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My local patch is a temple with fairies- Huben, Taiwan. (1 Viewer)

Mark Bruce

Super Moderator
Your Local Patch?It got me thinking.I had never really thought of having a local patch in Taiwan.I knew immediately that I did have a local patch in my native country of South Africa,but here in Taiwan....can an expat have such a thing?.....Well,I guess he can....and my local patch is a temple.I do more birding around the Tian-sheng Gong Temple than any other place around,so it must be my local patch,and now that I think of it,I really like the idea.

This afternoon at 3:30 I headed out of the small town where I live to my LOCAL PATCH.It takes 15 minutes to get there.I parked my red scooter in the temple grounds,looked up and scanned the sky.I looked and looked,they weren't there.Looking for the resident pair of Crested Serpent Eagle is kind of a "starting to bird now"ritual before I head off into the forest.If I see them soaring above,I feel good and think the birding is going to be good.Well no eagles!

I get into the forest and it's quiet,too quiet.The forest is quiet sometimes.I've noticed that it can be very noisy and then silence.When this happens,I've often seen one of the small raptors put in an appearance a few moments later.I guess everyone kind of disappears when a Japanese Sparrowhawk or Crested Goshawk is seen looking for a meal.

Well the silence went on for quite sometime,and I didn't see any raptors.When there are no birds around,the low altitude forests of Taiwan can be very uncomfortable places.I think the name low altitude forest is a name that they put in field guides because they don't want to scare birders.The truth is these low altitude forests are a 35 degree in the shade jungle with about a 100% humidity factor and full of starving mosquitoes.

I walked up and up,I was cursing and puffing.All I had seen by the time I got to the top of the hill was a Black Bulbul,a few Chinese Bulbul and two Grey-cheeked Fulvetta.I turned around and started to walk back down.

I must have been about a third of the way down when I heard it....it was a Fairy Pitta.Now,the area is famous for Fairy Pitta,but I still get blown away every time I see one.Instantly I was transported from the state of birding in the *@#* mosquito jungle to the Utopian state of looking for forest Fairies in low altitude forest.The Pitta was close.I could hear by the call.I stopped to listen and look.The calling stopped.I didn't move.I listen....and wait for the calling to start.I'm standing next to a tree.A moment later there's a movement and the Pitta lands not more than 3m from me.It has no idea that I'm there.It hops from perch to perch.It must have spent two to three minutes hopping about in front of me before moving off ,and so ended the best sighting I've ever had of Taiwan's Forest Fairy.


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Hey, where's the photo?

Kinda knew the question would be asked.

The answer is,my camera was at home.I'm trying to convince myself that if I had tried to raise my camera I would have spooked the Pitta.
You're undoubtedly right about that. Anyway, Murphy's Law dictates that as soon as you pack your camera along, no birds show up. ;) I've also found that some of my most memorable wildlife encounters are those where I didn't have the camera in hand. Those images are burned indelibly into my brain.
Mr.Chang and the Shamas.

I'm walking along one of the many little forest tracks around the temple and as I round a corner I run into Mr.Chang.Mr.Chang is the local birding guide.He was a hunter for most of his life,but when the area became famous for Fairy Pitta and some other birds he was able to reform himself into a Birding Guide.Now he's the Pitta's most faithful protector.Meeting up with Mr.Chang if he is out checking on the well being of his Fairies is a wonderful stroke of luck,because you get invited to come along.

After about 30 minutes,as we are watching a Malayan Night Heron,I hear a strange call which I don't recognise.Mr.Chang imitates the call and the bird calls back.Off we go in the direction of the call.We stop and Mr.Chang points to a bird in a tree.The light is not that good,but I know that I've never seen this bird before.I see another movement and it appears that there is a second bird partly obscured by foliage near by.There are not that many birds in Taiwan with very long tails.I know I'm not looking at a Treepie or a Paradise Flycatcher.I can see a clear white patch on the rump.I get a good look at the bird,and then turn to Mr.Chang.I take out my field guide and Mr.Chang laughs and says it's not in there.I ask what it is and he says he doesn't know,but the pair live there.I look again and realise that the bird I'm looking at appears to be a White-rumped Shama(which to my knowledge isn't found in Taiwan).

I head back home and have a good look at pictures of White-rumped Shama and conclude that it is indeed the bird in question.I know that the White-rumped Shama is a popular cage bird in China.I guess that this pair must be escapees that have established themselves in my local patch.


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Ni hao Oscar,
Don't be jealous,come visit and see them.Better be in the next few weeks though,because they'll be leaving soon.


Can't believe that I never spotted it!!!

Been raining most of the day.I think you could swim all the way to Taipei at present.

Down at the Fairy Temple I see Mr.Chang.He points to this big tree next to the stream.I look,but can't make out what he's pointing at.The tree is rather old and doesn't have that much foliage.I look at him and he's laughing at me.I look back at the tree,and then I see it.It's a very young Malayan Night Heron standing in the"nest".I was shocked,Malayan Night Herons and their"nests"are not exactly small.I can't believe that I didn't notice it before,especially considering that I must have looked at birds in that tree at least ten times in the last fortnight.
There's a little stream that winds its way through my local patch,it passes the temple and makes its way through the quaint village of Hu-ben before it joins a larger river.I was just leaving the the temple and following the road that runs parallel to the stream.I was on my scooter.The movement of a Crake like bird,and a flash of something reddish in the reeds brought me to a sudden stop.It turned out to be a White-breasted Waterhen.The bird saw me and disappeared into the reeds.A common sight in Taiwan,but the first sighting of it on my local patch.As I was about to get back on the scooter the site of a something black running across a sandbank caught my eye.I spotted more movement and glassed the area.It was a "family" of White-breasted Waterhen,two adults and two juveniles.A rather unusual sight of a bird that is generally solitary.I watched them feeding while the sun was setting,and then headed home.I think I need to spend more time watching the reeds along the stream.
With all the rain and flooding we are having in Taiwan I haven't been able to get to the local patch.I'd like to see the sun,too.
Getting a little cranky.
The rain had stopped...for the moment.I was able to get down to the Fairy Temple this morning.The forest was steamy and muddy after all the rain.Not to much happening.The Bronzed Drongos and Black Bulbuls seemed to be playing catch in the trees.Groups of between 4-6 birds chasing each other through the trees.Had a great sighting of a Malayan Night Heron.It was in the path in front of me eating a worm.I got within 2m of it before it WANDERED off.When I came back along the same track we had a repeat performance.Apart from the Malayan Night Heron the highlight of the morning's birding was falling off a little bamboo bridge into a stream....and then the rain came back!

Thank you for taking me along on your walk. It prompted my to do a web search for a photograph of the fairy pitta. What a beautiful bird! How wonderful that you were able to see it up close for such a length of time.

Lydia :girl:
Hi Lydia,
Yes very beautiful,it's hard not to fall in love with this little forest Nymph.They will be leaving during August,so not long left to watch them.I guess that's one of the reasons they are so special,we only have them for a few short months each year.


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I have a colleague,a non birder who has been wanting to see the Fairy pitta.I agreed to take him last Sunday morning.He arrived at 6,with wife and kid....this was going to be interesting.We got to Hu-ben and went for a short walk.After about twenty minutes of mud,mosquitoes and a Banded Krait the wife and kid returned to the car.We carried on.We met up with another "birder"who tagged along.My colleague and him chatting away very loudly.We finally spooked a juvenile pitta.The juvenile lacking the colours of an adult appeared very drab.I don't think they believed me when I told them it was indeed a pitta.By this time my colleague had had enough and I thankfully headed back to the car.
A sad tale

While out birding in my local patch I witnessed a mob of Black Bulbul(Hypsipetes leucocephalus) chasing a Grey/Himalayan Treepie(Dendrocitta formosae).The Black Bulbul were having a real go at the Treepie.It appeared more like an all out fight than a case of mobbing.The Treepie disappeared from sight and I carried on walking.Black Bulbul are really aggressive when they encounter Grey Treepie.My wife had recorded a mixed mob of Chinese and Black Bulbul mobbing a Grey Treepie about two months ago,too.When I got home I was about to tell my wife about the Black Bulbul when she told me a very sad story.

There is a very small school in a village very close to where my wife teaches in another small rural school.The school has a resident pair of endemic Taiwan/Formosan Blue Magpie(Urocissa caerulea).The Taiwan Blue Magpie is really a magnificent bird.Taiwan Blue Magpie generally are very social and live in small groups but I have seen them in pairs which was the case with these two.The pair would frequent the school in the early morning and the late afternoon and sometimes put in appearances during the day.The pair became very well known.

Sadly,this all changed yesterday.Early yesterday teachers were alerted to a great commotion outside.A mob of Black Bulbul were attacking the pair of Blue Magpie.The attack was relentless.In absolute desparation the pair of Blue Magpie were trying to get away from the mob.In the course of this aerial combat the one Blue Magpie flew straight into the wall of the school building and fell to the ground dead.The other Blue Magpie disappeared into the forest followed by the mob and has not been seen since.

A web-link to a picture of a Taiwan/Formosan Blue Magpie and other Taiwan birds is http://www.gio.gov.tw/info/ecology/English/bow_e/birds_e/birds_e.htm


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