Photos with this report (click to enlarge)
Directions to Chun Yang
Map of Wulai trail
Map of Wushe
Taiwan was somewhere that had attracted me for a few years, with its beautiful scenery and high level of endemism. After reading up on the birding potential of the island, I was convinced to try it. The opportunity arose over Christmas 2006 when John Badley and I decided to go out there, with Jim Scott joining the team quickly afterwards. Several trip reports were heavily consulted before and during the trip, with the most useful we found being Gruff Dodd’s and Adam Rowlands reports, and anyone who has ever used one of Gruff’s reports while find the layout of this report quite familiar. Plagiarism is the greatest form of flattery!
Getting there and away
We booked our flights through Wildwings for the princely sum of £629 return. We flew Lufthansa from Birmingham to Hong Kong (changing in Munich) and caught a connecting Dragonair flight to Taipei. These two changes were the cheapest way of doing it, and it all went very smoothly. Similarly, we had two changes on the way back as well. While researching this trip, we found it very difficult to get cheap flights over the time frame we had available, with some companies quoting well over £1000 for an economy seat! In fact, our return flight was originally booked for 31st December, but the connecting flight from Frankfurt to Birmingham was cancelled a few weeks before the trip. Lufthansa agreed to put us on the following days flights, giving us an extra day in Taiwan, which we used to have a productive morning at Guandu Nature Park, and an afternoon spent wandering fruitlessly around Taipei.
Red tape and bureaucracy
There are currently no visa requirements for British nationals staying 30 days or less, although it’s always worth checking the up to date situation well in advance of any trip. An international driving permit is required to hire a car, and these are easily available before you travel from main Post Offices for £5.
Health and safety
A big bonus of travelling to Taiwan is that there are no real health problems. It’s always wise to have the basic inoculations whenever you go abroad, such as tetanus and Hepatitis A and B. There is no malaria on Taiwan, so the expense and drag of taking anti-malarials and bathing in deet are unnecessary here. In fact, the forests seemed to be pretty much bug free, although it was winter. Apparently, there is a venomous snake (Banded Krait?) on the island that the locals can be pretty stressed about, but its seldom deadly,
Car hire and travel
As others have mentioned, car hire in Taiwan is limited to local companies. Not that this is a bad thing, but it means that it can be hard to book ahead from Britain. However, we made contact via e-mail with VIP cars in Taipei and arranged the hire of a Toyota 1.5 litre for the three weeks. There are good discounts available the longer you hire the car for. They will drop the car off at the International airport for you, which is helpful as this is about 40 - 50 km from Taipei. We had no problems with the car at all throughout the three weeks.
The only problem we did encounter with VIP cars was their extreme reluctance and downright refusal to pick up the car at the airport at the time we wanted. Our flight was at 8am, so our request to drop the car off at 5am was met with disbelief and a long chat with the manager. Eventually, after 45 minutes negotiations, we agreed to drop the car off at 6am. Luckily, the airport was not busy and we sailed through check in and security.
VIP cars can be contacted on email@example.com or by visiting their website at www.vipcar.com.tw
The roads were generally in good condition, and for anyone used to driving in Asia, you’ll find Taiwan very relaxed and laid back. Unlike most of the rest of the world, the Taiwanese do not lean on the horn at any given opportunity, which made the cities much less stressful than, for example, Bangkok or Beijing. They are also generally more patient, and the main things to watch out for are the hordes of scooters. Once these have been completely ignored (after a few days, my attitude turned to “f**k ‘em, they’ll move”), driving is quite enjoyable here. The main problem was the road signs. They are mostly bilingual (Chinese and English), which is very helpful, but they have a nasty habit of suddenly disappearing. Signs for Highway 1 for example, will lead you into the centre of a town or city, before becoming completely invisible. One particularly memorable junction was when we actually found a small sign for the road we were looking for, and it said turn left. Above this was a large “no left turn” sign! Once these quirks have been found and shouted at, just ignore them. Everyone else seems to. Stopping at red lights is vital in the cities, but seems to be optional in the towns and rural areas where you can clearly see the intersecting roads. Tollbooths are regular on the main Freeways, and the charge was 40 Taiwanese dollars. It was important to get into the correct lane, and this was always the left hand one of the right hand (cash only) section. This was for cars paying cash. The lanes further to the right were for trucks and lorries, and apparently, you would have to pay that toll even though you are only in a car.
Costs and money
At the time of travel, the rate of exchange was approximately 63 Taiwanese dollars (NT) to one British pound (sterling). The exchange rate was definitely better in Taipei International Airport than back home in Britain, so I was glad I waited until arrival there before changing money.
Fuel was generally half the cost of fuel in Britain, at approx 30 NT per litre. The price of fuel rose in the mountains however, and petrol stations were few and far between. I’d strongly advise filling up before heading up the mountains, and then filling up at any opportunity from then on really. Food was generally cheap, although not as cheap as in other Asian destinations. Again, it was probably half the cost of in Britain. The cost definitely increased in the more touristy spots, and the most expensive place by far was at Wushe. The little row of eateries near the hotel was basic and very expensive.
Accommodation and food
Accommodation was generally of a good standard. Prices varied depending on the location. Charges were made per room, not per person; so four people sharing would get a better deal that the three of us always did. It also seems to be based on the size of the room, with the Taiwanese sometimes making a point of waxing lyrical how big the room in question was rather than the fact it only had one bed! We stayed in many places, and were never totally stuck for somewhere to stay. A couple of places worth seeking out are:
Wu Ying Hotel, Wushe. This was a great little find, and is situated in the town next to the 7/11 store. Its actually under the same awning, and has double glass doors with hotel written over them, although it is tricky to see from the road. This cost 1200 NT per night for a three bed room. This was much cheaper and warmer than the hostel on top of Hohuanshan where we stayed for one night for around 2000 NT including an evening meal.
“A hotel in Tainan that I didn’t write the name down of”. This was very handy for the wetlands at Chigu, and was the cheapest place we found on that side of Tainan. From Chigu, drive south along Highway 17 until you cross a bridge and hit the built up area of Tainan. Turn immediately left at a large junction, and this road then follows the river (which is behind an embankment). Follow this road for about 5km until you reach a large interchange. Turn right and go almost back on yourself (1st exit). After about 50m, the hotel is on the right hand side and has a green neon sign. It looks quite plush, but was 1620 NT for a four bed room. This price also included a great buffet breakfast. Something of a rarity in Taiwan! The hotel also featured a free pool table, Internet access and a small gym.
Other places were around the same prices or slightly more than these. Many of these were Motels, as their big neon signs were always in English as well. The much talked about “tatame” proved to be extremely elusive. These are supposed to be the Taiwanese equivalent of hostels, but not being able to read a word of Chinese meant that we could never find any! Whenever we asked a local for cheap accommodation (in our best Lonely Planet speak), we were always directed to somewhere that was most certainly not a hostel. The best of these came after a long drive to Pulli on the way to Wushe. We stopped to fill up at a petrol station and asked the lady there if she knew of any cheap accommodation. After much gesticulation and pointing at the Lonely Planet, we figured out that one of her friends/relatives was coming to the garage to meet us and take us to his cheap hotel. Great! He arrived in a suit, which immediately set alarm bells ringing. His surprise on learning our budget was 2000 dollars for the three of us, not each, confirmed our fears, but we went along anyway. We were to have a 5000 NT room for 2000 NT as long as we didn’t mind missing out on breakfast! As it turned out, the room he had earmarked for us didn’t have enough beds, so we ended up with two rooms (10,000 NT!) for 2000 NT. I don’t think that would happen in Britain very often. Indeed, we were often taken aback by the friendliness of the people and their willingness to help us out.
A Field Guide to the Birds of Taiwan by Sen-Hsiong Wu (ISBN 9579578001)
This book is the one I recommend, as it’s the only one to cover just the birds of Taiwan and shows all of the endemic species and races. The “Birds of China” by Mackinnon and Phillips is a very hefty, weighty tome, and unless you need to whack in the odd nail, you’re better off saving your money. The Birds of Taiwan is written in Chinese, with English and Latin names written in English. There are mistakes in the Birds of Taiwan, some of which are potentially confusing. This book was produced before the Taiwan Bush Warbler was recognised as a separate species for example, and so is here called the Mountain Scrub Warbler. Rusty Laughingthrush is called Grey-sided Laughingthrush, the name of the cuckooshrike is still confusing and wrong in many publications, while the wren babbler on Taiwan has gone through two name changes since this book was written. More on that one later...
The status of many species was clearly poorly understood when the book was written, and for a better summary of all of Taiwan’s species, you’re better off looking at Wayne Hsu’s website and printing off a copy http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/9003/checklist.htm
Unfortunately, it would seem that the only place to get this book is from one of the Birdwatching Society shops dotted around Taiwan. It is possible to buy it from the Black-faced Spoonbill centre in Chigu, or the Longluan Lake visitor centre near Kenting. However, as most birders first port of call is Taipei, here are directions to the Taipei Birdwatching Society shop.
When driving in Taipei, try and plan the journey to avoid left turns, as these are often prohibited, especially at crucial junctions in your journey! So, from Songshan airport, take 12th Avenue south and go underneath the Civil Boulevard and the purple MRT line. Turn right onto 1st Boulevard. Follow the brown MRT line around to the right and onto 11th Avenue. Park near to the Technology Building MRT station. Cross over the road and the shop is down Lane 160 (a small side street), about 100 meters from the junction with 11th Avenue.
Other useful websites I used for researching the trip were:
http://www.orientalbirdclub.org/ (back copies of Birding Asia 2 containing much information on Taiwan can be ordered from OBC)
In addition, a selection of my photos from this trip can be seen at: http://www.orientalbirdimages.org/photographers.php?action=birdercontrib&Birder_ID=648&PHPSESSID=8ae785d19794c84044e808423419325e
Week 1. - 10th-17th December.
We arrived in Taipei CKS International Airport at 1950hrs to find an exhausted Jim waiting for us with the hire car. Sleep was the first and overriding priority, and we decided to crash at the first place we came across in the suburbs of Taipei. For some reason, we couldn’t find ourselves on the map of Taipei supplied with the hire car, and so we asked for directions. The woman in the gas station pointed off the map somewhere, so we assumed we were near and decided to carry on. Very confused by now, we stumbled across a motel and stayed the night there. Morning dawned, and so did the realisation that we were nowhere near Taipei at all! We had been attempting to navigate in relation to the Songshan airport in Taipei, and not the International airport that is about 40km from the capital! We had wandered why the roads we wanted didn’t seem to exist, and our sleep-addled brains couldn’t cope with the pressure of thinking much beyond keeping upright! As some people seem to have trouble finding accommodation near the airport, we managed to find this reasonable motel on Highway 4 about 10 minutes drive from CKS airport between there and Freeway 1.
The second day dawned, and we headed into Taipei. After finalising some paperwork with VIP rental cars (parking is easy in the Songshan Airport car park - free for the first 30 minutes and only a three minute walk from VIP), we went to the Taipei Birdwatching Society shop and purchased a couple of field guides. Parking in Taipei is allowed in marked bays or on roadsides not marked by red lines. A ticket will appear on your windscreen from a warden and this will get stamped the longer you stay in the space. Simply take the ticket to any 7/11 store or petrol station to pay for the parking.
Then it was onto some proper birding, and onto the Taipei Botanical Gardens. The gardens are adjacent to the National Museum of History, and are a bit of an oasis in the city. The main attractions there are the famous Malayan Night Herons that have been in residence for several years. This is an excellent place to catch up with this usually very elusive species. They can often be found slowly stalking the ground in one of the quieter corners of the gardens, although we saw one just a few meters from the boardwalk with hundreds of people and schoolchildren all in close proximity. We also had our best views of Muller’s Barbet here, as they proved to be more wary and elusive elsewhere.
From the Botanical Gardens, we found Roosevelt Road and followed this southeast. After a while, it turns into Highway 9 and goes all the way to Wulai. As this is a spa area and therefore popular with tourists, prices were slightly more than we were expecting, but we managed to find a room for 1800 NT.
The following dawn saw us hitting the Taiwan countryside for the first time. In Wulai, a flock of nine Taiwan Blue Magpies bounced around the small electricity sub-station there before heading off up the steep mountain slopes and into the forest. This proved to be a stroke of good fortune, as we never again saw this stunning species, although we did not spend much time in suitable areas. We then drove to the cable car station and parked up. Some of the first birds of the trip were to set the tone for our run of excellent fortune. A stunning male Maroon Oriole flew over the valley and our first Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler was skulking around an out building. An unfamiliar loud song was eventually tracked to a Black-throated Laughingthrush, a presumed escaped cage bird. We walked upstream along the road for a few km in this scenically beautiful valley, and had our first encounters with some of our target species such as Taiwan Whistling Thrush (very active along the river), White-eared Sibia and a pair of Brown Dippers. These were on the river below the pedestrian suspension bridge. At least one Black Eagle passed over the valley, and a couple of Striated Herons were along the river.
We then drove further along the valley (along the road we had just walked along), passing through a small village and continuing along a narrow road. Eventually, after several km, the road ended in a small village. We parked and crossed the river there. This turned out to be a fortuitous find as a drake Mandarin was on small boulder in the river, looking every inch a truly wild bird. Another Brown Dipper was present here, but we continued over the river and then along a forest trail that produced more endemics such as our first Steer’s Liocichlas and a small flock of Pale Thrushes. See map 1 for details.
After a productive few hours here, we decided to make for Wushe and the mid and high altitude areas. It took several hours to make the journey, not least because we got lost a couple of times and one of the Freeways we wanted to use is not actually there yet! From Wulai, head back to Taipei and get on to Freeway 3 going west. Carry on all the way to the end of Freeway 3 and join Freeway 1 going south. Then get off onto Freeway 4 for a very short distance before it peters out into normal roads. Take Highway 3 to Tungshih. In Tungshih, take Highway 8 south. Turn off onto Highway 21 towards Pulli, and follow this all the way to Pulli. The road a few km before Pulli has been subject to landslides, and so despite being a main road, is in a bad way with lots of work being done to it. This was our first experience of landslides, and it took us a while to realise we could work our way around the road works. Eventually we arrived in Pulli and managed to find the most expensive hotel in the town to stay in for a reasonable price, thanks to a friendly garage attendant.
We drove out of Pulli on Highway 14 the next morning, and followed this all the way up to the summit of Hohuanshan on the road to Taroko Gorge. Despite thick wet cloud and a freezing wind, we found two Vinaceous Rosefinches in the summit car park, and the first of many White-whiskered Laughingthrushes. We decided to descend a little bit due to the weather, and had a quick look around the hostel a couple of km below the summit on the way to Taroko Gorge. There was another couple of rosefinches here, despite a proliferation of tourists, and at least 4 Alpine Accentors as well. We continued to explore the roadside areas for several km down the mountain, and managed to find several stunning Flamecrests, a small flock of Taiwan Fulvettas and a Yellowish-bellied Bush Warbler. We also had a couple of Nutcrackers along here. This area was generally very quiet, with low bird densities, but those that were there were usually quite confiding. Even the Vinaceous Rosefinches showed down to a few feet at one point! We stayed the night in the hostel below the summit, which was quite expensive, cold and very high up! The price did include a basic evening meal, but i spent much of the night unable to relax. As soon as my breathing got shallow and i approached sleep, the lack of oxygen would cause me to wake up short of breath! I didn’t notice this during the day, but it really affected me when i tried to relax. Its not far off 3000m, so altitude sickness may be a problem for some people.
The following three days saw us hitting the Blue Gate Trail. This is properly known as the Rueiyan River Trail. This runs along the steep hillside through some great forest habitat in the Rueiyan River Major Wildlife Habitat. This is an excellent area for most of Taiwan’s endemics, and is certainly worth a visit on any trip to the island. The main target along here is the stunning Swinhoe’s Pheasant, and there is an outside chance of Mikado Pheasant. The trail is at the upper altitudinal range of the Swinhoe’s, and at the lower end of the range for the Mikado. The trail itself, while level and easy walking, is the only bit of flat land for miles around so holds water very well. We found ourselves walking on the water pipes that run along the trail as often as we were on the trail itself to avoid the huge wet and muddy areas.
We got our first views of Collared Bush Robin along this trail, and it proved to be a reliable spot for them, with at least a couple of birds seen on most attempts. Other endemics along this trail included the ubiquitous Taiwan Yuhina, Yellow Tits, two separate flocks of Taiwan Barwing (the first of eight birds, the second of 12!) and the potential new split of Taiwan Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler, along with the more widespread Steere’s Liocichlas and White-eared Sibias. On our first walk along the trail, we were almost back at the main road after an excellent evenings birding when a rustle in the trailside vegetation drew our attention. We all hoped it would be a pheasant, but were not expecting the sight of a male Swinhoe’s exploding out of the dense foliage not 10 meters away and flying off along the trail!
We were to get lucky with another male Swinhoe’s Pheasant further along the trail the next day. We disturbed this one on the trail itself, and it walked away from us for about 10 meters before jumping over the water pipes and away into the forest. We also added good views of White-backed Woodpecker and brief views of Taiwan Wren Babbler on this day. The main event came in the afternoon however, when we attempted to walk along the “Continuation” Trail. This is an extension of the Blue Gate Trail and carries on across a small road. See map 1. This trail has much the same species number and diversity of the Blue Gate Trail, but with the very important addition for us of the Taiwan Partridge. We had not heard any calls that could be attributed to this, or any other phasanid, so when a rustle in the trailside vegetation drew our attention, we were certainly not expecting it to be this species. As a shape moving along the bank, it was extremely difficult to make out any detail, but luckily I managed to get ahead of it and look up the bank in a small gap in the trees. And suddenly it was there, just sitting in a full profile view for a good ten seconds before quietly melting away up the slope. The head pattern had been easy to see, even in the half-light of the forest, but we were lucky to have had this encounter. We would not be having another one, and this species is quite rightly considered the hardest of the endemics to see, even in the spring.
The Continuation Trail also gave us our first encounter with the very distinctive Island Thrush. A loud thrush-like “chucking” from deep within cover was certainly this species, and views of two males as they flew past a gap in the trees were extremely brief. We did score another male Swinhoe’s Pheasant along here. It was right by the trail, and I only happened to flush it because I climbed up to look into the forest at that point. It slinked off into the forest, although not before affording us excellent views of this stunning pheasant. Apparently, there is even better pheasant habitat further on along the Continuation Trail, especially for Mikado Pheasant, which we failed to see here. However, one of the numerous landslides has completely taken out the trail and all of the forest, leaving impassable sheer rock and scree. Interestingly, there was a group of workmen on the far side of this landslide, so its clearly accessible from somewhere, and there is always the possibility they may fix it at some point. Given the scale of the landslide and the infrequency of which the Trail is used, I guess that that may be a long while off…
As way of a distraction from the Trail, we tried the area around the Highland Experimental Farm a short way downhill of the Blue Gate Trail. This area produced more of the same, with the added bonus of excellent views of a low Black Eagle coming in and out of the mist. In fact, low cloud, mist and heavy rain were a feature of these early days. So much so, that I spent an afternoon in bed at one point watching the National Geographic Channel!
Another excellent raptor, and something of a surprise, was an adult Northern Goshawk soaring over the Hemlocks at Km 26 along Highway 14. This is a rare wintering bird in Taiwan, but was the first of two that we would see. We also called in to the Hohuanshan summit car park on a couple of occasions during this period, but the bitter wind, driving mist and hordes of tourists put us off very quickly. On the afternoon of the 16th, we decided to head for the western lowlands and return to the mountains once the weather improved. On the way down we stopped at some cultivations on the edge of Pulli, and scored several taivana Yellow Wagtails and leucopsis White Wagtails.
After a night in a motel, we drove down the coastal Highway 17, stopping off at various places that looked good for birding. One of the best places we found was a large flooded area on the roadside near to Kouhu. This was in a large area of fishponds, but had a reasonably natural edge to it, with marshy areas frequented by our first Painted Snipes. The main body of water held many duck, and included at least two drake Falcated Ducks. It was near to here that we followed signs for a “wetland” towards the coast, and stumbled across a Black-shouldered Kite. This wasn’t mentioned in any of the literature I had read, or any trip reports, and wasn’t even on the checklist we had brought from the Taipei Bird Watching Society shop! Our thoughts that we may have found a national first were dashed when Mark Wilkie confirmed that there was a small but expanding population in this area that had recently colonised from China. We also explored the Peikang Hsi area, finding 14 Painted Snipe in one paddy, plus many waders on the river itself. We eventually made it to the Chigu area for dusk.
Week 2. - 18th-25th December.
The Chigu (also spelt Chiku on many maps) area is famous as the Worlds number one spot for wintering Black-faced Spoonbills. It’s very easy to find, especially coming from the north along Highway 17. There are plenty of brown tourism signs with “Black-faced Spoonbill” written on them. Just before the road crosses the Tsengwen Hsi, turn right onto smaller highway and continue to follow the brown signs. Eventually, after changing from dual carriageway to single carriageway, the road leads to the Black-faced Spoonbill centre, which is signed off the road. If your main aim is to tick and run, then ignore this first building and continue down the road for a few hundred yards and you’ll see another building cum hide on the left. This is the best viewing area for the spoonbills. For more info on the spoonbills, check out http://mail.tnssh.tn.edu.tw/~bfsa/en/index.html.
This winter there were upwards of 800 birds present in the area, but the flock we saw was “only” just over 500! This was still a large percentage of the World’s population, and we spent the next day and a half exploring this large area. Be warned that the spoonbills are now very popular with the Taiwanese (which is excellent news), and the hides can get very busy at weekends. When we first arrived we were thoroughly stared at by the tourists. Not because we were Westerners, but because we were carrying ‘scopes and binoculars! Out of several hundred people present, we seemed to be the only birders!
Also present on the mudflats with the Black-faced Spoonbills were two Eurasian Spoonbills, at least five Saunder’s Gulls and hundreds of waders including Red-necked Stints, Terek Sandpiper, Mongolian Plovers and Pacific Golden Plover. A Peregrine terrorised the large flock of loafing Caspian Terns, and an Osprey was idly eating fish on the mudflats.
At the end of the road past the bird hides, the road bends around and follows the coast north. At this point, there is a belt of conifers. We had a walk through these and flushed Cinnamon Bittern, at least five Pale Thrush and three Olive-backed Pipits. This area would certainly be worth checking more thoroughly during migration, as mature trees seemed to be quite scarce on that part of the coast.
Between Chigu and Tainan, we noticed a largish pool on the roadside and decided to investigate. There were the usual Wigeon, Pintail and egrets, but in among the Wigeon was a cracking drake American Wigeon. This was the best site for duck that we found in this area, and is located 4.2 km north of Tainan on Highway 17 (at the time of our visit, the edge of Tainan is nicely defined by a largish river and an immediate start to large buildings). It is on the eastern side of the road.
After a night in Tainan, we birded the Chigu area again in the morning, before heading into the mountains again in the afternoon. The weather had cleared up and we could see the mountains, so we decided to head up again. This time, we decided on trying Yushan National Park and the Alishan Scenic Area. From the Tainan area, we eventually found Freeway 1 (not really sure how, as we were lost for the best part of the day…!) and followed this until the junction of Highway 18. We then followed Highway 18 up into the mountains. Somewhere along the lower reaches of the road is a village that we drove through that had a pedestrian suspension bridge over a deep gorge. This was a good vantage point to study the local Taiwan Whistling Thrush that hopped along the weir way below us, showing itself in and out of the strong sunlight. A juvenile Crested Goshawk that decided to land in a tree next to the river stopped the show, and we moved on too. Next stop was around km 34 on a fairly sharp left hand bend. A small settlement and a parking area on the right hand side of the road induced us to stop, and it turned out to be a good move. In the small cultivation and scrub, a pair of Collared Finchbills showed well, and a skulking passerine in the dense undergrowth turned out to be our only Striated Prinia of the trip. Following the trail up the hill for a few hundred yards also produced our first Gould’s Fulvetta in a large mixed flock of the usual suspects (Taiwan Yuhina, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Steere’s Liocichla Rufous-capped Babbler etc.). As dusk was now setting in, we decided to continue at a quicker pace to Alishan for the night.
Alishan Recreational Area is located at approximately km 75. The entrance is guarded by large toll-booths that need to be negotiated first. The costs of entrance were 150 NTD per person during the week, 200 NTD per person during the weekend and 100 NTD for the car at all times. This toll covered you for one 24-hour period. Therefore, with a bit of forward planning and saviness, it is possible to spend two nights in the area and only pay once. As we didn’t arrive at the tollbooth until well after dark, we could gain entry the following night as long as we were in before the time we had arrived the previous night. This area seems to be the only accommodation up here, so it’s worth biting the bullet and staying here. The complex holds many hotels, and one proprietor poached us as we entered the area, but we were just thankful to get a reasonably priced room in what was clearly quite an expensive resort. The restaurants in particular were very pricey, with a meal for three costing 950 NTD in a below average eatery. The hotel we stayed in was the Kao Shan Ching Hotel, and the cost was 1500 NTD for a four-person room.
We left the complex the following morning at 0530 ready for a day of intensive pheasant searching. Just as a precaution, we managed to get our entry tickets date stamped at the tollbooth on the way out to ensure our re-entry that evening. We drove up Highway 18 to the Tataka visitor centre at km 95.5, from where Highway 18 turns into highway 21. Mikado Pheasant is possible along either of these roads, as they apparently come out and feed on the roadside in the occasional areas of short grass. Any ideas of trying to find these birds off the road were quickly quashed when we saw the terrain. Dense impenetrable forest on extremely steep slopes meant that we were forced to drive along the road, stopping to bird along the way. But, since this was the method we’d read about, and had been advised about, we carried on all day. We concentrated our efforts between the Fuci Trees (two large dead trees on the roadside with a car park) and km 135. This was apparently as likely an area as any, and it felt good! The first few hours of morning were very productive. Six species of endemics were recorded easily (White-eared Sibia, Steere’s Liocichla, White-whiskered Laughingthrush, Flamecrest, Taiwan Barwing and Collared Bush Robin) with the laughingthrush and bush robin being particularly numerous. However, the rest of the day quietened down considerably, and did not pick up again until near dusk when the White’s Thrushes came out to feed on the roadside. One pass of the road revealed at least eight birds, and some of them gave excellent views as long as we stayed in the car. After 11 ½ hours of searching, we headed back to Alishan Recreational Area. It had been a hard days birding with none of the Mikado saving moments detailed in many other trip reports, and we began to wonder whether we would be able to connect with this species at all.
The morning of the 21st dawned, and we headed back up the hill into the scenically spectacular Yushan National Park after overstaying our 24hr period by a good 11 hours! Spending much of the day doing exactly what we had done the day before proved a bit demoralising, so we decided to try our luck on a trail near the Tataka visitor centre. Heading downhill by one of the car parks, it was called the Shenmu Logging Trail and was impassable for vehicles. I’m not exaggerating when I say we saw nothing. Previous walkers of the trail have seen White-browed Bush Robin and Mikado Pheasant down here, but we managed a couple of Nutcrackers and nothing else. We were quickly becoming aware that bird densities at this altitude were low, but everything we were trying seemed to end in failure. We even stared at a known breeding site of Taiwan Bush Warbler near the Fuci Trees for an hour hoping for a bit of movement that we could string, but to no avail. Many of the warblers move to lower altitudes during the winter, while those that remain are extremely elusive and skulking. We did manage excellent views of Alpine Accentor on the roadside, and the Formosan Macaques performed excellently for the willing tourists, despite signs everywhere saying do not feed the monkeys.
There came a point after taking photos of the impressive Jade Mountain (“Yushan”) that we decided to head back down to the mid-altitudes (incidentally, Yushan is the highest mountain in north-east Asia). We could always come back here later, and as we had met up with a park ranger who was trying to show a young Taiwanese birder the Mikado Pheasant with as much luck as we were having, we realised that today wasn’t to be our day here. We’d had a tip off from Mark Wilkie that the Tsen Pagoda at Sun Moon Lake was a good bet for Large Cuckoo Shrike, so as Highway 21 headed that way anyway, we decided to give it a go. With one last slow drive down Highway 21 to km 135, we found our best feeding flock of the last two days. A male Vivid Niltava was the highlight, but a couple of Yellow Tits and a group of Taiwan Barwings in amongst the usual species were also appreciated.
Continuing down the road, we stopped at a roadside orchard at Km 115 after a thrush flew across the road. We had our first Brown-headed Thrush here, and our only Eye-browed Thrush. A couple of Black-faced Buntings also showed well, and they were numerous in the roadside cultivations further along the road. We finally arrived at Sun Moon Lake late in the afternoon, and found the Tsen Pagoda easily enough on the eastern shore of the lake. It’s a very large pagoda overlooking the lake. The trees around the car park are a good stakeout for Large Cuckoo Shrike, a very scarce species in Taiwan. The pair were immediately on show as we got out of the car, and put on a decent display before heading off down the slope. As we climbed the steps towards the pagoda, we stopped at a covered rest stop that was just off the path. After about 15 minutes patient waiting, a stunning male White-tailed Robin perched out next to us for a few seconds, giving excellent views as it took us in, before deciding we were no threat and disappearing into the vegetation. With more views of a Brown-headed Thrush here, we headed off and spent the night in a motel on the edge of Touliu.
The 22nd was a much better day, and it started with a trip to the Fairy Pitta hotspot of Huben. Of course, there are no Pittas present in the winter (they tend to arrive mid-April), but the area holds a good number of species, and it was said to be a good bet for those mid-low altitude species that we hadn’t seen yet.
From the temple, we explored the trails going up the valleys. The best bird in a local sense we had here was an Asian Brown Flycatcher, apparently the first record for the site. The small flock of Gould’s Fulvettas that showed down to a few feet were my personal highlight however. Other noteworthy species were an Oriental Honey Buzzard, at least eight Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers in one noisy flock, a White-tailed Robin briefly in a dense thicket by the path and up to four Crested Serpent Eagles in the air at once. Once we’d had our fill of Huben, we decide to head for Chigu again, and made it to some fishponds opposite the “Salt Mountain” (signposted from Highway 17). These were pretty good fishponds with a decent selection of freshwater waders, but our focus quickly intensified when John shouted “dowitcher” as a wader flew past the car and appeared to land in a nearby fishpond. After a short walk to the spot failed to produce anything, we continued on down the track and refound what was clearly a dowitcher sp. on the other side of the road. In rapidly fading light, we couldn’t nail the identification, and headed back to the hotel in Tainan.
The 23rd saw us back in the salt mountain area, and we quickly located not just one, but two dowitchers! After some prolonged study, and one of them helpfully calling, they were confidently identified as Long-billed Dowitchers. A quick stop at the Black-faced Spoonbill site produced the usual large flock, as well as five Saunder’s Gulls and four Gull-billed Terns, before we headed back to the hotel via the showy American Wigeon for a late but much appreciated buffet breakfast. Our plan for the rest of the day was to drive slowly to Kenting in the far south of Taiwan. We made the almost fatal mistake of driving through Kaohsiung, and expecting it to be straightforward. After losing relevant signposts in the city centre, we spent at least two hours just wandering around looking for a way out of the city. Resorting to the Lonely Planet, we learnt that Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s second largest city and the fourth or fifth largest port in the World! If we had known that beforehand, we wouldn’t have tried to negotiate its centre! My strong advice would be to bypass the city by any means. It was a lot harder to negotiate than Teipai!
Anyway, we finally made it to Kenting, and stopped at Longluan Lake for a few hours late afternoon. This is clearly signposted from Highway 26 (the coastal Highway 17 becomes the 26 south of Fangshan) just south of Hengchun. The car park and visitor centre area was home to several showy Styan’s Bulbuls, and this sadly declining endemic became our 12th of the “traditional” endemics to fall. This species is only found in the far south and along the eastern coastal strip, hemmed in by the mountain ranges. The ubiquitous Chinese Bulbul found elsewhere in the islands lowlands has hybridised the Styan’s out of existence in many places, with this being its last refuge. Hybrids are apparently frequent on the edge of the ranges, but we didn’t see any. In fact, while we were within the range of Styan’s Bulbul, we saw many birds along the roadsides, in the lower elevation forests and along the coast.
Also in the scrub was a trio of Taiwan Hwamei. This was a complete surprise to us, but a very welcome one as I was starting to think we’d really struggle with this species in winter. They showed no signs of hybridisation with the Chinese Hwamei that is also a frequent escape. While elusive, they also didn’t seem to concerned by the hordes of people passing within a few metres of them, but then neither were the bulbuls. The lake itself held Spot-billed Ducks, as well as the usual Palearctic ducks.
We managed to find a reasonable deal for a hotel in Kenting (it’s a VERY popular resort in the summer, but this does mean there is loads of accommodation) and spent the following day exploring the area. I think that this area is sadly neglected by visiting birders, which is a shame as it has a lot to offer. We found a path leading to the very southern tip of Taiwan. This led through an area of dense bushes that looked perfect for migrants. In fact, I’d go so far to say that this area could be awesome in the right conditions at the right time of year. Just a short distance away is the Sheding Nature Park that has become justly famous for its autumn raptor migration, with thousands of Grey-faced Buzzards amongst others. It doesn’t take a great leap to imagine these coastal bushes dripping with passerines in both spring and autumn with birds arriving and departing for the Philippines. We had to make do with our most showy Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers and several Brown-headed and Pale Thrushes.
Within the Sheding Nature Park, we found our first Chinese Bamboo Partridges, before the tourist hordes sent us scurrying back to Longluan Lake (it was the weekend and 10 coach loads turned up as we were there!). Another walk around the car park scrub produced three Barred Buttonquail, a Taiwan Hwamei and our second Dusky Warbler of the day. With no chance of migrants, and all of the areas specialities under the belt, we decided to head up to Taitung. The drive to Taitung produced our only Grey-faced Buzzard of the trip at Km 444.5 along Highway 9, while a late evening on the seafront produced two superb Dusky Thrushes feeding on some coastal turf. Our hotel for the next two nights was on the southern outskirts of Taitung on Highway 11, and was next to a big flyover and large intersection. It was called the Min Chiao Hotel and a four bed room cost 1200NTD, which was fairly reasonable.
Christmas Day dawned and we explored some of the roads leading west into the mountains from Highway 9. Several of these are marked on the map of Taiwan supplied with the VIP hire car, but none of the ones we could found proved to be passable by car after more than a few km. The aim was to try to get high enough to be in with a chance of Mikado Pheasant after our failure at Yushan, but this was to prove fruitless as well. One particular road that looked promising and climbed a fair altitude led to a sign that strictly prohibited access without the necessary permits. We stopped here for a while and bumped into a couple of Japanese Bush Warblers (looking very different from the Manchurian birds in north-east China…) and had brief views of a possible Mountain Hawk Eagle. It disappeared behind the trees along the valley before we could nail it however. It may well be possible to continue along this road without a permit, as this is in effect what we were doing along the Blue Gate Trail without realising it. However, at the time we thought we were law-abiding tourists and decided to turn back.
New along another one of these tracks was at least one Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler, although there could easily have been more in the dense undergrowth. This particular track (which was not the one we thought we were on, so I’m afraid I have no idea as to how to direct you to it!) also produced Large Cuckoo Shrike, Chinese Bamboo Partridge, Vivid Niltava, Collared Finchbill and Taiwan Whistling Thrush amongst others. This whole area is worthy of further exploration, and new discoveries may be just around the corner. There may well be good spots for pheasants in this area, as they are certainly present (Fang & Sykes 2004).
Week 3 - 26th Dec-01st Jan
After a second night in our hotel near Taitung, we decide to head back north along the east coast. After a days driving and general birding (occasional sightings of Styan’s Bulbuls on route), we drove through the scenically spectacular Taroko Gorge. Be warned, the roads here can be very narrow, and this is the top tourist destination in Taiwan, so coaches are a constant menace. This road eventually climbs up and over Hohuanshan, and this we duly did, descending into Wushe for another night at the Wu Ying Hotel. As we had an hour or so before dusk, we went down the trail behind the school (see map) and went part of the way down towards the reservoir. Very quickly we located a pair of Swinhoe’s Pheasants by the trackside. The female flew immediately, but the male had a damaged leg and proceeded to walk slowly down the slope and away from us. He was in view for a good two minutes, and we were able to drink in every last detail of this stunning pheasant. This was a surprising sighting for us, as we were on the edge of the town, only a few metres from habitation. Further down the trail in the gathering gloom, a male White-tailed Robin performed superbly on a trackside sapling within four metres of us for a short while, before deciding we weren’t a threat and disappearing into the undergrowth.
An early and chilly start the following morning saw us heading up towards the Blue Gate trail once more. By this time, any outside chance of Mikado Pheasant was worth trying, and this trail does occasionally produce them. Our journey up there was memorable for the two Savannah Nightjars we flushed off the road at Km 6 on Highway 14. This was a complete bonus, as we had no real intention of trying for them specifically. A small flock of Brown Bullfinch at the start of the Blue Gate Trail was the highlight of a quiet morning, but we had decent views of Taiwan Wren Babbler and flushed a partridge sp., but failed to get views of it. We decided to try the summit for Grey-headed Bullfinch, but it was very quiet. The only birds seemed to be several White-whiskered Laughingthrushes and Vinaceous Rosefinches around the deserted hotel near the hostel. So we headed downhill towards Wushe again, stopping at several random spots along the way. It was generally very quiet, apart from a lucky break at Km 26.5 where we literally bumped into a flock of six or so Grey-headed Bullfinches. We managed to get within about two metres of these amazingly tame birds while they quietly fed in some fruiting trees. We were only distracted when a Flamecrest decided to put on a bit of show as well!
For the late afternoon, we decided a change of tack was needed and went to the Chun Yang Experimental Farm. This is located a short way from Wushe, along the “real” Highway 14 (the highway going up to Hohuanshan and beyond is actually Highway 14 “squiggle”! Check out the roadsigns and you’ll see what I mean). This is located just after Wushe town centre and is the right fork in the road (signed to Lushan springs I think). After 3.4 km along this road, you’ll see the farm on the left hand side. The people here seem used to birders, and we were greeted with many smiles from the farm workers. We explored the roads around the farm and made our way gradually around a small ravine and up the hill through the farm into the tea plantations. This turned out to be a very good area, and over the course of the afternoon and the following morning, we connected with a flock of 20 Rusty Laughingthrushes, Yellow Tit, the showiest Steere’s Liocichlas that we came across, Collared Finchbills, Taiwan Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler, Vineous-throated Parrotbills, several Chinese Bamboo Partridges and lots of Black-faced Buntings coming to roost in the tea plantation.
We’d read a lot about a site called Anmashan being many birders favourite spot in Taiwan, and as the trip was starting to draw to a close, we spent the afternoon of the 28th driving to it. From Pulli, take Highway 21 and then Highway 8 to Dongshih (or Tungshih on our map). Once coming into Dongshih on Highway 8, turn right at km 1.8 (opposite a 7 eleven store) and go down this street for only approx 50m. Then turn right opposite a green Clerks sign hanging over a shop. This is the road to Anmashan, so continue along this until you gain some altitude and then start birding! At km 23.5 there is a viewing platform overlooking a small number of fruiting trees. This is a very famous birding site in Taiwan, and we were amazed to see so many photographers here. It was like Titchwell on a Sunday! The trees are the hub of the surrounding forest at this time of year (beware, the info sign said they only fruit in the winter as the leaves are falling, so a spring visit may prove fruitless…), and we were never short of birds to look at. We spent a while here during the course of our stay, and the highlights were undoubtedly the flock of seven Island Thrush that came into feed on our last day. We saw three on our first day, but the sight of three males and four females of this tricky to find thrush was a bit special. Other more numerous species included many Vivid Niltavas, White-eared Sibias, Muller’s Barbets, two Yellow Tits, the endemic race of Jay, White’s Thrushes, and Steere’s Liocichlas etc. For those interested in photography, this area is an absolute must at this time of year. Just beware of developing “lens envy” with the Taiwanese photographers! Note also that there is a viewing platform a few km before you reach this one that does not overlook any fruiting trees.
Continue up the road to km 32.5. This is where a massive landslide swept the road and much of the mountain away a few years ago, and features in several trip reports (including Gruff Dodd’s). Happily, they have now constructed an impressive bridge across the chasm, and the road is now open all the way up to the recreation area beyond. A few km beyond the bridge is the obligatory toll booth. The charges on the board were 200 NTD per person and 100 NTD for the car, but as it was 15:30 when we arrived, he let us in for 130 NTD all-inclusive! As we were intending to stay within the recreation area for two nights, this was a bit of a bonus. We then continued on up the road to km 43 and parked in the large car park just 50m beyond the police station (which is huge – just how much crime do they get up here!?). The accommodation is below and behind the car park, and by wandering around for a while, we finally bumped into someone who showed us to the reception. We got a three bed cottage for 2020 NTD, which included dinner and breakfast for two people, with the third having to pay 100 NTD extra. With a planned early start however, we easily managed to waiver breakfast and get our three inclusive dinners instead. The accommodation was absolutely freezing. No heating at all (although there was a dehumidifier, which was as welcome as a chocolate teapot!) in the cottage was a pain, but there was hot water. And a hair dryer. Which was useless as a room heater… Dinner was served 1730-1900, while breakfast was 0700-0830. Check out time was 1100.
The 29th was to be a good day. Before dawn we drove back down the road to the toll booth area and parked in the car park here. Trail 210 starts from this car park and was mentioned in previous reports as being the best spot for Mikado Pheasant, although they had become increasingly difficult in recent years. Still, any chance was better then no chance, so we decided to give it a go. To our dismay, the trail was closed to the public by a locked gate. We then re-checked all of our park literature we had gathered and realised that this trail was no longer publicised. However, it was easy to just squeeze around the side of the gate under cover of darkness, and we started walking down the trail. We walked along the trail for maybe 3-4km, and saw no other people at all. Very near to the entrance, we had decent views of a 1st year Mountain Hawk Eagle below us that glided off along the slopes. There was a lot of landslide action along this trail, and the path had actually disappeared in places. Along the trail we had our best views of Taiwan Wren Babbler on the trailside, and a large feeding flock contained the usual species. A nice surprise was a Collared Owlet perched on top of a dead tree in full view and allowing close approach. We turned back after negotiating several landslides and seemingly running out of birds. On the way back, we were within 100m of the trail entrance when we suddenly became aware of movement in the long grass on the trailside, and froze just in time to see a female Mikado Pheasant explode from cover and fly down the path and then into the forest. The male quickly followed suit and burst out of the grass but flew in the opposite direction, and we had good if brief flight views as it disappeared into the forest further along. Although we ran along as quietly as we could to try and see it further along, we never saw either of them again. After ca.40 hours of searching, we’d finally connected with one of our main targets. As we walked back to the car we actually had very brief views of another female pheasant sp. as it disappeared into the forest above the trail. We suspected Mikado but didn’t get enough on it. I conclusion then, most of our pheasant sightings occurred when we were not creeping silently along the trails, but walking normally and actually even talking. Dawn starts were unnecessary as most of our sightings came around mid-morning. As Trail 210 is officially closed, I must point out that I suspect most of the species can be just as easily seen from the new trail which starts ca.200m back up along the road and goes up the hillside in a series of steps. This new trail is marked on the tourist information and goes very close to the area where we saw the Mikado’s. We failed to see anything along this trail (except for a Formosan Muntjac!) but did get Vinaceous Rosefinch and a good feeding flock at the entrance along the roadside.
In the afternoon we tried Trail 220. Again, this was mentioned in previous trip reports as a good place to try, but landslides have also meant that this Trail is now closed to the public. However, with our newfound inability to read signs, we pressed on down the trail. It was indeed blocked by several large landslides. Some of these would be impassable to anyone not fully mobile, but we managed to pick our way across the scree and loose boulders on several occasions. At the fifth landslide, a stream was flowing through it and we sat down to look for our target species. We didn’t have long to wait, as a stunning Little Forktail appeared on a large boulder and performed superbly for the next 30 minutes or so, steadily coming nearer and nearer and eventually to within 20m. All of the Forktails are stunning birds, and this chap was no exception – even without the long tail of its cousins. Also along Trail 220 were two Taiwan Barwings that showed down to a few feet, but little else. The landslides along this trail are only going to get worse, so I would advise anyone to check them out carefully before venturing over them. As the Trail is officially closed, its unlikely anyone will be along to help in the event of an accident.
We went for a night drive that evening and heard a couple of Tawny Owls calling, but the main entertainment was provided by what we first took to be one of the Scops Owls. We soon realised that there were too many of them, and then they started to move. We could even make out the crashing of foliage before many of the calls. We suspected a mammal of some kind, and eventually got the spotlight onto one of them. It was a White-faced Flying Squirrel, and there were plenty of them around the forest that night. We stayed the night in the same complex but in a communal accommodation block with about 10 bedrooms. It was pretty comfortable, and in many ways better than the cottage we’d had to ourselves the night before. It was certainly a lot warmer! It cost 2400NTD for a three bed room, as it was a Friday and the weekends are always more expensive in these recreational areas.
After another session at the fruiting trees at Km 23.5, we birded our way slowly down the road, but only managed a flock of Siskins. The rest of the day was spent travelling north to the vicinity of the CKS airport. The area around the airport looked like it could be quite good; with fishponds and paddies, but the best we could manage was a small scattering of waders and a few Sanderling on the beach. We dropped Jim at the airport in the evening and crashed in the Warm Life Hotel, which is on Highway 2 just south of Guandu (near to a McDonalds) on the way into Taipei.
Our final day in Taiwan saw us arrive at the Guandu Nature Park just after dawn. The park is signed off Highway 2 and is a small but decent wetland at the confluence of the Danshui and Keelung rivers. Our early start was a bit pointless as the park doesn’t actually open until 9am, although they do have a policy of letting locals go for a morning stroll for free before the park officially opens. We were advised to go around the edge of the park and look in, which proved to be a good strategy. There is a narrow road that runs between the park and the river along the mangroves, and this is a productive walk. We had excellent views of a Ruddy-breasted Crake on a reedy pool, but were most amazed by the dedication of a band of photographers who kept placing a maggot on a water Lilly. The regular Plain Prinias would come down and steal it, but the photographers were after the Black-browed Reed Warbler that was also coming to within a few feet of their lenses. Once the park finally opened, we returned to the entrance, paid our entrance fee of 50NTD and went for a wander. The visitor centre was huge, with a large glass frontage. Overlooking the wetland, we quickly came across a Black-faced Spoonbill roosting on one of the small islands, and a Bean Goose was trying to hide from the rampaging dogs. Also present was a drake Falcated Drake. We spent the rest of the day getting lost around Taipei!
Our final night was in a motel on Highway 11 on the way to CKS airport, and we flew back to Birmingham via Hong Kong and Frankfurt with no hitches whatsoever. All in all, it was an excellent trip, and Taiwan is certainly somewhere that should be considered as a serious birding destination. I’d certainly like to go back, although with my targets for next time being Fairy Pitta, Chinese Crested Tern, Taiwan Bush Warbler and “Taiwan” White-browed Shortwing, it will have to be a spring or summer trip.
This list follows Inskipp et al OBC Checklist, which can be found at http://www.orientalbirdclub.org/publications/checklist/index.html, with some recent referenced additions.
First letter - C = Common R = Rare UC = Uncommon L = Local V = Vagrant I = Introduced
Second/third letter – R = Resident M = Migrant W = Winter
1. Blue-breasted Quail (Coturnix chinensis)
(?) A male seen briefly but well by Jim in the scrub around Longluan Lake. Apparently a very rarely seen species in Taiwan, with its status being largely unknown. There may be a small population around Dajia in Taichung County.
2. Taiwan Partridge (Arborophilia crudigularis)
(CR) Endemic species. One seen briefly from the Continuation Trail was the only contact with this species at all, with no other definite calls being heard. According to many trip reports, we were lucky to get this brief contact at all!
3. Chinese Bamboo Partridge (Bambusicola (thoracica) sonorivox)
(CR) Endemic race, and a good potential split from the Mainland Chinese nominate race. A pair heard at Huben. Three birds seen next to the path in Sheding Nature Park (within Kenting National Park), but seemed generally a lot more elusive than other trip reports suggested. Heard near Taitung and along the Blue Gate Trail also, but the only good site we found was Chun Yang Experimental Farm, near Wushe, where several were heard calling and two were seen. A very distinctive “people-pray, people-pray” call.
4. Swinhoe’s Pheasant (Lophura swinhoii)
(UCR) Endemic species. Four males seen on the Blue Gate Trail, and a pair together on the track from Wushe down to the reservoir.
5. Mikado Pheasant (Syrmaticus mikadao)
(UCR) Endemic species. A pair at Anmashan on Trail 210 about 400 yards from the entrance. No sign along the road at Yushan National Park despite extensive searching. Also not seen there by the local guides at the time.
6. Bean Goose (Anser fabilis middendorffii)
(V) One at Guandu Nature Park near Taipei.
7. Mandarin (Aix galericulata)
(RR) An unexpected find near Wulai of a superb drake on the same river as a Brown Dipper.
8. Gadwall (Anas strepera)
(UCW) Three on the large fishpond near to Kouhu.
9. Falcated Duck (A. falcata)
(RW) Two drakes on the large fishpond near Kouhu (adjacent to Highway 17 just north of the junction with road 131), followed by another drake at Guandu Nature Park.
10. Eurasian Wigeon (A. penelope)
(CW) Common along the west coast.
11. American Wigeon ( A. americana)
(V) No trip is complete without a rarity, and this drake American Wigeon was ours for the trip. Found on a roadside pool 4.2 km north of Tainan on the 18th. It was still present on the 23rd.
12. Mallard (A. platyrhynchus)
(UCW) Only eight seen on Longluan Lake.
13. Spot-billed Duck (A. poecilorhyncha)
(CW, RR) Surprisingly the only birds seen were 35 on Longluan Lake.
14. Northern Shoveler (A. clypeata)
(CW) Common along the west coast wetlands and on Longluan Lake.
15. Pintail (A. acuta)
(CW) Very common along west coast and on Longluan Lake.
16. Eurasian Teal (A. crecca)
17. Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
(LCW) Two birds at the American Wigeon site, and common on Longluan Lake.
18. Barred Button Quail (Turnix suscitator rostratus)
(CR) Endemic race. At least three birds were seen well in the scrub between the car park and visitor centre at Longluan Lake.
19. Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker (D. canicapillus kaleensis)
(CR) Endemic race. Only birds seen were four around the temple at Huben.
20. White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopus leucotos insularis)
(UCR) Endemic race. Seen and heard regularly, with good sightings coming from the Blue Gate and Continuation Trails, Yushan and Anmashan.
21. Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus tancolo)
(UCR) Endemic race. At least one heard at Anmashan.
22. “Mullers” Black-browed Barbet (Megalaima (oorti) nuchalis)
(CR) This endemic race seems destined to be given full specific status in due course (eg. Collar 2004). First seen in the Taipei Botanical Gardens where excellent views were had. Then strangely elusive afterwards, and although often seen and heard at mid-altitude sites such as the Wushe area, Anmashan and Sun Moon Lake, never seen as well as in Taipei!
23. Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
(CR) Seen regularly in the lowlands.
24. House Swift (Apus affinis)
(CR) Common throughout.
25. Tawny Owl (Strix aluco yamadae)
(UCR) Endemic race. Two birds heard calling along the road at Anmashan, between the Police Sation and the Toll Booth.
26. Collared Owlet (Glaucidium brodiei pardalotum)
(CR) Endemic race. Excellent views of a single bird perched on top of a dead stump along Trail 210 at Anmashan. This species can be hard to catch up with.
27. Savannah Nightjar (Caprimulgus affinis stictomus)
(RR) Endemic race. Two birds flushed off the main road on a cold morning on the way from Wushe to the Blue Gate Trail at Km 6. This endemic race is listed as Near Threatened in Taiwan’s Red Date list, with a total population estimated at 1000-2000.
28. Feral Rock Dove (C. livia)
(CR) Common in urban areas.
29. Ashy Woodpigeon (Columba pulchricollis)
(CR) Large flocks sometimes seen along the Blue Gate Trail (up to 70 in number) flying over the forest. A flock of 50 seen at Huben. Only birds seen on the ground/perched were two along the Blue Gate Trail.
30. Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis)
(CR) Only seen in the Wushe area, with at least 25 at Chun Yang Farm.
31. Spotted Dove (S. chinensis)
(CR) Common in the lowlands.
32. Red Collared Dove (S. tranquebarica)
(CR) Common in the lowlands, with hundreds of birds seen on some days. A species that is declining in Taiwan, and is actually listed on the Red Data Watch List.
33. Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica)
(UCR) Four were feeding on the road along the narrow roads going into the mountains west of Taitung. Good views were had of this usually skittish species.
34. White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus)
(CR) One at Chigu, and three around the wetlands near the CKS airport.
35. Ruddy-breasted Crake (Porzana fusca)
(CR) One bird seen very well in Guandu Nature Park.
36. Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
37. Coot (Fulica atra)
(UCW) Occasional birds seen at Chigu, Longluan Lake and along the west coast.
38. Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
(CW) Small numbers along the west coast wetlands, around Chigu and around Longluan Lake. No birds showed any characters of Pintail or Swinhoe’s Snipes.
39. Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica)
(UCT) Small numbers at Chigu.
40. Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata)
(CT, LCW) Small numbers at Chigu.
41. Far Eastern Curlew (N. madagascariensis)
(UCT) One seen at Chigu with Eurasian Curlews.
42. Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)
(RW) Two at Chigu fishponds.
43. Redshank (T. totanus)
(UCT, RW) Small numbers along the west coast wetlands and at Chigu.
44. Marsh Sandpiper (T. stagnatilis)
(UCW, CT) Common in the fishponds around Chigu.
45. Greenshank (T. nebularia)
(CW) Common along the west coast wetlands and Chigu.
46. Green Sandpiper (T. ochropus)
(CW) Two on the Pachang Hsi from Highway 1 Km 277.5.
47. Wood Sandpiper (T. glareola)
(CW) Small numbers regular in the west coast wetlands.
48. Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus)
(UCT) One on the Chigu mudflats among the wader flocks.
49. Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
(CW) Common in the west coast wetlands, and also seen on the river at Pulli.
50. Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)
(RT) We found two birds on some freshwater fishponds near to Chigu (across the road from the “salt mountain”.
51. Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris)
(CT) Three at Chigu.
52. Sanderling (C. alba)
(UCW) Two on the beach near to Tayuan.
53. Red-necked Stint (C. ruficollis)
(CT, UCW) Common at Chigu.
54. Temminck’s Stint (C. temminckii)
(RW) One on the Pachang His and one at Longluan Lake.
55. Long-toed Stint (C. subminuta)
(UCW) Small numbers seen around the Chigu area, and 25 in one small area on the Pachang His.
56. Dunlin (C. alpina)
(CW) Very common at Chigu. Also seen along the west coast wetlands and on the beach near Tayuan.
57. Curlew sandpiper (C. ferruginea)
(CT) One bird on the mudflats at Chigu.
58. Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
(RT) One bird seen on a fishpond adjacent to Highway 17 near Kouhu.
59. Painted Snipe (Rostratula benghalensis)
(CS, RR) Approximately 20 seen, with five on the large marsh near to Kouhu and about 15 in rice paddies along the Peikang Hsi.
60. Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
(UCW) Common and sometimes numerous along the west coast wetlands and in the Chigu area.
61. Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
(UCW) Up to 100 seen in the Chigu area.
62. Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva)
(CW) Common along the west coast wetlands.
63. Grey Plover (P. squatarola)
(CW) Small numbers at Chigu.
64. Little Ringed Plover (Charidrius dubius)
(CW, RS) Common.
65. Kentish Plover (C. alexandrinus)
(CW, UCS) Very common.
66. Lesser Sand Plover (C. mongolus)
(CT, RW) Good numbers (up to 50) seen around the Chigu area.
67. Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
(UCW) One seen near to Kouhu.
68. Vega Gull (L. vegae)
(?) A 1st winter large gull on the beach near to Tayuan was of this form. The sub-specific identification of large gulls is in its infancy in Taiwan, and there may be scope for visiting experienced gull watchers to add to the national list here.
69. Black-headed Gull (L. ridibundus)
(CW) Common along the west coast wetlands.
70. Saunder’s Gull (L. saundersi)
(UCW) Up to five birds showed reasonably well on the mudflats in front of the main hide at Chigu.
71. Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)
(RT) Two at Chigu on the 18/12, one on the 19/12 and four on the 23/12. These are apparently good records, as according to Wayne Hsu’s status notes on his website there are “very few records, likely to be misidentified”.
72. Caspian Tern (Sterna caspia)
(UCW) More common than status notes suggested, with approx 600 at Chigu and regular singles along the west coast wetlands.
73. Little Tern (S. albifrons)
(CS, CW) Common in western coastal areas.
74. Whiskered Tern (Childonius hybridus)
(UCW, CT) 60+ seen along the west coast wetlands and small numbers at Chigu.
75. Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
(UCW) Single birds seen at Chigu and over Peikang His.
76. Oriental Honey Buzzard (Pernis orientalis)
77. Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus)
(RR) One seen near to Kouhu initially caused some excitement, as it was not in either the field guide or the status list of Taiwanese birds that we had. With a population nearby in China, we thought this may have been a massive rarity in Taiwan, but there is a small population that has recently become established on the west coast, and it is actually quite common in the Aogu area now.
78. Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela hoya)
(CR) Endemic race. Fairly common at low to mid altitude, with up to four birds in the air at Huben. Being the most seen at one time. Taiwan’s commonest raptor.
79. Crested Goshawk (Accipiter trivirgatus formosae)
(CR) Endemic race. Commonest accipiter, seen at a range of altitudes.
80. Besra (A. virgatus fuscipectus)
(CR) Endemic race. Just two birds seen, together at Huben.
81. Northern Goshawk (A. gentilis)
(V) Apparently a very rare migrant and an extremely rare winterer. We saw two birds. The first was at Km 26 on Highway 44 between Wushe and Hohuanshan. It gave excellent views as it soared over the Hemlocks and pine forest, before finally disappearing into the low cloud. The second was soaring over Anmashan approximately at Km 25.
82. Grey-faced Buzzard (Butastur indicus)
(CT) One seen at Km 444.5 on Highway 9 as it crosses from east coast to west. Another rare wintering species, although abundant on passage.
83. Black Eagle (Ictinaetus malayensis)
(UCR) Distant views of one or two along the valley from Wulai. Excellent views of one low over the Highland Experimental Farm above Wushe.
84. Mountain Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus nipalensis)
(RR) A 1st winter bird was seen well from Trail 210 at Anmashan. This would seem to be an excellent sighting of this rare resident, especially away from the southern mountains. It was probably a wandering bird looking for a new territory.
85. Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
(CW) Fairly common in the lowlands.
86. Peregrine (F. peregrinus)
(UCW, RR) Seen on the west coast at Chigu, Kouhu and occasionally elsewhere.
87. Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
(CR) Fairly common along the west coast wetlands.
88. Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)
(RW) Two birds seen on Longluan Lake were the only sightings.
89. Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
(CW) Small numbers seen around Chigu.
90. Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
(CR) Very common near water.
91. Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra)
(UCR) Only two birds seen, both dark phases, at the very southern tip of Taiwan on the rocky shore there.
92. Grey Heron (A. cinerea)
(CW) Common in wetlands.
93. Purple Heron (A. purpurea)
(UCW) One seen in the wetland between Highway 17 and the coast near to Kouhu.
94. Great White Egret (Casmerodius albus)
(CW) Common in wetlands.
95. Intermediate Egret (Mesophoyx intermedia)
(CW) Reasonably common in wetlands.
96. Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
(UCW) Reasonably common in lowlands, but not as numerous as in many other countries.
97. Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeleo bacchus)
(RW) One bird seen on the Pachang Hsi.
98. Little Heron (Butorides striatus)
(RR, UCW) Two were seen along the river upstream from Wulai.
99. Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
(CR) Very common in the lowlands. One disturbed roost adjacent to the main road contained over 300 birds.
100. Malayan Night Heron (Gorsakius melanolophus)
(UCR) Two birds showed very well in the Taipei Botanical Gardens, completely unconcerned by the hordes of visitors and school children.
101. Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis)
(CR) A peak of three birds around the fishponds at Chigu.
102. Cinnamon Bittern (I. cinnamomeus)
(CR) Two in the coastal pinewood along the road from the Black-faced Spoonbill viewing area at Chigu.
103. Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus)
(?) Introduced, naturalised population. Several seen along the west coast wetlands.
104. Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
(RW) We found two in with the Black-faced Spoonbill flock at Chigu.
105. Black-faced Spoonbill (P. minor)
(LUCW) One of our main target species, and seen in style. Over 500 birds were in one flock at Chigu at the main site. This represented a significant proportion of the World’s population of these endangered birds. They were quite mobile, and new birds would often fly in to join the flock while others left to go to the feeding grounds. Also, one was unexpectedly seen roosting in front of the main centre at Guandu Nature Park near Taipei.
106. Brown Shrike (L. cristatus superciliosus, L. c. lucionensis)
(CT, CW) Commonly seen in the lowlands. Individuals of both of the wintering races were seen, with lucionensis being the more common.
107. Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach formosae)
(CR) Endemic race. Much less common than Brown Shrike, with birds seen near Kenting, Taitung and Tainan.
108. Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandaris taivanus)
(CR) Endemic race. Occasional birds seen around the Wushe area, Yushan and Wulai. A flock of six gave excellent views around the fruiting trees at Anmashan.
109. Taiwan Blue Magpie (Urocissa caerulea)
(UCR) Endemic species. A flock of nine at Wulai were the only sightings we had of this stunning and charismatic bird. They spent some time around the small electricity substation in Wulai before heading off up the steep slope.
110. Grey Treepie (Dendrocitta formosae formosae)
(CR) Endemic race. The nominate form of this species is endemic to Taiwan, and proved to be fairly common in low to mid altitude sites. The best site for them was the Taipei Botanical Gardens were they seem to have become very habituated to humans, and competed with the squirrels for scraps!
111. Magpie (Pica pica)
(UCR) An introduced species, now fairly common in the western lowlands.
112. Nutcraker (Nucifraga caryocatactes owstoni)
(CR) Endemic race. The best spot was at Yushan, were we had nine in one day along the road. Other sites we saw them at were Hohuanshan, Anmashan and just above the Blue Gate Trail.
113. Large-billed Crow (Corvus macrorhynchus)
(CR) Fairly common at mid to high altitude.
114. Maroon Oriole (Oriolus traillii ardens)
(RR) A stunning male flew over the valley and perched up briefly on the far side at Wulai, next to the car park below the cable car station. The total population in Taiwan is between 200-500, and it is listed as endangered on Taiwan’s Red Data List.
115. Large Cuckooshrike (Coracina macei rexpineti)
(RR) A pair showed well around the car park at the Tzuen Pagoda, Sun Moon Lake. A female showed more briefly along one of the roads into the mountains west of Taitung. Often mistakenly called Black-faced Cuckooshrike (C. novaehollandiae) in some of the literature, as the race rexpineti is very similar to this species. In fact, some authorities treat the Asian macei and Australasian novaehollandiae as conspecific.
116. Grey-chinned Minivet (Pericrocotus solaris)
(CR) Up to 20 in the Wulai area, otherwise just odd singles and pairs around Wushe, Yushan, Huben and Anmashan.
117. Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus harterti)
(CR) Endemic race. Common In the lowlands.
118. Bronzed Drongo (D. aeneus braunianus)
(CR) Endemic race. Irregularly seen, with birds around Wushe, Huben and Taitung. A flock of 11 adjacent to the cable car at Wulai was a bonus.
119. Black-naped Monach (Hypothymis azurea oberholseri)
(CR) Endemic race. Two in the Taipei Botanical Gardens showed very well, but four at Huben, three near Taitung and odd singles elsewhere in the low to mid elevation forests were more elusive.
120. Brown Dipper (Cinclus pallasii)
(UCR) A pair on the river upstream of Wulai. Park by the cable car station and walk upstream along the road until you reach a suspension footbridge. They were in this area. Another single was much further upstream at the Mandarin site. Apparently has largely disappeared from its western sites after the 1999 earthquake, but is still to be found in the north and east of the island.
121. Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius philippensis)
(CW, RR) Approximately 16 birds seen over the three weeks, in a wide range of habitats and elevations.
122. Taiwan Whistling Thrush (Myiophoneus insularis)
(CR) Endemic species. Four along the river just upstream of Wulai were the forerunners to a number of encounters with this species. One was on the roadside driving along Sun Moon Lake, another was in the fruiting trees at Km 23.5 at Anmashan while others were seen at Chun Yang Farm, along the narrow mountain roads west of Taitung and underneath a large pedestrian suspension bridge on the road to Yushan. This site was a deep gorge with a suspension footbridge that allowed good views of the birds without causing disturbance. A Crested Goshawk also showed well here. The best directions I can give for this site are that it’s in a village along Highway 18 before Km 34!
123. White’s Thrush (Zoothera dauma)
(UCW) Up to four seen in one day along the Blue Gate Trail, at least eight were seen along Highway 21 within Yushan NP feeding on the roadside and affording excellent views. Another couple were seen at Anmashan. Seemed to be especially easy to see in wet weather along the Blue Gate Trail at least. In fact, was pretty much the only active bird in heavy rain!
124. “Taiwan” Island Thrush (Turdus (poliocephalus) niveiceps)
(UCR) Endemic race. Proved very tricky along the Blue Gate Trail, with very brief views of two males flying past a gap in the trees. What was almost certainly an Island Thrush was heard alarm calling in dense cover next to the trail but refused to show itself properly. Luckily, they performed superbly in the Km 23.5 fruiting trees at Anmashan, with two seen on the first day and at least seven seen together on the second day. We only had to wit a few minutes for them to show up on both occasions, but perhaps we just got lucky? Another good bet for full species status, although the systematics of the Island Thrush complex is truly complex.
125. Eye-browed Thrush (T. obscurus)
(RW, UCT) One bird seen in an orchard at Km 115 on Highway 21 on the way from Yushan N.P. to Sun Moon Lake.
126. Pale Thrush (T. pallidus)
(CW) Fairly common, with birds seen at the Mandarin site near Wulai, around Chigu, Yushan N.P., Kenting, Taitung, Chun Yang and Anmashan. Approximately 30 birds seen in total.
127. Brown-headed Thrush (T. chrysolaus)
(CW) Commoner in the south, with 10+ around Kenting and 15 around Taitung. Also one seen at Sun Moon Lake and at Km 115 on Highway 21.
128. Dusky Thrush (T. naumanni)
(CW) A pair showed extremely well on the short turf of the Taitung sea front.
129. White-browed “Taiwan” Shortwing (Brachypteryx (montana) goodfellowi)
(CR) Endemic race. Just one bird was heard, and was seen briefly but well by Jim along the Blue Gate Trail. All I managed was a blurred flash as it dived into cover. This race seems destined to be elevated to species status in due course.
130. Asian Brown Flycatcher (Muscicapa latirostris)
(UCT) An excellent wintering record was a single bird near to the temple at Huben. This is the first record of this species for Huben.
131. Vivid Niltava (Niltava vividi vividi)
(CR) Endemic race. The nominate race of this species is endemic to Taiwan, and initially proved difficult to locate. Eventually, a male was seen at Yushan N.P. Four in the mountains west of Taitung followed this and then at least 10 in the Anmashan fruiting trees.
132. Red-flanked Bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus)
(UCW) Occasionally seen on the Blue Gate Trail, one in Yushan N.P. and one at Anmashan. All were female/immature types.
133. Collared Bush Robin (T. johnstoniae)
(CR) Endemic species. One of the highlights of the trip for me was how well some of these performed. Easily seen along the Blue Gate and Continuation Trails near Wushe, along Highways 18 and 21 in Yushan N.P. and along Trail 210 at Anmashan. Generally common above 2000 meters, even along trails in dense forest.
134. White-tailed Robin (Myiomela leucura montium)
(UCR) Endemic race. A male showed very well at the rest stop along the steps to the Tzuen Pagoda at Sun Moon Lake. Another male was seen briefly at Huben, and a male showed very well in fading light along the trail from Wushe down to the reservoir. Although seemingly a very skulking species, the individuals we saw were not shy, and actually approached us, giving great views.
135. Daurian Redstart (Phoenicurus auroreus)
(UCW) Seen from low to mid altitudes, with birds seen at Chigu, around Wushe, near Taitung and below Yushan N.P.
136. Plumbeous Water Redstart (Rhyacornis fuliginosus affinis)
(CR) Endemic race. Common along clean rivers at mid elevations. An estimated 14 seen in the Wulai area for example.
137. Little Forktail (Enicurus scouleri)
(UCR) Another highlight of the trip was the discovery of one of these delightful birds in a stream that was flowing through the fifth landslide along Trail 220 at Anmashan.
138. White-shouldered Starling (Sturnus sinensis)
(UCW) One was seen just south of Tainan along Highway 17, and a flock of six were between Kenting and Sheding Nature Park.
139. Common Myna (A. tristis)
(I) Common in Taipei at least.
140. White-vented Myna (A. cinereus)
(I) Fairly common, and some birds were apparently hybrids with the following species.
141. Crested Myna (Acridotheres cristatellus)
(CR) Six near Pulli, two along the west coast wetlands and two at Chigu were the only definite “pure” birds we saw. The others looked like hybrids with White-vented Myna.
142. Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europea)
(CR) Common along the Blue Gate Trail. Also seen at Yushan N.P. and Anmashan.
143. Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes taivanus)
(CR) Endemic race. Only one bird seen and no others heard at all, despite apparently being common at high altitudes. This was around the accommodation chalets at Anmashan. Like many places in the world, this species is very hard to see in Taiwan.
144. Coal Tit (Parus ater ptilosus)
(CR) Endemic race. Five along Highway 14 below Hohuanshan and three at Yushan N.P. were the only sightings of this distinctive crested race.
145. Green-backed Tit (Parus monticolus insperatus)
(CR) Endemic race. Common around Wushe, Yushan N.P. and Anmashan.
146. Yellow Tit (Parus holsti)
(UCR) Endemic species. This stunning tit was seen on a number of occasions, with birds along the Blue Gate Trail, Yushan N.P., Chun Yang farm and next to the fruiting trees at Km 23.5 at Anmashan. Could be hard to locate though, despite bright yellow plumage!
147. Black-throated Tit (Aegithalos concinnus)
(CR) Common in forests, and also seen in Taipei.
148. Plain Martin (Riparia paludicola)
(CR) Common in lowlands and along rivers to mid-altitude.
149. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
(CS, RW) Approximately 20 seen near Kouhu, with other singles near Tainan, Taitung and CKS airport.
150. Pacific Swallow (H. tahitica)
(CR) The most common hirundine.
151. Striated Swallow (H. striolata)
(CR) Common in the lowlands.
152. Asian House Martin (Delichon nipalensis)
(CR) Small flocks occasionally seen at mid to high altitude, hawking over the forests of the Blue Gate Trail, Yushan N.P. and Anmashan.
153. Flamecrest (Regulus goodfellowi)
(CR) Endemic species. A stunning bird that is not done justice by any of the photographs of it. It seems to combine the looks of a Firecrest (Regulus ignacapilus) with the oversized rump of a Pallas’ Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus proregulus). A flock of six in the pines on the eastern side of Hohuanshan were followed by five on the western slopes. One showed particularly well at Km 26.5 on Highway 14. Five were seen at Yushan N.P. and two were along Trail 210 at Anmashan.
154. Collared Finchbill (Spizixos semitorques cinereicapillus)
(CR) Seen fairly regularly at mid elevation sites around basic cultivations. Four were seen at Chun Yang Farm, Wushe, and at least two showed well at along Highway 18 at Km 34 on the way to Yushan.
155. Chinese Bulbul (Pycnonotus sinensis formosae)
(CR) Endemic race. Very common in the lowlands of the west and north. Has penetrated to many mid-altitude sites along roads.
156. Styan’s Bulbul (P. taivanus)
(CR) Endemic species. Common in the south and east of Taiwan where mountains have blocked the spread of the Chinese Bulbul. Easily seen in good numbers around Longluan Lake, Kenting, Taitung and along all of the roads in this area. It is however, listed as Near Threatened on the Birdlife Red Date List, and is declining at an alarming rate. This is mainly due to hybridisation with the previous species that is often released in religious ceremonies within the core range of Styan’s, and habitat degradation.
157. Black Bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus nigerrimus)
(CR) Endemic race. Common in forested areas of mid to higher elevations. Sometimes seen in large noisy flocks, such as 50 by the cable car station at Wulai and 60 along one of the mountain roads west of Taitung.
158. Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis)
(CR) Only seen at Chigu and along the Pachang Hsi.
159. Striated Prinia (Prinia criniger striata)
(CR) Endemic race. One showed reasonably well at Km 34 on Highway 18 en route to Yushan N.P.
160. Yellow-bellied Prinia (P. flaviventris)
(CR) Six around the wetlands at Chigu.
161. Plain Prinia (P. inornata flavirostris)
(CR) Endemic race. Common in the lowlands.
162. Japanese White-eye (Zosterops japonica)
(CR) Very common in the lowlands and mid altitude areas.
163. Japanese Bush Warbler (Cettia diphone)
(CW) Three were seen along the mountain roads west of Taitung. The exact race involved is unknown, but they were clearly smaller and greyer than the “Manchurian” birds.
164. “Taiwan” Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler (Cettia (fortipes) robustripes)
(CR) Endemic race. Possibly a valid species on measurements such as longer bill and shorter tail and wing. One showed well on the Blue gate Trail, while another was more elusive at Chun Yang farm. Had a similar call to Yellowish-bellied Bush Warbler, but was slightly louder and with a more “knocking on wood” tone.
165. Yellowish-bellied Bush Warbler (Cettia acanthizoides concolor)
(CR) Endemic race. Once we had learnt its call, we found this species to be fairly common at mid to high elevations, and we saw it well along the Blue Gate Trail, at Yushan N.P. (a peak of five in a day) at Anmashan and up Hohuanshan.
166. Black-browed Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus bistrigiceps)
(RW) One bird showed well at Guandu Nature Park.
167. Oriental Reed Warbler (A. orientalis)
(CW) Two at Chigu and three at Longluan Lake.
168. Dusky Warbler (Phylloscopus fuscatus)
(V) Two at Kenting were our only sightings of this apparent rarity.
169. Yellow-browed Warbler (P. inornatus)
(UCW) Three at Chigu in the costal pines beyond the spoonbill viewing area were followed by two at Huben and two at Taitung.
170. Arctic Warbler (P. borealis)
(CW) Two at Huben at one at Longluan Lake.
171. Rufous-faced Warbler (Abroscopus albogularis)
(CR) Somewhat strangely called “White-throated Flycatcher Warbler” in much of the Taiwanese literature, this was a common bird of the mid and high altitudes. It has a black striped throat!
172. Rusty Laughingthrush (Garrulax (poecilorhynchus) poecilorhynchus)
(UCR) Endemic race. The nominate form of this species was once split as a separate species, before being lumped with its mainland Chinese counterpart, and is now split again by Collar (2006). A flock of 20 at Chun Yang was the only contact we had with this species.
173. Taiwan Hwamei (G. taewanus)
(UCR) Endemic species. This species has now been split from the nominate Mainland Chinese birds by Lie et al (2006). The only place we saw them was at Longluan Lake where we had excellent views of four birds on the first day and two on the second in the dense bushes between the car park and the visitor centre. They showed no signs of hybridisation, completely lacking the pale brow and any rusty tones of the Chinese Hwamei, and being heavily streaked above.
174. White-whiskered Laughingthrush (G. morrisonianus)
(CR) Endemic species. Common near to and above the tree line. This highly charismatic bird was easily seen along the roadside at Hohuanshan, Yushan N.P. and Anmashan. Indeed, two birds at Anmashan along the footpath to the viewing platform were stupidly tame and virtually mugged us for food!
175. Steere’s Liocichla (Liocichla steerii)
(CR) Endemic species. A common but often elusive species of the mid to high elevation forests. We commonly encountered this species in most sites we visited, although it took us a while to come to grips with the full range of vocalisations, most of which are given from deep cover.
176. Spot-breasted (Rusty-cheeked) Scimiter Babbler (Pomatorhinus (erythrogenys) erythrocnemis)
(CR) Endemic race. Another endemic race that has now been afforded specific status by Collar (2006), but which is still being researched within Taiwan. A small flock along one of the mountain roads west of Taitung and three at Chun Yang farm were the only sightings. This species is notoriously secretive and difficult to see, and we certainly found that to be the case.
177. Streak-breasted Scimiter Babbler (P. (ruficollis) musicus)
(CR) Endemic race. Treated as an endemic species by Collar (2006), this species was a lot easier to see than Rusty-cheeked Scimiter Babbler was. Regular small flocks were encountered in many places in the mid altitude range, with Huben, Wulai and Chun Yang farm seemingly especially good for them.
178. “Taiwan” Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler (Pnoepyga (albiventer) formosana)
(CR) Endemic race. Now best treated as a full species according to Collar (2006). Originally thought to be a Pygmy Wren Babbler, it was reassigned to Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler in 1989 (too late for the majority of Taiwanese literature I’ve come across, which still calls it Pygmy Wren Babbler). However, given the highly disjunctive range and distinct plumage and vocal differences, it would seem logical to treat this little skulker as a full species. Once we had learnt the song (a very loud and strident du-du du du du du, with the first two notes given very quickly and the following notes given in a descending series), we heard this species quite often along the Blue Gate Trail, at Yushan N.P. and at Anmashan. One showed briefly along the Blue gate Trail, and another showed very well for five minutes along Trail 210 at Anmashan.
179. Rufous-capped Babbler (Stachyris ruficeps praecognita)
(CR) Endemic race. Once the calls had been learnt, this was a very common species of the mid to high altitude forests. Could be hard to see in the dense understorey, but was usually present in most feeding flocks.
180. Taiwan Barwing (Actinodura morrisoniana)
(UCR) Endemic species. A flock of 20 put on an excellent display along the Blue Gate Trail, and this was followed by a flock of eight and a pair at Yushan N.P. and two along Trail 220 at Anmashan.
181. “Taiwan” Streak-throated Fulvetta (Alcippe (cinereiceps) formosana)
(CR) Endemic race. This is also a recently proposed species split by Collar (2006). We encountered small flocks regularly at higher altitudes, and roadside flocks were seen at Hohuanshan, Yushan N.P. and Anmashan. They have a thin, Goldcrest like call.
182. Dusky Fulvetta (A. brunnea brunnea)
(CR) Endemic race. Actually quite hard to track down, as they seem to be inveterate skulkers, staying on or near to the ground. Six at Huben showed very well, while eight at Chun Yang farm were more elusive.
183. Grey-cheeked Fulvetta (A. morrisonia)
(CR) Very common at mid to higher altitudes within the forests. The main species in most feeding flocks,
184. White-eared Sibia (Heterophasia auricularis)
(CR) Endemic species. A stunning bird that was surprisingly common at mid to higher altitudes. Not hard to see anywhere, and once the wide variety of calls are learnt, you realise how widespread they are.
185. Taiwan Yuhina (Yuhina brunneiceps)
(CR) Endemic species. Very common in the mountains, with perhaps only the Grey-cheeked Fulvetta being commoner. Have distinctive calls (to meet you...to meet you...to meet you) that need to be learnt quickly to stop fruitless searching for other species! A peak count of 70 in a day at Anmashan.
186. White-bellied Yuhina (Y. zantholeuca)
(CR) A flock of 24 at Wulai and a single at Huben were, surprisingly, our only sightings.
187. Vinous-throated Parrotbill (Parodoxornis webbianus bulomachus)
(CR) Endemic race. Just one small flock of five birds seen, at Chun Yang farm.
188. Oriental Skylark (Alauda gulgula wattersi)
(CR) Race wattersi also found on the Philippines. One heard singing in fields next to the Pachang Hsi. Another was seen briefly from the plane while taxiing in CKS airport!
189. Fire-breasted Flowerpecker (Dicaeum ignipectum)
(CR) Seen and heard regularly along the Blue Gate Trail. Another was seen at Anmashan. The similar Plain Flowerpecker (D. concolor) is usually easily seen at the Tzuen Pagoda, Sun Moon Lake.
190. Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)
191. White Wagtail (Motacilla alba lugens, M. a. ocularis)
(CW, CR) Birds of the race lugens were seen around Pulli and along the Pachang Hsi. Two ocularis were seen in the wetlands near Tayuan.
192. Yellow Wagtail (M. flava taivana, M. f. similima)
(CW) The race taivana was seen regularly around the wetlands and paddyfields, while similima was only seen on a couple of occasions.
193. Grey Wagtail (M. cinerea)
(CW) Fairly common.
194. Richard’s Pipit (Anthus richardii)
(CW) One in a flooded area south of Tainan, three around Kenting and one near Tayuan were the only sightings.
195. Olive-backed Pipit (A. hodgsoni)
(CW) Seen occasionally at low to mid altitudes, with four at Chigu and six along a mountain road west of Taitung being the best counts.
196. Red-throated Pipit (A. cervinus)
(CW) A flock of 20 near Longluan Lake and 40 near to the CKS airport.
197. Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris fennelli)
(CR) Endemic race. Five around the hostel on Hohuanshan and three along the roadside in Yushan N.P. were the only sightings.
198. White-rumped Munia (Lonchura striata)
(CR) One in the Taipei Botanical Gardens was followed by fifteen at Wushe, ten at Huben and seven around the Kenting area.
199. Scaly-breasted Munia (L. punctulata)
(CR) Fairly common in low to mid elevation cultivations.
200. Black-headed Munia (L. malacca formosana)
(?) This race may also be found on the Philippines. A flock of about 20 were on the Pachang Hsi.
201. Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)
(UCT, RW) One flew over the entrance to the Blue Gate Trail.
202. Eurasian Siskin (Carduelis spinus)
(UCW) A flock of 35 along the entrance road to Anmashan.
203. Vinaceous Rosefinch (Carpadacus vinaceus)
(CR) Regularly encountered above 2000 metres. Six around Hohuanshan was the best day total, and some of them around the summit car park and around and just below the hostel were very approachable. Also seen in Yushan N.P. and at Anmashan.
204. Brown Bullfinch (Pyrrhula nipalensis uchidai)
(CR) Endemic race. Just one flock of ten birds were seen very close to the entrance of the Blue gate Trail.
205. Grey-headed Bullfinch (P. erythaca owstoni)
(UCR) Endemic race. At least four were in roadside bushes along Highway 14 beyond Wushe at Km 26.5, and showed extremely well; down to six feet!
206. Black-faced Bunting (Emberiza spodocephala spodocephala, E. s. personata)
(CW) Quite common in some areas. Seen at Yushan N.P., Chun Yang farm (where they were roosting in the tea plantation) and at various sites along different mid-altitude roads. Most birds were markedly yellow underneath and were presumably of the southern Chinese race personata. Others were duller, whiter underneath and were presumably of the nominate race.
One was singing and showing well by the cable car station at Wulai.
1. Taiwan Bush Warbler (Bradypterus alishanensis)
Apparently common over 2000 metres, but silent and very difficult to find in the winter. This was certainly the case! We spent many days in the right habitats and altitudes without success, with every small skulking thing either being a Yellowish-bellied Bush Warbler or a Taiwan Streak-throated Fulvetta! At least part of the population moves to lower altitudes in the winter, and may be found around Hsitou at 1150m.
2. White-throated “Rufous-crowned” Laughingthrush (Garrulax (albogularis) ruficeps)
Newly split by Collar (2006), this is an uncommon to rare species of the high elevation forests. Apparently, Anmashan is a good spot for them, but we were unlucky.
Many thanks to Mark Wilkie who expertly answered my many questions on Taiwanese birds and birding, and read through the first draft of the species list suggesting many improvements, Any shortcomings or inaccuracies remain my own. Wayne Hsu also provided some very useful information in the preparation of this trip. Adam Rowlands came through with some excellent info from his own trips to Taiwan, and we would not have found Chun Yang without this.
Collar, N.J. (2004) Endemic subspecies of Taiwan birds - first impressions. Birding Asia 2: 34-52
Collar, N.J. (2006) A partial revision of the Asian babblers (Timaliidae). Forktail 22: 85-112.
Fang, Woei-Horng & Sykes, B. 2004. Birdwatching in Taiwan. Birding Asia 2: 10-15
Shou-Hsien Li, Jing-Wen Li, Lian Xian Han, Cheng-Te Yao, Haitao Shi, Fu-Min Lei & Chungwei Yen (2006) Species delimitation in the Hwamei Garrulax canorus. Ibis 148: 698-706.