Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Alishan


We drove up to the top of Alishan Mountain and spent a very enjoyable morning in good weather seeing some very good and often tricky endemics very well. We began with Black-necklaced Scimitar-babbler that took some digging out but which eventually showed quite well beside the road. As we approached the summit we checked out a few spots and saw the commoner species, and a fine male Mikado Pheasant also put in appearance on a grassy verge right beside the road. Shame it was a little too close to get a proper photo!!

Mikado Pheasant


The scenery on this tour has been stunning and up here on Alishan Mountain the views were awe inspiring today.

Alishan Mountain scenery



We then took a side road and walked a few hundred metres uphill and bumped into a load of goodies beginning with a couple of Taiwan Fulvettas feeding in a moss-covered tree. There was also Collared and Taiwan Bush-robins showing well, a Taiwan Shortwing toyed with us before hopping up onto a bare branch, and then best of all a pair of Golden Parrotbills zipped around the Bamboo in front of us. 


Taiwan Fulvetta


Collared Bush-robin


A Spotted Nutcracker then perched on top of a pine tree above us and White-whiskered Laughingthrush, Steere’s Liocichla, Flamecrest, and Taiwan Yuhina all made appearances.

Then we headed down to Huben Village in the afternoon and spent a good few hours searching for Fairy Pitta but we didn’t hear any calling at all. Both Birdquest and Tropical Birding also had groups here today and it was great to be able to cooperate and work different areas and exchange info. However, the Fat Lady started to sing our tune and our birding in this wonderful country came to an end. All that remained was to drive an hour or so up the highway to Fongyuen where we spent the night, after dinner and a visit to a karaoke bar!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Last Endemic!

We finally managed to get our last endemic of the tour this afternoon when a covey of Taiwan Hill-partridges came into view and onto our lists at Alishan.

Taiwan Hill-partridge

They were in the darkest part of the forest so the photo isn't that sharp but it is an impressive bird.

In the evening we had nice views of a Collared Scops-owl for the second night running and within a few minutes a Mountain Scops-owl was spotlighted as well! Absolutely amazing.

Mountain Scops-owl

After many years of failing valiantly to get to grips with this wee beastie it jumped to pole position for my 'bird of the trip' and justifiably celebrated late into the evening! Wow!!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Waders Galore!

Had a great day along Taiwan's east coast watching waders with the highlight being a flock of 33 Asiatic Dowitchers. Managed to get some pics but the birds were a little distant for my slr, but my group was very pleased to see them......


Asiatic Dowitchers


Plenty of other waders seen today, with Broad-billed Sandpipers being too distant to photograph unfortunately. So take a look at this little selection of goodies......

Pacific Golden Plover

Curlew Sandpiper

Marsh Sandpiper

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

Terek Sandpiper

Taiwan Tour Day 6

We spent the entire day at mid-elevation on Hehuan Mountain in the search for Taiwan Hill Partridge. With a big improvement in the weather we were hopeful but despite extensive searching failed to get a sniff of the elusive beastie. Our day began after a later than usual start, followed by a quick change of destination due to a small landslide blocking the narrow road we were following. So we drove higher up the mountain and checked out the Blue Gate Trail briefly but it was very quiet apart from a Collared Owlet, so we drove down into the steep-sided valley through a large tea plantation. After many kilometres of winding narrow lanes it was apparent this road was also blocked, so we had to retrace our route back up the bumpy road, although we saw Crested Goshawk and a flock of Brown Bullfinches on some telegraph wires close to the road. 


Crested Goshawk




We stopped abruptly a little later when a couple of Taiwan Bamboo-partridges were seen at the side of the road and we enjoyed our best views so far when one of them slowly crossed the road and then gave point blank views on the steep bank when we drove closer. This area gave wonderful views across the numerous mountain ridges and right through the mist enshrouded valley so we decided to have our picnic lunch here. 


Vinous-throated Parrotbill




A scrub covered field next to us held several Black-faced and a Little Bunting, along with numerous Tree Sparrows and a flock of Vinous-throated Parrotbills which all gave cracking views. Leaving here we returned to the Blue Gate Trail and walked in a different direction through great forest but the path became to muddy and waterlogged so we drove back down the mountain and parked beside the road to check out the other end of the trail. 


Vivid (Taiwan) Niltava




A Taiwan Cupwing gave some decent views as it circled us and then a large flock came near us which held a superb male Vivid Niltava, along with Yellow and Black-throated Tits and all the usual suspects. Leaving here we checked out another site and heard a Taiwan Hwamei and saw Taiwan Scimitar-babbler,and a pair of Taiwan Bamboo-partridges

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Taiwan Tour Day 5


We headed up and over the summit of Hehuan Mountain at 3000m through dense mist and heavy rain, which turned out to be freakishly heavy and prolonged according to the local news. So we drove by several Alpine Accentors and down the winding mountain road to a restaurant where we checked out the slope behind the building where all the scraps are thrown out. A couple of Ferruginous Flycatchers, Steere’s Liocichla and White-whiskered Laughingthrushes were present scrubbing around the waste and old cartons. However, the appearance of a largish bedraggled warbler set our pulses racing and we spent the next half an hour scrutinising it. In the end it appears to be a Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler……….. Although I haven't the time or good internet connection to fully confirm the identification totally - any ideas are welcome! It was heavily waterlogged and its feathers were matted and it appears much darker than it would normally appear making the i.d problematical. The interesting thing is this site was at 2500m so the warbler must have been migrating northwards and dropped in during the storm we experienced overnight.

Middendorff's Grasshopper Warbler?


Side view of the warbler




Then we headed down to the east coast through the impressive scenery of the Taroko Gorge and out into the fields along the coast. Pretty soon we’d found our target, the endemic Styan’s Bulbul perched on a telegraph wire and in the end had seen quite a few. 



Styan's Bulbul




There was also Peregrine, Lesser Coucal, Bright-headed Cisticola, Little Bunting and truly wild Common Pheasants to give the trip list a boost. 


Ferruginous Flycatcher


After lunch we drove back up through the gorge and birded the mid-level area finding a small group of Taiwan Barwings and eventually came upon a large flock which began with a few Beavan’s Bullfinches and was followed by our first endemic Yellow Tits amongst a crowd of other species. There were Taiwan Varied, Black-throated, Coal and Green-backed Tits, 3 Vivid Niltavas, Grey-chinned Minivet, Eurasian Nuthatch, Steere’s Liocichla and White-eared Sibia


After all this excitement we realised we only had one more endemic to find (Taiwan Hill Partridge!) but would have to save that for tomorrow so headed back to the lodge, stopping to admire an Alpine Accentor taking shelter inside a phone box on the summit before hopping out onto a small patch of grass beside a Taiwan Rosefinch and just a couple of metres away from our vehicle.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Taiwan Update - 20th April

With very poor internet/wifi connection lately, i'm not sure when I can post again. But today I finally scored with a Malayan Night-heron at Huisun, a bird i've wanted to see for many years.

Malayan Night-heron

At Basianshan this morning there were Varied Tits, another new endemic for the tour, as well as Dusky Fulvetta and Red Oriole. Huisun also gave us the spectacular Taiwan Blue Magpie as well and as it was only early afternoon when we saw the night-heron we decided to drive straight to Wushe. and what a good move that turned out to be. After many unsuccessful attempts we finally caught up with Taiwan Bamboo-partridge, as well as Taiwan (Vivid) Niltava, Rusty Laughingthrush and had more views of Black-streaked Scimitar-babbler. 


Even Black Bulbuls look different in Taiwan



And we have had many views of the delightful Rufous-faced Warbler at all of the sites visited so far:

Rufous-faced Warbler



Taiwan Tour Day 3


Following a night of heavy rain the day dawned much better with the clouds much higher and the mountain tops becoming visible once again. The main purpose of our early morning walk was to try and find the diminutive Taiwan Cupwing, a recent split from Pygmy Wren-babbler and a rather secretive denizen of the higher elevation forests. As luck would have it, within 5 minutes we had a pair performing extraordinarily well beside the trail. At one stage both birds paused their circuit of our position on a mossy log on the forest floor and began calling just a couple of metres away – amazing! Along the same trail we had a Snowy-browed Flycatcher, whilst a Taiwan Shortwing again played hardball and somehow remained invisible just 2 metres from our feet in the dense vegetation. After breakfast we drove up to the top car park and in the clear weather found the bird life much more active than on our previous visit. No sooner had we arrived and piled out of the minibus than Nigel had a fine male Vinaceous Rosefinch teed up in his scope, as it sat on top of a pine tree. In fact we found several of these little beauties, which apparently have been split by the Taiwanese as Taiwan Rosefinch now, so added a little extra spice to our ticking! We then hit a ‘purple patch’ when along a narrow trail we scored with Taiwan Bush-robin, Taiwan Fulvetta and finally Taiwan Shortwing, as well as a showy Flamecrest and Ferruginous Flycatcher all in quick succession. A poor view of  a bullfinch species hidden in the shade of the dense canopy may well have been Brown Bullfinch, but we had inconclusive views. 

White-whiskered Laughingthrush

As well as the ultra-confiding White-whiskered Laughingthrushes, Yellowish-bellied and Taiwan Bush-warblers and Collared Bush-robins, we also came across a couple large flocks which held Coal and Green-backed Tits, more Flamecrests and fulvettas, Black-throated Tit, Taiwan Yuhinas, and a few other common species. Then we birded our way down the mountain for the rest of the afternoon seeing White-bellied Green-pigeon, another 3 male and a female Swinhoe’s Pheasants, Steere’s Liocichla, White-eared Sibia, Little Forktail, White-tailed Robin and confiding Rufous-faced Warbler amongst others. We ended up at an open area where Taiwan Scimitar-babbler and Collared Finchbills were coming down to drink at a roadside drain, and there was also Brownish-flanked Bush-warbler and a perched Crested Goshawk to keep us entertained. The last good bird of the day was a Savanna Nightjar spotlighted flying around us before we headed to our next mountain base.

Taiwan Bush-robin

Taiwan Tour Day 2


We began with an early morning walk close to the lodge and although it took a while longer to reach proper birding light due to the low cloud we still saw a number of endemics and other good birds. Of course, Taiwan Yuhinas were ever present, but Steere’s Liocichla and White-eared Sibia were new for us. A Taiwan Shortwing gave brief views as it hopped on the ground and flew past us on a couple of occasions but that was the best we could come up with today, with a number of other individuals heard but none were tape responsive. A Spotted Nutcracker and White-tailed Robin were also seen before heading back to the restaurant for a nice breakfast. Afterwards we drove up to the top of Anmashan, stopping along the way at a nice spot where a cracking male Collared Bush-robin and an extremely co-operative Taiwan Bush-warbler both performed extremely well for us. 
Collared Bush-robin


At the top car park we followed one of the paths, with the mist fortunately clearing but that wasn’t necessary to see the numerous endemic White-whiskered Laughingthrushes – which were often hopping around our feet! More Collared Bush-robins appeared, along with lots of Yellowish-bellied Bush-warblers, as well as our first beautiful Flamecrest. When the mist descended making visibility poor we retreated to the local cafĂ© for some much welcomed hot soup and fried rice before following another path. We did battle with another couple of shortwings and saw a few commoner species but as it was very quiet we headed back down the mountain. 

Swinhoe's Pheasant


We ended up at the mid-elevation level and spent the next three hours watching a couple of male and a female Swinhoe’s Pheasants feeding close to the road. At one stage the sun even came out and the iridescent greens and blues of the male really shone – such a stunning bird. A female White-tailed Robin also appeared, but was much too close to photograph! We held on until dusk in the vain hope of any partridges appearing, although we were entertained by more sibias and Yuhinas before heading back up to the lodge for dinner.

Taiwan Tour Day 1 or Mikado in the Mist!


An early start saw us driving the short distance to the spectacular Dasyueshan Mountain where we spent most of the morning birding the lower elevations. A reliable site for Taiwan Hwamei proved justifiably still correct as we enjoyed good views of a bird singing from an exposed perch and feeding in some bushes. The same site also produced wonderful views of several Vinous-throated Parrotbills, low flying House Swifts, Chinese Bulbul, lots of Collared Finchbills, Japanese White-eyes, and an extremely co-operative Rufous-capped Babbler. Moving up a little higher we took a side lane and bumped into a few Taiwan Scimitar-babblers, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Black-naped Monarch, Rufous-faced Warbler, and after a bit of a wait we had an Oriental Cuckoo perched on some telegraph wires. 

Taiwan Scimitar-babbler

Just up the road we had good scope views of Taiwan Barbet and an obliging Brownish-flanked Bush-warbler came in very close. Moving on we made our second attempt at luring in some calling Taiwan Bamboo-partridges which were ridiculously close, and in fact there were at least three different groups calling around us but none of which deigned to come out into the open. As we were working on the first group a Black-necklaced Scimitar-babbler called from below us just to make things a little more frustrating! However, with a little perseverance a pair of this very skulking species eventually showed quite well if a little briefly. With Striated Prinia, 4 migrating Oriental Honey-buzzards, a brief Japanese Sparrowhawk and a telegraph line with over 20 Oriental Turtle-doves, we were doing quite well. Beside a narrow stream a pair of Taiwan Whistling-thrushes, Brown Dipper and more Plumbeous water-redstarts were present, with White-bellied Green-pigeon, Grey Treepie and White-tailed Robin seen nearby. Our first Taiwan Yuhinas were seen here as well, along with another Rufous-faced Warbler and Grey-chinned Minivet as well. 

Mikado Pheasant

Unfortunately in the early afternoon as we headed up towards the higher elevations the weather came in badly with very low cloud and mist, and regular heavy showers that turned into prolonged rain in the late afternoon. After spending quite some time at a stake-out for Mikado Pheasant and drawing a blank we decided to drive down to the lodge. Amazingly, a dark mist-enshrouded blob at the roadside turned out to be a beautiful male Mikado Pheasant. It was such a stunning bird and was absolutely unperturbed by our presence as we watched him in the rain for a good 20 minutes at close distance before leaving him to it and bowling up at the lodge looking like drowned rats!