Wednesday, 29 October 2014

TAIWAN 15th November-29th November, 2013 (Part 1)


15th November, 2013 to 29th November, 2013

J.F.Cooper, D.Cooper and Ms. B. Kay


15th November: After leaving LHR on the 13th on an overnight flight with a change at Hong Kong we finally arrived at Taipei airport during the early evening on the 14th. Taiwan is 8 hours ahead of British GMT. We had previously made a reservation at a new hotel in nearby Taoyuan City as they had a free shuttlebus service from the airport and the shuttle was at the airport to meet us. Taoyuan City was a real oriental city full of Chinese neon flashing lighting.

We had also arranged for a hire car with an English Sat.Nav. to be at the hotel from 8.30 am on the 15th and this arrived on time. By 9.00 am we were on the road heading to the lowland Huisun Forest Reserve a drive of some 3.5 hrs. and thanks to the Sat. Nav. we found it easily and quickly booked our accommodation for one night, within the reserve, and after dropping off our bags we were quickly out birding staying out until dusk.

(taken by DC)
Entrance to Huisun Forest Reserve

Entrance road leading into the Huisun Forest Reserve.

16th November: Out at dawn, and spent all morning in the Huison Forest Reserve, first covered the area around the accommodation block which was extremely successful with a party of Blue Magpies coming into the lights around the block looking for moths. Also 2 extremely confiding Malayan Night Herons feeding on the grassy lawns. We then covered a number of other areas until mid-day when we then left for the 2 hour drive to Wushe which is situated at a higher altitude, and after booking into a home-stay type accommodation we had time to visit the Beidongyueshan forest trail, with the highlight being 2 superb male Swinhoe's Pheasants, White's Thrush and a White-tailed Robin.
En-route we visited a Chinese temple.

Views taken from the lookout at the Huison Forest Reserve

Taiwan temple.
17th November: After another bad night due to jet-lag and traffic noise, we drove up to KM14 and turned left at the police station to the Blue Gate trial which is at a higher altitude than yesterday's trail, probably around 7,000 ft.
We spent all morning walking this trail in fine sunny and warm weather, before driving back down to Wushe where we had some lunch and bird-watch from our balcony at the home-stead. Because of  our bad night, we decided to change our accommodation and we booked into a  large yellow lodge which was situated back from the road. Highlights were a male Swinhoe's Pheasant along the Blue Gate trail.
During the afternoon, we drove right up to the Hehuanshan Pass at 10,000 ft. and birded various areas around several car-parks, with the highlights being 2 Flamecrests and 3 Vinaceous Rosefinches. Unfortunately no sign of any Alpine Accentors or Golden Parrotbills which due to the fine weather, both species may still be at a higher altitude and not yet forced down due to cold weather.

Views taken at the Hehuanshan Pass at 10,000 ft.

18th November: Another bad night due to jet-lag, although we now couldn't hear any traffic noise so at least that was an improvement. Another fine clear calm morning and out at dawn for another visit to the Blue Gate trail and we walked the entire trail and also went onto the Continuation trail. Highlights were  2-3 Taiwan Shortwings which were extremely difficult to see, but were heard singing and with tape play-back they at long last gave them selves up, but proved impossible to photograph. Also heard singing but untickable views as it shot across the trail was a Taiwan Wren-Babbler, at least we know they are here. Also a flock of 25+ Barwings very active, nice views also of an adult male White-backed Woodpecker and 2 superb looking Yellow Tits. So several new ticks for us.
During the afternoon we drove back down the road to below Wushe and visited Chun Yang Farm where we spent the afternoon until dusk. This is a farm with tea plantations which has experimented in growing tea amongst lowland scrub allowing birds, plants etc to thrive. They encourage visitors and have made an excellent walking trial around the farm. Good numbers of birds were present and in places the lowland scrub became very dense. An interesting area and good views of our first Collared Finchbills a real chunky looking bird. Also good views of several White-eared Sibias.

Entrance to the Blue Gate trail
19th November: A much better night and must have slept for over 8 hours. Out by dawn and drove to the Beigongyueseshan trail and walked the whole trail right up to the tea plantation and back. Highlights being Swinhoe's Pheasants, both Indian Black and Mountain Hawk Eagles, Dusky Fulvetta, several White's Thrushes and David had a male Snowy-browed Flycatcher.

Entrance to the Beigongyueseshan trail.

We then drove up to the Hehuanshan Pass at 10,000 ft. where we birded until dusk, with the highlights included a Flamecrest, 2 superb male Collared Bush Robins, our first Beavan's Bullfinch and 6 Vinaceous Rosefinches.

Along the Beigongyueseshan trail

(taken by DC)
Hehuanshan Pass

View from the Hehuanshan Pass

20th November: Out at dawn and drove to the Blue Gate trail. Stayed to 10.00 am with the highlights being 2 Taiwan Wren Babblers, one of which showed briefly although very well coming right out in the open and sat on a pipe for a few seconds. We then returned back to the lodge at Wushe to pack as we were driving to Dasyueshan Amnashan Forest Reserve, where we arrived around 2.00 pm.
After booking our accommodation for the next four nights in a wooden chalet, at the Forest Reserve HQ, we drove further up the mountain to KM 47 which is the Mikado Pheasant stakeout. Stayed out to dark before returning back to the lodge for a meal. The Mikado Pheasants came out of the forest at around 4.45 pm and fed on grain by the side of the road until dark. Had to set the camera on a very high ISO in the hope that my pictures will come out sharp.

The Blue Gate trail

David and Brenda along the Blue Gate trail.

21st November: Out at dawn and walked around the accommodation sites looking for birds coming to lights for moths. We then drove down to the entrance gate which was unfortunately still shut. We checked a couple of sites along the road and returned back to the Anmashan Dasyueshan Centre. We covered a number of sites at various altitudes which included driving to the top and walked to the summit lake and birded the general area. We also visited KM47 again during the late afternoon, and spent an hour at a nearby gully photographing Robins.
Highlights included the pair of Mikado Pheasants and exceptional views of both White-browed and Collared Bush Robins.

View taken from the Dasyueshan Amnashan Forest Reserve

22nd November : Up and out at dawn and drove down to 23.5 Km for the stake-out of Swinhoe's Pheasants seeing a male on the route down. After an hour watching at the stake-out we then visited a nearby fruiting tree. We then drove further down leaving the forest and visited an agricultural area by a river with plenty of secondary scrub, at around 12 Km. We then drove right back up to the summit at Km 50 and visited a number of sites and just at dusk stopping at Km 47 and the Mikado's were again performing and we stopped the car barely 10ft from them and they completely ignored us.

Another view taken from the Dasyueshan Amnashan Forest.

23rd November : We decided to make an early morning visit to the summit, so after a look around the accommodation block at dawn hoping for White-throated Laughingthrushes coming for moths at the lights, we drove up to the 50 Km and walked up a couple of hundred steps to the view point in beautiful calm sunny weather. No Parrotbills or Flamecrests, but on the way back down a party of House Swifts which included at least 3 Silver-backed Needletails which performed for around 30 minutes zooming around in the blue skies, and this more than compensated for not seeing any Parrotbills.
Drove back to the accommodation block and we were just about to walk the forest trail behind the police station when I decided I had to return to our cottage with an upset stomach. This was well timed, as a party of Rusty Laughingthrushes had turned up right outside our cottage. We spent an hour photographing these, and decided during the last hour of daylight to visit the Office administration block and walk the tree-nursery trail. Although not too many birds seen, as we were working our way back to the car, a Taiwan Wren Babbler suddenly appeared and showed very well although too dark for photography.

View taken from the summit at the Dasyueshan Amnashan Forest Reserve.

The Summit Lake

David at the summit still hoping for Golden Parrotbill in the bamboo.

24th November : A day for moving on. Up before dawn for a quick visit to the nearby Tree-nursery at the back of the Office block about 10 minutes away, hoping for some more views of yesterday's Taiwan Wren Babbler and we managed to obtain some record shots of this extremely difficult bird to see yet alone to photograph. Also a nice little party of Olive-backed Pipits.

(taken by DC)
Our final view of a fabulous reserve at Dasyueshan Amnashan

Moving on to the Firefly Lodge and we stopped off on the way down at trail 210 which has been closed off due to a land slide. Even so we walked along it for a short distance in case there were any White-throated Laughingthrushes without success, but nice views of some Silver-backed Needletails zooming overhead and 2 Crested Goshawks showed well. It was now time to set the Sat.Nav for our longish drive to the Firefly Lodge at Alishan. Mr Liu the owner wanted us there by 3.00 pm the latest to take us to his hide and after a difficult drive along very narrow bendy lanes we made it by 2.30 pm and was soon drinking green tea in his superb lodge, a bit of luxury at long last. Mr Liu, a superb gentleman and conservationist has created his own nature reserve and has erected a couple of hides for seeing the pheasants etc. He also took us out in the evening, to look for Mountain Scops Owl.

Firefly Lodge with the nature reserve behind

25th November : We birded in the Firefly Lodge grounds for a couple of hours and then departed stopping at a couple of sites which Mr.Liu had given us, and although we saw a number of species nothing out of the ordinary. We decided to visit Yushan National Park, another mountainous site, and on arrival we immediately connected with a nice flock of birds including Coat Tits and more importantly some excellent views of several Flamecrests. Unable to book accommodation in the Park, we had to return to Alishan, and booked into a tourist hotel which proved quite noisy and over-priced.

(taken by DC)
View of the Firefly Lodge area

(taken by DC)
Above the clouds at Yushan National Park

26th November : Left the tourist hotel early and drove back to Alishan to check on the fruiting trees along the roadside. No sign of any Island Thrushes but 65 Eye-browed Thrushes were seen. An Indian Black Eagle put on a superb performance hunting for around 20 minutes directly below us.
We then made the long journey back to Wushe where we spent the evening along the road near the Km 4 marker with a pair of Siberian Rubythroats proving the highlight. Booked back into the Yellow lodge in Wushe.

27th November : Out just before dawn to check the secondary scrub directly behind our lodge and much to our surprise we discovered a roost of Vinous-throated Parrotbills which gave views when they left their roost almost in the dark. A Taiwan Hwamei started to sing and was soon located and a Korean Bush Warbler was seen leaving the roost. Three useful ticks all within a few minutes.
We decided to make a morning visit to Chun Yung Farm, with the highlight being a Brown Shrike. During the afternoon, we again visited Blue Gate trail, and also stopped off at a deserted car-park with a good scrubby area on our way back to Wushe.

Chun Yung Farm,

28th November : Out before dawn to again check the roost site behind our lodge at Wushe. We had decided to make a morning return visit to the Hehuanshan Pass to look for Golden Parrotbill and Alpine Accentor and then move onto Taroko Pass. On our drive up, we first stopped off at Km 18 which was the scrubby area behind the deserted car-park where we stopped briefly late yesterday afternoon. It proved a good sight with superb views of a White's Thrush so we spent an hour photographing this.
As we continued on the drive up to the Hehuanshan Pass, we quickly ran into dense fog and as we drove higher we ran into snow as well and the road became quite icy. As we finally arrived at the summit at around 10,000 ft, it became very difficult with lots of cars stopping and the fog was now dense. David took a short break from driving, but birding was impossible and conditions were getting worse.
We therefore decided it would be safer if we tried to drive on towards Taroko Pass, luckily very few cars were driving  on over the pass and as we drove down we ran out of the snow but still had the thick fog to compete with. As we dropped down to the spectacular  Taroko Gorge we finally ran out of the fog and was able to stop by a boardwalk and walk along the Gorge to enjoy the views and we located 2 Little Forktails on the river. We drove onto a nearby town which is a stake-out for the endemic Taiwan Bulbuls. We soon located a flock of Bulbuls but these appeared to be mainly hybrids with the introduced Chinese Bulbul. We then drove on to a nearby village where we had been told that the Taiwan Bulbul was still present here with no sign of any hybrids and we located a number of Bulbuls and all appeared to be the endemic form. We now drove north for about 100 km's until we came to a large spa town where we were able to find a good hotel to spend the night. We even manage to buy a burger and chips.

Taroko Pass
29th November : Woke early and was soon driving the short distance to Wulai.  We were trying to find the Ulay Cable Car Station, as the hillside opposite is a favourite site for the local birders. A party of Taiwan Blue Magpies were seen from the road. We were soon birding on the hillside and met up with a number of local birders. Not too many birds were present although 2 Mugimaki Flycatchers and a large flock of Grey-chinned Minivets were the highlights. We then drove to the Waterfall trail and walked the entire trail and back.
Late afternoon drive to Taoyuan where we handed back the car after dark in preparation for our departure for LHR next morning.

Waterfall at the Ulay Cable Car Station.

Waterfall Trail at Wulai.

Systematic List

Taiwan Hill Partridge Arborophila crudigularis
This endemic resident on Taiwan, was seen on three dates with a single bird flushed from close range along the Blue Gate trail on the 18th, a superb party of 12 were watched at close range at dusk for 20 minutes from the hide at the Firefly lodge on the 24th, and finally 2 were seen on the 25th close to the Firefly lodge.

Taiwan Hill Partridge taken at dusk from the bird hide at Firefly Lodge.
Swinhoe's Pheasant Lophura swinhoii
Another endemic resident in the mountains of Taiwan and was recorded on six occasions. With 2 males and 1 female seen along the Beidongyueshan  forest walk on the 16th, 1 male seen along the Blue Gate trail on the 17th, 2 females showed well along the Beidongyueshan forest walk on the 19th, 3 males and 6 females showed at very close range during the early morning at the Anmashan Dasyueshan Forest Reserve stake-out on the 22nd, 7 including 1 ad. male and 1 immature male from the hide at the Firefly lodge on the 24th and a male seen by the road-side near the Firefly lodged on the 25th.

Adult male Swinhoe's Pheasant at the Dasyueshan Amnashan Forest Reserve stake-out 


Female Swinhoe's Pheasants from the bird hide at the Firefly lodge.

Male Swinhoe's Pheasant from the bird-hide at the Firefly lodge
Mikado Pheasant Symaticus mikado
A pair, of this endemic pheasant of high mountain forests in Taiwan, were seen on three evenings at very close range at a stake-out at the Dasyueshan Amnashan Forest Reserve on the 20th, 21st and 22nd. On the 22nd, we were able to approach them to 10ft. using the car as a hide, and the pair carried on feeding completely ignoring the car and the camera clicking.

(taken by BK)
JFC photographing the Mikado Pheasants at dusk.

Mikado Pheasants at the stake-out at Km47. Dasyueshan Amnashan Forest Reserve

Malayan Night Heron Gorsachius melanolophus
Two were seen during the early morning on the 16th, feeding out in the open on lawns close to the administration buildings at the lowland Huisun Forest Reserve and giving exceptional views.

(taken by DC)
JFC enjoying some superb views.

(taken by DC)

Malayan Night Heron in the Huisun Forest Reserve.

Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
An adult was stood on an island in the river as we approached Wuali on the 29th.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
A single bird seen on the 15th, with 2 on the 29th.

Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus
Seen on 5 dates whilst driving from one site to the next with a daily maximum of 40 on the 20th.

Great White Egret Casmerodius albus
Race modestus (which probably merits full species status ie Eastern Great White Egret), winters on Taiwan.
As with the previous specie, seen from the car whilst driving from one site to the next. Recorded on 6 dates with a daily maximum of 10 on the 28th.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Just a single bird seen on the river at Wuali on the 29th.

Looking down on a Little Egret on the river at Wulai 
Peregrine Falco peregrinus
One belonging to the race japonensis was seen on the 17th along the Blue Gate trail.

Black-eared Kite Milvus lineatus
Just 3 seen on the 29th as we were driving away from Wuali.

Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela
Endemic Taiwan race hoya with 2 being seen on the 25th on the drive to Yushan National Park and 3 seen on the 29th soaring over the waterfall trail near Wuali.

Crested Serpent Eagle soaring over the waterfall trail at Wuali.

Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus
Endemic Taiwan race formosae  was recorded on 6 dates chiefly in the highlands. With pairs seen displaying at two separate locations.

Pair of Crested Goshawks showing size difference between the sexes.

Crested Goshawks over trail 201 in the Dasyueshan Amnashan Forest Reserve

Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Just a single individual seen on the 26th near Alishan.

Indian Black Eagle Ictinaetus malayensis
Singles were on four dates, on the journey to the Husion Forest Reserve on the 15th, along the Beigongyueseshan trail on the 19th, on the 20th on the drive to the Dasyueshan Amnashan Forest Reserve and finally an adult performed superbly for 20 minutes along the valley near Alishan on the 26th.

Looking down on an adult Indian Black Eagle near Alishan .
Mountain Hawk Eagle Nisaetus nipalensis
One seen on the 19th along the Beigongyueseshan trail, and four were soaring very high over the waterfall trail near Wuali on the 29th.

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Just a single bird seen on the drive on the 16th.

Ashy Woodpigeon Columba pulchricollis
A single bird seen on the 18th along the Blue Gate trail, with 2 there on the 20th. One seen at the Dasyueshan Amnashan Forest Reserve on the 22nd, with two near the Firefly lodge on the 25th.

Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis
Resident Taiwan endemic race orii was recorded on five dates with a daily maximum of 25 on the 26th chiefly in the Wushe area.

Oriental Turtle Dove at Chung Yung Farm.

(taken by DC)
Oriental Turtle Dove near Firefly lodge

Red Turtle Dove Streptopelia tranquebarica
Odd birds were seen whilst driving between various sites on 3 dates with a daily maximum of 10 on the 28th.

Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis
The resident Taiwan race formosana was chiefly recorded  around habitation on 7 dates but never more than 6 on a day.

Spotted Dove of the race formosana at the Firefly Lodge.
Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica
A single bird showed well as it was feeding in the road on our journey to the Firefly lodge on the 24th.

White-bellied Green Pigeon Teron sieboldii
A party of 30 were present during the morning of the 27th at Chun Yung Farm.

White-bellied Green Pigeon at Chun Yung Farm, Wushe
Mountain Scops Owl Otus spilocephalus
We were taken out by Mr. Liu at the Firefly lodge where we spotlighted one of the Taiwan endemic race hambroecki, at very close range for some 20 minutes on the 24th. Superb.


Mountain Scops Owl near the Firefly Lodge

Silver-backed Needletail Hirundapus cochinchinensis
3+ were seen with House Swifts for around an hour on the 23rd, at the summit of the Dasyueshan Amnashan Forest Reserve often flying high over the mountain tops, with 6 showing well, lower down this Forest Reserve at trail 210 on the 24th.

House Swift Apus nipalensis
The Taiwan resident endemic race kuntzi was seen 8 dates in reasonable numbers with a daily maximum of 70 on the 20th.

Taiwan Barbet Megalaima nuchalis
This endemic species to Taiwan was seen at various locations in small numbers on 9 dates, with a daily maximum of 4 on the 27th. It was recorded in forest clearings but also in gardens around habitation. It was often seen feeding on berries low down and gave excellent views.

Taiwan Barbet at the Huisun Forest Reserve.

Taiwan Barbet in a village near Tarok Gorge.

Taiwan Barbet c.8km south of Taroko River 

Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus
A surprise find was one of the race tancolo near the Firefly lodge on the 26th.

(taken by DC)

Grey-headed Woodpecker near Firefly lodge
White-backed Woodpecker Denidrocopos leucotos
A fine male of the Taiwan endemic race insularis was finally traced down along the Blue Gate trail on the 18th and gave good telescope views and this proved to be a clawback for DC.

Grey-chinned Minivet Pericrocotus solaris
The race griseogularis was recorded in small numbers on 5 dates, but on the 29th a large flock numbering
80+ were moving around the forest at Wulai.

(taken by DC)
(taken by DC)
(taken by DC)
Male and Female Grey-chinned Minivets at Wulai.

(taken by DC)
Male Grey-chinned Minivet at Chun Yung Farm
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
A superb adult male of the lucionensis was seen on the 27th at Chun Yung Farm.

Adult male Brown Shrike of the race  lucionensis at Chun Yung Farm.
Our only sighting of the trip.

Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus
The resident Taiwan endemic race harterti was seen whilst driving across lowland agricultural areas on four dates, although was probably under-recorded on other drives, with a daily maximum of 8 on the drive on the 24th.

Bronzed Drongo Dicrurus aeneus
The montane Taiwan endemic braunianus was identified on just four dates with a daily maximum of 8 on the 16th.
(taken by DC)
Bronzed Drongo at Huisun

Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea
Two of the resident Taiwan endemic race oberholseri, were found in the agricultural area on the 22nd at the 12Km road marker below the  Dasyueshan Amnashan Forest Reserve.

Jay Garrulus glandarius
This Taiwan resident endemic race taivanus was recorded on 8 dates, but never more than 4 on a day.

 Jay of the Taiwan race taivanus on the hillside at Ulay.

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