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Old Monday 29th August 2005, 14:47   #26
Mark Bruce
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Two surprises.

Haven't spent too much time around the Fairy Temple of late.With trips to some of the Taiwan Strait islands,work and three typhoons in the last eight weeks it was great to spend the whole afternoon walking around the local patch.The Fairies have headed south for their wintering grounds in Borneo.The forest seems incomplete without their distinct double whistle.

I arrived in rather overcast weather and the sound of distant thunder echoing through the mountains confirmed that rain was on the way.There seemed to be a lot of small insects about and the Pacific Swallows were gorging themselves.I headed up a small track and Bronzed Drongos were buzzing between the bamboo.I had not been going long when I spotted a dull light brown bird amongst some fallen bamboo.I studied him for awhile and was a little puzzled as to what it was.Next,it flew out of the bamboo and landed on a bamboo stump.It could see it clearly,it was a Brown Shrike.It was a young male and the first I've seen this autumn of this common winter resident.I guess being this far inland he would be a winter resident and not just passing through.Each spring and autumn I always watch the "flocks"of Brown Shrike in the brush along the coast,as the create mayhem as they pass through the island on their way north or south.I was rather surprised seeing him there because one normally starts to see them in late September.

I continued back down the track and onto the main track.There was lots of activity in the trees and I saw a number of Grey-cheeked and Gould's Fulvetta mixing with White-bellied Yuhina,Japanese White-eye and Red-headed Tree Babbler.In this noisy mob I had my second surprise,an Arctic Warbler,again I wasn't expecting to see one for about a month.I carried on walking and saw a Grey-headed Pygmy Woodpecker,Black-naped Blue Monarch,Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler,Tawny-flanked Prinia,White-backed and Nutmeg Mannikin,Grey Treepie,Chinese Bulbul,Collared Finchbill,Black-browed Barbet and a Chinese Bamboo Partridge.As I headed back towards the Temple I noted a large shape in a tree on the opposite riverbank.When I glassed it,it turned out to be a Formosan Macaque.Nice to see one as they are not that common around the temple.As I approached my bike in the temple grounds I saw an Oriental Cuckoo.I guess that may well be the last one I'll see this season as they've probably started leaving already.As I got on my bike the rain started.It was kind of nice heading home in the rain after a rewarding afternoon.

Last edited by Mark Bruce : Monday 29th August 2005 at 16:13. Reason: typo
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Old Saturday 10th September 2005, 02:48   #27
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Typhoons

Was able to spend some time around the temple on Thursday.With Typhoon Talim the previous week I wasn't able to go birding.Well,when I arrived at the temple I was in for a shock.The area had been subjected to the full wrath of Talim and the forest looked as if a thousand elephants had gone on the rampage through it.Shattered bamboo laying all over the place,trees blown over and a landslide.The birds seemed fine and it was easier to spot them in the new "birder friendly"canopy.I had some great views of a pair of Grey-chinned Minivets hawking insects.I saw a pair of Rufous-faced Warbler,a first for my local patch.With Typhoon Khanun possibly hitting us tonight,I wonder if there will still be a forest on Monday.
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Old Sunday 25th September 2005, 06:13   #28
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A County first!

Yesterday,I had the pleasure of spending the day birding with ornithologists Scott and Cynthia Lin.Both Scott and his wife Cynthia are ornithologists working for Taiwan's Endemic Species Research Institute.Scott's area of research being the Huben area and the Fairy Pitta.Cynthia's field is Passerines in Taiwan's river ecosystems.

After spending most of a hot and sweaty morning scrambling up creeks and providing the mosquitoes with their Saturday morning breakfast we were almost done and heading for the car and then tea and a meeting with a Japanese group at the Fairy Pitta Information Centre.

Earlier in the morning I had asked Scott about sightings of the Dollarbird in Taiwan.There are a hand full of sightings annually of this bird on the island.The Dollarbird was on my 'most wanted' list but I had kind of come to terms with the fact that I was going to have to go elsewhere in SE Asia to see one and have already booked a trip with it being one of my target birds.

A few hundred metres from the car,I looked up and there up ahead in a dead tree,was a Dollarbird.The first thought that came to mind was,"Mark,you've lost it!You've got the Black Drongos turning into Dollarbirds."I started to physically shake my head because I needed to clear it and that's when I saw Scott's face.A quick glance at Cynthia confirmed that they had indeed seen something.As I turned to look back towards the tree a second Dollarbird with the pale dollar patch on its primaries clearly visible flew past the first Dollarbird.

We all stared for a few moments before we looked at each other and said,"Dollarbird".

I had just got my Dollarbird and so had Huben and,as we learned a little later when we met up with the chairman of Yunlin Wild Bird Society and the Fairy Pitta conservation group from Japan who had come out to meet with Scott and learn about his Fairy Pitta conservation efforts,a first for Yunlin County,too.

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Old Saturday 4th February 2006, 13:24   #29
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Destruction

It's been quite sometime since I've posted anything about my local patch.In early November I arrived for a late Saturday afternoon stroll through the forest behind the temple.I parked my motorcycle and headed down the track that runs through the forest.One look at the track and something didn't look right.The track is usually full of dead leaves as hardly any vehicles use it.The track appeared clear of leaves and one could clearly see from the tire prints in the dirt that many vehicles had been using the track.

I thought it a little strange and carried on a short distance to where I followed a path leading up a hill.I walked along this path for about ten minutes and then turned around and walked back to the track.

As I continued further along the track I noticed that the vegetation along the edge of the track was dead and appeared to have been sprayed with some type of defoliant.I was rather angry at seeing this, considering the numbers of fulvetta,babblers and warblers that live in the tangle of creepers and vines along the edge of the track.The normally continuous calls of these dwellers of the undergrowth were hauntingly absent.

I rounded a bend and was greeted with total destruction.A large area of forest had been cleared.The banks of the stream had been flattened.Earth moving equipment was parked all over the place.I just stood there shocked.In the space of a week Hu-ben had changed forever.

What was really sad was that not too far away in Hushan(about 4km as the crow flies),work on the access roads for the Hushan Dam project had already started.Despite the efforts of so many organisations around the world to try and stop the planned building of the Hushan Dam right in the middle of this very important Pitta breeding area,the project is going ahead.With the dam's impact on the Hu-ben/Hushan area every bit of remaining forest stream is now vitally important if the Pitta is to continue breeding in the area.

Here in front of me was a stream's banks, that for time eternal had provided countless generations of Pitta with nesting sites, laying in ruins.For those BF members who have visited Hu-ben,it was probably along this very stream that you had your Pitta sightings.Strangely the only bird present was an escapee White-rumped Shama*.

I returned to my motorcycle shocked and upset.I was really upset on seeing the destruction going on in Hushan and then being faced with more devastation in Hu-ben ,it was too much.I haven't been to Hu-ben again until today.I rather listened to others reports of what was going on than seeing it for myself.

Today I returned and walked around.I had been told that work was complete,so I decided to go back and see what the Pitta have to live with.A compromise was reached on what work would be done.Thankfully it's only the one stream that has been affected.The area that had been cleared has become cultivated land.

The area was full of birds today.Mixed flocks of Grey-cheeked Fulvetta,Japanese White-eye,Black-naped Blue Monarch and Rufous-faced Warbler moved through the forest.Bronzed Drongo hawked insects from their perches in the canopy.The calls of the Bamboo Partridge echoed through the trees as the sun set.Let's hope that the Fairies can live with it when they return in April.

*Since my first White-rumped shama sighting several months back.It appears that there are three pairs in the Hu-ben forest.In late September we sighted a juvenile,so they may be breeding.

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Old Saturday 4th February 2006, 16:38   #30
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Devastating, Mark. How sad for you to see -- and hear -- it in person.

Much as I love all the technological wonders that make my life easier, there are times, like this, when I absolutely abhor the word "progress."
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Old Sunday 5th February 2006, 07:35   #31
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Hi Mark,

As you know I hate wilderness anywhere being destroyed but to have to watch it happening must be devastating all those birds and animals of course homes gone I just hope the dam was really needed people don't realise how many roads, space is required for the work to be done. I hope they don't come back and spray the roadsides regularly with chemicals to stop it growing.

Thank goodness some birds have returned shows how adaptable they are only hope the more food specific, area specific shy ones come back too (sorry can't find the right words am just so upset at the post).

I hope the Fairies return with their young from last year. I have now added them to my calendar for end of March when hopefully our Ospreys return so if I don't hear from you the Fairies have returned I hope you don't mind I will PM you in April for an update.

I know we all need water to survive but so much of it is used by industrial concerns I hope the right environmental checks are in place to keep the water safe for birds and wildlife that depend on it too.

Ann Sad
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Old Sunday 5th February 2006, 12:34   #32
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Hi Ann,

Sadly,I don't think the construction of the Hushan Dam is really in the best interests of anyone except those building it.The idea of making the dam is to supply water to an industrial park complex on the coast.The environmental impact studies that were done were pathetic.The earthquake issue wasn't even addressed nor were the Fairy Pitta and other protected species.The go ahead was given by officials who have shocking environmental records.Some have since been imprisoned for corruption with regards to an incinerator project,thanks to the gallant efforts of Legislator Yin Ling-ying.National government is no help because they are powerless with the current deadlock between the two major parties.

This is one of the last remaining areas of low altitude forest.Alternatives have been suggested,but have not even been looked at.There has been a lot of underhanded stuff going on.Birdlife and countless other organisations have tried to halt the project without success.

It just seems so tragic that while the area is being destroyed by the dam,that the few remaining areas are now also systematically being destroyed as well.

Here a few links to get the history of the Hushan/Hu-ben issue.

http://eec.kta.org.tw/water_html/hushan-english.htm
http://www.birdlife.org/news/news/20...ta_taiwan.html
http://www.wildatheart.org.tw/mt-sea...&search=Hushan

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Old Saturday 11th February 2006, 11:44   #33
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Got it!

For some reason I felt lucky this morning and thought I'd better do some birding.I decided to spend the afternoon birding around Hu-ben.I got to Hu-ben at about 14:30 and decided to have tea at the little information centre before starting to bird.

After a cup of tea I headed to the Temple.I left my motorcycle there and went into the forest.First, I headed up the hill but didn't really see much except a large Formosan Macaque sitting on a branch over a stream.I then went back down and started birding along the main track.

I must have been going along the track for a minute or two before I came upon a mixed flock.The flock was large,at least 200 birds.About half were Grey-Cheeked Fulvetta and the remainder being Japanese White-eye, Black-naped Blue Monarch, White-rumped Munia, White-bellied Yuhina,Bronzed Drongo, Chinese Bulbul, Rufous-capped Babbler, a pair of Grey-Chinned Minivet ,and a lone Arctic Warbler.I watched the flock moving through the trees and bamboo for quite sometime.

I then moved along and saw Black Bulbul,Collared Finchbill,Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler and some Dusky Fulvetta.I stopped to look for some Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler because I thought I had heard them calling from the undergrowth.As I stood there I looked up into the canopy far above me.A movement caught my eye.As I focused my bins I started to shake I was so excited.We all have our bogey bird and I knew I was seeing mine.

For two years I've actively looked for this bird but no matter where I went or what I did I could never get one.Today I got it.A Maroon Oriole,race ardens.It was a male.I watched him high above me for about a full 5 minutes before he moved off.While watching it a pair of Grey-Chinned Minivet and a Black-browed Barbet moved in below the Oriole.What a beautiful scene.

I believe that there is a single pair of Maroon Oriole in the Hu-ben area.Because of the terrain they are very hard to get a look at.After two years I've finally seen the male.I've also travelled much of Taiwan looking for a view of a Maroon Oriole.Maroon Oriole are a rare resident an Taiwan.There are some areas where there are frequent sightings but the birds disappeared every time I showed up.Well today that has changed!

As the sun set I saw four Bronzed Drongo mobbing a Besra.A Malayan Night Heron watched me from the safety of a low branch.The calls of the Chinese Bamboo and Taiwan Hill Partridge were echoing hauntingly through the valley.What a day.

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Old Saturday 11th February 2006, 13:06   #34
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Hi Mark,

Sounds like a fabulous day out congratulations on seeing your bogey bird the Maroon Oriole they are beautiful, indeed by the names they all sound wonderful while I am sat in the freezer watching 3 Sparrows and 3 Collared Doves oh and must not forget the Wren.

None as colourful as yours I am afraid.

Ann
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Old Saturday 11th February 2006, 13:19   #35
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Cheers Ann!
Wish our Wrens were so obliging.We've got to get into the high mountain forests to see ours.
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Old Saturday 15th April 2006, 00:31   #36
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Almost time.

The first of our Fairy Pitta are due back between the 17th and the 20th.There have been regular sightings of a pair of Maroon Oriole in the area.There have also been some sightings of Swinhoe's Pheasant.

Last Saturday a protest was held on the site of the proposed Hushan Dam and outside the National Yunlin University of Science and echnology to call attention to the impact the construction of the dam will have on the Fairy Pitta and a number of other endangered species in the Huben area.
A "Save the Fairy Pitta fair and concert" was also held to raise awareness.
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Old Saturday 22nd April 2006, 14:22   #37
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They're back!

I heard from Fairy Pitta researcher, Scott Lin that he and his team had heard their first Pitta of the summer calling at Hu-ben on the night of the 17th.This afternoon I headed to Hu-ben to have a look round.

I parked at the temple and headed up the hill.There were a number of Bronzed Drongo and Grey-cheeked Fulvetta about.I also saw a male Black-naped Blue Monarch and some Chinese and Black Bulbul, but that was pretty much it on the hill.I walked back down and followed the track along the stream. A fair number of Bronzed Drongo, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Black-naped Blue Monarch, Chinese Bulbul, Black Bulbul, Japanese White-eye and Black-browed Barbet were about.

Towards five o' clock it became pretty overcast but no rain.I headed along the edge of the stream and observed a Grey wagtail up ahead for awhile.As I moved ahead quietly I saw some small birds splashing in a pool and then shooting off into the undergrowth.I approached quietly and was able to watch the delightful scene of a number of Dusky Fulvetta and Rufous-capped Babbler shooting out of the undergrowth, having a quick splash and then disappearing back into the undergrowth only to reemerge a moment later in some bamboo where they happily preened themselves.

As I watched this happy little gathering, the unmistakable call of a male Fairy Pitta echoed through the valley.I moved along quietly in the direction of the call.A few moments later the Pitta flew across the stream and disappeared into the thick bamboo and undergrowth on the opposite bank.

I sat quietly and waited.Shortly the call started again.Not long after that another call could be heard not too far off.I waited for some time before moving off.I didn't get another view of the Pitta, but was happy to have at least caught sight of one so early in the season.

As I moved off, I saw a large bird disappear into a clump of trees up ahead.As I approached the area where I saw the bird enter the trees, I had a wonderful view of a Malayan Night Heron standing motionless under a tree.A moment later there was a commotion above as a troop of Formosan Macaque, obviously startled by my presence, rushed off through the treetops.

By now it had started to clear,so I carried on and had good views of some Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Rufous-faced Warbler and Bamboo Partridge.As I walked back to the temple the sun was setting over the forest and hills.I flushed a pair of Bamboo Partridge which gave me a bit of a fright.It was dark when I arrived at the temple and the call of a Mountain Scops Owl started as I reached my scooter.

I don't think I could have asked for a beter start to the Pitta season.
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Old Sunday 23rd April 2006, 09:38   #38
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Hi Mark,

I am glad to hear the Fairies are back and hope they have a good breeding season, good luck with the dam protest.

What a fabulous list of birds all so exotic compared to Blackbirds, Woodpigeons and Collared Doves oh and the "little brown jobs" that are usually Sparrows or Dunnocks in my case and yes I can tell them apart.

I look forward to reading your reports, I wish more people from other countries would post theirs too. We have a world full of birds but mostly read about the English ones.

Please keep them coming I can read about the birds from the comfort of my own chair, if I go looking they disappear and also know I am not causing more damage to the environment by using a plane to get there.

I look forward to hearing how the Fairies are doing.

Ann
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Old Wednesday 3rd May 2006, 15:24   #39
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Pitta rescued

Last Thursday a Fairy Pitta was found caught in netting on a poultry farm in Meishan.Luckily, the farmer knew what the Fairy Pitta was and rescued it.He rushed the Pitta to veterinarian Chen Jin-fa, the Yunlin Wild Bird Society's rehab specialist.The Pitta was found to be in uninjured and in good health despite it's ordeal.The Pitta has since been released at Huben.Attached is a photo of veterinarian Chen Jin-fa examining the rescued Pitta.
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Old Friday 5th May 2006, 18:04   #40
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Large Hawk Cuckoo

Been reports of at least two Large Hawk Cuckoo in Huben the last few days.I'll be looking for them over the weekend.These are the first ever reports of Large Hawk Cuckoo in the Huben area.Large Hawk Cuckoo are usually found in our mountain forests above 1000m in summer.
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Old Saturday 6th May 2006, 09:27   #41
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Poor Huben

Nothing gets the blood boiling like watching your local patch being abused.I spent last weekend with Christina MacFarquhar from the Taipei based, Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association going around Huben.Wild at Heart is spearheading the legal battle to stop the Hushan Dam project.Apart from doing a fair amount of actual birding, we also looked at issues other than the Hushan Dam that are impacting very negatively on the Huben / Hushan area.

We started early on Saturday afternoon meeting up with well known Taiwanese ornithologist "Scott" Lin Ruey-Shing of the Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute.Christina had a stack of questions for Scott to answer on the Fairy Pitta and the ecology of the area.This was followed by going out into the field to find a Pitta.Well, birding is always unpredictable and in spite having the top Pitta Man in the country leading us, the Pitta weren't showing themselves.At one point we had a Pitta calling in the canopy directly above us, but we couldn't locate him in the thick foliage.

The following morning was spent with Christina and I trying to see a Pitta.Again we had one calling directly above us but failed to locate it.After a few hours of birding we looked at some areas which had be gravel mined a few years before.Gravel mining is Big Business in Taiwan and a major cause of habitat loss.The sad thing about these former gravel mines is that no rehabilitation of the area has taken place in most instances and when there has been some rehabilitation it appears to be only window dressing.

The area is still very much under pressure from both legal and illegal deforestation and gravel mining.Fortunately, Legislator Yin Ling-ying is from the area and she has done a lot to halt gravel mining.

Last year in August the area was hit quite badly by a typhoon.The typhoon caused quite a bit of damage to areas of bamboo but no clean up followed.Suddenly,the week the Pitta arrived they've started cleaning up the broken bamboo.Why this project needed to get underway at the start of the breeding season is beyond me.Again,it's just another unnecessary hardship the Pitta and many other species have to endure.

Illegal dumping also is a problem.But possibly the most distasteful problem the Pitta has to face is unscrupulous birders and photographers.A number of photographers, often clad in Birdlife and other birding NGO clothing, clamber down into the stream beds to stakeout nests for an easy shot.

After spending most of the morning in the field we met up with Scott Lin and Mr.Chang at the Fairy Pitta Information Centre for lunch.After lunch Christina and I spent the afternoon going over more gravel mines and part of the Hushan Dam project site before she headed back to Taipei.
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Old Sunday 7th May 2006, 15:30   #42
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Afrika

What a joy to check my inbox this afternoon and find a message from Scott Lin saying,"Your Birdforum friend, Sylvester Karim, is at Huben and we can't reach you on your mobile."

It's not everyday you get to see a fellow African in Taiwan.Very excited I rushed off to Huben.Sylvester,a Kenyan BF member, is in Taiwan for six months as part of the National Taiwan University Research Team studying the Taiwan Yuhina...and the Taiwan Yuhina being my favourite bird (see my avatar), well I was really looking forward to meeting Sylvester in the flesh.

I got to Huben and rushed into the information centre.No Scott or Sylvester.I then saw one of Scott's grad students and asked her where Scott and the Kenyan man were.The answer was an obvious,"They're out looking for Pitta"."Where?," I asked.It turned out they had gone to the area around Mr.Chang's cottage.I headed off and found Scott's car at the cottage.The question was now," Where had they gone?" I decided to follow the path leading upriver.

It was horribly humid and the mosquitoes were buzzing all around me.I started feeling that I must look like the water-buffalo that one sees in the rice paddies with all the flies buzzing around them.It was very hot and I wasn't paying to much attention to anything other than trying to get the mosquitoes out my ears and nose.I heard a rustling of leaves and looked down.I let out a startled half scream, as I saw a Pointed-scaled Pit-viper/Taiwan Habu Trimeresurus mucrosquamatus in close proximity to my foot.I leapt backwards and fortunately the Habu was heading off in the opposite direction.I was now very focused on what was going on around me.

I carried on walking upstream for awhile.I had seen no sign of Scott and Sylvester,so I knew that they must have headed downstream.I switched to a larger path running parallel to the one I had taken earlier.(Guess I didn't want to meet the Habu a second time.)

Scott and Sylvester arrived at Mr.Chang's cottage about five minutes after me.Sylvester was in great spirits after seeing his first Fairy Pitta.After some Oolong tea with Mr.Chang we went for a walk around the temple before heading back to the information centre.

We then had dinner with all the villagers of Huben.Huben's favourite daughter was home for the weekend.Legislator Yin Ling-ying,Taiwan's Eco Iron Lady, whose fight for the Pitta lead to her getting elected to the legislature, was having dinner with the people of her home village.After dinner it was time to head home and face another week at the grindstone.Attached is a photo of Scott Lin,Legislator Yin Ling-ying and BF's Sylvester Karimi.
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Old Sunday 7th May 2006, 19:58   #43
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Hi Mark,

Sadly, your photos of the gravel mining and rubbish dumps could so easily have been taken in the U K. I remember years ago seeing huge slag heaps (the spoil from coal mining) often with rusting machinery etc. still there. Time does heal the scars but takes so long so more rubbish can be dumped. When nature moves back in it isn't always the original plants, trees etc. either but invaders, sorry don't know what to call them really just scrub.

Glad to hear Huben's favourite daughter is on the side of the environment and not commercial interests as can often be the case.

Good to hear the Fairies are returning and hope they have a good breeding season, if left alone by people who should know better. Not a good advert for Birdlife behaving like that, I hope someone has the time to write an appropriate letter.

Thanks for the update.

Ann
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Old Monday 29th May 2006, 06:23   #44
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The rain and the flu have restricted my visits to Huben, so I translated the Huben bird list into English.

Huben Bird list

Little Egret
Malayan Night-Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Cattle Egret
Besra
Chinese Sparrowhawk
Crested Goshawk
Gray-faced Buzzard
Oriental Honey-buzzard
Crested Serpent-Eagle
Peregrine Falcon
Eurasian Kestrel
Grey Nightjar
Taiwan Partridge
Chinese Bamboo-Partridge
Swinhoe's Pheasant
Barred Buttonquail
Common Moorhen
Slaty-legged Crake
White-breasted Waterhen
Ruddy-breasted Crake
Little Ringed Plover
Emerald Dove
Rock Pigeon
Ashy Wood-Pigeon
Spotted Dove
Oriental Turtle-Dove
Red Collared-Dove
White-bellied Green Pigeon
Lesser Coucal
Oriental Cuckoo
Large Hawk-Cuckoo
Collared Scops-Owl
Mountain Scops-Owl
Brown Hawk-Owl
House Swift
White-throated Needletail
Common Kingfisher
Ruddy Kingfisher
Black-capped Kingfisher
Dollarbird
Black-browed Barbet
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker
Fairy Pitta
Oriental Skylark
Asian Martin
Barn Swallow
Striated Swallow
Pacific Swallow
Plain Martin
Sand Martin
Gray-chinned Minivet
Bronzed Drongo
Black Drongo
Maroon Oriole
Grey Treepie
Taiwan Blue Magpie
Vinous-throated Parrotbill
Black-throated Tit
Green-backed Tit
Varied Tit
Taiwan Yellow Tit
Dusky Fulvetta
Grey-cheeked Fulvetta
Rusty Laughingthrush
White-eared Sibia
Steere's Liocichla
Spot-breasted Scimitar-Babbler
Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler
Rufous-capped Babbler
White-bellied Yuhina
Black Bulbul
Light-vented Bulbul
Collared Finchbill
White-tailed Robin
Taiwan Whistling-Thrush
Daurian Redstart
Dusky Thrush
Pale Thrush
Scaly Thrush
Rufous-faced Warbler
Oriental Reed-Warbler
Japanese Bush Warbler
Golden-headed Cisticola
Zitting Cisticola
Arctic Warbler
Yellow-browed Warbler
Yellow-bellied Prinia
Plain Prinia
Striated Prinia
Grey-streaked Flycatcher
Black-naped Blue Monarch
Ferruginous Flycatcher
Vivid Niltava
Olive-backed Pipit
White Wagtail
Grey Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail
Brown Shrike
Japanese White-eye
Scaly Munia
White-rumped Munia
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Taiwan Yuhina *
White-rumped Shama *

* Escapee
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Old Monday 29th May 2006, 16:44   #45
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Hope you feel better quickly, Mark!
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Old Sunday 11th June 2006, 09:01   #46
Mark Bruce
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The 2006 International Fairy Pitta Symposium

It’s not often when that I don’t have to travel many miles to attend an international birding event. Yesterday, the small town of Douliou where I live hosted the International Fairy Pitta Symposium. Well, I guess that’s not too strange given that Douliou is just down the road from Hu-ben, the Fairy Pitta’s main breeding area.

The symposium started with a talk by Prof. Lee Pei-Fen of National Taiwan University on the distribution pattern and conservation strategies for Fairy Pitta in Taiwan. The talk was followed by an opening ceremony. Then, Japanese conservationist Nakamura Takio spoke on conservation strategies for Fairy Pitta in Kochi, Japan.

BirdLife International Programme Manager for Indochina, Jonathan Eames, spoke on conservation strategies for Gurney’s Pitta in South East Asia. This talk brought home how the Fairy Pitta is most probably more vulnerable than the Gurney’s Pitta. The Fairy Pitta probably has a smaller global population than the Gurney’s Pitta after a fair sized population of Gurney’s Pitta was rediscovered in Myanmar.

The fairy Pitta being a migrant has both a summer and wintering area. With the Fairy Pitta being threatened with loss of habitat through gravel mining, agriculture and development, and the Hushan Dam project in its main summer breeding area in Taiwan, and again loss of habitat in its wintering grounds in Malaysia and Borneo through oil palm and rubber plantations, its future looks very bleak. The need for research on numbers in the wintering area was stressed, too.

Birdlife Asia Division Head, Richard Grimmett, then spoke briefly on the need for a coordinated effort by organizations in Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Borneo to work together to protect Fairy Pitta habitat. This was followed by the lunch break.

The afternoon session began with a report by Chang Chin-Lung of the Wild Bird Society of Kaohsiung on Fairy Pitta in Meinung, Kaohsiung. This report was followed by a report on Fairy Pitta in Taoyuan by Ouyang Chien-Hua.

Scott Lin Ruey-Shing of the Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute then spoke on a review of Fairy Pitta research. This talk gave some real insight into past and current research on the Fairy Pitta at Hu-ben and around Taiwan. Prof. Chen Chan-Po of Academia Sinica then gave a short talk on how to read nature.

The final talk of the day was by Prof. Huang Shyh-Huei of National Yunlin University of Science & Technology on Fairy Pitta conservation and community development in Taiwan.

The day’s events were concluded with a short speech by Legislator Yin Ling-Ying and a panel discussion. A number of very interesting people attended the symposium but I think that’s for another post.

A Fairy Pitta Fair had been planned for Sunday but was called off because of the bad weather that Taiwan is presently experiencing. However, Jonathan Eames and Richard Grimmett were very keen to get out into the field and see Hu-ben’s Fairies.

At five this morning Birdlife’s Jonathan Eames and Richard Grimmett, I, Wild Bird Society of Yunlin board member Schumi Wu, and Wild Bird Federation of Taiwan Vice-President Prof. Fang Woei-Horng who also serves as Vice Chair of Birdlife Asia Council set off in the rain to meet Mr. Chang at the Fairy Temple.

We arrived at the temple and after a brief look around the temple area we headed off into the forest. It wasn’t too long before a Fairy obliged us with some good sightings. We then headed back to the temple. Richard commented on how good it felt to add a Fairy Pitta to his life list before breakfast.

Some photos of the symposium are attached. The photo in front of the temple is Richard Grimmett, Jonathan Eames, Schumi Wu, Mr.Chang, and Prof. Fang Woei-horng.
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Old Sunday 11th June 2006, 10:57   #47
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John Wu and Lin Ying-Tien

Sometimes one can experience things that are stranger than fiction. Yesterday at the International Fairy Pitta Symposium I had one of those experiences.

A few years ago Africa, Birds and Birding magazine featured an article on the birds of Taiwan. The photos that accompanied the text were stunning. One photo in particular just blew my mind. It was a shot of a Taiwan Yuhina Yuhina brunneiceps. The name of the photographer was Lin Ying-Tien. I soon became quite obsessed with the Taiwan Yuhina. I had a close friend living in Taiwan and started thinking of making a trip to go and see the Taiwan Yuhina and some of the other Taiwan endemics featured in the article.

It so happened that my friend made a trip home before I got my trip going. In a single night he talked me into giving up my job and going to work in Taiwan for a year. A few short months later I found myself in Taiwan and got to see my first Taiwan Yuhina in the Hsitou forest. I also discovered that Lin Ying-Tien was one of Asia’s most well known bird photographers. Strangely, I’m not the only BF member to have been taken with one of Lin’s Yuhina photos. Marmot, Doc Singh and Ann Chaplin have all commented to me on his Yuhina photos after seeing his work featured in Asian bird calendars.

Well, I enjoyed Taiwan so much that I didn’t just stay for a year. As time passed I got married and bought a house.

Yesterday, while having lunch at the symposium I got chatting to a person who gave me gift of a set of beautiful bird cards. Suddenly, as I looked at the first picture I recognized the photo. It wasn’t a Yuhina it was a pair of Mandarin Duck. The penny dropped. I had failed to recognize the person I was talking to. It was Lin Ying-Tien. I had only ever seen pictures of him in the field clad in his working attire. Well, it was great to finally meet the man who took the photo that started my journey to Taiwan but that was not the end of the experience.

Shortly, we were joined by an elderly man with a big smile. As is often done in Asian custom, I politely handed over my name card. The elderly man reciprocated and smiling handed me his card. I was in for another surprise. The elderly man was John Wu, the author of Birds of Taiwan and the grandfather of birdwatching and conservation in Taiwan. John is a legend in Taiwan. His Brown Shrike poster campaign in the early 1980’s, which featured pictures of dissected Brown Shrikes full of parasitic worms, so disgusted people that the practice of eating Brown Shrike as a delicacy ended. His efforts ended the export of more than sixty thousand stuffed raptors per annum to Japan (largely Grey-faced Buzzard with smaller numbers of Crested Serpent Eagle; Sparrowhawks; and even some Oriental Honey Buzzard; Osprey; and Mountain Hawk Eagle).

John also gave me a copy of a newly published book on the history of birdwatching and conservation in Taiwan as seen through the eyes of a foreigner. The book titled “The Swallows’ Return “by Kate Rogers is really a must read for anyone birding in Taiwan or interested in conservation in Asia. To my joy there is a chapter dedicated to the Fairy Pitta of Hu-ben and it tells of the author and her husband’s experiences birding around the Fairy Temple….what a day!
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Old Monday 12th June 2006, 13:53   #48
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Glad to see the man who took that wonderful picture,sounds like you had a great day
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Old Sunday 25th June 2006, 13:10   #49
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The Tibetan Temple

If you approach Huben village from the little road leading from the small town of Lin-nei you'll be confronted by a temple with golden minarets just before you enter Huben Village. The temple looks like it belongs in a picture with the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas as the backdrop. Well, apart from the tropical Taiwanese hills behind the temple, it is indeed a Tibetan temple.

I had decided to bird the Lin-nei side of Huben and headed to the Tibetan Bai-Ma Temple for what I hoped would be a good afternoon’s birding and a quick look around the temple.

Well, I met the rain halfway to Huben but decided to still try and get some birding in. Often, these tropical downpours are furious but short. I arrived at the temple in fairly heavy rain.

The Pacific and Striated Swallows were very active. I watched a lone Little Egret in a nearby field but that was all that seemed to be about. Within minutes of going down the track behind the temple I was driven back as the rain came down in buckets.

I retreated to the temple. It wasn't long before I realised that this was not going to be one of those short tropical downpours, so I decided to go into the temple.

When much of the Tibetan religious establishment fled Tibet after the start of Chinese rule a number of Tibetans came to Taiwan. This temple is a product of the Tibetan Buddhist Diaspora.

I spent much of the afternoon wondering around the temple with the breeze like chanting of monks drifting through the halls and rooms. Not much of an afternoon’s birding but enjoyable all the same.
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Old Sunday 25th June 2006, 14:22   #50
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just 'discovered' this thread, nice accounts and nice birding!
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