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Tour of Taiwan June 2017 (1 Viewer)

dandsblair

David and Sarah
Getting back from Lanyu

Some very bad forecast was forecast and Richard was keeping a close eye on the Ferry operations, there would only be one today and it was scheduled to leave around 15.30 but if the weather was to change it may leave earlier.
They had already cancelled ferries for the two subsequent days so you can see how people get stranded on the island or miss out on coming over at all.

So we were really glad we had booked just one night and had pretty much cleaned up.

Plan for the day was originally to do some birding in the morning and then snorkel for a couple of hours but the wind and waves had pretty much ruled snorkelling out but with no morning ferry we could keep our room until it was time to leave for the ferry and have a shower before we go.

I should probably have mentioned transport on Lanyu, you can bring over a motorbike but not a car and any hire car may not be good as we were told that “this is where cars go to die”. Richard said we were lucky this time getting a car with most things working.

We decided to do the forest we did yesterday, then try the other side of the island and stop off at the weather station. We quickly saw most of what we saw yesterday, with Brown-eared Bulbul, and Lowland White-eye by the bridge, then unbelievably spotted the Elegant Scops Owl in broad day light we actually saw 5 of these in the tow forests today so looks like a good breeding season for the owls, then I managed a poor photograph of Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, added Philippine Cuckoo Dove and then headed around the coast and entered the forest near Dongging Bay, there was a pond here with Grey Heron, Moorhen and a White-breasted Waterhen, we were trying here for Northern Boobook and did eventually get a glimpse of one flying across the forest but couldn’t pick it up, twice finding Elegant Scops Owl on a likely branch, it would have been nice to have seen the Boobook well just in case it is split in future because we certainly wouldn’t tick it off as lifer on the view we had.

We then drove around the various scenic look-outs like Warship Rock, Dragons Head, Twin Lions and Hen Rock the only birds we added were Pacific Reef Egret, Little Egret and Phillipine Rock Thrush.
The weather centre presented an interesting glimpse of history and a good viewpoint but only seabird seen was a Little Tern.

We did though add Lanyu Japalura Lizard, Magallenic Birdwing, and 2 different Swallowtails.

The ferry trip although a bit rough passed uneventfully although with no further ferries scheduled it was pretty packed with lots of Chinese students smoking on the outside deck; so we didn’t do much sea watching from outside and inside only saw Caspian Tern.

Richard immediately headed to the pharmacist where we both stocked up on future supplies of travel sickness tablets (I think they are a similar formula to those in Kaikoura Crackers – the ones that New Zealand captains hand out before their pelagic trips on rough days). Certainly keeping Sarah from even feeling queezy is an achievement.

We were back at the same hotel and went to the same fish restaurant I think it is the only fish restaurant in town. Over dinner we decided with the poor weather forecast we should try to just head straight up to Alishan before any flooding or road closures might kick in. Up until now we had been pretty lucky with the weather.
 

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dandsblair

David and Sarah
A few photos

A few more photos including Whistling Green Pigeon I forgot to mention and frontage to seafood place if anyone is looking
 

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dandsblair

David and Sarah
Mikado Pheasant in the rain

Alishan and Yushan,

So off at first light with just a stop for some coffee and snacks at a 7-11; did I mention that there are 7-11’s everywhere, Taiwan has the most per capita of any country in the world and it was certainly convenient to stop for drinks and a comfort break almost anywhere.

Richard made excellent time on the drive and we even kept good time as the torrential rain arrived. When we got to KM100 Richard advised us to keep a look out for Pheasants and just as we reached 103 Richard slowed when he spotted some by the roadside, it was a female Mikado Pheasant with 2 Juveniles near by, excellent but where was the male we stopped in the layby between 103 and 104 (a few KN below Tatajia)and there was a cracking male Mikado Pheasant on the edge of the grass.
Light was poor but delighted to get one of our top targets for the trip. As it turned it although Richard hadn’t seen Pheasant’s at this spot before we saw birds here every time on 5 stops over the 2 days we came up. Richard had said they like mist and rain so that may have helped our cause.

We drove a few Kilometres further up and stopped when saw a Spotted Nutcracker (macrohynchos another possible split). It was still torrential rain but we had a few birds still to find; so on with the water-proofs and under an umbrella we head-up the restricted road towards the start of the Tatajia trailhead. We quickly found White-tailed Robin and Coal Tit, but then Richard got exited when he heard a Bullfinch calling and then right in front of us were 3 Grey-Headed (owstoni) Bullfinch, these we were told were very tricky and by no means certain birds so well pleased, even though it was in the torrential rain, but I had left my camera behind and so missed some point blank shots.

The next target was much harder as we tried to call Parrotbills for about 2 hours not a trace we did through add Taiwan Rosefinch, Flamecrest and White-whiskered Laughing Thrush but then when we were about to give up we heard a little flock and there were at least 6 Golden Parrotbills flitting around, one of the birds emerged from the bamboo and perched briefly what a stunner I described him as like a Bearded Tit dipped in green and gold paint but although we all saw it; it turned out Sarah had not been able to get it in her binoculars as focusing with one hand under the umbrella was beyond her. We did try to get the flock again but they had obviously moved on.

It was now after 2 o’clock and we were all cold and wet; the trails were running like a river and even our waterproof boots were completely full of water and we were also a bit hungry. Richard rang the visitor centre to see If they were open, they were but with limited staff as advice was for people not to come up to the mountains due to the weather – it also turned out that a hiker had died up at the cabin on the trek up Jade Mountain 3952M, so people were pretty busy responding to that.
Anyway short version of tale was they did some delicious, soups with Pork and noodles, they sold socks in a gift shop by the upstairs canteen so we could get our boots off and let then dry a bit before putting on nice clean dry socks. It probably looked like a Chinese (Taiwanese) Laundry with socks, trouser bottoms, Jackets, hats, etc all drying. After a slow lunch as the only visitors they then put on a special showing of the information film but unfortunately halfway through the flooding nearby caused a power cut so had to give up on that and get out into the rain.

So we decided to head back down the hill and at the same area we saw another male and female Mikado Pheasant and Whistling Thrush – quiet high for him.

Only other bird we saw on the way down to Firefly Guest House (aka Star Resort) was a very soggy Crested Serpent Eagle.
Firefly guest house have some local Owls and Flying Squirrels to look for as well as luminous mushrooms and an endemic Frog but the weather just didn’t ease off so we had a quiet night indoors.
 

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Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
Very annoyingly, when we were in Taiwan a few years ago, the Lanyu ferry was broken down and flights were fully booked so we couldn't get across at all.


A
 

dandsblair

David and Sarah
Another day in the mountains

Good news was that just before first light the rain had eased so we would go up to the hide in the little open blue van. You have to arrive at the hide before dawn and then hopefully a little bit of patience would pay off.

First things to show were Squirrels, Pallas’s Red Bellied and Long Nosed, then we had a nice male Swinhoe’s Pheasant, before the stars of the show a group of Taiwan (Taiwan Hill) Partridge came out and displayed, although we had brief sightings in the dark at Dasyushan this was a much better experience. Only other birds seen were White-bellied Green Pigeon and Green-backed Tit.
Then it was time to get back down to the guest house for breakfast. The guest house is Japanese Style so you leave your shoes at the door and use the various slippers inside, so our boots left outside albioet under shelter were still a little wet from yesterday before we did anything today.

Over breakfast we discussed what we should do, we didn’t want to get stranded up the mountain but the weather lower down if anything looked worse so we decided to go back up to the high mountains. This time we were prepared with spare socks and change of shirts etc. On way up we stopped at KM103 and saw the male Mikado Pheasant, there were a couple of Formosan Macaques also here. We did the same walk as yesterday and looked at all the new waterfalls to try to find Little Forktail (but this was to be one of the targets that we missed from not getting to known territory in Dasyushan), we saw Black-throated Bushtit, Ferruginous Flycatcher, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Bush warbler, White-whiskered Laughing Thrush, Steere’s Liocichla and Collared Bush Robin but no sign of the Parrotbills today.

We had the same routine as yesterday with lunch and change in the Tatajia Visitor centre and then today we got to watch the film completely through while we dried off. This was our last day with Richard and we were meeting Chuck in the town near FireFly at 6pm.

On way down we added a few more Mikado Pheasants all in roughly the same area and a White-tailed Robin.
Amazingly as we arrive in town the rain eased off and we added Silverbacked Needletail before having dinner.

Richard came back up the hill with us before heading back and we tried for a few owls, we got a glimpse of Collared Scops Owl as it responded to calls and but no sign of Mountain Scops Owl. As it was just drizzling when we got back we agreed to go with the owner up the trail to look for Flying Squirrels and Mountain Scops Owl.
Richard left for a trip to China but before he did we agreed we would leave for Huben / Doulei tomorrow morning as weather tomorrow afternoon was very bad and we didn’t want to get stuck up the mountain, a good call as had we stayed another day we would have been stuck as the road did get closed fairly low down the next day.

Trip up the hill started promisingly with two White-fronted Giant Flying Squirrels seen and then we heard Mountain Scops Owl calling but before we could even try to call him in the heavens just opened and we tried to shelter under massive leaves and get down to the guest house, we did eventually get back me soaked on the back of the truck Sarah in it. How many times across various countries will Mountain Scops Owl remain heard only.
 

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dandsblair

David and Sarah
Fairy Pitta Pictures

Today we would hopefully find the main (non endemic) target for the trip Fairy Pitta we would hook up with Mr Pitta (I think his name is Akai, a farmer from the Huben area) who tracks the Pittas in the area and then guarantees a sighting or no guiding fee. As we were going to be here a day early we had to make a new booking with him and thankfully he was free at 14.00 so we had a bit of time to kill before heading to the meeting point the Pitta Café, anyone on their own between late April and early July can probably get a slot in a two day period there is accommodation at the Cafe.

The other bit of good news was that Mountain Scops Owl or in Taiwan it could more accurately be called Hill Scops Owl, as it occurs a pretty low elevations, was that Mr Pitta would take us to a territory this evening.

We decided just to have a walk in light drizzle before breakfast in the ground and trails around Firefly, we were trying to get good views of Dusky Fulvetta and we finally did so, we added Taiwan Scimitar Babbler, Rufous Capped Babbler and White-tailed Robin before finding the La-trouc Frog.

On the drive down the hill we saw a couple of rare for Taiwan, Russet Sparrows and a Crested Goshawk. With time to kill we stopped at a coffee plantation and sampled the lovely coffee made using a unique filter/distillation system. We still had time to stop at a little forest where we saw the sun for the first time in days and added Taiwan Barbet, Crested (oriental) Honey Buzzard, Japanese White-eye, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Oriental Turtle Dove and Bronzed Dongo.
Just as we were getting back to Chuck’s car normal service was resumed and the rain returned for the drive down to Huben.

We had a drink and snack at Pitta Café in Huben, you can’t miss the huge pitta sign, accommodation looked OK here but we were staying in a nice hotel in Douliou City about 40 minutes away. Now that we were lower down it was pretty humid but the rain was off for a bit.
We followed Mr Pitta he went by motorbike and stopped on a track near a river, he knew of two Pitta territories and showed us to a nest with chicks and then took us to a viewing point well away from the nest where the adult birds come to collect insects and then occasional perch before flying back towards the nest.

Only problem was that while we waited for the birds we were being eaten, we had used two sorts of insect repellent on advice of girl at the café, one for the Midge type and another deet based one for the larger mosquitos. The large mosquitos were kept at bay but the midges were worse than anything in Scotland and poor Sarah was eaten all over her face. It got worse when it started to rain and we were sitting under brollies with hundreds of the blighters just eating us, fortunately one of the Pittas chose that moment to fly in, Sarah could see it but my view was obscured and it was another 10 minutes before the first Fairy Pitta came out into a clearing, then the second bird flew onto a nearby perch and showed really well and the rain went off to allow us 20 minutes just taking in the colour and beauty of these special birds.

I probably say after any Pitta but that was my favourite bird for a while.
Only other good bird was White-rumped Shama.

We had agreed to meet Mr Pitta for Owling after dinner but around 19.30 the heavens opened and our local weather app showed that it was on for the night so we re-arranged for tomorrow night.
 

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dandsblair

David and Sarah
XITOU or SITOU Nature Education Centre

Another day of rain was forecast and Xitou offered us the chance of a couple of target birds and some reasonable photo opportunities of a few birds that I hadn’t yet captured shots of. It was Saturday and normally it would be very busy with campers and day visitors but the poor weather meant that the place was really quite empty. It was also a good place to bird in the rain with lots of shelters in the forest, decent paths, and quite a few places near the main paths for snacks and drinks.

The birding was pretty good too with an excellent view of White-tailed Robin to start, then quite a few Steere’s Liocichla (finally got decent photos), Taiwan Barwing, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Black Bulbul, Oriental Turtle Dove, then just before lunch one of our last targets a Brown Bullfinch (uchaidi).

After lunch we searched every new waterfall for Little Forktail but closure of the road at Dasyushan certainly cost us that one. Only other bird we were looking for was Island Thrush but there were no known territories and so we didn’t get this future split.

Last birds of the afternoon were White-bellied Green Pigeon, Ferruginous Flycatcher, Taiwan Scimitar Babbler, Oriental Pratincol and Asian House Martin before we came across a photogenic Snowy-browed Flycatcher.

We arranged to meet for dinner at 19.00.
Having just finished dinner the rains were still torrential, but forecast for a couple of hours later was better so we contacted Mr Pitta agreed the latest time for meeting up and agreed to call round to his house if the weather improved. Just before the cut off time the rain had nearly stopped and we headed off to Huben to pick up our guide.

We parked in a school / church yard and took a forest path for about 10 minutes we could hear the Owls calling and then we stopped and tried calling them in, I think there were two or three birds calling and flying around but the only one we managed to get in the torch light after about 20 minutes was a young but unmistakeable Mountain Scops Owl. I think we have had heard only on this bird on various trips for over 17 years so a huge relief even if the one photo I took (I just took SX out in the rain) is pretty rubbish.
The rain then came back on heavy and we returned to Douliou we had heard the Savanna Nightjar on various hotel roofs a few times but hadn’t seen them well enough to count but Chuck decided to try calling them in the light rain in the town square and unbelievably three birds came into our torch beams, it seemed really weird birding in the town centre on a busy saturday night but result.

Last days birding tomorrow
 

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dandsblair

David and Sarah
And finally

Last Hurrah

We had two days left in Taiwan – we had allowed some contingency in case of weather problems, getting to and from Lanyu (sensible but fortunately not needed) or difficulty finding a few of the trickier endemics but as we had seen all the endemics and most of the sub species (missed Island Thrush but no known territories for this bird this year) and sought after Asian birds we hadn’t already seen (tried for Little Forktail and saw all other targets) we could do what we liked.

We agreed with Chuck that we would bird the Budai area today – weather was forecast poor and then just spend last day in sight-seeing around Taipei before our flight home.
Chuck had seen the Chinese Crested Tern on a sandbar just before high tide last week so we would start with trying for that and then try a sight he knew for Slaty-legged Rail (we assume he meant Crake) which would also be a lifer.

We didn’t need to be at the coast until 9.30 so a leisurely breakfast in the hotel and then an hour and half to the coast. We got there in good time and Surprise! Surprise! it was chucking it down. So we birded under our by now falling apart umbrellas, there were a number of terns starting to come onto the sandbar, a group of Great Crested, Black-naped, Gull-billed and Little terns, then a Red-necked Phalarope, and two Chinese Egrets came in. On the marsh on the other side of the watch point a Yellow Bittern flew over but no sign of the Chinese Crested Tern just a few Caspian and a couple more Great Crested came in along with a Lesser Sand Plover and Kentish Plover. Flying over we had Oriental Pratincol, Whiskered Tern and Striated Swallow.

When the tide had come completely in and the birds moved on we moved on to the main Budai reserve. The target here was Black-faced Spoonbill although we had seen these a few times before it was still a nice trip tick and we found three birds along with Black-winged Stilts, Avocets, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Little and Intermediate Egrets.

We stopped for lunch at a nice fish restaurant near some coastal marshes that were completely flooded so we didn’t bird there.

We then headed to a spot for Slaty-legged Crake, it was coastal pools with little woodland, but it turned out that Chuck meant Slaty-breasted Rail, still a good bird (new sub species) but not a lifer for me. We added a Long-tailed Shrike, Black-crowned Night Heron, Pale-vented Bulbul, Kestrel and Moorhen and then headed north staying the night near KM1 for Dasyushan.

Our last day was a standard tourist one, we drove into Taipei, and went up Taipei 101 and then went to Chiang Kai Shrek memorial park where we saw the changing of the guard and added the last two trips birds Asian Glossy Starling and Black-collared Starling and it was dry most of the day.

Summary

All in all a great trip, we saw all the current endemics with great views of what could have been some tricky birds, people were really friendly, food was excellent and we had some good other wildlife sightings. Even the last 5 days of near constant rain didn’t put us off recommending the trip to some friends although I think they will go earlier in the year to get drier weather, the winter migrants and but also miss the Pittas.
 

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dandsblair

David and Sarah
Consolidated report

PDF version of report with a few more photos - if anyone is interested
 

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