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Tour of Taiwan June 2017 (1 Viewer)

dandsblair

David and Sarah
Taiwan not only has great avifauna but also a host of other winning points that make it a wonderful destination for a comfortable birding trip. With around 32 endemics, and many endemic subspecies that could be split in the next 10 years there was a load to look forward to. It is located 100 km east of the coast of China, south of Japan and Korea, and north of the Philippines.

Less than 400 km long and 150 km wide, with rugged central mountains and deep valleys, it boasts a very high biodiversity – in a very manageable package. We focused on the endemics and other East Asian specialities in Taiwan’s well-protected forests. A lot of our time was spent in the mountains but we did have to make some changes to plans due to road closures after some recent very heavy rains and had some heavy rain (Plum rains) in the last 5 days of the trip.

We also allowed some time in the lowlands and at the coast, looking out for wetland birds before taking the ferry to Orchid Island (Lanyu) we only spend one night there as some attractive and interesting birds we had seen in Japan or the Philippines. In the last couple of days we chased a few rarities.
We found the Taiwanese are a very friendly and welcoming people. They have blended the best parts of unspoiled, traditional Chinese culture with the influence of colonial Japan, along with the native Austronesian culture. Taiwan is free and democratic, has good infrastructure, and is considered safe.

Interestingly we decided to do this as a guided tour with Richard Foster (generally recognised as the best birding guy in Taiwan) after meeting him at the UK Birdfair and deciding that with our time of travel and with adverse weather likely to be an issue a Chinese speaker who knows the country would be really helpful. Having birded Japan and parts of the Philippines on our own a self-guided tour is certainly possible but we would have missed a few birds and wouldn’t have been able to respond to road closures and lack of access to accommodation and reserves as readily as Richard did.
We found Richard extremely friendly and excellent company. Unfortunately Richard wasn’t available for our complete trip so we had a local guy Chuck as driver / guide in the last few days, he certainly knew his stuff.

We arrived 5th June 16.20 picked up by Richard and overnight in local town of Longtan. Richard got us into birding pretty much immediately with a drive around the fields near to Taoyuan with best birds being Greater Painted Snipe, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Plain Prinia, Oriental Pratincol, Pacific Golden Plover, Black-shouldered Kite, Golden-headed Cisticola, Pale-vented Bulbul, Black Drongo and a Crested Myna. On arrival at our hotel we could hear but not see Savanna Nightjar.

There was quite a bit of mud and water around as it had rained for the last 10 days but fortunately the weather not looked to be set fair for the next few days.

Day 2. June 6th Taiwan lowlands
After a not too early breakfast we set off around 06.00 for Shimen Reservoir, Richard hadn’t been here for a while but what a great place to start. We had heard that good views of Blue Magpie could be tricky but from the first minute we arrived in the car park to our return hours later we had good views, including a family group of 5 birds. So first endemic was Taiwan Blue Magpie and shortly behind was the colourful Taiwan Barbet, there when then more familiar lowland species, such as Light-vented (Chinese) Bulbul, Red Turtle (Red Collared) Dove, Spotted Dove, Long-tailed Shrike, Black Drongo, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Japanese White-eye, before we saw a White-rumped Shama, we actually saw a few of these over the trip and then we heard a Black-necklaced Scimitar Babbler – this was a notorious skulker that Richard said could be really tricky to see well but within 10 minutes we had great views of a young bird and glimpses of an adult flitting around, and better still as I was trying to photograph the bird a couple of Taiwan Bamboo Partridge wandered across the path and I even got a record shot of him too, so two tricky endemics ticked without any problem on the first morning. Wandering around the trails we saw quite a few good birds like Grey Treepie, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, White-bellied Epornis, Bronze Drongo, Black Bulbul before getting great views of a singing Taiwan Whistling Thrush.
Heading down towards a small river we added Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, more Taiwan Barbets before adding the much easier to see Taiwan Scimitar Babbler.

Having seen most of the target birds we headed via Lunch to the coast for any late passage waders and added Great Knot, Sanderling, Avocet, Kentish Plover, Turnstone and Gull-billed and Little Tern. We then headed down Dadong for access to Dasyushan (aka Anmashan) for the next few days.
As per most nights we ate in a very good local restaurant a nice variety of Chinese style food.
 

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Dave Williams

Well-known member
An unusual destination but it sounds a good choice from what you have described so far bar the weather.Looking forward to more.
 

dandsblair

David and Sarah
Low to mid elevation Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area

Plan was to spend 3 days at various elevations in the renowned Dasyueshan National Forest near to the town, moving from subtropical lowlands to coniferous temperate mountains at over 2,000 meters, possibly staying in the comfortable cabins at Anmashan after the first couple of days. We knew before setting out that the road above 43KM was closed for roadworks.

Off nice and early after a home prepared breakfast in the hotel in Dongshih (although it is now not an official hotel hence they can’t provide breakfast but can still provide rooms.

We started at the low elevation where amongst the Black and Pale-naped Bulbuls we added a lifer in the impressive Collared Finchbill and then the first endemic of the day a Taiwan Hawamei after we had good looks to ensure no white around the eye and possibility of a Chinese or Hybrid bird. Other lowland birds included Striated Swallow, Striated and Yellow-bellied Prinia, Japanese White-eye and Common Kingfisher.

We then climbed to the 21KM viewing point via the police station which we found out provides access to hot and cold water and toilets for anyone. They also provide information on the road conditions above (042) 597-1106.

We heard the sound of a flock of Laughing Thrushes and quickly found a group of Rusty Laughing Thrush, there was also White-browed Sibia and Taiwan Yuhina around so a good trio of target birds but no sign of the Swinhoe’s Pheasant or Hill Partridge that often frequent the area below the viewing platform where people ignore the no feeding sign and toss some food down.
A forest ranger approached Richard and took some photos of us alongside the various signs and with information leaflets, he was telling Richard that the road above was closed and that we were unlikely to get beyond the entrance gate. Whilst this was happening a female Swinhoe’s Pheasant appeared – nice tick but not a stunning male. We made our way slowly up seeing some stunning butterfly’s, dragon flies, lizards and bugs before the next birds some Grey-chinned Minivets and a stunning Taiwan (Vivid) Niltava we then tried for ages to see a Dusky Fulvetta but despite being almost on top of it Sarah couldn’t get more than a partial view, it was about 10 days later despite lots of calling birds before she finally saw one really well. As if the Fulvetta wasn’t tricky enough we then tried to coax out into view a Taiwan Wren Babbler – Richard went well beyond the call of duty getting well into the really stingy nettles to place his speaker to finally get the birds to hop across an almost clear area. We both saw the bird a number of times but it wasn’t the sort of view we could salivate over, so just as well an Indian Black Eagle grabbed our attention before a White-tailed Robin showed well for Sarah and Richard and I was the one struggling to get the angle right to see it. The last bird before we reached the visitor centre and gate was a lovely Steere’s Liocichla a beautiful bird but one that took me ages to get a decent photograph of, it was almost as though it was teasing me for the next few days.

The bad news was that we were not even allowed to walk beyond the gate to access trails as they had repair crews assessing the damage with fears that further rain could mean months of closure. Richard was disappointed but pretty relaxed that we could find the key high elevation targets in Alishan and Mount Heheun but we would change our itinerary slightly. You can still get water and access the toilets at the visitor centre but even Richard who is friendly with the staff couldn’t talk his way in to do the trails below the landslide.
So we had a lunch from the back of Richard’s minivan and then birded the area near the entrance. There were some good birds about we got a family of Rufous-crowned Laughing Thrush, and then a superb Taiwan Barwing, a then candidates for future splits a White-backed Woodpecker (Owstoni) and Scaly Thrush (Taiwan taxa), we then caught up with some more Rusty Laughing Thrushes finding the nest before a lovely group of Black-throated BushTits, Green-backed Tits and Yuhina seemingly covered every branch of some nearby bushes. We also had fleeting glimpses of Grey-headed (Grey-faced) Woodpecker, more heard than seen and a Rufous-capped Babbler before getting back down to the viewing area.

What had been a bright sunny day had clouded so we decided to get back to the pheasant spot, but when we emerged from the tunnel lower down it was pouring. It soon stopped and we were OK to continue. We had noticed a guy with a camera surreptitiously putting seed down earlier in the day and visited that area first but a local lady started waving to me and we quickly got over to where a male Swinhoe’s Pheasant was showing well. I even managed a few high ISO shots but light was fading but before it went completely a couple of Taiwan Hill Partridge appeared at the bottom of the dip – both Richard and I saw the birds but Sarah couldn’t see them it was only when she swapped her bins with me that she could make out the birds (Zeiss 1-0 Swarovski for low light performance).

Further down at the river we added Plumbeous Redstart, Ferruginous Flycatcher and Brown Dipper before heading back for the night.
 

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dandsblair

David and Sarah
Taiwan Barwing

Barwing and Rusty Laughing Thrush
 

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dandsblair

David and Sarah
Great destination

An unusual destination but it sounds a good choice from what you have described so far bar the weather.Looking forward to more.
It was a great destination with no leaches or malaria and most targets being much easier to see than elsewhere in asia (e.g. Philippines are much harder). It was our choice to take on the weather as we wanted to get the breeding Fairy Pitta which are only really reliable in May and June. It was pretty good for photography - particularly the Pitta sight and on Lanyu
 

dandsblair

David and Sarah
Been to Taiwan many times. I'm looking forward to the rest of this.

Looking forward to another adventure and good read, thank you.

Thanks - will try to get caught up quickly
 

dandsblair

David and Sarah
Another day at Mid and Low Elevations

We decided that we would do the day around the same areas but would then set off early tomorrow for Guguan, Washe and possibly Mount Heheun while weather forecast was good and with not a lot more to see at Dasyushan.

The first big target bird of the day was Yellow Tit but despite hearing one calling we just couldn’t get on it. However we did get a male Swinhoe’s Pheasant cross the road right in front of us and then got reacquainted with Taiwan Yuhina, White-browed Sibia[/B], Green-backed Tit and Rusty Laughing Thrush before when stopping to photograph a Blue-tailed Skink I saw the Yellow Tit fly in to a roadside tree. I think everyone saw it but fortunately it decide to be friendly and came right down to the roadside, the only problem was that he kept positioning himself with sun all wrong but we were happy to have seen the bird well and I grabbed a few decent record shots of this little cracker.

That was pretty much it for the morning session apart from a Formosan Striped Squirrel and a Pallas (red-bellied) Squirrel and the first Formsan Macaques of the trip.

After our picnic lunch we tried unsuccessfully for better views of a calling Wren Babbler and caught up with the White-backed Woodpecker. Richard knew a spot for Bush Warbler this surprised me as I thought they were a high elevation bird and we could only get to around 2000M but sure enough Richard heard the bird calling at a nice viewpoint and we were able to look down on Taiwan Bush Warbler.

Only other birds we added above the tunnel were Black-throated Tit, Vivid Niltava and Taiwan Barbet. We tried again at KM21 view point for the Partridges but only added Yuhina, Black Bulbul, Whistling Thrush and a female Swinhoe’s Pheasant.

Back at the hotel we crossed the road to try to see Malay Night Heron in a nearby yard – poor views and we heard but couldn’t find the Savanna Nightjar above the local restaurants.
 

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dandsblair

David and Sarah
Guguan and Mount Heheun / Toroko NP

Off nice and early and we arrive in central park in Guguan before it officially opens.
We hear the target bird almost immediately and quickly spot an adult and a juvenile Chestnut-fronted (split from Varied)Tit. There were also a couple of Malaysian Night Herons showing really well as they fed on worms on the lawns, we took a short walk across the swing bridge adding Crested Serpent Eagle – another split candidate?, Taiwan Blue Magpie, Collared Finchbill, White Wagtail and Japanese White-eye.

Richard suggested that as weather was forecast good and we had found the key birds before 08.00 we should head immediately up to the high mountains. So it was that we stopped just before Mount Heheun to add White-whiskered Laughing Thrush and Collared (Johnstone’s) Bush Robin before 10.00am.

Next stop was the car park just as you enter Taroko Gorge National Park. I went chasing an Alpine Accentor (Fennelli) surely a candidate for the next split it certainly looks and sounds very different and is a little cracker, Sarah and Richard had got out the other side of the vehicle and were closing in on a beautiful Taiwan Rosefinch, fortunately although both birds were mobile we easily picked up both and got a few nice photos.

After a short spell at the view point we walked done to a nearby copse where we got good views of Coal Tit (crested), a few female Rosefinch before a decent view of male and female Collared Bush Robin, we could hear Flamecrest but it took us a while to finally pick out another cracking endemic. There were also a few Taiwan Yuhina and then the next new birds with its distinctive song (Taiwan)Yellow-bellied Bush Warbler.

It was time for a coffee break and toilet stop at the main visitor centre and by the car park was a very confiding White-whiskered Laughing Thrush. From the little viewing area above the toilets we were looking down on another Yellow-bellied Bush Warbler and a Winter Wren.

We walked along the track to one of the easiest monroes (here they are over 3000M and there are 300 or so of them) so great walking. I thought I saw a Shortwing but Richard said behaviour and habitat was wrong but on investigation we were delighted to find White-browed (Taiwan) Robin. What an excellent morning.

We had lunch near to the “native bird research centre” and after lunch went into the bamboo trails near to where the researchers were ringing. After the brilliant morning with so many target birds found it was a little slower this afternoon with birds like Flamecrest, Collared Bush Robin, Rosefinch and Yuhina being by now slightly less exciting than they were, so it was that as we went down a little lower that Taiwan Fulvetta provided a highlight of the afternoon along with some point blank views of Taiwan Rosefinch.

We headed back to Washe staying at a guest house with extensive grounds where we tried for but didn’t even hear Collared or Mountain Scops owls.
 

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dandsblair

David and Sarah
Taiwan Rosefinch

Rosefinch and Flamecrest
 

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dandsblair

David and Sarah
Washe, Quinjing and road to Tainan

Leisurely start today no owls calling before first light, we would get up if there was – so breakfast at 06.00 as area we are going to near Quinjing is in shade until later and birds are not active early in the morning.

We stop at a pretty nondescript patch of spare ground about 10 minutes above the sheep shearing place (New Zealand guy sheers only sheep on Taiwan with fun commentary but amazing crowds that were stopping here). We were looking for and finding pretty easily the Brown-flanked (Strong-footed) Bush Warbler which showed prey well in the morning sunshine.

It was the off to what is either called the Blue Gate or Pipeline trail near the QuinJing river. It was still really shady and wet and muddy when we arrived, there is parking for just a few cars and the sign says you need a permit but we didn’t have one and some other people we met didn’t either. First bird here was White-tailed Robin, then we added Ashy Woodpigeon, Rufous-faced Warbler and then a mixed flock had grey-chinned Minivet, Rufous-capped babbler, Taiwan Yuhina, Black-throated Tit and Green-backed Tit. We then heard and finally got on a Taiwan Shortwing that eventually broke from cover and flew across the path – no chance of photographing that one, pretty much the same result for Taiwan Wren Babbler which Richard said occasional shows on top of the plastic water pipes – not for us - just the usual brief views even through there seemed to be 4 or 5 birds calling and responding to each other.

Having crossed the road to the other side of the trail we added Taiwan Scimitar Babbler, Rusty Laughing Thrush, Steere’s Liocichla, and Taiwan Whistling Thrush. We then drove to the other entrance where there is a water treatment building that you can climb on, from the top of the building we added Black Bulbul, Yellow Tit and Crested Goshawk.

That was almost it for the day as we had do drive south to Tainan but on the way we stopped at a Temple in Pulai which had a famous resident, a local Collared Scops Owl.

We stayed the night in Tainan going out for a nice meal at an unusual Cowboy bar and restaurant whilst Richard went home to spend the evening with his family and we would meet up at 07.15 tomorrow.
 

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dandsblair

David and Sarah
Black-faced Spoonbill and Pheasant tailed Jacana reserves near Tainan

Standard breakfast at the hotel and ready to leave as Richard arrives. It is a glorious sunny morning, it turns out to be the hottest day so far.

We head to the Black-faced Spoonbill reserve, there are usually a few birds that spend the summer in Taiwan but they seem to be down the coast at Budai. So we make do with Grey Plover, Eurasian Curlew, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Yellow Bittern, Black-shouldered Kite and Oriental Pratincol before heading inland to the Pheasant tailed Jacana reserve.

Just before turning for the reserve Sarah and spotted some out of place birds, I said is was that something like Saffron Finch, Sarah said no looks more like weavers if we were in Africa, turns out that they were two Golden Palm Weavers – they are in Chinese field guide as escapees – don’t know if there is a sustainable population but Richard had never heard of them occurring around here.

On arriving at the reserve there was a young Black-naped Oriole which is a good bird for the island. On the lakes there are lots of breeding Pheasant-tailed Jacana, a few Oriental Skylarks, Japanese White-eye, Scaly-breasted Munia, Red Turtle Dove, Oriental Turtle Dove and a flyover Cinnamon Bittern. On the pools by the raod we add Whiskered and White-winged Black Tern.

We had the long drive down towards Kenting for some birding tomorrow and to be local for our ferry to Lanyu from Henghuan but on route we were stopping at a campsite for a target bird. On arrival at the empty camp-site, I think being Sunday afternoon everyone had packed up and left, we quickly added Grey Treepie, Taiwan Barbet and Black-eared Kite before we heard the Maroon Oriole, Richard went over to one side of the camping field forest to look for the birds but Sarah and I were the lucky ones and I found three stunning Maroon Orioles in the area next to us. The birds were reasonably confiding and I managed a couple of shots which I think do the birds justice – result.

A walk around the other section of the site added Chinese Pond Heron, Kingfisher, Striated Swallow and Spotted Dove, whilst a pond held Golden Marginated Turtle and we also saw Grass Tree Frog.

Weather was looking a little iffy for our crossing to Lanyu tomorrow, with a Typhoon/Tropical Storm heading for Hong Kong, we asked Richard to stop at a local Pharmacy to get some travel sickness pills but before arriving at the town of Fenggang (we got the pills 10 for 100NT$) we trawled up and down some newly planted fields and got ourselves the last bird of the day which was a lifer a Barred Buttonquail.

The town of Fenggang where we stayed is famous for three things, Brown Shrike (signs everywhere and it used to be the famous local cookery dish but they have now stopped hunting them and instead serve things like squid in the shape of Shrike, secondly the Prime Minister comes from the area and is friend with the hotel owner we are staying with and lastly some good seafood – which we thoroughly enjoyed with a few beers.
 

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dandsblair

David and Sarah
Morning in Kenting NP then Lanyu

We headed to the Shedding area of the National Park to be honest there wasn’t a lot of bird targets just the endemic bulbul, which we found pretty quickly so Styan’s Bulbul seen and photographed and the just a few old favourites like Grey Treepie, Black Bulbul, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker and Japanese White-eye. We then visited a new wetland site and added Eastern Spot-billed Duck, Tufted Duck, Little Egret and Coot.

We got to the ferry for our 13.40 crossing and good news it was a bigger and more stable boat with a good outside area for sea watching. It was quite choppy but we all took our tablets and we all felt remarkably good, so much so that Richard went in and bought a supply for future trips on the way back as although normally OK it can spoil the rest of the day if a group are badly impacted by sea-sickness.

The actual crossing was very quiet bird wise with just a Bulwer’s Petrel, Little Tern and Caspian Tern and no sign of our hoped for Streaked Shearwater, we did see a few flying fish though.

Orchid Island (Lanyu)

With an indigenous culture that is closer to that of the Philippines and the Pacific, Lanyu is a nice contrast to mainland Taiwan.
We dropped our bags at the hotel, partly underground in native style and had a few hours of daylight to try for some target birds and Richard knew what we wanted most.

We drove a few miles round the island road and just before the bridge where you can access the forest we had a Taiwan Whistling Green Pigeon, and from the bridge we quickly added a few pacific specials in Brown-eared Bulbul and Lowland White-eye before getting Philippine Cuckoo Dove as we entered the forest trail, that only left two main target and we didn’t take too long finding a female Japanese Paradise Flycatcher.
After a brief walk and with light in the forest fading we then heard an owl calling, Richard tried calling it in and we both saw it fly into a tree back up by the roadside; it took what seemed an age but eventually we found the bird perched on a branch above the road. Although the sun hadn’t yet set it was in near darkness but with a little bit of spotlight I got a couple of shots of our top target Lanyu (Elegant) Scops Owl that I’m more than happy with.

We even had time to cross the road and walk up the hill to see the sunset over the ocean and even added Lesser Coucal and Pacific Swift on the way.
A lovely sunset and then a barbecue and beer on the beach next to our hotel to finish a great day.
 

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MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Sounds like a terrific trip so far with a fine haul of Taiwanese endemics.

I've wanted to go to Lanyu for a while (very gripped by your pix of the ow!) and would be more than delighted with Bulwer's Petrel, which is not easy in Asia.

Cheers
Mike
 

dandsblair

David and Sarah
I don't think we needed to go

Surprised you had to go to Sheding to get the bulbul. I got my lifer in the parking lot of my hotel in Kenting.

We actually saw quite a few after the first one at Shedding, it was also good for butterflies including Golden Birdwing, an endemic Lizard (Japarula I think) and good views of the Macaques
 

dandsblair

David and Sarah
Thanks

Sounds like a terrific trip so far with a fine haul of Taiwanese endemics.

I've wanted to go to Lanyu for a while (very gripped by your pix of the ow!) and would be more than delighted with Bulwer's Petrel, which is not easy in Asia.

Cheers
Mike
Richard - was quite matter of fact about the Petrel so assumed it was pretty common on this trip and as it wasn't a lifer and it was not that close I didn't even photograph it
 

McMadd

You should see the other bloke...
I've wanted to go to Lanyu for a while (very gripped by your pix of the ow!) and would be more than delighted with Bulwer's Petrel, which is not easy in Asia.

Cheers
Mike

Hey Mike!

Just for you...2013-07-08 approaching Lanyu in the mother of all rainstorms...on a day-trip with Dr Foster...

Cheers, McM
 

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