Friday, June 15, 2012

Hsinchu and Changhua Coast.

No Yuhinas for a couple weeks...
This will be the last post for a few weeks. We are now in the wet season, and I will be back in the UK for a couple weeks. I'm looking forward to the exotic Blue Tits, Chaffinches, Blackcaps, Robins, and Dunnocks of sunny County Fermanagh.

Last week, before meeting clients for some very wet endemic hunting, I had a chance to further explore a couple coastal areas in central-west Taiwan. These were Hambao and Wangong Harbor in Changhua County, and the Keya river mouth/Jincheng Pond area in Hsinchu City. Both of these places are at their best in winter (and fall/spring).

Changhua coastal birding. SW of Lugang and Taichung.
Being a very hot June day I saw little worth recording at Hambao etc - in winter it is usually excellent. Last week the sun and heat was too much for me and the birds - a Common Tern (new) being near Wanggong Harbor and flying Ibis being were all I had the energy to record. Not a fair reflection of this area - I recommend birders visit (Hambao, Xinbao, Fubao, Wanggong) in season!

A damp, freshly plowed field near Jincheng Pond, Hsinchu, was very good, it held: Spot-billed Duck, Black-winged Stilt, Eurasian Magpie, Greater Painted-snipe, Whimbrel, Kentish (Snowy) Plover, Oriental Skylark, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Long-tailed Shrike. A Pin-tailed Snipe loitered at very close range, undisturbed by my efforts at falling into ditches. Also on the pond (or small ‘Lake’?) and in the nearby mangroves I spotted: Common Kingfisher, Black-crowned Night-heron, Black-winged Stilt, Common Moorhen, various egrets (Little, Cattle, Intermediate, no Chinese sadly).

Hsinchu - east of city proper.
If interested in shorebirds, Hanbao and Fubao (in addition to Gaomei Wetlands) are good destinations for residents of Greater Taichung City in central-west Taiwan. If wanting forest or mountain birds - Dasyueshan! The Hanbao/Fubao/Xinbao areas are west of #17 south west of the historic town of Lugang. Honestly not the most scenic place in Taiwan. Best advice is to roam around until finding a good spot. Hides provided near Wanggong Harbor give good views over the sandbars. Weatherproof hides at Fubao.

The Keya river mouth/Jincheng Pond area is a convenient and very pleasant escape from Hsinchu City (a couple hours south of Taipei and famous for its high tech industry). The area is well signposted - Jincheng Lake Birdwatching Zone (金城湖賞鳥區), west of the southern end of Hsinchu Airport. If possible visit the area by bicycle, the 17 km coastal bicycle trail is excellent and passes great birding areas otherwise inaccessible to cars or motorcycles.

If in Hsinchu, and wanting forest or mountain birds, and not wanting to explore Dasyueshan, then travel southeast from Hsinchu City to Guanwu or Smangus.

New Birds
Common Tern    Sterna hirundo
Pechora Pipit    Anthus gustavi      (In Anping on June 4th)
Pin-tailed Snipe    Gallinago stenura

Taiwan Birdathon

Taiwan Birdathon range (approx!)
Taiwan is holding a 30-hour Birdathon event on November 24-25th 2012 (8:30 am - 2:30 pm).

It will be held in the southern counties of Yunlin, Chaiyi, and Tainan - home to great birding sites such as Alishan, Yushan National Park, Huben, Beimen Wetlands, Aogu Wetlands, and Qigu Reserve. A wide range of shore and forest birds can be expected - including many endemics and wintering specialities.

This will be a fun event suitable for bird watchers of all abilities. Teams, each consisting of 3-4 members, aim to spot as many bird species as possible in the 30 hour period. There may be other less competitive 'targets'. Foreign teams are especially welcome - accommodation and food will be paid for on the 23-25th, and can be paired up with local guides if necessary. No registration fee required.

Organized by the Taiwan Ecotourism Association. Sponsored by Taiwan Tourism Bureau, and the SW Coast Scenic Area Administration, Alishan NSA, and Siraya NSA

The (still evolving) official website is at

For registration, contact always on-the-ball Victor Yu at or

To do well in this event, you should aim to explore as many different habitats (coastal wetlands, farmland, low to mid-elevation forest, high-elevation areas) as possible within the available timeframe. Personal transport (car, motor scooter) should be deemed essential. 
Google map link.

I'm not sure yet where the official focal point for the event will be - most central would be Chaiyi, but I will not be surprised if it is Douliou or Tainan. I would plan on being in mid-elevation Alishan on the 24th night. For a sense of scale - to travel by car from Tatajia in Yushan Nat. Park (the likeliest highest, and easterly point) to Aogu Wetlands on the west coast, would take about 3.5 hours. The north - south extremes are mostly within 1 hour's travel.

I will round out this page with more information and tips in the next weeks and months.

3,000 meters, 3 meters, and 300 meters
Will be running pre- and post- Birdathon tours to other birding areas. See 2012 trips here.