Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tainan - north and east.

Beimen, Tainan.
May 17
Hen Harrier. Image

Several days of grey skies and showers - it didn’t look promising, but for my sanity I had to get out of the office. Was well worth getting soaked for, some good birds found, suspect many more were hiding. The main focus of my escape was Shuangchun (not far from Beimen in northern Tainan County) - the pedestrian path area inside, and the roads on the west side.

Birds seen in and around Shuangcun, Beimen:

Moorhen, several Redshank, Long-tailed Shrike, Chinese Bulbul, Black Drongo, Magpie Robin, Swallow sp, Kentish (Snowy) Plover, Yellow Bittern, Various Egrets, Black-naped Night-Heron, Little Grebe, Greenshank, Black-winged Stilt, Sooty Tern, Hair-crested Drongo, Whimbrel.

Also, on the way north on #61, where it meets #173 (not far from the Black-faced Spoonbill reserve), I came upon a pond with mixed group of Whiskered and Black-winged Terns.

On the northern side of the Tsengwen river mouth, south of the BFS reserve,  there was stunning Hen (Northern) Harrier. Near the #17 bridge was a Koel.

Near HSR Station May 11th

Between tedious trips to Tainan High Speed Rail (HSR) Station had time to look around some fields and scrub to the east of the station. A drainage ditch about 1km east held what I am pretty sure was an  Japanese Night-Heron, makes me wonder how many of these endangered migratory birds are mistaken for Malayan Night-Herons (also top finds).

Sicao Tainan May 22nd

Slaty-breasted Rail on the way to coastal windbreak forest. Part of Taijiang Nat Park.  

New birds.

Sooty Tern    Onychoprion fuscatus
White-winged Tern    Chlidonias leucopterus
Northern Harrier    Circus cyaneus
Asian Koel    Eudynamys scolopaceus
Japanese Night-Heron    Gorsachius goisagi
Slaty-breasted Rail    Gallirallus striatus    Taiwan Endemic Subspecies (G. s. taiwanus)

Fairy Pitta!

Fairy Pitta!

16th May

Jhonglun Mountain. Do I need say anything else?

Fairy Pitta.  Image

Fairy Pitta    Pitta nympha

Lanyu (Orchid Island)

May 14th

Jap. Paradise-Flycatcher
Just back from Lanyu (蘭嶼, Orchid Island) where all the target birds were bagged in record time. Bonuses - excellent weather, fun snorkeling, other good birds (and flying fish, dolphins) on the ferry. A rugged mountainous island sitting 90 km off the southeastern coast of Taiwan. Its flora and fauna, tropical climate and culture at times feels more Filipino than Taiwanese.

As soon as getting off the ferry, and renting a scooter with stunning ease, I headed straight for ‘Flycatcher Creek’. All target birds were found in record time (not always this easy). The local race of Brown-Eared Bulbuls were abundant island-wide, 3 or 4 Japanese Paradise-Flycatchers were seen only in the creek, Philippine Cuckoo Doves were in the creek and elsewhere, Lowland White-eyes were everywhere. The Whistling Green Pigeon made an appearance from the bridge. 

While in the creek, careful listening and a bit of mimicry attracted a Scops Owl that sat for over 5 minutes in excellent light. The endemic botelensis form on Lanyu has historically been lumped in Ryukyu Scops Owl Otus elegans, but it has now been shown to differ morphologically and vocally from the birds in the Ryukyu Islands and is often treated as specifically distinct as (Elegant) Lanyu Scops-Owl.

Also seen on Lanyu.
White-breasted Waterhen, 1 Water Rail, 3 Grey Herons,
Egrets Little and Intermediate.
4 dark morph Reef Herons
10+  Blue Rock-Thrush of the philippensis variety - stunning powdery blue.
10+ Brown Shrike, House Swift maybe other? Pacific Swallow.
Oriental Pratincole - first this year!
Black Drongo, Yellow Wagtail species.

And on the ferry.
1 Bulwer’s Petrel
5+ Little Tern
1 Short-tailed Shearwater. other distant birds.
All were seen close to the most southerly point of Taiwan. The sea was very calm.

Lanyu coast from the lighthouse road.
The main problem birders encounter with Lanyu is transportation to and from the island. Especially in summer and winter, bad weather can mess with flights and ferries for days on end. In summer Lanyu can become quite busy with holidaying students.

Flying: Daily Air ( 07 8014711, 089362489, 089362487, 089362485, Taidung Airport 362675-6, Lanyu 089732278 http://www.dailyair.com.tw/) web have 12 flights daily from Taidung Airport. The small airstrip on Lanyu means the planes are 19-seaters. NT$ 1,300, 20 minutes.

Boat: Ferries run year round from Fugang (富岡, just north of Taidung city); and in summer (April to October) from Hobihu (後壁湖, not far far from Kenting). NT$ 1,000, 2.5 hours.
The main ferry companies are Dafa 金星(大發)輪船公司 089-281477  or (089)281490 http://dafa.okgo.tw/ (Hobihu and Fugang),  興安輪船公司 (Kaishiuan or Farnlin?) 089-281047 http://www.farnlin.com.tw/. and Green Island Star  綠島之星輪船公司 089-280226. Good luck.

For most birders a 1-night stay is adequate. Stay longer if planning diving or insurance against bad birding weather. Accommodation and food on Lanyu is adequate but certainly not 5-star. I suggest staying at one of the small guest houses away from the scruffy main village of Hongtou.

It is easy [update May 2013: may not be so easy now - at minimum you should have an international licence] to turn up at the airport or harbor and rent motor scooters. Cars also available. Contact me if needing help booking any of these items in advance - no guarantees, but will help.

New Birds.

Oriental Pratincole    Glareola maldivarum
Bulwer's Petrel    Bulweria bulwerii
Little Tern    Sternula albifrons
Short-tailed Shearwater    Puffinus tenuirostris
Lowland White-eye    Zosterops meyeni
Ryukyu Scops-Owl    Otus elegans    "Endemic subspecies (O. e. botelensis)"
Whistling Green-Pigeon    Treron formosae    "Endemic subspecies (T. f. formosae)"
Philippine Cuckoo-Dove    Macropygia tenuirostris
Brown-eared Bulbul    Ixos amaurotis    "Taiwan Endemic Subspecies (I. a. harterti)"
Japanese Paradise-Flycatcher    Terpsiphone atrocaudata   


May 13th and 15th

Collared Finchbill
Kenting is the common name for the (usually tropical) Hengchun Peninsula in the very south of Taiwan. Most people visiting Kenting are there only for the beaches, and the main town of Kenting - whose main street becomes a night market most nights. If not into this sort of thing, don’t worry - it is easy to escape on your scooter into the REAL parts of the national park.

The best places for birding in Kenting (more details soon):

Longluan Lake. The excellent visitor center on the west side is equipped with scopes. In the parking lot look out for the endemic Taiwan Hwamei.

During fall raptor migration season Sheding Park near the Forest Park - on the hill behind Kenting Town.

The Manjhou area in the middle of the peninsula is also excellent for resting raptors. At dawn and dusk scout out the area between the ‘raptor bridge’ in Manjhou and the coast at Gangkou.

Try to plan ahead and get permits for Longkeng Eco Area. If not possible, then explore the area next-door at the southernmost point of Taiwan. The scrub can be hold good species - as well as sea-viewing.

Also very worth getting the necessary permits for is the hiking trail leading to the lake in Nanren Shan (Mountain) Ecological Protected Area. Fantastic biodiversity. NE part of the national park.

I’m not very familiar with it, but some people recommend the west side between Guanshan and the national aquarium.

On this visit I only had time to briefly check Longluan Lake and the Southern Point. Some birds seen - highlights, not a complete list.

Pleske’s Warbler - brief views in scrub near Southern Point. Had been tipped off, needed audio to confirm!
Glossy Starling (established escapee, but not common here so nice to see...for now), Zitting Cisticola, Spot-billed Duck, Oriental Skylark, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Taiwan Bulbul, Oriental Reed-Warbler and Scaly-breasted Munia, Collared Finchbill, Hwamei, Black-naped Monarch.
Three Wedge-tailed Shearwaters from the Southern Point.
About five Brown Bobby on rocky shore near Fonggang Town 30 mins north of Kenting.

New Birds.

Wedge-tailed Shearwater    Puffinus pacificus
Brown Booby    Sula leucogaster
Pleske's Warbler    Locustella pleskei
Asian Glossy Starling    Aplonis panayensis

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Yellow Butterfly Valley

Butterfly Valley.

Maroon (or Red/Claret) Oriole
Yesterday I had a fun day’s birding in the Yellow Butterfly Valley near Maolin, Kaohsiung. Had good views of a variety of birds, but not the one I was really hoping for - Fairy Pitta (though, I think I heard it...). The Pitta is more famously found in the area of Huben Village, Yunlin County and Tonglin Village, Taichung.

Yellow Butterfly Valley, Meinung.
In the blazing sun, I explored the village, farmland, and forest leading to the ‘Yellow Butterfly Valley’ - a nondescript area of retired orchards and bamboo groves. The large-ish bridge at the start of the valley, before the arboretum, is a good location for the Maroon Oriole - split by some people as ‘Red Oriole’ or ‘Claret Oriole’. From the main road #28, or from Meinung, follow the signs to the Butterfly Valley. Be ready to get slightly lost on the way back.

These are the birds observed in the farmland around Meinung, Shuangshi Arboreum, and in the Butterfly Valley.

Egrets - Cattle and Little
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Malayan Night-Heron
Crested Serpent Eagle - several.
Bamboo Partridge - heard only.
Little Ringed-Plover
Common Sandpiper
Doves - Spotted and Red
Common Kingfisher
Taiwan Barbet
Grey-capped Woodpecker
Swallows including Red-rumped and Barn.
Drongos - Black and Bronzed
Maroon Oriole - several.
Grey Treepie
Bulbuls - Black and Chinese
Zitting Cisticola
Black-naped Blue Monarch
Wagtails - White and Yellow
Mynas - Common and Crested
Japanese White-eye
Scaly-breasted Munia
Tree Sparrow
Collared Finchbill
Grey-chinned Minivet
Dollarbird - a fairly rare migrant. 1 seen near Meinung Town.

At the nearby Xinwei Forest I also spotted the Black-naped Oriole.

New Birds.

Black-naped Oriole    Oriolus chinensis
Dollarbird    Eurystomus orientalis

Monday, May 7, 2012

Guandu Nature Park

Guandu Nature Park, Taipei City.

Greater Painted-snipe
I only had time for a brief visit to this excellent reserve and nature center in Taipei City.

On the northwest side of Taipei city it is best approached by MRT (metro) on the Danshui line, the nearest station is Guandu. Or take a taxi to 關渡自然公園. Alighting the MRT train, first follow the signs for 'Guandu Temple',  and then outside the bilingual signs to the park - a 15 minute walk away. Cross the large road (press button for crosswalk) in front of the Mercedez-benz dealership, and walk straight another 200 meters.

Guandu visitor center, 2nd floor.
The Park has a wide variety of habitats covering 57 hectares not far from the Danshui River. Good trails, hides and visitor facilities available. The main area around the visitor center is open 9-5 Tuesday - Sunday to the general public. The 'new wetland' is only accessable on a guided tour starting 4pm Saturday and Sunday - or by special application. The larger remaining wetland area is closed to the public. On Mondays visit the Botanical Garden and Huajiang Park instead.

This is a roundup of species seen. I’m sure there would have been more - with a bit more time, effort, less heat, and better note-taking!

Chinese Pond Heron
Little Grebe
Grey Heron
Egrets - Great, Intermediate, Little, Cattle
Black-Crowned Night-Heron
Ruddy-breasted Crake
Water Rail
Various Doves
Various Mynas
Common Kingfisher
Common Magpie
Bulbuls - Black, and Light-vented.
Spot-billed Duck
Eurasian Hobby
Lesser Coucal
Crested Goshawk
Taiwan Scimitar-babbler
Tree Sparrow
Japanese White-eye
Prinia - Plain, and Yellow-bellied
Black-winged Stilt
Common Moorhen

New Bird:
Eurasian Hobby    Falco subbuteo

Friday, May 4, 2012

Huajiang Wild Duck Park.

Huajiang Wild Duck Park.
Sacred Ibis

This is an excellent riverside area on the western side of downtown Taipei City - especially in winter. Behind a dike and busy road, and at the confluence of the Dahan and Xindian Rivers, it feels a long way from the bustling skyscrapers.

Easiest access is via the floodgates at Guilin Road - then walk west/south along the cycle path. Also possible to enter the area from Changshun Street. Some birders observe the area from the Huajiang bridge passing overhead.

The nearest MRT (metro) station is Longshan Temple. In Chinese the nature park is 華江雁鴨自然公園. Guilin Road is 桂林路.  Consider exploring the area (and further along the rivers) on the extensive bike trails. Bicycle rental possible.

***Other convenient locations to bird in downtown Taipei are the nearby Botanical Gardens, Guandu, and Daan Park, and the North/East/South edges of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial.***

Birds seen Wednesday late morning:

Cattle Egret
Grey Heron
Sacred Ibis
Yellow Bittern
Great Egret
Small Egret
Black-Crowned Night-Heron
Spot-billed Duck
White-breasted Waterhen
Common Sandpiper
Spotted Dove
Common Magpie
Barn Swallow
Red Collared-Dove
Plain Prinia
Black Bulbul
Light-vented (Chinese) Bulbul
Yellow Wagtail
Crested, Javan, and Common Myna
Black-collared Starling
Tree Sparrow
Japanese White-eye
Scaly-breasted Munia
Brown Shrike

Also look out for winter/migratory ducks, sandpipers, plovers, and kingfishers.

As with many places in Taiwan rampaging feral dogs cause great disturbance to the bird life. Foreign visitors’ observations count for a lot - if you have an opinion on this (or other) issue, be sure to mention it to anyone with influence, it may prompt improvements.

Taipei Botanical Garden

Taipei Botanical Garden

Malayan Night-Heron (really this easy!)
If you only have an hour or two in Taipei for birding, I recommend visitors check out this small downtown park. Open from 4 am, the main entrance is on Nanhai Road. The nearest MRT (metro) station is Xiaonanmen, name of the park in Chinese is 台北植物園, Google Maps Link.

Other convenient locations to bird in downtown Taipei are the nearby Huajiang Wild Duck Nature Park, Guandu, Daan Park and the North/East/South edges of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial.

Near Taipei, I like Wulai.

On Wednesday I saw these birds:

Taiwan Barbet
White-breasted Waterhen
Oriental Turtle-dove
Barn Swallow
Malayan Night-heron
Grey Treepie
Black Drongo
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Tree Sparrow
Japanese White-eye
Common Moorhen
Common Kingfisher

Also usually present are:
Taiwan Scimitar-babbler, Black-naped Monarch...and if lucky other shrikes, pipits, thrushes and raptors.

Matsu Migrants

Matsu Migrants

Matsu's coast.
The weekend of April 28 - May 1st, I visited five of the main islands in Matsu (馬祖) with a group led by Taipei Wild Bird Society. Very well organized and guided - another example of how well developed the local birding scene is - a pity many foreign visitors are not yet aware of this.

Matsu consists of over 30 Taiwan-controlled islands and islets just across from the Min River rivermouth Fuzhou, Fujian, China. The military importance of these islands has meant minimal (or different sort of) human interference. Important habitats are well protected, researched, and now accessable.

Chestnut Bunting (or 'rusty' in Chinese)
We focused on various vegetable gardens and small reservoirs. Highlights included the first record of the Chinese Penduline Tit for Matsu and lots of migrating buntings and flycatchers. Many, many thanks for the help with identification!

We took the overnight Taima ferry from Keelung (north of Taipei), and flew back to Taipei from Nangan. Please note - if arranging a tour to Matsu between February and June, both airports on Matsu are very prone to closures due to fog.

Chinese Crested Tern Tour.

July 19-22th 2012 I hope to have a tour (in conjunction with the Taipei Bird Society) of Matsu for Bridled, Roseate, Black-naped, Great Crested, Black-tailed...and of course the Chinese Crested Tern! Breeding grounds are well protected and appropriately managed. Edit: Sorry Full.

Fall Asian Flyway Tour. September 21-25. Full

All birds seen over the 3 days:
Great Crested Grebe
Streaked Shearwater
Yellow Bittern
Black Bittern
Grey Heron
Great Egret
Intermediate Egret
Little Egret
Cattle Egret
Chinese Pond-Heron
Striated Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Crested Goshawk
Chinese Goshawk
Grey-faced Buzzard
Common Buzzard
Eurasian Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
White-breasted Waterhen
Common Moorhen
Snowy Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Black-winged Stilt
Common Sandpiper
Grey-tailed Tattler
Common Greenshank
Marsh Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Black-tailed Godwit
Great Knot
Red-necked Stint
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper
Broad-billed Sandpiper
Common Snipe
Swinhoe’s Snipe
Eurasian Woodcock
Black-tailed Gull
Bridled Tern
Great Crested Tern
Long-tailed Jaeger
Oriental Turtle-Dove
Spotted Dove
Large Hawk-Cuckoo
Himalayan Cuckoo
Greater Coucal
Fork-tailed Swift
House Swift
Black-capped Kingfisher
Brown Shrike
Long-tailed Shrike
Black Drongo
Hair-crested Drongo
Barn Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow
Great Tit
Chinese Penduline-Tit
Manchurian Bush-Warbler
Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler
Black-throated Tit
Light-vented Bulbul
Pallas’s Leaf-Warbler
Yellow-browed Warbler
Arctic Warbler
Eastern-crowned Leaf-Warbler
Blyth’s Leaf-Warbler
Oriental Reed-Warbler
Zitting Cisticola
Yellow-bellied Prinia
Plain Prinia
Dark-sided Flycatcher
Grey-streaked Flycatcher
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Narcissus Flycatcher
Oriental Magpie-Robin
Daurian Redstart
Grey Bushchat
Blue Rock-thrush
Blue Whistling-Thrush
Japanese White-eye
Crested Myna
Common Myna
White-shouldered Starling
Red-billed Starling
Western Yellow Wagtail
Eastern Yellow Wagtail
Grey Wagtail
White Wagtail
Richard’s Pipit
Olive-backed Pipit
Red-throated Pipit
Tristram’s Bunting
Chestnut-eared Bunting
Yellow-browed Bunting
Little Bunting
Yellow-throated Bunting
Yellow-breasted Bunting
Chestnut Bunting
Yellow Bunting
Black-faced Bunting
Oriental Greenfinch
Yellow-billed Grosbeak
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Scaly-breasted Munia
Only birders...actually almost impossible to do this now in Taiwan - no landfills.
New birds:

Streaked Shearwater    Calonectris leucomelas
Black Bittern    Ixobrychus flavicollis
Gray-tailed Tattler    Tringa brevipes
Black-tailed Godwit    Limosa limosa
Swinhoe's Snipe    Gallinago megala    
Eurasian Woodcock    Scolopax rusticola
Bridled Tern    Onychoprion anaethetus
Black-naped Tern    Sterna sumatrana
Great Crested Tern    Thalasseus bergii
Long-tailed Jaeger    Stercorarius longicaudus
Large Hawk-Cuckoo    Hierococcyx sparverioides
Red-rumped Swallow    Cecropis daurica
Great Tit    Parus major
Chinese Penduline-Tit    Remiz consobrinus
Eastern Crowned Leaf-Warbler    Phylloscopus coronatus
Blyth's Leaf-Warbler    Phylloscopus reguloides
Dark-sided Flycatcher    Muscicapa sibirica
Gray-streaked Flycatcher    Muscicapa griseisticta    
Asian Brown Flycatcher    Muscicapa dauurica   
Narcissus Flycatcher    Ficedula narcissina
Gray Bushchat    Saxicola ferreus
Red-throated Pipit    Anthus cervinus
Tristram's Bunting    Emberiza tristrami    
Chestnut-eared Bunting    Emberiza fucata    
Yellow-browed Bunting    Emberiza chrysophrys   
Chestnut Bunting    Emberiza rutila
Yellow Bunting    Emberiza sulphurata
Brambling    Fringilla montifringilla