Birding in Taiwan


Birding Stories


David Stirling


Macdonald Burbidge




A Tale of Two Trees - Mandarin Version


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.”





文∕David Stirling




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。







(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.”