Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Terns and tunnels

Chinbi Village, Beigan. Gaodeng on horizon.
 China visible behind setting sun.
For me gulls and terns can be one of those ‘difficult’ families. So it was good to have a birding trip with more time to focus on these surprisingly interesting birds. With a group from Taipei Wild Bird Society I toured the Matsu islands of Dongyin, Nangan and Beigan. It was well organized and fun, with opportunities for some quality normal tourist stuff. I will be back there for fall migration - join me, it promises to be heaving with birds. Help keep the rotten casino idea off the books.

Birds seen:
Small numbers (usually individuals) of: egrets (Great, Intermediate, Little, Cattle);  Grey Heron; Pacific Reef-heron; Black-crowned Night-heron; doves (Spotted-neck, Red Collared); Fork-tailed Swift; Blue Whistling Thrush (the Chinese one, not the Taiwan endemic); Blue Rock-thrush; Japanese White-eye; Oriental Greenfinch, House Swift, Greater Coucal, Long-tailed Shrike; Oriental Magpie Robin. More numerous were Tree Sparrow; Chinese Bulbul; Barn Swallow; Myna species. Brownish-flanked Bush-warbler heard only.

Boating around Dongyin.
Black-tailed Gulls were numerous (and very up-close visible) at the fantastic Andong Tunnel - not often a birding site is down an enormous tunnel complex. Abundant Bridled Tern around Dongyin, and islands near Beigan. Smaller numbers of Roseate Tern, Black-naped Tern. Great Crested Tern, Whiskered Tern.

The critically endangered Chinese Crested Terns were seen by other birders (not by us...) on Xieshien. Their Taiwanese breeding grounds seem to be well studied, and protected from human harassment nowadays. Enforced stiff fines, instead of jail, apparently works better with Chinese fishermen.

On the ferry from Donyin to Nangan: Bulwers Petrel; Streaked Shearwater (another identification dependent on Robin Zhang 張瑞麟 from TWBS - thanks!); Kentish Plover; Little Ringed Plover; Common Sandpiper; Red-necked Phalarope (around 6). Pleased to get the Phalarope so clearly - have been tricky in the past.

Matsu: not to scale - Dongyin and Juguang further from other
two main islands.
The Matsu (馬祖 Matzu, officialy Lienchiang County) Islands are a group of Taiwan-controlled Islands 10km from the Chinese coast NW of Taiwan. The two main islands are Nankan (南竿) and Beigan (北竿 Peikan). It is possible to fly to Beigan and Nangan from Taipei (Domestic, Songshan) Airport with Uni-air. Regular small ferries all day between Beigan and Nangan, fewer to Donyin (東引) (best by Taima Ferry on route to/from Keelung) and the somewhat remoter Jyuguang (莒光). Lots of interesting sights - the most bunker-laden place in the world, quiet villages - and the civilizing presence of 7-11 stores!

I’ve started writing up some notes on good birding sites (especially at migration time) on the Matsu Islands. Tired. For now, I suggest birders scoot around a variety of places on the islands. Look out at areas of forest scrub near the small reservoirs, and the vegetable gardens near several of the villages.

NT$ 500,000 - a good start!

New birds:
Roseate Tern    Sterna dougallii  
Red-necked Phalarope    Phalaropus lobatus