John C. Deppman
Fort Myers, FL
Kwangtien Wetland: John C. Deppman (standing, right)
speaks to students. Simon Liao, (standing, left center). Nov. 14, 2004.
In November, 2004, I joined a group of birders on a
tour of Taiwan. The country is not large and we were able to cover it well
during our 10 days there. We traveled from Yangmingshan National Park near
Taipei at the northern tip of the island down to Kenting National Park at
the very southern end, and back again. In between we made numerous stops
along the west coast of Taiwan and ventured into the central highlands to
Taroko National Park to track down the high altitude species.
I had first learned about the trip in a full-page ad in
the ABA’s Birding magazine. It was offered by Simon Liao of
Vancouver on a non-profit basis and was quite reasonably priced. Simon
proved to be well-connected in Taiwanese circles (he is past president of
the Taiwan Wild Bird Society), which was almost immediately evidenced by our
receiving a free upgrade to business class on our Eva Airlines flights
between Vancouver and Taipei.
Our group was comprised of 2 leaders, Simon and Ten-Di
Wu, who served as a local guide, and seven participants: 3 Americans,
including myself, and 4 Canadians, including Jo Ann & Hue MacKenzie, friends
of Simon from Vancouver who have been to Taiwan several times with him and
assisted in the over-all organization of the trip. In addition, 2 locals
joined us for all or part of the trip throughout the country. Overall the
group was the perfect size, not only for the bus we used, but to fit around
the circular Chinese-style tables we used for almost every meal.
We arrived very early in the morning the first day and
drove south from the airport to HuiSun Forest Station located in the central
highlands East of Taichung. Almost immediately we saw the endemic Formosan
Magpie (or Taiwan Blue Magpie) – an auspicious beginning because we were
told that this can be quite a difficult bird to locate. During two days of
birding in the forest, we also saw the endemic Swinhoe’s Blue Pheasant as
well as Malayan Night-Heron, Yellow-throated Minivet, White-bellied Yuhina,
Gray Treepie, Chinese Bamboo-Partridge, and Gray-headed Pygmy Woodpecker.
Thereafter we continued further east into the
mountains, stopping at Ao Wan Da National Forest Recreation Area and
reaching Taroko National Park for a 2 day stay at an altitude of 2300 meters
where it was decidedly cool at night. Birding at this altitude and reaching
a high point at Mt. Hehuanshan of 2700 meters produced a bonanza 6 new
endemic species for us: Taiwan Yuhina, Taiwan Tit (or Yellow Tit),
White-eared Sibia, Taiwan Barwing, White-whiskered Laughingthrush, &
Steere’s Liocichla. We also saw many other noteworthy species, including
Plumbeous Water Redstart, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Collared Bush-Robin,
Ashy Wood-Pigeon, Vivid Niltava, Vinous-throated Parrotbill, and the
stunning Siberian Rubythroat.
Returning to the lowlands the following day, we stopped
in Lukang, the second oldest city in Taiwan, where we toured the Matzu
Temple and enjoyed the delicious local specialty for lunch: oysters,
including oyster soup, fried oysters & oyster pancakes. Thereafter, we
birded at the nearby Hambau Wetlands, a major habitat in the world for
We continued south, birding along the west coast of
Taiwan, spending a night each in Douliou and Tainan. A highlight in this
region is the Nanying National Scenic Area at the Tsengwen River estuary.
This is the primary wintering ground for the endangered Black-faced
Spoonbill. An attractive viewing platform is provided here and we were able
to scope hundreds of the Black-faced Spoonbills, as well as a variety of
The Kwangtien Wetland is also located not far from
Tainan and it is here that a conservation area has been established for
beautiful Pheasant-tailed Jacana. They prefer the water chestnut farms and
wetlands of this region and several viewing platforms are provided so
birders can observe them.
To see the endemic Styan’s Bulbul (or Taiwan Bulbul) it
is necessary to travel south, for this species is not found in the northern
or western part of the island. And, indeed, we easily found the bird just
outside our hotel in Kenting, which lies at the southern tip of the island.
The impressive Kenting National Park is located here
and is well laid out, containing many amenities for the visitor. Longluantan
Nature Center at the park is the nicest I have seen with several exhibits
and displays, a gift shop, a small theater and an indoor viewing area
containing some 8 mounted scopes of high-quality. While in Kenting National
Park we were happy to locate the elusive Hwamei, as well as Red-tailed Brown
Shrike, Richard’s Pipit, Blue Rock-Thrush, and Black-naped Oriole.
Overall it was a highly successful trip. We managed to
see 12 of the 15 endemic species, and with a bit of luck might have seen 2
more. Altogether I had about 50 “lifers.” The accommodations were all of
good quality, or better, and the food was consistently outstanding.