TAIWAN TRIP REPORT, 21–24 May 2005
As a frequent business traveller to
Japan and a keen birdwatcher I sometimes try to fit in a short trip to Asia
either before or after business.
Taiwan has increasingly been getting higher up the list
of priorities, principally because of its very special endemic species, but
also because it is a country few people have visited, let alone birded.
trawling through several web sites I made contact with local birdwatching
expert Simon Liao and we were quickly able to make our arrangements via
were the endemics, of which there are currently 15, but it is likely up to
10 more may be declared as they are under serious consideration.
was with Cathay Pacific from Osaka arriving in Taipei at 13.10 p.m. Simon,
his wife, Linda, and another expert local guide Ten-Di Wu all met me at the
airport and we set off south to Chingin Resort in central Taiwan where we
would spend both nights of my stay.
Day 1 – May 21st
CSK Airport to Chingin Resort.
briefly at Dream Valley Waterfall at Puli in Nanton County. Black-naped
Monarch was the first bird to be seen, followed by several Light-vented and
Black Bulbuls. At the Falls we had good view of my first endemic – Taiwan
Whistling Thrush. We had great views of several Collared Finchbills,
showing very well. Also seen in this area was Hwamei and Japanese
was fine and we finally arrived at Chingin at about 6.30 p.m. The Guest
House was excellent, very comfortable and good food. It was pleasantly cool
in the mountains, requiring a sweater in the evenings.
Day 2 – May 22nd
This was the day we made a big effort to see one or both
of the endemic Pheasants, but it was not to be. This was made up, however,
by excellent views of many other species.
A 5.00 a.m.
wake-up had us on the Blue Gate Trail just after 6.00 a.m. This was
preceded by V inous-throated Parrotbills and Steere’s Liocichla around the
on the trail included Ashy Wood-Pigeon, White-eared Sibia, Taiwan Yuhina,
Golden Parrotbill, Black-throated Tit, Taiwan Yellow Tit and, rarest of all,
White-browed Shortwing, which got Simon pretty excited.
3 hours we continued to ascend to HeHuan Shan at about 3000 metres. The
weather was glorious but it was still cool at the top. The views all along
were magnificent. Being a Sunday it was very busy but that did not stop us
picking up the special high-altitude birds including Flamecrest, Taiwan
Laughing Thrush (white-whiskered), Vinaceous Rosefinch, Collared Bush Robin
and an obliging Taiwan Bush Warbler. We also saw Dusky Warbler and I missed
Alpine Accentor seen by Simon and Ten-Di.
we descended to the second Blue Gate Trail to try again for Pheasants. We
picked up Eurasian Nuthatch, Green-backed Tit, Fire-Breasted Flowerpecker,
and Ten-Di put up a very obliging Savannah Nightjar on the path.
It was a
weary group that made it back to the Guest House at 7.00 p.m. after 13 hours
in the field. We were soon fortified by a cold beer, a good meal and some
fearsomely strong Taiwanese whisky!
Day 3 – May 23rd
This was a day planned with military precision as there
were some key target species.
start had us on the North East Eye Mountain Trail at 6.20 a.m. The
objective was Swinhoe’s Pheasant. On the drive to the trail we managed to
find 2 Chinese Bamboo Partridges slowly crossing the road, Taiwan Yellow Tit
also sitting on the road and a friendly Taiwan Whistling Thrush by the side
of the road near a small waterfall.
entered the trail we had short views of White-tailed Robin twice. I was
particularly pleased as we had heard this bird several times on the previous
day without actually seeing it. Rufous-faced Warblers were very conspicuous
as were a large party of White-throated Laughing Thrushes.
30 minutes walking, Ten-Di motioned us to stop as he heard rustling in the
woodland carpeted with short bamboo. A fleeting glimpse of a male pheasant
flying fast was most unsatisfactory. It was whilst pondering whether to
count it or not, that a second Swinhoe’s Pheasant broke cover and flew up
the hill. It was also a male showing the white on his back very well. Not
the perfect view but very satisfying. Finally, we were able to see two
Spot-breasted Scimitar Babblers showing well.
came out of the mountains, descending to Wu Fung on the west, in Taichung
County. The big target was the very rare and little known Fairy Pitta.
Simon and Ten-Di knew of an area with several nesting pairs.
spraying with insect repellent we set off the special forest area. The
weather was very hot but, fortunately, we were able to hear a Fairy Pitta
quite quickly and, after waiting patiently, we had fabulous views of this
In the area
we also saw Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler very close.
It was then
off again to another area close by to see Malayan Night Heron on the nest
with at least one, possibly two fluffy grey chicks.
Going on a
little further we came to an area which produced Taiwan Blue Magpies, Grey
Treepie, Grey-capped Woodpecker, Black-browed Barbet and Streak-breasted
It was, by
now early afternoon and after a brief stop to visit a well known Buddhist
Shrine for a little sightseeing, it was back to CKS Airport at Taipei for
the 7.15 KLM flight to London via Bangkok and Amsterdam.
This was a very short trip of only just over 2 days and 2
nights. The target was the Endemics, quality rather than quantity.
blessed with sublime weather, which was fortunate as May can be very rainy.
Indeed, the previous week had seen heavy rain, evidenced by small landslides
everywhere. Some of the small roads were in poor condition but, generally,
Linda and Ten-Di made me most welcome, organised everything superbly and,
most importantly, knew where to see the birds.
Of the 15
Endemics, I saw 11, missing only 4. Of these, Styan’s Bulbul is in a
different location. Taiwan Barwing we tried to see but it was not
obliging. We were very close to Taiwan Hill Partridge but they are
notoriously difficult to see as they stay in deep undergrowth. Mikado
Pheasant was the only major disappointment, but there has been some habitat
disturbance due to the earthquake in 1999, and laying of water pipes in the
best known trail for this pheasant.
country, especially in the mountains, is beautiful, the people extremely
friendly, and because it is relatively small, you can get to see a lot on a