THE BIG CCTERN TWITCH
Matsu + Taiwan
T/M 23 July 2008
Epen, The Netherlands
Itinerary and Diary
In 2000, breeding Chinese Crested Terns where discovered in the
Matsu Archipelago belonging to Taiwan but geographically more
belonging to China. Since this species (prior to the last
confirmed sighting in 1937) is on the holarctic list and always
was a mythical bird for me (going over and over its picture in
the Hong Kong guide during a stay there in 1989, indicated as
extinct) there was no question about it. Try to see it as soon
as possible!!). The question was how? In July (the best month
for the species since they arrive late and are difficult to find
when on eggs) 2004, Bjorn Anderson (living in China) managed to
see it. My turn came in 2008 when Simon Liao of “Birding in
Taiwan” arranged a trip to the area and made this public in 2007
on the internet. I joined immediately and the result is
presented in this report.
I went on the fast train from Aachen via Koln to Frankfurt. Of
course (as normal in Western Europe nowadays) there was a delay
due to “technical problems” but I arrived in time at the
airport. Here Lufthansa flew me (Business Class, because of a
nice stewardess) to Hong Kong where I connected on a Dragonair
flight to Taipei, arriving (in very bad weather) in the late
afternoon. An hour’s drive took me a hotel near the domestic
airport. Time for a massage (good for jet lag), Chinese food and
a night’s sleep.
In the morning I went to the busy domestic airport to meet the
other 10 participants from all over the world (two I knew well
from other trips) who had the same idea as me. I arrived early
and heard the announcement, “The 10.40 flight to Nangan
(Matsu) is cancelled due to bad weather”…. I was astonished
seeing the whole twitch falling apart. I met my fellow
companions and our leaders Simon Liao and his assistant Dustin
Wang. They seemed not too worried!!??
We were taken to a VIP lounge to wait, and after 10
minutes my conclusions seemed right. No flight; typhoon Kalmaegi,
in which I arrived yesterday, was now over Matsu causing
problems for landing planes and ferries. Hours of nail-biting
followed. Laptops were open and checking weather stations. Simon
was constantly on his mobile, phoning Matsu for updates on the
situation. When you miss a flight to Matsu due to weather, you
are usually out of luck, because flights are difficult to
rearrange in short notice. Simon said he has been to Matsu 20
times; half of the time he had problems going out, half of them
when coming in. He has contacts in strategic places, and they
were very helpful. To make a long story short, the weather
passed during the afternoon and around 17.00 hours we where on
the small plane for the 40 minute flight for Nangan, arriving
there in time for a good meal and sleep for the day to come.
Simon for President!!!
Breakfast at 07.00 and after that the twitch was on. At 08.30
exactly we started heading for Chung (Tiejian) Islet by a boat
which took 40 minutes not included a short stop at Chin Islet.
Closing in on the island with all the Great Crested Terns
hanging in the air above, our heartbeats accelerated. It did not
take long before I saw my first Chinese Crested Tern on the top
of the island flying and dropping in and soon several more where
found, some with young and some closely flying by the boat. One
of the birds had speared its lower mandible through a piece of
plastic. This bird had a chick.
Aboard our boat some journalists picked up this story and we
were in the papers the next day. Remarkably this bird was
photographed this same day about 30 km away near Fujian on the
Chinese coast (http://www.fjbirds.org/bbs/viewthread.php?tid=9101&extra=&page=1),
proving that birds that occur at that location are Matsu birds.
After two hours at the island we returned by the same route,
happy and fulfilled. Around 15.00 hours we took the plane back
to Taipei and the group split up. I went to the YMCA
International House hotel and later on went to the Botanical
Gardens for some more birding.
Participants from left to right: Robert Tizzard (Laos), Nick
Lethaby (US), David Stanton (Hong Kong), Geoff Carey (HK),
Valerie Brown (US), Dave Sargeant (Oman), Peter Milburn (Aus),
Phil Hansboro (Aus), Richard Allison (UK) and myself. In the
foreground, Simon Liao (leader) and Chang Shou-hua of the Matsu
Wild Bird Society
Today I decided to join Simon, Dustin and Valerie on their
Taiwan trip for two days. First we looked through the local
paper, we were in it with the Chinese Crested Tern “plastic
We left the YMCA hotel about 07.00. On the way to Dasyueshan
National Forest Recreation Area (2640 meters),
in central Taiwan, we picked up lunch and breakfast for the
following day. We started really birding at 11.00 and tried to
clean up as many endemics as possible. We did well and arrived
at the Dasyueshan NFRA around 15.00 hours, birded until dusk,
had dinner and went to bed in the park cabins (quite nice).
Birded from first light at Dasyueshan NFRA until about 16.00
hours. Drove down to 900 meters in hopes to find Swinhoe’s
Pheasant, but failed. In the end we cleaned up all but four of
the generally accepted endemics along with some more lifers
(30). A cab driver picked me up and drove me to Taipei in a bit
more than 2 hours. I stayed in a motel (in Asia known for also
other things than sleeping...) near Taipei International Airport
in a quite “sleazy area”, but the hotel was extremely nice and
Flew home the same way I came, without delays.
= New (Holarctic) Species (30)
New species (9)
= Good bird species
= Seen on Matsu
THE BIRD SPECIES
001 LITTLE EGRET – Egretta garzetta
A total of 4 seen, three flying over the sea at Matsu.
002 EASTERN CATTLE EGRET – Egretta (ibis) coromandus
Common in the lowlands of Taiwan.
003 BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON – Nycticorax nycticorax
2 birds seen in the Botanical Gardens
Common during the evening in the lowlands of Taiwan.
004 MALAYAN NIGHT-HERON – Gorsachius melanolophus
20-08 1 very nice adult close-by in the Botanical gardens in the
middle of the weekend crowd…
005 ORIENTAL HONEY-BUZZARD – Pernis ptilorhynchus
21-08 1 flew over the beginning of the road to Dasyueshan NFRA
*006 MOUNTAIN HAWK EAGLE – SPIZAETUS NIPALENSIS ssp:
21-08 2 birds, one adult (moult in the tail), quite pale
(orange) underparts with not very obvious barring on the flight
feathers. Huge hawk eagles.
*007 MIKADO PHEASANT – SYRMATICUS MIKADO
22-08 3 birds, two females and a male (without a long tail) at
to Dasyueshan NFRA. All views long and next to the car, the male
(even without a tail) was very impressive.
008 COMMON MOORHEN – Gallinule chloropus
Common in the Botanical Gardens.
009 EURASIAN OYSTERCATCHER – Haematpous ostralegus
20-08 2 ex, on Chung Island together.
010 WOOD SANDPIPER – Tringa glareola
20-08 1 ex, passed the boat going back from Chung Island.
011 BLACK-TAILED GULL – Larus crassirostris
20-08 3 ex, all not adult birds at Chung Island.
012 BRIDLED TERN – Onychoprion anaethetus
20-08 100 ex on Chin Islet in a small colony, also some seen
around Chung Island. Very nice views.
013 ROSEATE TERN – Sterna dougallii
20-08 1500 ex present mainly on Chung Island, but seen all over
the waters at Matsu. The bills of the birds where mostly red.
014 BLACK-NAPED TERN – Sterna sumatrana
20-08 25 ex. all on Chin Islet, in pairs.
015 GREAT CRESTED TERN – Thalasseus bergii
20-08 2000 ex., mainly in a colony at Chung Island but also
during the boat trip. Many quite grown chicks.
* 016 CHINESE CRESTED TERN – THALASSEUS BERNSTEINI
20-08 16 ex and one chick seen very well between the Crested
terns on Chung island. A maximum of 20 were seen with three
chicks. One bird had speared its lower mandible through a piece
of plastic (for the full story see itinerary). The chick seems
paler and differently marked than the chicks of 014. Saw
Chinese Crested Terns flying by the boat, sitting around and
feeding chicks, for about two hours, less than 100 meters away.
The birds stand out, being white instead of grey on the
upperparts, the area surrounding the eye is white (black in
crested) and of course, the bill tip is black.
*017 ASHY WOOD-PIGEON – COLUMBA PULCHRICOLLIS
22-08 3 ex, seen in flight (quite distinctive) at Dasyueshan
NFRA. Nice grey heads and mostly neck.
018 ORIENTAL TURTLE-DOVE – Streptopelia orientalis ssp: orii
A total of 4 seen in the lower parts of Taiwan.
019 SPOTTED DOVE – Streptopelia chinensis
Common all over Matsu and Taiwan.
020 FORK-TAILED SWIFT – Apus pacificus
19-08 1 bird over the hotel at Nangan.
021 HOUSE SWIFT – Apus nipalensis m
20-08 3 ex, flying around the hotel at Nangan
21-08 5 ex. seen somewhere on the day.
*022 TAIWAN BARBET – MEGALAIMA NUCHALIS
20-08 5 ex. in the Botanical Gardens, one recently fledged juv.
(with a grey head and green body), great views.
21-08 heard a few times in the lowlands.
023 BARN SWALLOW – Hirundo rustica m
Common on Matsu, hunting in the less windy parts.
22-08 2 ex, seen somewhere along the way.
024 ASIAN (HOUSE) MARTIN – Delichon dasypus
21-08 25 in a colony on the way up to Dasyueshan NFRA. For the
first time I found them very different than House Martins, less
contrasting with darker underwings and undertailcoverts.
025 COLLARED FINCHBILL – Spizixos semitorques ssp:
21-08 3 ex, together on the way up to Dasyueshan NFRA.
22-08 1 ex. on the wires on the way down from Dasyueshan NFRA.
026 CHINESE BULBUL – Pycnonotus sinensis
Common on Matsu
Common around Tapei, mainly in the Botanical Gardens.
027 BLACK BULBUL – Hypsipetes leucocephalus ssp: nigerrimus
20-08 5 ex. at the Botanical Gardens in Taipei
21+22-08 a total of 6 seen in the lower elevations of Dasyueshan
*028 FLAMECREST – REGULUS GOODFELLOWI
21-08 2 ex, of which one seen very well (attracted by tape) with
the open white face, at 2500 meters in Dasyueshan NFRA.
029 BROWN DIPPER – Cinclus pallasii
21-08 2 ex, one adult and a juv. in a stream near Dasyueshan
*030 FORMOSAN WHISTLING THRUSH – MYOPHONUS INSULARIS
22-08 2 ex, along the way down from Dasyueshan NFRA. Huge, like
a little corvid, dark blue.
031 BLUE WHISTLING-THRUSH- Myophonus caeruleus
20-08 1 ex, flying by but seen well on Matsu.
*032 WHITE-BROWED SHORTWING –BRACHYPTERYX MONTANA
22-08 2 ex, one calling (coming in to tape) and seen without
bins at the base of a bush; the other flew over the road, dark
bird with a tail and an obvious white brow. Both on the almost
highest part of Dasyueshan NFRA. Better views would be nice…
033 STRIATED PRINIA – Prinia crinigera ssp: striata
21-08 2 ex. seen well along a stream. This is a (new) candidate
for an endemic split (G.Sangster pers.med)
*034 YELLOWISH -BELLIED BUSH WARBLER – Cettia acanthizoides
22-08 7 ex seen spread over the day at the highest elevations in
Nice cettia, with a yellow belly and a ridiculous song.
*035 TAIWAN BUSH-WARBLER – BRADYPTERUS ALISHANENSIS
22-08 2 ex, seen well, one juv sitting on a stone wall and one
singing adult in the open. Like a Savi’s warbler.
036 RUFOUS-FACED WARBLER – abroscopus albogularis
Quite commonly seen in the lowlands and therefore surprisingly
easier than on the mainland of China; about 27 seen also in
*037 FERRUGINOUS FLYCATCHER – MUSCICAPA FERRUGINEA
22-08 3 ex, on the highest point of Dasyueshan NFRA, together;
one male and one female at the top, and one juv. (dull colour)
*038 VIVID NILTAVA – NILTAVA VIVIDA
21-08 3 ex, two males and a juv. (with spots on head and breast)
seen well just below the highest point at Dasyueshan NFRA; nice
*039 COLLARED BUSH-ROBIN – TARSIGER JOHNSTONIAE
21-08 4 ex, with a pair at a nest, quite high at Dasyueshan NFRA.
The nest and pair fed their young at very close range without
interest in us watching and digiscoping.
040 PLUMBEOUS REDSTART – Rhyacornis fuliginosa
21-0786 ex, spread over the day at streams, some very young juv.
041 ORIENTAL MAGPIE ROBIN – Copsychus saularis
20-081 ex at Matsu.
20-08 3 ex in the Botanical gardens (seems to be introduced)
*042 WHITE-TAILED ROBIN – CINCLIDIUM LEUCURUM ssp: montium
21-08 3 ex, a pair seen very well in the lowlands and a male at
Dasyueshan NFRA. Nice big dark robins with obvious white in the
tail. This subspecies is not much different than the mainland
*043 BLACK-NAPED MONARCH – HYPOTHYMIS AZUREA ssp: oberholseri
20-08 2 males seen well at the Botanical Gardens in Taipei.
Cracking birds. This subspecies is not much different from
*044 RUFOUS CAPPED LAUGHINGTHRUSH – GARRULAX RUFICEPS
22-08 2 ex, seen very well, noisy as they were a bit lower down
in Dasyueshan NFRA. It took a bit of searching.
*045 RUSTY LAUGHINGTHRUSH – GARRULAX POECILORHYNCHUS
22-08 1ex, seen well and heard even better at Dasyueshan NFRA.
The diamond shaped blue eye was seen very well.
*046 TAIWAN HWAMEI – GARRULAX TAEWANUS
21-08 1ex., seen and heard well in the lowlands, coming in to
the tape. Has little to do with Hwamei of the mainland…
*047 WHITE-WHISKERED LAUGHINGTHRUSH – GARRULAX MORRISONIANUS
Common at the highest altitude at Dasyueshan NFRA, in small
*048 STEERE’S LIOCICHLA – LIOCICHLA STEERII
Common from middle elevations in the mountains often in small
flocks and very tame.
*049 BLACK-NECKLACED SCIMITAR BABBLER – POMATORHINUS
21-08 2 ex., seen and heard well in the lowlands going up to at
Dasyueshan NFRA. Plain face and big (called “the big one).
Recently split from the mainland complex.
*050 TAIWAN SCIMITAR BABBLER – POMATORHINUS FORMOSANA
21-08 3 ex., seen and heard well though skulking in the lowlands
going up to at Dasyueshan NFRA (called “the small one” by local
birders). Nice rusty sides of the neck. Recently split from the
*051 TAIWAN WREN-BABBLER – PNOEPYGA FORMOSANA
221-08 5 ex of which one seen reasonably well at the higher
elevations Dasyueshan NFRA. Like a chick, very rusty on the
upperparts and white speckles on the underparts. The song is
completely different than Pygmy from the mainland. A Swiss
ornithologist recently split this species from Pygmy.
052 RUFOUS-CAPPED BABBLER – Stachyridposis ruficeps ssp:
21-08 1 ex. seen well in a reedbed next to a small river in the
*053 TAIWAN BARWING – ACTINODURA MORRISONIANA
21-08 3 ex, two at the guesthouse an one at the peak; nice bird
with obvious barring on the wingcoverts.
*054 TAIWAN FULVETTA – ALCIPPE FORMOSANA
22-08 1 ex., at the highest point of Dasyueshan NFRA. Seen well
with grey streaked throat, brown-green in the wings and an
obvious eye-ring, coming in to the tape of 035.
055 GRAY-CHEEKED FULVETTA – ALCIPPE MORRISONIA ssp:
21-08 5 ex, spread over the day on almost all elevations;
usually on its own.
*056 WHITE-EARED SIBIA – HETEROPHASIA AURICULARIS
21+22-08 a total of 15 seen spread over the trip; nice birds and
*057 TAIWAN YUHINA - YUHINA BRUNNEICEPS
21+22-08 a total of 25 seen spread over the trip; nice birds
always in small flocks
*058 GOLDEN PARROTBILL – PARADOXORNIS VERREAUXI SSP:
22-08 2 ex, seen very well near the house at the top (2640
meter) of Dasyueshan NFRA. What a cracker!!
059 BLACK-THROATED TIT – Aegithalos concinnus
22-08 40+ ex, in total, all in small flocks at Dasyueshan NFRA.
060 COAL TIT – parus ater ssp: ptilosus
22-07 10+ ex, in small flocks at Dasyueshan NFRA, a very long
061 GREEN-BACKED TIT – Parus monticolus ssp: insperatus
22-08 10 ex, seen usually in flocks with other species at
*062 YELLOW TIT – PARUS HOLSTI
22-07 2 seen very well in a group of other tits at Dasyueshan
NFRA, one more yellow on the underparts than the other; what a
cracker. Near threatened by BLI, I wish it was Holarctic……
063 EURASIAN NUTHATCH – Sitta europaea
22-08 7 ex. seen in various “raving titflocks” at Dasyueshan
064 FIRE-BREASTED FLOWERPECKER – Dicaeum ignipectum
22-08 1 female in a flock of tits at Dasyueshan NFRA.
065 JAPANESE WHITE-EYE – Zosterops japonicus
20-08 Common at Matsu and later that day in the Botanical
gardens in Taipei.
066 BLACK DRONGO – Dicrurus macrocercus ssp: harterti
A total of 4 birds seen on the way up and down from Dasyueshan
067 GRAY TREEPIE – Dendrocitta formosae
21-08 3 ex, seen in a bamboo forest in the lowlands.
068 EURASIAN MAGPIE – Pica pica
20-08 1 ex. in the Botanical Gardens in Taipei.
069 EURASIAN NUTCRACKER – Nucifraga caryocatactes ssp:
22-08 2 ex, at the parking lot at the highest point of
Very spotted head contrasting with a no-spotted body.
---- CRESTED MYNA – Acridotheres cristatellus
19-08 2 ex. at the airport of Hong Kong at a gate building.
----- JAVAN MYNA – Acirdotheres javanicus
Introduced. Common in the lowlands of Taiwan, it seems that
there is some doubt about the myna species on Taiwan.
070 EURASIAN TREE SPARROW – Passer montanus
20-08 common in the Botanical Gardens in Taipei
071 VINACEOUS ROSEFINCH – Carpodacus vinaceus ssp: formosanus
21+22-08 14 ex in total seen well around the top of Dasyueshan
NFRA, feeding on the ground an calling, males and females with
white tertial tips.
*072 GREY-HEADED BULLFINCH (BEAVAN’S BULLF??.) – PYRRHULA
ERYTHACA ssp: owstoni
22-08 15 ex, in small flocks around the top of Dasyueshan NFRA.
This subspecies will probably be elevated to species level in
THE HAIRY LIST
001 TAIWAN MACAQUE – Macaca cyclopis – 21-07 1 ex at Dasyueshan
002 FORMOSAN RED-BELLIED SQUIRREL – Callosciurus erythraeus
taiwanensis – 20-07 5 ex, Botanical Gardens Taipei
003 FORMOSAN STRIPED SQUIRREL – Tamiops maritimus formosanus –
22-07 10 ex at Dasyueshan NFRA.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -