Monday, February 6, 2012

Hehuan and Blue Gate Trail

Hehuan and Blue Gate Trail.

Hehuan Mountain
Before starting on the Blue Gate Trails we made a short trip up to Hehuan Mountain. Some snow was next to the road and on the nearby peaks, but the it was shorts and t-shirt temperature. Target birds (2 Vinaceous Rosefinch, 5+ confiding (as usual) White-whiskered Laughingthrush, 1 Alpine Accentor) were very easily found on the scrubby road running parallel to the entrance to Songxue Lodge. Bonus single Winter Wren in the Dwarf Bamboo below the toilet block. Alpine Accentor between high pass and Songxue Hotel. Perfect! Like clockwork!

On the way down briefly used playback for Taiwan Bush Warbler near the Taroko NP marker car-park to no avail. Also hoped for, but missed, Coal Tit

Blue Gate Trail.

Most famously know in birding circles as the Blue Gate Trail, this is a forest road (at about 2,200 meters elevation) divided into two sections - Blue Gate #1, and Blue Gate #2. It runs through a section of Rueiyan River Wildlife Habitat. The official name of the road is Shuiguan Road - or Pipeline Road as the water pipes supplying to Chingjing run (and ready for wet feet) alongside this overgrown track. Its reputation for being good for pheasants and other birds seems to be not as great as in the past. Some bits of #2 is suffering from erosion and landslides. The first (southern-most) entrance to it starts before km mark 16 on Highway #14a and runs through good forest before crossing a paved road - to the ‘Continuation Trail’ or BG#2. This time we explored the northern section (which actually still has a blue gate). To get to it, drive down the steep road next to the police station at km mark 18. After about 600 meters there is a good place to park next to the famous blue gates.
The path is wet and rough in places. The landslides become tougher and riskier to traverse, after about 2 kilometers we came to an impassable landslide area.

Birds seen: 1 White-browed Bush Robin, 1 Grey-faced Woodpecker, 10+ Black-throated Tit, 2 Collared Bush Robin, Little Owlet (heard only), 20+ Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, 10 Barwing, 5 White-whiskered Laughingthrush, 5+ Rufous-faced Warbler 2 Ashy Wood-Pigeon, 6 Sibia, 1 Barbet, 10+ Streak-throated Fulvetta (see left), 3 Liocichlas...but no Pheasants or Wren Babbler, maybe the weather was too good... Catherine also found Grey-headed Bulfinch.

New Birds at Hehuan and Blue Gate #2:

Vinaceous Rosefinch    Carpodacus vinaceus    "Endemic subspecies (C. v. formosanus)"
White-whiskered Laughingthrush    Garrulax morrisonianus    Endemic species
Eurasian Wren    Troglodytes troglodytes    "Endemic subspecies (T. t. taivanus)"
Alpine Accentor    Prunella collaris    "Endemic subspecies (P. c. fennelli)"
White-browed Bush-Robin    Tarsiger indicus    "Endemic subspecies (T. i. formosanus)"
Gray-faced Woodpecker    Picus canus   
Collared Owlet    Glaucidium brodiei    "Endemic subspecies (G. b. pardalotum)" (heard only)
Ashy Wood-Pigeon    Columba pulchricollis  
Taiwan (Streak-throated) Fulvetta    Alcippe formosana    Endemic species
Rufous-faced Warbler    Abroscopus albogularis