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Taiwan – Formosa – The beautiful island

The spectacular Taiwan Blue Magpie was seen several times during the tour

Set departure tour

14-25 November 2004

Leader: Keith Barnes

“Remember those bird tours when after hours of tramping along trails, soaking wet, freezing cold or steaming with sweat and aching all over,  you've asked yourself...`and I paid to do this?'  Well, do yourself a favour and do Taiwan with Tropical Birding. Its `Absolute Bloody Luxury'. No humping up and down endless trails, long extensive death marches and up hours before sunrise to get to the birds. Taiwan is fabulous with tons of birds, dynamic endemics and you'll get the lot under the leadership of Keith. I was expecting maybe only a handful of the endemics on their last trip and we saw them all with relative ease and not just one Swinhoe's Pheasant, but a whole shed-load. Missed only a grotty Bradypterus warbler of dubious speciation!! All these great birds with a superlative infrastructure, luxury hotels and scrumptious food. Thanks to Tropical Birding, Keith and Yvonne. Now, where else do they do tours?” Ian Sinclair – near-legendary bird trip leader and author of African bird books.

Trip Report

Summary

Taiwan combines an eclectic mix of phenomenal south Chinese montane birding, 14 endemic species and nearly 60 endemic sub-species - several of which are ripe for splitting - and extraordinary food, ancient culture mixed with a people that could not be more inviting and friendly. A typical island, what it lacks in diversity it more then makes up for in endemicity. On this tour we managed 14 endemics and a host of endemic sub-species in a triplist of 184. Undoubted highlights included a staggering 14 Swinhoe’s Pheasants in one hour. We think this is some kind of world record, and one we don’t think we will ever repeat, but needless to say, we saw these birds exceptionally well. Some of the group also nailed Mikado Pheasant fleeing from the path and Taiwan Hill Partridge, both extremely tricky species. The bevy of endemic babblers were also fantastic including Steere’s Liocichla, Taiwan Yuhina, White-whiskered Sibia, Taiwan Barwing and White-whiskered Laughing-thrush. The striking Taiwan Yellow Tit did not fail to mesmerise, and although we saw it commonly in one locality we never saw it again. As we climbed higher into the cool but crisp mountains the ruby-red neck and throat patch of the Collared Bush Robin became a daily feature and we also got to see the most impressive Kinglet in the world in the form of the spectacular Flamecrest, a surprisingly beautiful bird. As we reached the lowlands of the east coast, we were able to find the increasingly endangered Styan’s Bulbul. Although common, it is unfortunately being hybridised out of existence by the Light-vented Bulbul, which is moving farther and farther south. We eventually caught up with the electric blue Taiwan Whistling Thrush. After a few days of it singing sweetly from the bushes we were able to feast on it in an open riverbed. The final endemic, seen on the first and last days, was the giant Formosan Blue Magpie. This marvellous beast hangs around in imposing flocks of 8 – 15 and they came bounding out of the forest like woodhoopoes on steroids. In the lowland rivers non-endemics specialities included a few Little Forktails and Brown Dippers negotiating their way through the waterways. A major highlight was a large flock of roving Golden Parrotbill that we were extremely lucky to locate in the high mountains, as well as the curvaceous Streak-breasted and Spot-breasted Scimitar Babblers. Taiwan is also famous as a flyway, and migrants formed a significant proportion of our tally including the highly endangered Black-faced Spoonbill, of which we saw over 200 birds, some 25% of the global population and Saunder’s Gull, another threatened species. In the mountains, migrant thrushes featured and we scored with Dusky, Brown-headed, Pale and Eye-browed Thrush which were joined at the fruiting trees on a couple of occasions by the dazzling resident white-headed Taiwan-endemic subspecies of Island Thrush. We finished off with the now famous Malayan Night Heron’s in Taipei Gardens on a bumper-filled tour that was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Introduction

Although Taiwan is best known for its political defiance of mainland China and cheap electronics shopping markets of Taipei, and is commonly thought of as wall-to-wall industrialised and full of people, these ideas represent a tiny portion of this island nation. Although the west coast may meet some of these perceptions, what is not commonly known about Taiwan are the extensive and rugged wilderness areas of the interior and east coast, including some of the most stunning mountain landscapes in Asia.  Taiwan is a continental island, formed by the action of tectonic plates on the eastern edge of the Asian shelf; this dramatic uplift has given it the most remarkable topography. Although only 400 km long and 150 km wide, the island rises from a shallow western coastal plain to reach 4000 m a.s.l. at its highest peak.

Lying on the tropic of cancer, the coastal lowlands are distinctly tropical, warm and muggy, but with over 15 peaks that reach above 3000 m a.s.l., the interior of the island comprises a series of concentric vegetation bands that terminate in temperate coniferous forest and arctic-like alpine tundra at the highest limits. In winter the highest peaks are blanketed in snow and ice, where only accentors are brave enough to endure. At 35 800 km2, this small island is about one quarter the size of England. An important part of the Asian flyway, Taiwan attracts a variety of migrants and accidentals, which have led to it having an impressive birdlist of over 400 species. Although there are many impressive endemics, the best time to visit the country is November, when many of the migrants are present.

14 Nov. Taipei. Although today was officially an arrival day, those that made it early got to enjoy one of Taipei’s great new outdoors spots, the Kuan-Du Nature Park. Handed over to the Wild Bird Society of Taipei (WBST) by the city government, the NGO group has done a phenomenal job at turning it into a state of the art recreation and education area for the people of Taipei city and it is a pretty useful place to start a birding tour if you are stuck in the city for a few hours. Although the ponds hold typical and common species like Little Grebe and Grey Heron, it also holds a few unusual ones as this was one of the few places we saw Yellow Bittern, Common Snipe, Common Kingfisher, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Oriental Reed Warbler and most importantly Vineous-throated Parrotbill. We also saw many common waterbirds for the first time including Little Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron, Eurasian Wigeon, Eurasian Teal, Spot-billed Duck, Gargany, Northern Shoveller, Common Moorhen and Eurasian Coot. Oriental Turtle, Spotted and Red-collared Dove were also all seen well for the first time. After we had picked up the last of the participants we headed to a nearby hotel, enjoying the first of our many escapades on the Taiwan food front.

15 Nov. Shimen Dam. Up early today we headed to some forest surrounding the dam and recreation area. We started looking for a couple of the lowland forest endemics but first came up trumps with a few commoner forest birds such as the immaculate Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler and Red-headed Tree Babbler. A Black Kite soared over the water and we located our only Great Cormorant of the trip as well as our first Crested Goshawk soaring above the canopy. The calls of the much sought after Taiwan Hill Partridge emanated from way up the hill slope but we were lucky enough to get glimpses of a Chinese Bamboo Partridge scurrying away in the understorey. The staccato “troook-troook-trook-trook” call of a barbet gave away the Black-browed Barbet. Called the many-coloured bird in Mandarin, this is an apt description of this green, blue, red and black beauty! A flock of spectacular and noisy Grey Treepies were located and soon thereafter the highlight on the morning (and for some the trip) a flock of 10 Formosan Blue Magpies came barrelling out of the forest. We followed these exquisite creatures for a while. Being nearly 65 cm long from tail to tip they resembled a group of woodhoopoes on steroids! The serene and melancholy call of a White-tailed Blue Robin gave away a superb electric-blue male….stunning creature. Above it a small mixed species flock comprised a male Black-naped Monarch and both Dusky (Gould’s) and Grey-cheeked Fulvettas, along with a White-bellied Yuhina and Japanese White-eye. Both Light-vented and several hundred Black Bulbuls were feeding in a fruiting tree. We located a singing Formosan Whistling Thrush, but obtained only the briefest views before it scuttled away.  We also found a Yellow-browed (Inornate) Warbler, a scarce passage migrant and several Large-billed Crows and Tree Sparrows. After a sumptious lunch we headed for the central island town of Puli, the gateway to the mountains. Approaching the hills, one can’t help but be impressed by the huge mountains that cloak Taiwan’s interior, covered in mixed conifer and broadleaved woodland, they are as striking as they are enticing. The river held many hirundines, particularly big groups of Barn Swallow and Plain Martin, but intermingled were a few Pacific and Striated Swallows. We first explored some agricultural scrub which is surprisingly birdy, nailing a pair of Barred Buttonquail was one of the highlights. We were able to flush these birds several times for superb flight views of both male and female. We also encountered White, Yellow and Black-backed Wagtail and Brown Shrike and Black Drongo here. The wetlands around Puli were great and one of the prize finds was a Cinnamon Bittern that exploded from some nearby reedbeds. The wetlands also revealed Common Kingfisher, a flushed Water Rail and White-breasted Waterhen and the locally scarce Black-winged Stilt, Common Sandpiper and Red-necked Stilt. After dark we tried a spot for some owls but got skunked, so we retired to Puli satisfied with the day’s bag!

16 Nov. Wushe Area. Another predawn wake-up because we were making our way into the higher mountains to look for a whole lot of new and interesting goodies. Our first stop produced Fire-breasted Flowerpecker almost immediately. A group of Olive-backed Pipits foraged on the open lawns in earnest, and we were able to scope these for classic looks before a mixed flock of Little Swift and Asian House Martins flew overhead. Later we located our first White-bellied Pigeon of the trip. Walking along a spectacular stream that carved its way through the steep-sided granite we found a Grey Wagtail and then the much sought-after Little Forktail. The most diminutive of this exclusive Asian group of river birds the little pied male stood on a large boulder in the middle of the torrent. Pink legs standing out, we all soaked up this little jewel. A mixed species flock started making its way through the red, brown and yellow leaves of the fall trees, and soon it was hard to find the Grey-chinned Minivets as their spectacular yellows-and-reds did not contrast with the trees! Other members in the flock included the sweet little Rufous-faced Warbler and the rufescent and sapphire Vivid Niltava. A gully with a billboard of a Swinhoe’s Pheasant got pulses racing, and we did see some great endemics but no pheasants. A group of noisy Steere’s Liocichla passed close by with some fulvettas before we nabbed a spectacular white-whiskered Taiwan Sibia and comically-crested Taiwan Yuhina. A tit flock proved spectacular, resulting in a virtual clean sweep of the Paridae on the island. The one everyone remembers is the fantastic crested Taiwan Yellow Tit. But we also encountered a flock of 30-odd Black-throated Tit, Green-backed Tit and a few immaculate chestnut and grey Varied Tits, which were joined by a Eurasian Nuthatch and Eurasian Jay. Another stop near a stream and an idyllic pool yielded another Little Forktail, which we were able to show to a couple of Taiwanese who showed appropriate excitement and then located a Plumbeous Water Redstart which wagged its tail from side to side in typical fashion and a very co-operative male Snowy-browed Flycatcher. This superb little understorey bird flitted backwards and forwards, fearlessly returning to the same perch time and time again. A large raptor could be seen above the trees and soon we identified it as an Oriental Honey Buzzard soaring overhead. On our way down the hill we heard and then located the bizarre Collared Finchbill – a bulbul with the beak of a finch – as well as a spectacular singing male Siberian Rubythroat that showed in the open for some time….absolutely dazzling! A Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler called incessantly and responded very well to tape but never showed for any length of time before slipping back into the thick undergrowth! Pulling into Wushe our local expert took us into an unspectacular looking restaurant (not one I would have chosen) but we enjoyed what turned out to be a delicious lunch of sweet & sour fish, black-bean chicken, sizzling black beef and a variety of tofu and bean-sprout dishes that defied description. I guess that is one thing birding the east provides…spectacular meals in the most fascinating places!

            Feeling somewhat bloated and in need of a walk, shortly after lunch we wondered around town and while looking for a Formosan Whistling Thrush quickly found Blue Rock Thrush and a tree full of Eye-browed and Pale Thrushes. I had been somewhat concerned as my contacts on the ground had reported that precious few migrating passerines were around, but obviously the large front a few days ago was bringing a windfall, and we were to encounter more migrant passerines over the next few days! Our last stop for the day was in some farmland near Wushe where we took a lot of time and tape-playing to get a Hwa-mei out of cover; eventually it showed well for all to see. The area also yielded a superb male Daurian Redstart and as it was nearing dusk we located a small covey of Chinese Bamboo Partridge heading off to roost and we were lucky enough to get some decent views, before we headed off up the hill in anticipation of our first serious attempt at the endemic pheasants tomorrow!  

The dainty and spectacular Taiwan Yellow Tit was seen today and on no other day on the trip.

17 Nov. Wushe Area. Another early start was needed to be tracking pheasants at dawn. We drove for about 40 minutes in the dark, flushing a Taiwan Whistling Thrush (which no-one saw except me!) before arriving at the designated pheasant spot. One can normally count yourself lucky if you see one or two pheasants in a morning, four would be exceptional, and 14 would be…..well, a world record! We saw 14 Swinhoe’s Pheasants in a little under one hour by driving quietly along a private track (that very few people know about), which hardly has any disturbance and where the birds are safe from hunters. From point blank range we had males, females and youngsters of all sizes and descriptions. The males are the stars of the show though, with their brilliant sapphire-and-white plumage contrasting with the scarlet face and legs. Shortly after parking the car we found a White-bellied Pigeon perched overhead. A fair game of cat-and-mouse progressed before we saw our first red-necklaced Collared Bush Robin, fortunately we were to locate this species several times throughout he day. Stunned and overjoyed by our pheasant success, we made for a walking trail through some forest where we were to locate several seldom seen birds (although none endemic). The first was a flock of Rusty Laughing Thrush. We soon discovered that they were constantly returning to a bush low-down in the forest that was fruiting with red berries. Chasing after a pair of calling Spot-breasted Scimitar Babblers, which showed themselves to people with varying degrees of success, we returned to the fruiting shrub which was attracting both the Rusty Laughing Thrush and Spot-breasted Scimitar Babblers for spectacular extended looks. A Yellowish-bellied Bush Warbler kept us entertained momentarily before we started waltzing up the trail. A huge flock of small birds started crossing the trail. Immediately eliminating Black-throated Tit because of the jizz, my heart started racing and we stormed up the path towards them. Upon arrival my suspicions were confirmed, a flock of over 30 exquisite Golden Parrotbills shot across the road at quite a pace. Although they never remained in one place for long I was delighted as I was a lifer for me. The group indulged me! Next we located some Taiwan Partidge that were extremely close. Although not everyone saw them, several people got good looks. A small flock with all the regular tits, nuthatches and jays moved through and we located a couple of gorgeous Taiwan Barwings gleaning away on the treebark. We were rapidly cleaning up the endemics. Moving slowly down the hill and back towards lunch, I heard the tell-tale wavering warble of a White-browed Shortwing. Tracking through the undergrowth and playing tape I eventually managed to lure the bird out momentarily for all to see. We caught up with another new bird before lunch, a Grey-faced Woodpecker that called. Lunch and a short rest followed before we headed out to a different site, where we located huge flocks of Ashy Woodpigeon. Although we located many species we’d seen previously we were starting to look for the needles in the haystack, the rare birds of the mountains and first we located a beautiful White-backed Woodpecker high in the tree and a little later before calling it a day, we saw one of my favourite birds in Taiwan, the diminutive, cute and strange tail-less Pygmy Wren-babbler. Dancing across the ground like a miniature pitta, the scales across the breast were captivating and this was a grand finale for perhaps the best day on the tour! We also happened upon another Swinhoe’s Pheasant to turn it into a 15 pheasant day! Dinner was another fine feast of oriental cuisine.

The beautiful Taiwan Sibia was one of the day’s babbler highlights

18 Nov. Wushe - Hohuanshan.

Because today we were headed to the top of the pass at Mt. Hohuanshan, we thought we better wait a little while for it to warm up, which proved to be a wise decision. We started the day in some lower montane forest in an effort to see Mikado Pheasant (which we dipped!), but we did add Besra and a flock of smart Brown Bullfinch to the list. As it warmed up we moved through the stunted upper forest and scrub before reaching the conifer zone. This extremely beautiful area is graced with sweeping vistas of most of Taiwan’s impressive 3000 m tall peaks, all covered in forest and glades. Our first stop almost instantly yielded our main target bird, the White-whiskered Laughing-thrush along with a very co-operative Winter Wren that refused to get off the boardwalk we were walking on and then a pair of white-eyed Streak-throated Fulvetta. On our way back to the car, Ian Sinclair picked up the call of a Goldcrest-like bird and soon we had nailed the dazzling, red-and-yellow, grey and white-spectacled Taiwan Flamecrest! Much buoyed we headed for the vendors at the top of the hill who sell extra-hot Mr. Brown’s Coffee and hot noodle-soup from the back of their trucks. We enjoyed the infusion of warmth while enjoying the dramatic view, but not before we had three Alpine Accentors scamper across the road and we had to slam on breaks for them. For the rest of the day we searched for the Taiwan form of Russet Scrub Warbler (considered an endemic species Alishan Bush Warbler by some) but we turned up only Coal Tit and a scarlet male Vinaceous Rosefnch.

19 Nov. Wushe - Hualien.

Essentially a travel day we stopped along the road up to Mt Hohuanshan looking for species that we still needed. Amongst the more common doves, tits and babblers we located a couple of Pale Thrush and a new one, Brown-headed Thrush, near some fruiting trees. Moving on we bumped into some Taiwanese birders and exchanged notes. They quickly showed us a digi-scoped photo of the local and very rare endemic white-headed race of Island Thrush that they had just seen. We asked them where it was and in typical Taiwanese hospitality they walked back along the way they had come to show us the spot. No sooner had we all arrived and a pair of Island Thrushes landed in a fruiting tree and showed well for a period of five minutes for all to see. This was a serious bonus bird on this trip and not one I had been expecting at all. The white-head, chestnut throat and breast, make this form unlike any other Island Thrush, and it seems to be a very strong contender for species status, the Taiwan Thrush! Further up the hill we located Eurasian Siskin and Grey-headed Bulfinch before heading over the top of Mt Hohuan. On the lower slopes we made for the exceptionally scenic Taroko Gorge where there are many spectacular rivers, torrents and forested streams and one of these eventually yielded a pair of Brown Dipper. Dropping through Taroko is exceptional. Termed one of Asia’s seven wonders, it is truly a magnificent setting and no-better place to see the endemic Styan’s Bulbul. Unfortunately this species is being hybridised with the Light-vented Bulbul and its range is slowly being forced farther and farther south. Just before lunch we rounded a corner and perched in the centre of the road was a Dusky Thrush!! The last of the regular migrant thrushes we needed. After a picnic lunch on the sides of the gorge we made our way to the coastal lowlands of Hualien, where the open seashore and grassy areas provided Eurasian Kestrel, Snowy (Kentish) Plover, Oriental Skylark and Zitting Cisticola. We spent the night in this quiet country town and our Yvonne (Tropical Birding’s own Taiwanese!) joined us for the next two days. She ordered up a sumptious meal that comprised Dim-sum dumplings, Hot-and-sour soup and something George decided he could not live without! The meals were simply spectacular when she was around!

20 Nov. Hualien-Taitung.

Now needing only a handful of lowland birds we made for one of the lowland forest reserves on the east coast. Apart from having to do some serious negotiating to get in, because they had closed the park for renovations we had an excellent time locating several flocks of fulvettas, babblers and tits. In amongst the flocks were the birds we sought including repeat views of Black-crested Monarch and White-bellied Yuhina that some had missed earlier but four new species Crested Serpent Eagle, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Bronzed Drongo and the exceptional Maroon Oriole. All showed nicely and we also enjoyed a walk along a river where we saw a displaying Crested Goshawk, had by far our best views of Taiwan Whistling Thrush bouncing along boulders in the riverbed and more Plumbeous Water Redstarts and Brown Dipper! We made for Taitung and headed out to some wetlands south of town to look for some sought-after birds. This is one of the few areas where wild and non-introduced Ring-necked Pheasant roam wild and were able to locate a couple of females; much more timid than their released counterparts in Britain or the USA. Despite much looking we only added Black-faced Bunting and waited for nightfall to do some nocturnal birding in this area. After dark we located two nocturnal birds that are rarely seen in Taiwan, Savanna Nightjar and Short-eared Owl. But not long thereafter after some bad directions we got bogged in the sand for what was to turn out to be an epically bad night for Keith. Repeated attempts to dig ourselves out on the soft beachsand failed, so Keith arranged for the participants to be transferred back to the hotel as the morning expedition to look for Mikado Pheasant required a very early wake-up. After numerous trucks went backwards and forwards Keith eventually got the bus hauled out of the sand at near midnight.

21 Nov. Taitung mountains.

Keith wasn’t sure if it was morning, it sure still felt like the 20th! After 2-and-a-half hours sleep we were on the road again, headed to an area reputed to be very reliable for Mikado Pheasant. The long drive into the mountains took us 90 minutes and we arrived just in time as the light was starting to come up. The vehicle in front got lucky, first locating a foraging Eurasian Woodcock in the middle of the road and then seeing a male Mikado Pheasant on the road just next to where the parking area was. We spent most of the morning looking for a second bird, and only Keith got to see a female as it scampered off the trail very quickly and down a precipitous slope that could not be followed. Small consolation for those who dipped came in the form of a magnificent Asian Black Eagle, distant Eurasian Nutcracker and White-throated Needletail, which were the only new birds for the morning. Many of the previous day’s flock birds were seen. In the afternoon we birded some wetlands seeing ducks, herons and egrets we had seen before, but nothing new, so we returned to Taitung where we had a much deserved rest. An evening foray back to the nightbird area revealed Intermediate Egret.  

22 Nov. Taitung-Tainan.

Another travel day. We needed to spend some time on the massive and impressive wetlands of the populous east coast. Perhaps the most threatened habitat in Taiwan, the wetlands are under increasing pressure in this industrious sector of the country. However Taiwan has excellent green legislation and seems to be behaving according to acceptable international standards when it comes to protection of natural habitat. Ironically, Tseng-wen Estuary, the remarkable wetland near Tainan cannot be declared a RAMSAR site (Wetland of International Importance) because China refuses to allow Taiwan to enter the treaty! There is no doubt that the political stand-off across the Taiwan straits is fascinating and a topic of much discussion on the long drives. It seems that most Taiwanese accept that a One-China policy will prevail, but are not prepared to accept the restrictive conditions that the mainland would currently impose. Fiercely democratic and strong believers of personal and political freedom, one hopes that the union, be it 10 or 20 years down the road, is a happy one for all. Apart from political ramblings a fortuitous stop near the bottle-neck bottom end of the island revealed a group Red-billed Starlings. These are very scarce migrants and we were well pleased to catch up with this unexpected extra! Nearer to Tainan, we headed for an area that holds the last remaining handful of Pheasant-tailed Jacana in the country. Although not in breeding plumage, we watched them strut their stuff to our hearts content while watching a juvenile Yellow Bittern. While not threatened in the bigger scheme of things the Taiwanese government has invested considerable resources into a recovery program for its local population, which has grown from 20 to about 100 individuals, in this small area. We were also lucky enough to see a Common Snipe in this area and recorded our second serious find of the day when we located a Baikal Teal! Seriously stoked and after all the Asian food the group opted for a smash and grab at a Kentucky Fried Chicken joint so that we could head out to the birdier areas northwest of the city! Here we encounered a host of egrets and herons. We also had a massive duck parade seeing just about the entire suite of ducks and waders available in Taiwan, including Pintail, Gargany, Eurasian Teal, Eurasian Wigeon, Common Greenshank, Green and Wood Sandpipers as well as a pool with our only Sharp-tailed Sandpipers of the trip. A surprise addition to the list was a Eurasian Magpie on the city outskirts that was not seen again! Our final serious treat for the day was a group of four Black-faced Spoonbills that foraged alongside the highway completely unperturbed! Returning to Tainan we enjoyed a meal of very small dishes that were a specialty of the Tainan area before retuning to our hotel, where on the first floor there was a remarkable offer of free food, free beer and karaoke for guests of the hotel. We tried a few lagers while listening to the din of hopeless men trying to woo their women and decided that Taiwanese Karaoke was no better than western Karaoke and we slipped off to bed!

23 Nov. Tainan (Tsengwen) - Taichung.

The Tsengwen estuary and area around Tainan supports hundreds of thousands of waterbirds in the Taiwanese winter and to enjoy this spectacle is why we time this trip in November. We were not to be disappointed today as we saw thousands of waterbirds of many different species. We decided to head for a few spots that I had been to a week earlier which looked good for waders and soon scored with Dunlin, Greenshank, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Pacific Golden Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Little Ringed, Snowy, Mongolian and Greater Sand Plovers as well as Red-necked and Long-toed Stint. Then we headed straight for the Black-faced Spoonbill area as rumour had it that many school children would be visiting the site as an educational outing. We saw nearly 300 of the magnificent creatures, considered globally Endangered by BirdLife International, some 40% of their global population, in a single tightly knit flock. One hopes that the estuary at Chi-ku never gets developed despite the considerable pressure to do so. The flats also yielded the threatened Saunder’s Gull and Gull-billed Tern amongst the Caspian Terns. The freshwater ponds revealed Common Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Pintail, Northern Shoveller, Eurasian Teal, Eurasian Wigeon, Black-winged Stilt, Common Greenshank, Common, Green and Wood Sandpipers as well as Little Grebe, Gray Heron, Great, Intermediate and Little Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron and our first “non-escape” Black-headed Ibis. A little further north we headed to a spot where the near-mythical Chinese Crested Tern had been spotted a year ago. We did not see the tern, but did emerge, courtesy again of Ian’s spotting, with a rarity of our own in the form of a Greater Black-headed Gull in a group of Black-headed Gulls. The area did reveal Common, Little and Whiskered Tern, which were added to the waterfowl and seabird extravaganza! The seaside grasslands held a Golden-headed Cisticola and both Plain and Yellow-bellied Prinias.

23 Nov. Taichung-Taipei.

Our final day, initially scheduled as a contingency day to either hit the lowlands or highlands we were stuck with little to do because we had done so well. Fortunately my local contacts had informed us that Yeileo, a strange peninsula-shaped set of rocks northeast of Taipei and a well-known migrant trap had been delivering the goods recently, so off we went. On our way there via the Yan-ming-shan mountains we encountered a flock of Taiwan Blue Magpie. They had been the grandest bird we saw on day one, so it was apt that it was to see us off. After arrival at Yeileo we located a Pacific Reef Heron foraging in the ponds near the parking lot. Although this is a serious tourist attraction, the migrants don’t seem to mind. Exchanging info with a few Taiwanses birders led us straight to the small group of Gray Buntings, a rare Japanese bird that very seldom gets to Taiwan. A photographer was trying to take pictures of them and we got the scowls we are more accustomed to as western birders. After the unbelievable reception and impact we had had everywhere else it was a mild relief to discover that not every single Taiwanese person bends over backwards to accommodate you or make your stay in their country their personal responsibility! We soon discovered the Red-flanked Bluetail and Brown-headed Thrush that were present, but also learned that the Japanese Robin that had been present had not been seen for a few days, so we returned to the Taipei basin and our final adventure was looking (not very hard) for the Malaysian Night Herons in the city centre. Found in a remarkable setting, this bird, normally difficult to find and observe are so tame and approachable in one of Taipei’s main recreational parks in the middle of the city! We enjoyed point-blank range views of them before showing a couple of Taiwanese kids a Common Kingfisher through a scope…hopefully they can become the future little birdguides to this remarkably friendly and gratifying birding destination. Yvonne arranged a final meal at one of Taipei’s most-famous dim-sum dumpling houses and participants all raised their glasses to very successful and enjoyable Taiwan adventure!

Taiwan Triplist

(Based on Clements)

               

              Species                                           Scientific name

Little Grebe                                            Tachybaptus ruficollis

Great Cormorant                                     Phalacrocorax carbo

Gray Heron                                            Ardea cinerea

Great Egret                                            Ardea alba

Intermediate Egret                                  Egretta intermedia

Pacific Reef Heron                                  Egretta sacra

Little Egret                                             Egretta garzetta

Cattle Egret                                           Bubulcus ibis

Black-crowned Night-Heron                     Nycticorax nycticorax

Malayan Night-Heron                              Gorsachius melanolophus

Yellow Bittern                                         Ixobrychus sinensis

Cinnamon Bittern                                    Ixobrychus cinnamomeus

Black-headed Ibis                                   Threskiornis melanocephalus

Black-faced Spoonbill                             Platalea minor

Eurasian Wigeon                                    Anas penelope

Eurasian Teal                                         Anas crecca

Baikal Teal                                             Anas

Spot-billed Duck                                     Anas poecilorhyncha

Northern Pintail                                      Anas acuta

Garganey                                               Anas querquedula

Northern Shoveler                                   Anas clypeata

Osprey                                                  Pandion haliaetus

Oriental Honey-buzzard                           Pernis ptilorhynchus

Black Kite                                              Milvus migrans

Crested Serpent-Eagle                            Spilornis cheela

Crested Goshawk                                   Accipiter trivirgatus

Besra                                                    Accipiter

Eurasian Buzzard                                   Buteo buteo

Asian Black Eagle                                  Ictinaetus malayensis

Eurasian Kestrel                                     Falco tinnunculus

Peregrine Falcon                                    Falco peregrinus

Taiwan Partridge                                 Arborophila crudigularis

Chinese Bamboo-Partridge                      Bambusicola thoracica

Swinhoe's Pheasant                             Lophura swinhoii

Mikado Pheasant                                 Syrmaticus mikado

Ring-necked Pheasant                            Phasianus colchicus

Barred Buttonquail                                  Turnix suscitator

Water Rail                                             Rallus aquaticus

White-breasted Waterhen                        Amaurornis phoenicurus

Common Moorhen                                  Gallinula chloropus

Eurasian Coot                                        Fulica atra

Pheasant-tailed Jacana                           Hydrophasianus chirurgus

Black-winged Stilt                                   Himantopus himantopus

Pacific Golden-Plover                              Pluvialis fulva

Black-bellied Plover                                Pluvialis squatarola

Little Ringed Plover                                 Charadrius dubius

Snowy (Kentish) Plover                           Charadrius alexandrinus

Mongolian Plover                                    Charadrius mongolus

Greater Sandplover                                 Charadrius leschenaultii

Eurasian Woodcock                               Scolopax rusicola

Common Snipe                                      Gallinago gallinago

Eurasian Curlew                                     Numenius arquata

Spotted Redshank                                  Tringa erythropus

Common Redshank                                Tringa totanus

Marsh Sandpiper                                    Tringa stagnatilis

Common Greenshank                             Tringa nebularia

Green Sandpiper                                    Tringa ochropus

Wood Sandpiper                                     Tringa glareola

Common Sandpiper                                Actitis hypoleucos

Red-necked Stint                                    Calidris ruficollis

Long-toed Stint                                       Calidris subminuta

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper                            Calidris acuminata

Dunlin                                                    Calidris alpina

Greater Black-headed Gull                      Larus

Black-headed Gull                                  Larus ridibundus

Saunders' Gull                                        Larus saundersi

Gull-billed Tern                                       Sterna nilotica

Caspian Tern                                          Sterna caspia

Common Tern                                        Sterna hirundo

Little Tern                                              Sterna albifrons

Whiskered Tern                                      Chlidonias hybridus

Rock Dove                                             Columba livia

Ashy Wood-Pigeon                                 Columba pulchricollis

Oriental Turtle-Dove                                Streptopelia orientalis

Red Collared-Dove                                  Streptopelia tranquebarica

Spotted Dove                                         Streptopelia chinensis

White-bellied Pigeon                               Treron sieboldii

Savanna Nightjar                                    Caprimulgus affinis

White-throated Needletail                        Hirundapus caudacutus

Fork-tailed Swift                                     Apus pacificus

House Swift                                           Apus nipalensis

Common Kingfisher                                Alcedo atthis

Black-browed Barbet                               Megalaima oorti

Gray-capped Woodpecker                       Dendrocopos canicapillus

White-backed Woodpecker                     Dendrocopos leucotos

Gray-faced Woodpecker                          Picus canus

Oriental Skylark                                     Alauda gulgula

Plain Martin                                           Riparia paludicola

Barn Swallow                                         Hirundo rustica

Pacific Swallow                                      Hirundo tahitica

Striated Swallow                                     Hirundo striolata

Asian Martin                                          Delichon dasypus

White Wagtail                                        Motacilla alba

Black-backed Wagtail                             Motacilla lugens

Yellow Wagtail                                       Motacilla flava

Gray Wagtail                                          Motacilla cinerea

Olive-backed Pipit                                   Anthus hodgsoni

Red-throated Pipit                                   Anthus cervinus

Gray-chinned Minivet                              Pericrocotus solaris

Collared Finchbill                                    Spizixos semitorques

Styan's Bulbul                                      Pycnonotus taivanus

Light-vented Bulbul                                 Pycnonotus sinensis

Black Bulbul                                          Hypsipetes leucocephalus

Flamecrest                                           Regulus goodfellowi

Brown Dipper                                         Cinclus pallasii

Winter Wren                                          Troglodytes troglodytes

Alpine Accentor                                      Prunella collaris

Blue Rock-Thrush                                   Monticola solitarius

Formosan Whistling-Thrush                 Myophonus insularis

Island Thrush                                         Turdus poliocephalus

Eye-browed Thrush                                 Turdus obscurus

Pale Thrush                                           Turdus pallidus

Brown-headed Thrush                             Turdus chrysolaus

Dusky Thrush                                         Turdus naumanni

White-browed Shortwing                          Brachypteryx montana

Zitting Cisticola                                      Cisticola juncidis

Golden-headed Cisticola                         Cisticola exilis

Yellow-bellied Prinia                                Prinia flaviventris

Plain Prinia                                            Prinia inornata

Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler               Cettia fortipes

Yellowish-bellied Bush-Warbler                Cettia acanthizoides

Oriental Reed-Warbler                             Acrocephalus orientalis

Yellow-browed Warbler                            Phylloscopus inornatus

Rufous-faced Warbler                              Abroscopus albogularis

Snowy-browed Flycatcher                       Ficedula hyperythra

Vivid Niltava                                           Niltava vivida

Siberian Rubythroat                                Luscinia calliope

Red-flanked Bluetail                                Tarsiger cyanurus

Collared Bush-Robin                            Tarsiger johnstoniae

Daurian Redstart                                    Phoenicurus auroreus

Plumbeous Redstart                               Rhyacornis fuliginosus

White-tailed Robin                                  Cinclidium leucurum

Little Forktail                                          Enicurus scouleri

Common Stonechat                                Saxicola rubicola

Black-naped Monarch                             Hypothymis azurea

Rusty Laughingthrush                             Garrulax poecilorhynchus

Hwamei                                                 Garrulax canorus

White-whiskered Laughingthrush        Garrulax morrisonianus

Steere's Liocichla                                Liocichla steerii

Spot-breasted Scimitar-Babbler               Pomatorhinus erythrocnemis

Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler             Pomatorhinus ruficollis

Pygmy Wren-Babbler                              Pnoepyga pusilla

Rufous-capped Babbler                           Stachyris ruficeps

Taiwan Barwing                                   Actinodura morrisoniana

Streak-throated Fulvetta                          Alcippe cinereiceps

Dusky Fulvetta                                       Alcippe brunnea

Gray-cheeked Fulvetta                            Alcippe morrisonia

White-eared Sibia                                Heterophasia auricularis

Taiwan Yuhina                                     Yuhina brunneiceps

White-bellied Yuhina                               Yuhina zantholeuca

Vinous-throated Parrotbill                        Paradoxornis webbianus

Golden Parrotbill                                     Paradoxornis verreauxi

Black-throated Tit                                   Aegithalos concinnus

Coal Tit                                                  Periparus ater

Green-backed Tit                                    Parus monticolus

Taiwan Yellow Tit                                Macholophus holsti

Varied Tit                                               Sittiparus varius

Eurasian Nuthatch                                  Sitta europaea

Fire-breasted Flowerpecker                     Dicaeum ignipectus

Japanese White-eye                               Zosterops japonicus

Maroon Oriole                                        Oriolus traillii

Brown Shrike                                         Lanius cristatus

Long-tailed Shrike                                   Lanius schach

Black Drongo                                         Dicrurus macrocercus

Bronzed Drongo                                     Dicrurus aeneus

Eurasian Jay                                          Garrulus glandarius

Formosan Magpie                                Urocissa caerulea

Gray Treepie                                          Dendrocitta formosae

Eurasian Magpie                                    Pica pica

Eurasian Nutcracker                               Nucifraga caryocatactes

Large-billed Crow                                    Corvus macrorhynchos

Crested Myna                                        Acridotheres cristatellus

Common Myna                                       Acridotheres tristris

White-vented Myna                                 Acridotheres

Red-billed Starling                                  Sturnus sericeus

Eurasian Tree Sparrow                            Passer montanus

White-rumped Munia                               Lonchura striata

Nutmeg Mannikin                                   Lonchura punctulata

Vinaceous Rosefinch                              Carpodacus vinaceus

Eurasian Siskin                                      Carduelis spinus

Brown Bullfinch                                      Pyrrhula nipalensis

Gray-headed Bullfinch                             Pyrrhula erythaca

Black-faced Bunting                                Emberizia spodocephala

Gray Bunting