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Old Tuesday 10th October 2006, 16:28   #76
Mark Bruce
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Huben and up to Ping-ding

Headed out to Huben this afternoon. It was overcast and looked like rain. Part of me was saying why do you want to go out and get wet, the other part was saying take a chance it may not rain.

I first took a ride through the valley on the Hushan side of Pillow Mountain. Things appeared pretty quiet. I scanned the sky for raptors. Lots of raptors passing through Taiwan on migration at the moment, so was hoping for Grey-faced Buzzard and Chinese Sparrowhawk or possibly an Oriental Honey-buzzard. Not a raptor in the sky.

A mixed flock of Black and Bronzed Drongos were hawking insects over a citrus orchard from a power cable. I passed a few Light-vented Bulbul. Then a Brown Shrike flew across the path and settled in a tree not too far off.

I carried on and fair numbers of Pacific Swallows and House Swift flew overhead and would swoop down and follow the course of the stream for a short distance before turning and climbing to pass once more overhead before swooping down towards the stream again.

The sounds of Grey-cheeked Fulvetta carried towards me through the trees and I stopped. Shortly thereafter a flock of about twenty buzzed around me in the undergrowth for a short time before moving off. A flock of Japanese White-eye moved through the canopy overhead.

As I paused near a stream the movement of a bird in the overhanging bamboo next to the water caught my eye. It was a Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler. It shot out from the cover of the bamboo and bathed in the water for a few moments before shooting back into the security of the bamboo. Moments later it was joined by another three. I stood for a few moments in the poor light trying to get a shot. Next there was a flash of blue as a male Black-naped Blue Monarch appeared on the scene. It's duller spouse followed a moment later. Again I tried for a shot but knew it would be a wasted effort. No matter how many times I see monarch I'm always blown away by that amazing blue.

I then headed back towards Hushan Village. In the village hundreds of Tree Sparrows sat on the telephone cables chattering. I passed them and followed the road to Huben. Just next to Huben Village I stopped to watch three Collared Finchbill in some reeds next to the river. I snapped a few shots for the database and carried on.

At the Fairy Temple I scanned the sky for raptors. Nothing again. I then looked across at some distant bamboo and saw the distinctive silhouette of a raptor sitting on it. Moments later the raptor took off and headed towards me. It was a Chinese Sparrowhawk. I watched the Sparrowhawk for a short time and then headed off on the mountain track heading to the village of Ping-ding. Ping-ding is famous for its Oolong tea.

The track lead steeply upward. I paused at a lotus pond to take in the pink flowers. I then carried on up. I soon spotted a Taiwan Barbet (feels good to say that instead of Black-browed Barbet) sitting in a tree. I watched it for a short time and carried on. As I came over a rise I spotted a Crested Goshawk in a tree up ahead. Before I could raise my camera it had seen me and disappeared through the trees. I carried on and looked down into the Huben valley, the sun was setting and I thought for a moment I had seen another raptor flying over the trees. The wings were really going and a glance through my bins showed it to be a flying fox.

I carried on towards Ping-ding. Shortly I was amongst the tea. I carried on and as I got to the edge of the village I turned around and headed back down to Huben and home.

The rain never came and it was a very pleasant afternoon out.
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Old Tuesday 10th October 2006, 23:48   #77
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Hi Mark,

Thank you for another lovely ride out from the photos it looks such a beautiful peaceful natural area no ugly concrete buildings to spoil the view no traffic queues and hordes of people with shopping bags, long may it remain that way.

Huben seems teeming with birdlife, glad you got to see some Raptors, Tree Sparrows are rare here now, they must prefer your climate. Although fine here I haven't seen a single bird all day and you found one for the data base that isn't fair, congratulations and I look forward to reading your next patch report. I bet many other people are envious too.

Ann
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Old Friday 13th October 2006, 03:59   #78
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Thanks, Ann,
Yeah, the climate must agree with Tree Sparrows as they are abundant. Well that with a good supply of food. They can gather in flocks of several thousand in the rice paddies just before harvest time (two to three harvests a year). I've had then coming into the classroom to peck at crumbs on the floor. The Russet Sparrow for us is our rare one.
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Old Thursday 16th November 2006, 05:19   #79
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Work commitments and two trips have kept me from spending time in Huben over the last few weeks. I was able to spend Tuesday morning in Huben and do a little birding but most of the morning was spent chatting to Scott Lin over tea about various bird related topics and projects.

While birding I saw the usual Collared Finchbills, Light-vented Bulbul, Pacific Swallows, Tree Sparrows by the hundred, Little Egret, Spotted and Red Collared Doves, Brown Shrike, Grey Treepie and Bronzed Drongos.
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Old Monday 27th November 2006, 02:53   #80
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A fine show

Spent some time in Huben on Saturday morning as part of a weekend birding trip covering a number of site.

As I arrived in Huben mid morning on Saturday a Crested Serpent Eagle was circling low overhead. It's calls echoed across the valley. This excited me as I always see a circling eagle over Huben as a lucky omen.

The birding started as I got out of the car. I was treated to a dazzling display of orange and yellow as a pair of Grey-chinned Minivet hawked insects as they moved about through the trees around were I was standing. Moments later a Black-Browed Barbet put in an appearance of brilliant green. Not to be outdone, light vented Bulbul, Striated and Pacific Swallows also put on a show. The cries of the Crested Serpent Eagle could still be heard echoing down through the canopy.

I started down the track behind the temple and had only gone about twenty metres when the chorus of a family of Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers erupted from the undergrowth. For quite awhile I watched about seven Scimitar Babblers darting about in the tangle of creepers, dead branches, vines and grass that make up the thick carpet of the Huben undergrowth.

I moved off slowly and was soon greeted by the sizzling alarm call of a Grey-cheeked Fulvetta. Moments later a mixed flock was darting through the Giant Taiwan Bamboo I was standing next to. Soon I was being treated to a dazzling display of azure blue as a pair of Black-naped Blue Monarch rushed about between the bamboo leaves. The soft call of an Arctic Warbler could be heard from high above in the canopy. Then, the tzee-tzee calls of Japanese White-eye filled the air as a small flock joined the party. The metallic notes of three Bronzed Drongos drowned out all else for a few moments as I watched the acrobatic antics of the trio in the bamboo above.

Within minutes I had picked out White-bellied Yuhina, Grey Treepie, Rufous-capped Babbler, Black-browed Barbet and Light-vented Bulbul. The Scimitar Babblers then put in a second appearance. Before I knew it it was time to leave. I hadn't even walked fifty metres. As I got to the car a trio of Collared Finchbill arrived to wish me well. This was definitely a good start to a weekend's birding.
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Old Monday 27th November 2006, 03:05   #81
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Okay, Mark, I'm going to have to get a field guide for your part of the world so I can look up all these totally unfamiliar species. They all sound just stunning! Any recommendations for which book would be the best?

Can't wait for your next installment.
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Old Monday 27th November 2006, 04:05   #82
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Originally Posted by Katy Penland
Okay, Mark, I'm going to have to get a field guide for your part of the world so I can look up all these totally unfamiliar species. They all sound just stunning! Any recommendations for which book would be the best?

Can't wait for your next installment.
Hi Katy,

A difficult area as far as field guides go. MacKinnon and Phillipps cover the entire region with "Field Guide to the Birds of China." This work has come in for a lot of criticism but it is a pioneering work for the region, so I think its limitations are understandable.

The budget for the project was very limited and the artwork is a bit disappointing but I have heard that Karen Phillipps did the work on a shoestring budget with very little material in the way of photos and skins to work from. Taiwan is covered reasonably well in the guide and I think it is still a very useful reference to the region.

The actual guide for Taiwan is in Mandarin only. The artwork is very good and common English names are given. The book is out of print and only really available from the birding societies in Taiwan. The guide was published in 1991 so it is beginning to show its age. I would go for MacKinnon's guide rather than the Taiwan guide, unless one was going to actually spend some time birding in Taiwan.

The Birds of Hong Kong and South China by Viney, Phillipps and Lam covers the South China region very well. Phillipps's artwork is really much better in this guide. Sadly, the guide doesn't cover Taiwan, so the Taiwan endemics are not shown but most of the birds found in the Taiwan region are covered.

The BF and OBC database cover most of the species, too.
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Old Wednesday 29th November 2006, 05:06   #83
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A good morning with the Crested Goshawks

Recently, while researching the history of the hunting of Grey-faced Buzzard for an article, I started thinking about the raptors of the Huben area. On asking around, I discovered that not too much is known about their numbers. I thought it may be worth looking into and I've decided to try and get to know them a little better.

This morning I headed out to Huben. I got into the area a little later than I had wanted to. I met up with Scott Lin of the Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute for a cup of tea and a chat. We hadn't been sitting very long when the cries of a Crested Serpent Eagle echoed across the valley. I scanned the skies but couldn't see anything. I then scanned the tops of the trees on a nearby ridge. Moments later I spotted the eagle perched on a dead branch near the top of a tall tree. Shortly thereafter a Crested Goshawk came passed fairly quickly just above the trees. I had a short but good view as it disappeared into the green canopy.

The eagle continued calling but stayed put on his branch. Scott and I decided to move off to pick some oranges in Mr Chang's orchard in another valley. Scott had been very lucky earlier in the morning and had spotted a male Swinhoe's Pheasant.

As we arrived at Mr Chang's cabin a Crested Goshawk shot out of the canopy for a few moments before disappearing from view. We picked some oranges and had a look at the area that Mr Chang has constructed for the endemic Moltrecht's Treefrogs. We spotted four males but no females.

Just then another Crested Goshawk put in an appearance and we watched it gliding above the trees on the opposite ridge. We then went back to the valley where we had seen the Crested Serpent Eagle. The eagle was still sitting there. Not long after, Mr Chang joined us and another Crested Goshawk put in an appearance at the far end of the valley.

Not a bad count for a morning which turned out to be more social than one of serious raptor spotting.
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Old Thursday 30th November 2006, 04:04   #84
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Aiya - I envy Scott the Swinhoe's Pheasant greatly!

However, I did enjoy very good views of a Crested Goshawk at Wulai on Monday.
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Old Thursday 30th November 2006, 15:20   #85
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Eagles and Treefrogs

I've yet to see a male Swinhoe's Pheasant at Huben. I've seen two females before, so I am also a little envious of Scott.

Glad you got to see Crested Goshawk at Wulai. Race formosae is the largest of all the races.

I headed to Huben mid morning to count raptors. No Crested Goshawks today. I got three Crested Serpent Eagle over the village at about 10:30 and then another two individuals in the hills around Huben a little later.

I also managed to get some shots of the endemic Moltrecht's Treefrog Rhacophorus moltrechti this morning.
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Old Friday 1st December 2006, 15:58   #86
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Eagles, Goshawks and a Harrier

I arrived in Huben Village at about 10:30 this morning. I started off scanning the skies over the village but no raptors where to be seen. There were lots of Pacific and Striated Swallows about.

I then moved up the valley to the temple. Again the skies were filled with Swallows and nothing else. I watched some Drongos hawking insects. Japanese White-eyes, Light-vented Bulbuls and Collared Finchbills were all around me and their pleasant chattering blended with the soft chanting from the temple. After about ten minutes a Crested Goshawk put in an appearance before moving off out of sight.

I then went back to the village and there was nothing to be seen except for the swallows. Shortly, a pair of White Wagtail and a Brown Shrike came along but no raptors to be seen.

I then decided to head out of Huben into the hills along the small and very picturesque Ping-ding road. From the Ping-ding road you get some fine views of the Huben valley before you arrive in the little hamlet of Ping-ding.

I hadn't been going long and stopped to look down into the valley. Moments later I heard the call of a Crested Serpent Eagle. I search for it but couldn't locate it. I moved off about a hundred metres down the road and moments later the eagle came into view for a few seconds before disappearing behind some bamboo.

I continued up and hadn't been going long when a Crested Serpent Eagle came from behind me. It was very low and landed on a pole about twenty metres in front of me. As I raised my camera to get a shot it saw me and flew off.

I continued and shortly thereafter arrived at the top of the ridge on a grassy plateau. I got off the bike and started scanning the skies. Moments later a fairly large grey and white raptor with a distinct white rump and long wings tipped in black glided into view. It was very harrier like in appearance and I knew I was looking at something I hadn't seen before. I had a good view and it was gone. I looked at the harriers in my field guide and Hen Harrier seemed to be what I had seen. I wasn't feeling too confident about what I had seen. I had been taken totally by surprise and Hen Harriers are very rare winter visitor to Taiwan.

I scanned the fields and looked down into the wide valley of the Jhoushuei River below. Shortly after a Crested Serpent Eagle circled lazily above me before moving off. As I searched for the grey raptor I spotted a Crested Goshawk and some Formosan Macaques. Then all of a sudden along the edge of the cliffs came the grey raptor. This time I was ready and it was clearly a male Hen Harrier.

The Harrier remained just long enough for me to get a good view and was gone. I stayed for quite sometime and I didn't see it again. During this time a Crested Serpent Eagle circled overhead. It was probably the Eagle I had seen earlier.

I then moved off back towards Huben. I stopped regularly to scan the Jhoushuei valley but nothing. A Crested Goshawk flew across the road as I searched closer to Huben. I got into Huben village and scanned the skies for about ten minutes. Just to the south of the village a Crested Serpent Eagle and Crested Goshawk were circling. It was now after two and I had to get back to work. A great morning with a very special lifer.
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Old Friday 1st December 2006, 16:46   #87
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Congratulations Mark!

Great to find a major bird on your own patch, especially when you set out with the objective of searching for raptors. Hen Harriers are great birds- I saw a cracking male last year at Dongting Lake in Hunan and know they pass in good numbers at Beidaihe.
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Old Friday 1st December 2006, 17:37   #88
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Great find on that male Hen Harrier, Circus cyaneus, Mark! We do see quite a few of them here in Missouri most of the year. But they only very rarely stay around to nest here in the summer months.

Oh, and over here we call them Northern Harriers. I always enjoy seeing them especially the gray, white and black males!


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Old Saturday 2nd December 2006, 06:32   #89
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Congratulations Mark!

Great to find a major bird on your own patch, especially when you set out with the objective of searching for raptors. Hen Harriers are great birds- I saw a cracking male last year at Dongting Lake in Hunan and know they pass in good numbers at Beidaihe.
I'm thrilled because Taiwan is really a little too far south for them and we only get a handful of visitors each winter.

Beidaihe is somewhere I really must get to.


Quote:
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Great find on that male Hen Harrier, Circus cyaneus, Mark! We do see quite a few of them here in Missouri most of the year. But they only very rarely stay around to nest here in the summer months.

Oh, and over here we call them Northern Harriers. I always enjoy seeing them especially the gray, white and black males!
They are a very handsome species. I would really enjoy seeing them more often. You're lucky to have fair numbers of such a good looking bird.

The Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus is our regular winter Harrier. We get small numbers of Pied Harrier Circus melanoleucos passing through on migration and a few Hen Harriers Circus cyaneus as winter visitors. We've had Western Marsh Harrier (Eurasian Marsh Harrier) Circus aeruginosus as a rare vagrant.

The Hen Harrier is generally referred to as Northern Harrier in Taiwan but Hen Harrier is the preferred name in most other Asian countries. I tend to associate Northern Harrier with the North American race hudsonius, which many believe to be distinct and view it as a separate species forming a superspecies with Cinereous Harrier Circus cinereus and Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus.
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Old Saturday 2nd December 2006, 10:14   #90
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Hi Mark,

Thanks for another great read of a morning spent in Huben.

The photos are fabulous it is great for those of us who don't travel to see the species that live in other countries. You captured a great photo of the Crested Serpent Eagle, it was obviously looking for a meal, luckily not you.

I did not know Hen Harriers were found in Asia, hopefully they will increase, no game keepers out there to shoot them as in England.

Ann
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Old Monday 4th December 2006, 03:56   #91
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Hi Mark,

Thanks for another great read of a morning spent in Huben.

The photos are fabulous it is great for those of us who don't travel to see the species that live in other countries. You captured a great photo of the Crested Serpent Eagle, it was obviously looking for a meal, luckily not you.

I did not know Hen Harriers were found in Asia, hopefully they will increase, no game keepers out there to shoot them as in England.

Ann
Hi Ann,

There are fair numbers of Hen Harrier in the far north of China and into Mongolia and Russia which come south for the winter. Most of the birds heading into the southern Chinese region don't cross the Taiwan Strait and so Hen Harriers in Taiwan are a pretty rare sight. Some migrants do make their way down into the warmer climes of S.E.Asia. I suspect raptors like the Hen Harrier are under pressure throughout their range, sadly.
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Old Monday 4th December 2006, 04:19   #92
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Ooooo, I just love that little huddled-up frog! And great shot of the eagle, too, but he doesn't have that cuddly appearance that makes me want to pick him up like the frog does.

Congrats on your lifer harrier! Aren't raptors just glorious to watch in the air?

Your writing style makes it sound like you're out for a leisurely stroll, but I know you must put on a fair number of miles -- some of it with some pretty good vertical gain?
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Old Monday 4th December 2006, 04:46   #93
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A night with the Mountain Scops Owls.

Just before midnight on Saturday night I headed out to Huben to look for owls. I had heard that Collared Scops Owl had been the dominant owl in the area but in recent years it appears that they are being replaced by the Mountain Scops Owl, which is smaller and generally found at slightly higher altitudes than Huben.

I arrived at the temple, which was in darkness, except for the altars which were bathed in a rather eerie reddish light. I parked my motor cycle, removed my helmet and just listened. The night sounds of the forest filled the cool night air. Strangely, not a single owl call was to be heard.

I sat and waited in silence for about twenty minutes before the feint but distinct call of a Mountain Scops Owl could be heard way off in the forest. It called a few times more and then it went silent. About another five minutes passed and another owl called. This time it came from a different direction but was much closer. The call was suddenly answered from the trees on the far side of the temple. Moving quietly I crept over to the area the call was coming from. As I got nearer it stopped and there was silence.

I stood and waited. The call of an owl far off in the forest started. Another owl responded and soon the calls of a number of owls from different areas deep in the forest started. There were at least six individuals calling. The owls called for several minutes. I contemplated heading out into the deep forest to try and locate one but the thoughts of Spectacle Cobras and Banded Kraits convinced me I didn't want to venture from the path into the undergrowth in the dark.

Just at that moment an owl called from the trees close to where I had parked my bike. I responded with a double whistle similar to the owls call. It responded. I was rather surprised that my pathetic owl like whistle had elicited a response. I whistled again and the owl responded. I moved towards where the call was coming from and responded to the owls call every so often.

I stood and listened. The owl called from very close by. I moved a few metres to the right and listened. Silence. Had the owl moved off? More silence. I decided to try another whistle. I whistled and immediately the owl responded. It was right above me. I looked up into the trees and in the moonlight I could make out a light shape in the branches. I turned my torch on and there above me was the little Mountain Scops Owl. I called again and it responded. I kept silent. An owl in the forest not too far away started to call. The owl above me responded. I listened to them calling back and forth for about three minutes and then without a sound the owl vanished. I stood almost breathless from the encounter. It really had been a wonderful sighting.

I stayed in the area for quite sometime longer. Owls called from all around me but all within the forest. During the hour and a half I was listening I had not heard a single Collared Scops Owl call. It does seem as if the larger Collared Scops Owl has been replaced by the smaller Mountain Scops Owl in the area. Why this has happened, I'm not sure. Perhaps as the Collared Scops Owl, which is now frequently seen in more urban habitats, is abandoning some of the lowland forests for village and town parks and the smaller Mountain Scops is moving into areas vacated by the bigger Collared Scops Owls.
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Old Monday 4th December 2006, 05:08   #94
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Wow.... A magical night, Mark. Thanks for another glimpse into this world of yours.
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Old Monday 4th December 2006, 06:28   #95
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katy Penland
Ooooo, I just love that little huddled-up frog! And great shot of the eagle, too, but he doesn't have that cuddly appearance that makes me want to pick him up like the frog does.

Congrats on your lifer harrier! Aren't raptors just glorious to watch in the air?

Your writing style makes it sound like you're out for a leisurely stroll, but I know you must put on a fair number of miles -- some of it with some pretty good vertical gain?
Yeah, the raptors are glorious to watch. I find it very relaxing and almost therapeutic. Many locals refer to raptor watching as almost a Zen like pastime. I was spending more energy climbing when I was just birding but it is a lot of slow walking and lots of resting while looking at birds. The area I need to cover to count raptors is quite large and I have to use the bike to cover it, so not very much climbing for me at the moment.

The wonderful thing about Huben is that you almost always will get a good sighting of a Crested Serpent Eagle over the forests. They look very noble but somewhat deadly when you see them perched in the treetops. They don't give me that cuddly feeling, too. I find their flight very graceful and they remind me of the Bateleurs I loved to watch as a child with my grandfather. He was a very keen birder and loved watching raptors.

The Harrier was a real treat and it caused me to discover something that I hadn't noticed before. To try and get a better view of it I went off through the grass and bush on the top of the plateau like hill it was circling. On looking down from the hill at the point where the raptor had disappeared, I looked down on the Jhoushuei River.

The Jhoushuei is Taiwan's largest river. I knew the Jhoushuei Valley was just beyond the hills of Huben but never realised that from the Huben side of Ping-ding you could actually see the river. What is really interesting is that the southern face of the Baguashan (shan=mountains) is directly across the valley at this point. The Baguashan are Taiwan's second most important raptor area and the most important site for the spring raptor migration.

The mountains of Taiwan lie as a central north -south range. At the western edge of the Central range, where the Jhoushuei River flows onto the western coastal plain, the Buguashan stick out like a small finger and run west across the coastal plain. The wind blows in from the sea and across the plain and slams into the Baguashan and is forced upwards. This creates the perfect place for raptors to rise on the thermals before migrating across the Taiwan Strait. This area becomes the major gathering point for raptors migrating north through Taiwan in Spring.

I guess I may well be able to sight other treasures over that flat ridge given its close proximity to Baguashan.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Katy Penland
Wow.... A magical night, Mark. Thanks for another glimpse into this world of yours.
Katy,
The Mountain Scops Owl is the totem owl of the Bunan tribe that we chatted about sometime back.
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Old Monday 15th January 2007, 15:26   #96
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A really pleasant morning.

With family visiting for Christmas and New Year I haven't been able to spend much time out at Huben during the last few weeks.

I set off for the Fairy Temple late this morning. It wasn't the best time to be heading out but I really just felt like getting out.

I parked my motorcycle under the big tree at the temple and headed off down the track. I had just got onto the track when a Bamboo Partridge started to call from the undergrowth along the stream. I was a little surprised to hear a Bamboo Partridge calling so late in the morning on a hot and clear day. I walked on and the far off cry of a Crested Serpent Eagle permeated down through the forest.

Things were pretty quite but being late in the morning what could I expect. I turned off the main track and headed along a stream. I was walking quietly and slowly. From just across the stream the soft clucking of a Bamboo Partridge caught my ears. I listened and the clucking came from a thick stand of bamboo just next to the water. The Partridge never broke cover but I could hear it moving just a few metres away. I decided to move on. A movement up ahead caught my eye. It was a Grey Wagtail. I glassed it as it moved about. I headed on. Shortly, I spotted a young Malayan Night Heron up ahead. It was aware of me and moved off. It was great to see one about.

I headed away from the bamboo and through a cleared area of Betelnut Palms. Suddenly, a Barred Buttonquail flew off. It startled me for a moment but I enjoyed watching it disappear out of sight. It was the first time I've seen one in the area around the temple. I have seen them before in other parts of the Huben area. Something large flew off through the trees. From what I could see it was a Crested Serpent Eagle.

I stood scanning the area and a dazzling orange and black Grey-chinned Minivet flew over. It disappeared into some trees just out of view. I could still hear the calls. I carried on and battled through some thick undergrowth that had grown up in the seldom used path. I was making quite a bit of noise as I battled onward and understandably wasn't seeing anything. I came through the thick undergrowth and the path widened. I carried on and started to head up Pillow Mountain.

I hadn't gone to far when the clear calls of a Crested Serpent Eagle alerted me to its presence overhead. The thick canopy blocked my view but I knew it was up there and I would get views of it a little higher up. I headed on up and broke through the trees and looked down on the valley bellow. Over the valley a lone Crested Serpent Eagle was circling upward as it rode the thermals. I stood for quite sometime just taking in the graceful scene. The eagle was calling and the gentle breeze was rustling the bamboo leaves were I stood. It was very refreshing to just stand there and take it all in.

I decided to move on and the calls of a Black-naped Monarch alerted me to its presence. I stopped and watched the brilliant blue bird fluttering between the branches as it went after small insects in true flycatcher fashion. The alarm call of a Grey-cheeked Fulvetta sounded off to the right. Another Fulvetta moved about near the Monarch and soon I was watching a mixed flock of Fulvetta and Japanese White-eye. I watched them until they moved off through the forest and carried on.

The calls of the Eagle were being answered now and I knew its mate must have joined it. I came out of the trees and had another clear view of the valley. The pair of eagles were just above me. They were riding the thermals together and then they glided downward. It appeared that as they flew together there were just the first signs of the dazzling courtship display beginning to show.

I carried on and saw Black Bulbul and a number of Light-vented Bulbul. As I neared the temple the Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers were calling from the undergrowth. I arrived at the temple thinking it had been a pretty good morning.

I had lunch at the visitors centre and headed for home. As I rode over the bridge leading out of the village a raptor caught my eye. I pulled over and watched an immature Crested Serpent Eagle circle lazily overhead as it slowly followed the river out of the village. A really nice good bye.

Last edited by Mark Bruce : Wednesday 17th January 2007 at 03:20. Reason: typo
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Old Monday 15th January 2007, 17:39   #97
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Mark, sounds like you had a nice, peaceful and enjoyable walk in your favorite area.
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Old Tuesday 16th January 2007, 04:53   #98
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The Silver Ghost

Before dawn I was in Huben. It was still very dark and there was a chill in the air as I turned into the yard of Mr Chang's traditional Taiwanese house. Multitudes of dogs snarled and yapped. They didn't seem too happy to see me. A large roster came over. He seemed more friendly. It was almost as if he was coming over for a predawn chat before doing his morning duty and waking the neighbourhood. Mr Chang came out and we headed off up the track following the river. We both bounced around on our motorcycles as we headed for his little wooden cabin further up the valley. Today we had a purpose. We were after the very elusive Silver Ghost of Taiwan's forests.

We reached the cabin and parked the motorcycles. We loaded up and climbed down onto the rocks in the river. To go deep into the Huben forest one has to follow the course of a river or stream. The steep cliffs and thick vegetation make it impossible to get deep into the remote parts of the forest other than by this means.

Streams in Huben are very rocky. Generally they don't carry very much water but when it rains they become raging torrents. It was still dark as we started on our way. We hadn't gone far when the predawn calling of an endemic Taiwan Partridge started. Mr Chang responded and the partridge called back. It wasn't too far off but the thick forest shielded it from view. We carried on and dawn began to break. The calls of songbirds surrounded us but it was too dark to see anything.

High in the trees above us a Crested Serpent Eagle greeted the new day with a call. Mr Chang smiled and called back. The eagle immediately responded. We carried on with the soft calls on the eagle floating to us on the breeze every so often.

It was hard going. Despite the chill in the air I was beginning to build up quite a sweat. Mr Chang indicated we were getting close. Even the slightest rustle of clothing is enough to startle the Ghost. We moved very quietly. We carefully stepped from rock to rock. The forest was light enough to see a fair distance ahead now. We moved forward slowly. We would stop to listen and scan the area ahead for movement. Mr Chang's sharp ears caught something. I hadn't heard it but he said he had. The Ghost was near.

We moved on. The river narrowed and vegetation had taken root in the stream bed. We stopped and searched the shadows ahead. One second I was looking at a shadow and the next instant the Ghost stepped forward from out of the shadow. We had seen the Ghost at the same instant. We just smiled and nodded. There it was. The distinct silver-white back, crest and tail. The dazzling blue of the body and the fire-red head and legs. I started to shake with excitement. I could hear my heart drumming in my ears. The Ghost melted into the vegetation and disappeared. I stood there breathless. There really wasn't enough light for a shot but I took my camera out of its bag and moved forward.

I crept over boulders and moved towards where the Ghost had vanished. I crept forward and once again it stepped out of the shadows. It was very dark but I took a few shots just to capture the moment. In an almost dream-like state I watched the Silver Ghost moving about in front of me.

Robert Swinhoe had discovered the species, which is endemic to Taiwan, in April of 1862. Gould had described the species in the 1863 edition of The Ibis. Even the stuffy Victorian, Gould, was impressed by Formosa's Silver Ghost and stated, "This exceedingly beautiful species is one of the most remarkable novelties I have had the good fortune to describe." Gould had described many species from around the world. He named the species after Swinhoe, Lophura swinhoii. When this majestic species was first revealed to the West, many dubbed the newly described Swinhoe's Pheasant as the world's most beautiful bird. To some, it still is.

The pheasant moved off slowly. It was unaware of my presence and I was able to watch it for about two minutes in all. All to quickly time passed and it melted back into the forest. Mr Chang and I pressed on. I was euphoric. This was my first Huben male. The Swinhoe's Pheasant is considered a bird of the mid elevation mountain forests. The handful that inhabit the lowland hills of Huben indicate that the species probably did inhabit the lowlands before man turned much of the lush lowland forest into fields and paddies.

We moved on and then retraced our steps hoping to get another view of the pheasant. No luck, so we pressed on again. Just as we came to a steep rise Mr Chang 's sharp ears had heard something. We stopped and waited. Moments later I heard it too. There were Ghosts in the undergrowth. We waited. Suddenly Mr Chang pointed. I didn't see anything and then my eyes caught a movement. There was a pair. I watched them moving through the undergrowth and then they vanished. It was time to go back.

We walked back down the stream. Monarchs, Fulvettas, and Bulbuls moved about through the trees. Some Spot-breasted Scimitar Babblers started to call. The Crested Serpent Eagle was calling, too. I was soaking the tranquillity up and savouring it.

At Mr Chang's cabin we made some Oolong tea and relaxed. We talked about Huben and its birds. I mentioned the Malayan Night Heron and Mr Chang imitated the call. From just outside the window there was an immediate response. We both laughed.

It was time to go and I climbed on my motorcycle. I had only gone a few metres when the Malayan Night Heron flew across the road. I stopped and snapped a quick shot of it in the sun. A very special morning. Attached is a very poor shot of the pheasant in the dawn light.

Some shots of the Swinhoe's Pheasant
http://www.birdingintaiwan.com/gallery/wen-hsin/new%20gallery/Swinhoe`s%20Pheasant.JPG
http://www.birdingintaiwan.com/gallery/pen%20shing/new%20gallery/Swinhoe's%20Pheasant.jpg
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Last edited by Mark Bruce : Tuesday 16th January 2007 at 14:18.
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Old Tuesday 16th January 2007, 13:39   #99
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Mark, a great bird and also a great write-up of your morning out with Mr. Chang. I almost felt as if I were with you guys, holding my breath as the pheasants materialized before us!
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Old Tuesday 16th January 2007, 14:44   #100
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Lade
Mark, a great bird and also a great write-up of your morning out with Mr. Chang. I almost felt as if I were with you guys, holding my breath as the pheasants materialized before us!
Thanks, Larry. It's taken me four years to see a male in Huben and then two on the same morning. I'm still floating. We'll get you to Huben one of these days .

Last edited by Mark Bruce : Tuesday 16th January 2007 at 14:50.
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