Sunday, December 30, 2012

The End?

Japanese Robin. Source
The end?
Time to update on the last couple weeks over Christmas - will these be the last birds of the year?

Thanks to the Taiwanese birdwatcher for pointing out the Japanese Grosbeak among the Chinese Bulbuls at Taipei Botanical Garden. Note to self: check out the Chiang-kai shek Memorial/Liberty Square - sounds better than imagined.

We joined local photographers at Yehliu (Taiwan's Flamborough Head) for great views of a very rare Japanese Robin and vagrant Rufous-bellied Niltava

Not far away, at the Youth Activity Center in Jinshan, we went to inspect a rather dark-breasted Red-throated Thrush, lots of debate on what exactly it was. Resisted the temptation to drag ourselves to Wuling farm for Japanese Waxwing, Guandu for Black-backed Kingfisher, or Hua-jiang Bridge for a Bean-Goose. Instead (slow) endemic hunting in the usual spots was on the menu.

At the mammal-rich Lotus Pond, Taroko Gorge, a Black-faced Bunting cruelly raised my hopes of a Yellow-breasted. That, and the Baer’s Pochard reported in my neighborhood may a treat for the new year.

Happy New Year!

New Birds:

Rufous-bellied Niltava  Niltava sundara
Red-throated Thrush    Turdus ruficollis
Japanese Grosbeak    Eophona personata
Japanese Robin    Erithacus akahige

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

2 Weeks to go...

Breakfast birding at Wushe.
Scattered showers of cold rain at the start of December made birding difficult at times. The absence of a Mikado Pheasant (first trip in a while without) was made up for by an abundance of stunning Vivid Niltava, fearless Swinhoe’s Pheasant, and playful Yuhina.

Counting down the weeks and looking out for any possible ticks.

Eleven months, but finally I’ve bagged the last of the endemic subspecies - the Plain Flowerpecker. Having alluded me for so long I was determined to ensure I would - in the end - have proper views (ensuring no confusion with female Fire-throated). I had information on another reliable location for it - and then in one morning I got it at two locations (at our guesthouse near Wulai and at the start of the Blue Gate Trail).

Unlike last year, thrushes of various species seem common this winter. In Taroko Gorge (Tienxiang precisely) the previously overlooked Grey-backed Thrush were taking in the splendid scenery.

I made a mad rush hour dash (not fun) across Taipei City to the Huajiang Wild Duck Park for an excellent lifer - Siberian Bluethroat. By the time I got to the spot (freshly trampled by bird photographers) light was fading and I was feeling feeling desperate/silly, when the famous female popped up at very close range. Fantastic - and because of the bad photography light, I was completely alone! Sadly no glimpse of exotic Orange-cheeked Waxbill - or any bird as darkness fell.

A damp Yehliu produced nothing remarkable, will revisit in the next few days before and after another endemics tour over Christmas. Coastal sites near Tainan have been satisfactory, (Temminck’s Stint in Sicao was good) but not coming up with the much-desired rare flycatchers or Japanese Robin.

I abandoned my tea-sipping in-laws in Kaohsiung City to visit Weiwoing Park for the easy Zebra Dove. This is an established exotic, only to be found in the Kaohsiung City area. Weiwoing Park is next to the MRT station of the same name.

White's Thrush (split from Scaly): where previously I had lumped the two together. In recent weeks I have had several good views of both to be able to confidently observe the differences in size and coloring.

This is the season again where the (Taipei-based) Central Weather Bureau cannot really believe the weather in the south can be so different - and thus randomly add some "clouds, possibility of rain" to southern forecasts. Taipei residents: go southwards in winter - the weather is often perfect down here!

Birds desired in these last couple weeks: American Wigeon; any swans; Smew; other uncommon ducks; Horned Grebe; various high-seas birds (not very likely!); White-tailed Eagle; Northern Goshawk; Greater Spotted Eagle; Upland Buzzard; better views of any crakes; Oriental Plover (a bit late); Nordmann’s Greenshank (must have been somewhere in front of me this year); any gulls or terns that may inspire; Black-chinned Fruit-Dove; various owls; Black-backed Kingfisher (one in Guandu I hear); a Wryneck on Taiwan-proper would be very nice, better views of Cuckoo-shrikes; Asian Stubtail, Goldcrest; better views of most Phylloscopus and Locustella warblers; migrating flycatchers especially Verditer; rare robins, thrushes - Siberian, Japanese, Red-throated; Chestnut-tailed Starling; Hawfinch; Black new or fresh. A Pangolin would be nice.

New Birds:

White’s Thrush  Zoothera aurea
Gray-backed Thrush    Turdus hortulorum
Plain Flowerpecker    Dicaeum concolor    "Endemic subspecies (D. c. uchidai)"
Zebra Dove  Geopelia striata
Bluethroat    Luscinia svecica
Temminck's Stint    Calidris temminckii