Taiwan is a mountainous island in the South China Sea, about 140 km (90 miles) off the Chinese mainland. The forested beauty of the island led Portuguese sailors in 1590 to name it Ilha Formosa, meaning "Beautiful Island". This trip was similar to our very successful trip last March, in that it took us to varied habitats. However, most destinations were different from our previous trip, and we saw more bird species.
Monday-Tuesday, Nov. 10-11; Day 1: Vancouver, BC, Canada to Kukwang, Taiwan
Our EVA Airways flight departed Vancouver at 1:00 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 10, and arrived at Chiang Kai Shek International Airport at 6:15 a.m. after a flight of over 13 hours (about an hour late, due to strong headwinds) on Tuesday, Nov. 11. We were soon away, headed south. In the small city of Tongshih (northeast of Taichung), we picked up our co-leader Ten-Di Wu, and our group of 10 proceeded to the wetlands of the Dajs hi River. Birds of this lowland habitat included Plumbeous Redstart, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Black Drongo, Brown Shrike, White Rumped Munia, and Nutmeg Mannikin.
Moving inland and up, we birded our way to Dragon Valley Recreation Area, examining the Dajshi River as we went, for a Brown Dipper that was seen by some of the group. We arrived at the town of Kukwang, and our overnight accommodation at the Police Office Resort. Afternoon birding around the resort was hampered by strong wind, but we managed to find Daurian Redstart and Varied Tit. We escaped the wind by driving into a side valley where we birded until sunset, seeing Crested Serpent-Eagle, Whistling Green Pigeon, Gray Treepie, Gray-capped Woodpecker and Black Bulbul.
Wednesday, Nov. 12: Day 2: Kukwang to An Ma Shan Forest Reserve
Some of the group were up and out before 4:30 a.m., trying unsuccessfully to see a calling Collared Scops-Owl. A FORMOSAN WHISTLING-THRUSH (Endemic - E) was also calling, and glimpsed. As daylight advanced we climbed the Shaulai Trail above the hotel area, finding Yellow-browed Warbler, Black-browed Barbet, Gray Treepie and Gray-chinned Minivet.
Leaving Kukwang, we retraced part of yesterday's drive back to Hsinche, then northeast again toward An Ma Shan Forest Reserve. On the way, we stopped at Km 15, and had excellent luck when we walked through a farming area just off the main road. There were almost too many birds to look at in the lush foliage lining a small stream: Collared Finchbill, Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, Arctic Warbler, Black-naped Monarch, Rufous-capped Babbler, Gray-cheeked Fulvetta, Daurian Redstart and Nutmeg Mannikin. A Rusty Laughing-Thrush was heard in a thicket.
Meanwhile, two of the group had found a small, 30 cm (12 inch), black-and-white snake, seemingly dead, on the farm road not far from our bus. When we returned to the bus, some of us went to look at the snake. A few days later, we learned the snake's identity: a venomous Many-Banded Krait (Bungarus multicinctus). This nocturnal species is very aggressive at night, but, fortunately for us, tends to be calm and relaxed during the day. We were lucky, both in seeing a snake at all, that it was small, and that no harm resulted. A person bitten by this species has a 50% chance of survival.
We continued up the road to the bend at Km. 21, where we had a view over the valley below. Birds seen included TAIWAN TIT (E), WHITE-EARED SIBIA (E), Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Goshawk, Black-throated Tit and Fire-breasted Flowerpecker.
By mid-afternoon, we arrived at the An Ma Shan Forest Reserve entrance, at 2000 m (6561 ft.) elevation, and 210 Trail. Except for three Eurasian Jays and some smaller passerines, birdlife was very quiet, so we continued on to the An Ma Shan Resort (Snow Mountain Resort) at 2300 m (7546 ft.) elevation, which would be our base for the next day-and-a-half. After settling into our comfortable cabins, we explored the forested grounds. At this "high mountain" elevation, we anticipated more endemics. The first were some STEERE'S LIOCICHLA (E) calling loudly as they foraged in the leaf litter, and TAIWAN BARWING (E) feeding in shrubs. A Brown-headed Thrush and a party of Eye-browed Thrush moved through the trees overhead. A Gray-faced Woodpecker flew by. We headed into the resort restaurant for supper. The night was cold, and we were glad that the beds had warm duvets.
Thursday, November 13: Day 3: An Ma Shan Forest Reserve
At chilly 5:30 a.m., we started our drive to Km 39, to the 2100 m (6889 ft.) elevation and 220 Trail. Along the trail at dawn, we heard TAIWAN PARTRIDGE (E) (two of the group were able to see one, the only sighting of this species on the trip); and the first MIKADO PHEASANT (E) again seen by only a few. As the sun rose higher and the temperature climbed, more birds were found: COLLARED BUSH ROBIN (E), Ashy Wood Pigeon, and White-browed Bush Robin. We heard monkeys, then saw a troupe of Taiwan Macaque working the trees high above the trail.
We returned to An Ma Shan Resort in mid-morning, and saw more Taiwan Barwing, White-eared Sibia, Steere's Liocichla, and a White-browed Bush Robin.
In late morning, we boarded our bus again, and drove to Hsiao Xai Shan, the highest elevation of the trip, at 2600 m (8530 ft.) where we had added some new species to our trip list: WHITE-WHISKERED LAUGHINGTHRUSH (E), FLAMECREST (E), Gray-headed Bullfinch, Streak-throated Fulvetta, Eurasian Nutcracker, Vinaceous Rosefinch, Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler, and Russet Bush-Warbler.
Friday, November 14; Day 4: An Ma Shan Forest Reserve to Douliu, Yunlin County.
A 5:30 a.m. start once again, to return to 210 Trail to look for Mikado Pheasant. The pheasant family that we hoped to see near the beginning of the trail did not appear, so our group split up, some of us walking the trail as quietly as possible with Ten-Di, the others staying back with Simon, watching (in vain) for the pheasant family. Comparing notes later, those with Ten-Di had walked 2-3 km along the trail, and tallied 4 Mikado Pheasant and 2 SWINHOE'S PHEASANT (E).
TAIWAN YUHINA (E) was common during our days in the high mountains, with over 100 of the small birds seen.
It was time to leave the An Ma Shan Forest Reserve, and we drove down toward the lowlands. On the way, a Chinese Bamboo Partridge dashed across the road. Arriving at the old city of Lukang, we ate a delicious mostly-seafood lunch, and visited the nearby Matsu Temple , which has stood for 400 years.
In mid-afternoon, when the tide had retreated, we went to Hambao, on the coast of Taiwan Strait. Among the species seen were Saunders' Gull, Terek and Common Sandpiper, Gray-tailed Tattler, Common Greenshank, Red-necked Stint, and 400 Ruddy Turnstone. Taiwan is the most important wintering area in East Asia for Ruddy Turnstone.
Driving on to the city of Douliu, we settled into the very comfortable Metro Hotel.
Saturday, November 15: Day 5: Douliu to Tainan
Senator Eva Yu and some local birders accompanied us to Pillow Mountain to see bamboo habitat of the Fairy Pitta. No pittas were present at this time of year, but we walked through bamboo forest, noting Black-browed Barbet, Black-naped Monarch, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, with glimpses of Malayan Night-Heron. Following the walk, we stopped at the Fairy Pitta Visitors Centre in Huben village.
Proceeding to the coast, we had a lunch at the appropriately-named Dong Shr ("It's Delicious") seafood restaurant, followed by birding at the Puzih River, where we found a Black-tailed Gull among the ducks and waders, Whiskered and White-winged Tern, and a Cinnamon Bittern. In the Auogo wetland, we saw 5 White-breasted Waterhen and a Barred Buttonquail.
In Tainan in the evening, we enjoyed a traditional noodle supper at the 108-year-old Tantsi noodle house.
Sunday, November 16: Day 6: Tainan to Kenting
After breakfast, we went to the Shihthau Reserve for more shorebirding. There were many herons and egrets, a Yellow Bittern, many Common Moorhen, Black-winged Stilt, Pacific Golden Plover, Red-necked Stint, Little Ringed Plover, Snowy Plover and East Siberian Gull.
Continuing to the Tsengwen River mouth, there is a well-developed viewing station for observation of the wintering flock of over 500 Black-faced Spoonbill, with many interpretive displays. This was a major stop on our route, and we spent some time observing the spoonbills and other waders.
Next we went to Kwangtien wetland, where we saw several Pheasant-tailed Jacana. Researcher H. W. Chang explained the conservation work being done to maintain the habitat necessary for the survival of Taiwan's small population of this nationally endangered "Water Chestnut Bird".
We drove south to Kenting, Taiwan's tropical Far South, arriving after dark. Following supper, we walked through the Night Market before returning our rooms in the Police Office Resort. The weather was windy, and threatening showers.
Monday, November 17: Day 7: Kenting to Chaiyi
Our target bird in the far south was STYAN'S BULBUL (E), restricted to the south and east of the island, and which we found to be fairly common in the Kenting area. The very common Light-vented Bulbul is also found in the south (as well as much of the rest of the island), and the two species sometimes interbreed. We walked the Lighthouse Trail in Long Luan Tan Nature Reserve. Conditions remained hot, humid and very windy, normal for this time of year. Birds were few, but we found an out-of-range Emerald Dove.
We moved on to Long Luan Tan Lake, where most of the birds, water birds and passerines alike, sought shelter from the wind. Hundreds of wintering Tufted Duck and some Garganey bobbed on the lake. The Visitor Centre was equipped with a long row of spotting scopes mounted along the window ledge facing the water. We could sit down and scan in comfort, out of the wind. Leaving Long Luan Tan Lake, we drove north. At a brief stop along the way, we spotted 2 late-migrating Gray-faced Buzzards overhead.
After lunch, we went to Inda Eco Farm, where we expected to need a couple of hours to track down Black-naped Oriole, which, in Taiwan is found only in the far south. However, within 5 minutes, Ten-Di heard one call; then we saw it, moving between tall trees.
We headed back north, arriving in the city of Chaiyi and the very comfortable China Trust Hotel. After a light supper, we spent the evening browsing through the busy Night Market.
Tuesday, November 18: Day 8: Chaiyi to Changhua
Local birders led a bird walk in the Chaiyi County hills. We saw Collared Owlet, Black-naped Monarch, Rufous-faced Warbler, Plumbeous Redstart, Rufous-capped Babbler, Dusky and Gray-cheeked Fulvetta, Green-backed Tit, Eurasian Siskin, Oriental Honey-Buzzard and Mountain Hawk Eagle. We found another Many-banded Krait on the road; this one about 1 m long, and truly dead.
We returned to Chaiyi, and to the well-treed Chaiyi Agricultural Experimental Station to look for Malayan Night-Heron which is usually reliable there. We saw 3 of these secretive birds.
After lunch, we drove toward Changhua. We detoured into an area of rice stubble fields with brushy edges at Huatan, to walk the fields and edges for Black-faced Bunting, which was common. We spent an hour there, with birds everywhere. Comparing notes afterward, some of the birds seen were: Common Snipe, Oriental Skylark, Yellow Wagtail, Zitting Cisticola, Golden-headed Cisticola, Siberian Rubythroat, and Yellow Bunting. This area has great potential!
On to Changhua and the Formosa Hotel. Supper was hosted by the Changhua Wild Bird Society. Following the meal, Ming-Hui Liao, Director of the Changhua Wild Bird Society, and I, as Past President of the British Columbia Field Ornithologists, signed a Memorandum of Agreement to partner the CHWBS and BCFO.
Afterward, some of us went to the home of paper artist Mr. Chen-Wen Wang and his wife, where we enjoyed seeing their intricate cut paper art.
Wednesday, November 19: Day 9: Changhua to Taipei, to Vancouver
We left Changhua at 7:15 a.m. for the 2 ½ hour drive to Taipei. Our first destination was Yangminshan National Park, north of Taipei, for our last chance to find TAIWAN MAGPIE (E). We searched unsuccessfully in misty rain in the most likely places, then had to give up, as we had run out of time. Luckily, at the last minute, a flock of 11 Taiwan Magpies and 20 Gray Treepies flew across the road.
We proceeded into the city, for appointments with government people. We could see the as-yet unfinished, 500-metre-high "101 Building", its lofty top disappearing into the low clouds. The 101 Building, 101 stories high, is presently the world's tallest.
At the end of the day, we drove 50 km west to CKS International Airport for our EVA Airways flight for home, departing at 11:55 p.m., and arriving in Vancouver at 6:20 p.m. the same day, after a 10-hour flight.
The trip was even more successful than our March, 2003 trip. In addition to an overview of Taiwan and various bird habitats, the group recorded a total of 175 species, including 3 that were heard only. The group (though not every person) saw 14 of Taiwan's 15 endemic species, missing only TAIWAN BUSH-WARBLER, a skulking species that is virtually impossible to find and identify when not vocalizing in the breeding season.
For more information, please contact Simon Liao, 5560 Linscott Court, Richmond, BC, V7C 2W9, Canada; telephone (604) 272-9717.
Annotated Species List, Taiwan, November 11th -19th, 2003
Compiled by Jo Ann MacKenzie. Taxonomy, names and sequence follow Birds of the World, a Checklist, by James F. Clements, updated to July 15, 2003. Where the name in Clements differs from that in Birds of Taiwan, 1991, the Clements name is given first, followed by the Birds of Taiwan name in brackets. Species endemic to Taiwan are shown in all caps. Species not seen by all birders are marked as *.
Little Grebe,Tachybaptus ruficollis [Podiceoss ruficollis] - several, at Puzih River, Tsengwen River estuary and Long Luan Tan Lake.
Eared Grebe [Black-necked Grebe], Podiceps nigricollis - Puzih River area.
Great Cormorant,Phalacrocorax carbo - several in appropriate habitat.
Grey Heron, Ardea cinerea - many in freshwater habitat.
Great Egret, Ardea alba [Egretta alba]- common in freshwwater habitat.
Intermediate Egret, Egretta intermedia - fairly common in freshwater habitat.
Little Egret, Egretta garzetta - very common in freshwater habitat.
Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis - many in lowland habitat, especially around farms.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow [Tree Sparrow],Passer montanus - abundant in towns.
Total species: 175, including 4 heard only; and 14 of Taiwan's 15 endemics.
Missed: TAIWAN BUSH WARBLER, Bradypterus alishanensis
Other animals observed:
Taiwan Macaque [Formosan Rock-monkey], Macaca cyclopis Red-bellied Tree Squirrel, Calloscirus erythroeus
small bat (sp.?)
Many-banded Krait, Bungarus multicinctus (snake)
freshwater crab sp.
1 Both Needletail swifts are possible in Taiwan. The breeding race formosanus of Taiwan, illustrated in Birds of Taiwan as White-throated Needletail, is now treated as a race of Silver-backed Needletail.
2 Striated and Red-rumped Swallows are very similar in appearance. Red-rumped appears in Taiwan only in migration, whereas Striated is a resident species.