Birding in Taiwan

 

 
Birding Stories

 

David Stirling

 

Macdonald Burbidge

 

 

BIRDING TAIWAN
 

A Tale of Two Trees - Mandarin Version

or

Why I missed some birds in Taiwan

 

David Stirling

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

 

I went to Taiwan for the birds and I was not disappointed.  We saw a group of endangered Black-faced Spoonbills left over from winter and enjoyed “wow!” sightings of the beautiful Fairy Pitta at its summer home in the dense bamboo thickets of Mango Valley.  In the forests the continuous rattling of the endemic subspecies of Black-browed Barbet almost drowned out the calls of bulbuls and drongos.  Overhead soared Crested Serpent-Eagles and a rainbow load of butterflies in the tree tops.  A special sighting for me--I am a fan of the jay family--was the magnificent, endemic Formosan Magpie.

 

            The group bird list arrived from Jo Ann and Hue MacKenzie soon after I returned home.  Checking over the ‘take’, I realized I had missed several feathered goodies.  Was I asleep or was I distracted by other interests?

 

            Way back in the distant past, my school geography text book set me dreaming of travel and adventure in distant lands.  One of these lands was a mysterious island called Formosa.  Its chief exports were tung oil and camphor.  Tung oil?  Camphor?  Aunt Liz on one of her infrequent visits from the big city, Vancouver, told me about camphor wood boxes and chests found in Vancouver’s China Town shops.  She brought with her a bag of camphor balls to stow in drawers and trunks to ward off the dreaded clothes moth.  I liked the exotic smell of camphor.  At the same time I read that the forests of Formosa, then under Japanese control, were being exploited at a rapid rate and camphor trees might soon become extinct.

 

            Jumping ahead to May, 2005, a bus load of keen birders is enroute south from Taipei, capital of Taiwan.  The green forest flanking the highway has a topping of white blossoms.  It is like a floral table cloth.  I have arrived at the right season to enjoy the tung trees in full bloom.  The tung tree is a real beauty.

 

            Later, when the group is stalking a desirable bird, Linda Kao beckons me over to a stand of rather small trees.  Camphor tree at last.  Crushed leaves confirm.

 

            A few days later we are invited to tea with “Kite” Liu’s parents in the board room of his father’s recycling factory.  The chairs are extraordinary.  Each one is made from a single stump; stump end on the floor, butt end up and hollowed out large enough to fit our ample butts.  I am told that these are the stumps of camphor trees.  After tea, while pursuing birds along the sea shore, I am wondering: is there a grove of giant camphor trees still standing in a secret valley in Formosa’s rugged mountains?

 

            On the last day of the tour, May 11, 2005, a very special event took place; an hour-long meeting with Taiwan's president, Mr. Chen Shui-bien, in the president's office, regarding conservation issues in Taiwan and the value of eco-tourism.  We felt honoured to have the President give us an hour of his time to welcome us and discuss these matters.

 

            One visit to Taiwan is not enough.  I must return.

 

”Photo provided by Public Affairs, Office of the President.”

 

 

台灣賞鳥行

二種樹的故事

文∕David Stirling

翻譯∕高素華

來台灣是為了賞鳥,而真的沒讓我失望。

我們有幸看到瀕臨絕種的黑面琵鷺渡冬後北返的剩餘族群;在檨仔坑濃密竹林裡,一睹八色鳥在夏天繁殖地的倩影;山林裡特有亞種五色鳥似敲木魚的叫聲不絕於耳,淹沒了白頭翁與小卷尾的鳴叫聲;大冠鷲就在頭頂上盤旋;一道由蝴蝶串成的彩虹就掛在樹梢。看到身形壯麗的特有種台灣藍鵲,對我來說印象最為深刻,因為「鵲」家族是我的最愛。

一回到家,就接到Jo Ann Hue傳來此次台灣行程的鳥種名單,仔細比對,才知我錯失數種這些有羽毛的可愛傢伙,是我睡著了還是因其他事物分心。

回想求學時的地理教科書,曾讓我對遙遠國度有過旅遊和探險的夢想,而福爾摩沙這個神秘的島嶼就是其中之一。桐油和樟木曾是它主要出口貨物。桐油?樟木?伊莉姑媽告訴過我,她在溫哥華的中國城找到樟木製的木箱和櫃子,溫哥華是她常去的大都市,她把樟腦丸放在抽屜和行李箱以去除恐怖的蟲蟻。我特別喜愛樟木這種異國情調獨特的味道。在那同時,我也讀過有關福爾摩沙的森林,在日本統治時,被快速大量的砍伐,因而樟樹可能很快就滅絕了。

五月,一輛滿載瘋鳥族的巴士,從台灣的首都台北,一路往南行駛。高速公路兩側的樹林上層佈滿盛開的白花,像極了一張花邊桌布。我來的正是油桐花盛開的季節。油桐樹恰似面戴白紗的大美人啊!

稍後,當大夥聚精會神地欣賞一隻好鳥時,高老師向我示意身旁的一排矮樹,我夢寐以求的樟樹終於現身了。

幾天之後,我們應邀來到團員劉俊凱父親所經營的製銅工廠裡的會議室泡茶,大廳中的椅子非常獨特,每張座椅均由一棵樹幹裁製而成,根部朝上,中空部位寬大,正好可容得下我們的大屁屁。他們告訴我這些都是樟樹的樹幹。飲過茶點後,當大夥沿著海邊追逐鳥兒的同時,我卻暗自思量:在福爾摩沙的崎嶇高山中,是否仍有一片巨大的樟樹林仍屹立在某個神秘的山谷?

行程的最後一天,2005511日,是個相當特別的拜會,一整個小時在台灣總統陳水扁先生的辦公室,大家和總統暢談,台灣的生態保育和推廣生態旅遊的重要。我們深感榮幸,陳總統能在百忙之中撥空歡迎我們並探討保育議題。

拜訪一次台灣是不夠的,我誓必再回來!

(本文作者David Stirling是加拿大有名的生態學者,現年86歲,到過70多個國家,鳥種3663種,賞鳥逾40年,曾榮獲「女皇金質50年加拿大訪問獎」殊榮。)

”Photo provided by Public Affairs, Office of the President.”