Dove,
Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Crested Serpent-Eagle, a flock of Taiwan Yuhinas
(E), 1 Yellow Tit (E) (often hard to find); Fire-breasted
Flowerpecker, Black-browed Barbet, more Gray-chinned Minivets, Winter Wren,
and Large-billed Crows.
Continuing on, we arrived at Chingching, and the Chingching Resort Hotel,
elev. 1750 m (5740 ft.) after dark.
November 11 Day 3
Blue Gate Trail; Hehuan Shan
5:30 a.m. start for the Blue Gate Trail in the Meifeng area, known locally
as Hsuiyen (water) Trail because of the black plastic water pipes (some
leaking), alongside of the trail. Mud! We had not gone far when a
male Mikado Pheasant (E) shot across the trail. Unfortunately, it
was seen only by 3 people, and we did not find another. Other than that
disappointment for some, we had a very productive morning: Taiwan
Partridge (E) heard only, its far-reaching, rather
mournful call unmistakable; White-eared Sibia (E), Taiwan Yuhina (E),
Collared Bush Robin (E), Taiwan Barwing (E), Steere’s Liocichla (E),
Pygmy Wren-Babbler and White-browed Shortwing (both possible
endemic-species-to-be), both skulkers and hard to see, Vinous-throated
Parrotbill, Golden Parrotbill (Ten-Di only), Plain and Fire-breasted
Flowerpeckers, Ashy Wood-Pigeon, Brown Bullfinch, Rufous-faced Warbler,
Grey-faced Woodpecker, Gray-chinned Minivet, Eurasian Nuthatch, Asian
Stubtail, Yellowish-Bellied Bush-Warbler, Vivid Niltava, Rufous-capped
Babbler, Eurasian Jay. Arguably the best sighting of the morning was a
flock of 54 White-throated Laughingthrushes.
After 4 hours, we boarded our bus and drove higher, to the Hehuan Shan (Mt.
Snow) Forest Recreation Area, elev. 3275 m (10,750 ft.), the highest
elevation of the tour, and just inside the western edge of Taroko National
Park. We looked up at the summit of Hehuan Shan, at 3461 m (11,360 ft.).
During some winters, there is enough snow here for skiing. Birds were
scarce; the first we saw, Vinaceous Rosefinch and White-whiskered
Laughingthrush (E), were foraging beneath vehicles in the parking lot.
We bought a hot lunch from one of the mobile canteens that operate
(illegally) in the park. Another parking lot produced another Vinaceous
Rosefinch and a Winter Wren. We spent some time watching trees in the
coniferous forest behind a park Visitors Centre. This paid off with
excellent views of Flamecrest (E), Coal Tit, Green-backed Tit, and
Yellow Tit (E).
the afternoon, we stopped for a 2nd lunch at the Flying Eagle
Restaurant. We didn’t see any flying eagles, but one particular tree held
Taiwan Barwings (E) and Gray-cheeked Fulvettas. Across the
road, on the shrubby hillside was a Streak-throated Fulvetta.
November 12 Day 4
Chingching to Douliou
After an early breakfast, we spent an hour birding scrubby areas around the
hotel and nearby farms. We had good looks at male and female Siberian
Rubythroat, a Ferruginous Flycatcher, Striated Prinia, more Vinaceous
Parrotbills and Steere’s Liocichla (E).
we had not yet found Black-throated Tit, we returned to the Blue Gate
Trail. However, thinking that our chances were better in a more open area,
birded along the road. For a few minutes, we noted 6 White-throated
Needletails wheeling and circling over the valley on the east side of the
road. The birds were flying at about our eye-level and in the sunlight, we
could see the well-defined white throat patch on one of the birds. We
assumed that all 6 were that species.
After a couple of hours and not finding Black-throated Tits, we turned
around, drove back through Chingching, and headed for lower elevations. The
Chingching area is shown on maps as Chingching Farm, actually several farms
on both sides of the road. There are orchards, and it’s the only farming
area in Taiwan where cows and sheep are found. It’s reminiscent of
Arriving at historic Lukang at lunch time, we went to a restaurant
specializing in oyster fritters, with “house” sauce. The restaurant was
near the Matsu Temple, dedicated to Matsu, Goddess of the Sea. After lunch,
we visited the 400-year-old temple, which contains an original image of
Meijhou Matsu, thought to possess strong spiritual powers. Following a
coffee/tea break at a shop down the street, we headed out to Hambao, for
the western coast at Hambao, the seasonal (fall through spring) northeast
wind was blowing strongly. Viewing the
mudflats on the sea side of the concrete dike was difficult. We did
better looking inward, at the impoundments: Northern Lapwing, Pacific
Golden-Plover, Black-bellied Plover; Little Ringed Plover, Mongolian Plover,
Common Snipe, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper,
Gray-tailed Tattler, Ruddy Turnstone, Long-toed Stint, hundreds of Dunlin,
and 1 Ruddy-breasted Crake seen from a blind.
Our accommodation for the night was the very comfortable Metro Hotel in
November 13 Day 5
Douliou to Tainan
made an early start for the lowland forest of Mango Valley, Pillow
Mountain. Along the road into the valley, we saw another Malayan
Night-Heron. We walked along the small, quiet stream that flows through the
valley bottom, noting tadpoles and small crabs in the water. The morning
was very warm and humid. We saw Dusky Fulvetta, Rufous-capped Babbler,
Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler and Black-naped Monarch. A Formosan
Whistling-Thrush (E) announced its arrival with a piercing
the Aougo (Aouwu) Wetland, there were Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe,
many herons, egrets and ducks, hundreds of waders: Common Moorhen,
Black-winged Stilt, Pacific Golden and Black-bellied Plover; Little Ringed
and Snowy Plover; Mongolian Plover, Common Redshank, Greenshank; Marsh,
Green, Terek and Common Sandpipers, Red-necked Stint, hundreds of Dunlin
again, many Black-headed Gulls and 4 Saunders’ Gulls on the bank of the
Dongshuh River, Caspian Tern, Whiskered Tern, and White-winged Tern.
the uplands, there were a Lesser Coucal, Pale and Brown-headed Thrushes,
Yellow-bellied and Plain Prinias, Brown and Long-tailed Shrikes, and
Supper was at the 109-year-old Tantsi Noodle House in Tainan. The tiny
noodle house was very crowded, with diners including us at low tables on the
street. Delicious food; unusual ambiance.
November 14 Day
Tainan to Kenting
After breakfast, we headed out to the Tsengwen River estuary, where 617
Black-faced Spoonbills were wintering. This flock represented approximately
half of the world population. It was good to see so many people, including
children, taking an interest in this globally endangered species.
the afternoon, we went to the Kwangtien (Guantian) Wetland to see
Pheasant-tailed Jacana. There was a group of students there, too; again, it
was good to see the interest shown by these young people. Outside the
reserve, on farm fields, there was a Ring-necked Pheasant and several
Leaving Kwangtien, we had a 2-hour drive south, across the Tropic of Cancer,
to Taiwan’s tropical far south. After checking into the Police Resort, and
supper, we strolled through the Night Market.
November 15 Day
7 Kenting to Chiayi
Styan’s Bulbul (E) is found only in the extreme south and east of
Taiwan. This endemic is easy to find. Like the very common Light-vented
Bulbul, Styan’s can be found in Kenting city, and in the countryside.
National Park (Taiwan’s first, established in 1984), the Visitors Center has
a long glass wall looking out onto Long Luan Tan [Lake], and is well
equipped with a row of spotting telescopes for visitor use. The walkway to
the building lies among trees, where we found Hwamei and Asian Brown
With staff member Mr. Yi-jung Tsai, we walked most of the distance around
Long Luan Tan [Lake]. Some of the birds seen were Gray Heron, Purple Heron, 1
Black-faced Spoonbill, many Eurasian Teal, Spot-billed Ducks and Tufted
Ducks, Slaty-legged Crake, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Common Moorhen, Eurasian
Coot, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Black-winged Stilt, Pacific Golden-Plover,
Common Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Oriental Skylark, Richard’s Pipit,
American Pipit, Blue Rock-Thrush, and Plain Prinia. There was a brief,
light rain shower during our trek, the first rain on the trip.
Our group gradually split into two. The first group arrived at the place
where our bus was waiting. While scanning distant fields, the second group
noticed a Common Kingfisher, struggling in what appeared to be netting, just
above the surface of a pond. Ten-Di immediately set off running across the
field to see what could be done. It was quickly apparent that 3 birds,
Common Kingfisher, Common Snipe and Yellow Wagtail, illegally netted on
private land, were struggling for their lives, nearing exhaustion and in
danger of drowning. Many other birds had already drowned, entangled in the
netting which had fallen into the water under the weight of the trapped
birds. Ten-Di waded into the deep water and cut the netting holding
the 3 survivors. He returned to the dike with the birds, which we
carried back to the bus where the rest of the netting was cut away.
was released immediately; the kingfisher and snipe were returned to the
Visitors Center to recuperate before release.
Mr. Tsai led our further explorations of the park and the Kenting Forest
Recreation Area, beneath the distinctive 316 m high, sharp peak of Taichien
After lunch, we left Kenting and drove north to the Inda Eco-farm, near
Wanluan in Pingtung County, to look for Black-naped Oriole, another southern
Taiwan speciality. We were successful within 2 minutes! After further
exploration of the farm, we continued on to Chiayi.
November 16 Day
8 Chiayi to Changhua
Early morning visit to the Tsengwen Dam area, elev. 250 m on the lower
slopes of A Li Shan. As we walked the road toward the dam, we were
successful at last with Collared Finchbill (2), Maroon Oriole (4), and a
skulking Spot-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, flushed into view by a friendly dog
that had followed us up the road.
Late afternoon birding followed, in and around farm fields of Huatan, south
of Changhua city. In the open rice stubble fields with shrubby edges and
wet spots, we found Zitting Cisticola, Greater Painted-Snipe, Nutmeg
Mannikin and Ruddy-breasted Crake.
November 17 Day 9
Leaving Changhua, we proceeded north. Arriving in Taipei, we had a shopping
opportunity at the extensive Chinese Handicraft Mart.
After lunch, we drove beyond the northern edge of the city into Yangmin Shan
National Park. The overcast gave way to heavy rain and wind, thwarting
further birding. We retreated to the shelter of the park headquarters, and
the office of Mr. Kuang-Ying Huang, Conservation and Research Division,
where we saw mounted specimens of some of the birds and animals of the
park. After supper, it was time to return to Chiang Kai-Shek International
Airport for the return flight to
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saw 13 of 15 endemic species and heard another (Taiwan Partridge).
Taiwan Bush-Warbler (missed) is virtually impossible to find
except in the breeding season.
The total bird species for the trip was 168; 164 seen, 2 heard only, and 2
seen by a leader only.
5560 Linscott Court, Richmond, BC, Canada, V7C 2W9.
Taiwan Birding Association,