Thursday, September 13, 2012

Three Northern Islets

Pengjia, seen from path to lighthouse.
I sensibly resisted the temptation to make a claim
on behalf of any additional foreign power!
Just back from an excellent trip with Taipei Bird Society to some islands north of Taiwan: Pengjia Islet (彭佳嶼); Huaping Islet (花瓶嶼); and Mianhua Islet (棉花嶼). Pengjia Islet (I would call it more an ‘island’ rather than ‘islet’) was visited a few days earlier by the Taiwan (ROC) president Ma Ying-jeou where he made comments about territorial disputes in the region - and in particular the Tiaoyutais (aka Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands 釣魚台). By my standards of ‘overwhelming common sense’ these islands I visited, third of the way to the Tiaoyutais, are undeniably part of Taiwan. Not contested.

Sometimes known as the “Three Northern Islets (北方三島)”, access is heavily restricted - we had special permission to land on the largest (covering over 1km2) of the islands - Pengjia. A small number of personnel from the Coast Guard, Customs (managing the very nice lighthouse), and Weather Bureau are comfortably based there. The establishment of a national marine park has been mooted.

Brown Booby
We traveled the roughly 33 nautical miles (56 km) from Keelung by fishing boat in 3 hours. We carefully circled the two smaller islands (Huaping and Mianhua) getting fantastic views of Boobies. We only had a couple hours on Pengjia in the blazing sun. Am sure many more species could have been found with a bit more time...and much less sun.

The bird of the trip for me is certainly the Brown Booby. Great views several times especially at Mianhua cliffs.

Birds seen on or near these islands:

Bulwers Petrel - around 3 or 4 seen
Short-tailed Shearwater - 1 seen fairly well
Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel - just about-tickable view of 1
Brown Booby - around 50 at several locations, fantastic views at Mianhua
Grey Heron - 1
Little Egret - several
Cattle Egret - several
Crested Serpent-Eagle - 1 at Keelung Harbor
Chinese Goshawk - 1 seen on Pengjia, thousands reported in Kenting today.
Peregrine Falcon - 1 recorded, forget where

On our mighty craft!
Grey-tailed Tattler - 3 on Pengjia (was hoping they would turn out to be Wandering T.)
Wood Sandpiper - 1 seen by others
Whimbrel - 2 or 3
Red-necked Phalarope - over 20 at different times on the sea.
Snipe species?
Brown Noddy - 3 seen. Pleased!
Bridled Tern - several
Black-naped Tern
Rock Pigeons - several on Pengjia.
Eurasian Magpie - reported by others
Barn Swallow - several
Pacific Swallow - at least 1
Gray-streaked Flycatcher - 2 gave good views
Blue Rock-Thrush - several gave good views
White-shouldered Starling - several on Pengjia
Yellow Wagtail - several, forgot to check race
Gray Wagtail - at least 1
Also Light Vented Bulbul, Jap White-eye, Common Myna, Tree Sparrow recorded

Not visible on Google Maps.
China and Japan on edges.

New Birds:
Short-tailed Shearwater Puffinus tenuirostris
Swinhoe's Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma monorhis
Brown Noddy Anous stolidus