Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Spoonies to Scops!

So we were ahead of the game and decided to change our itinerary and head down to the coast and the wetlands of Aogu this morning. By the time we arrived it was getting quite hot and upon arrival at the Information Centre we were told that there had been no sightings of Black-faced Spoonbills for over a week. Great! But we decided to drive around these extensive wetlands anyway and a good move it turned out to be as at our first stop to scan one of the lagoons we found 4 Black-faced Spoonbills

Black-faced Spoonbills

Our first waders here were Wood Sandpiper, Kentish and Pacific Golden Plovers, whilst a few Intermediate Egrets were also present. Overall I was slightly disappointed with the low numbers of waders present when compared to last year but we still managed a reasonable selection. 

Pacific Golden Plover

Some small fish ponds nearby held groups of breeding-plumaged Curlew Sandpipers, along with Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Whimbrels, more KP’s and a few Yellow Bitterns, whilst there were lots of Black-crowned Night-herons flying around and perched at the water’s edge.

Black-crowned Night-heron

Moving on we found another group of BFS, as well as Garganey, Northern Pintail, Shoveler and Eurasian Wigeon, whilst Greater Sandplover and Red-necked Stints were the wader highlights. A Caspian Tern flew past, and some Little Terns were spotted perched a while later, whilst Black-shouldered Kite and some other commoner species were found.

Oriental Pratincole

By the time we’d done a complete circuit it was after 1pm so we headed into a nearby town for lunch and ice-cream, passing a field full of Oriental Pratincoles along the way before heading up into the hills and the lower regions of Alishan. 

Swinhoe's Pheasant - female

Taiwan Hill-partridge

Arriving just in time for some later afternoon birding we got lucky with a Taiwan Hill-partridge and a pair of Swinhoe’s Pheasants feeding in a secluded corner of the bamboo forest. 

Mountain Scops-owl

And to round off the day how about magnificent looks at this Mountain Scops-owl that took all of 1 minute to call in and landed in the tree right in front of us. A little later we also spotlighted a Collared Scops-owl but that didn’t hang around and all too quickly flew off.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Hehuan Shan

An early start saw us up at a particularly favourite little spot of mine by just after 6am and we got off to a good start with a pair of Taiwan Bamboo-partridges running across the track in front if us, which most of the group managed to get on, and there was also a bonus sighting of a pair of Eye-browed Thrushes feeding out in the open. The hills were alive with birdsong and when we heard the distinctive call of another bamboo-partridge after a short walk it was very pleasing to have another decent sighting. Shortly after the bird we really wanted began calling and after a little playback I managed to call in a pair of Black-necklaced Scimitar-babblers. Always difficult to see well, this pair were no exception, but with a little effort everyone managed some sort of view as they circled us several times in the dense vegetation all around us. 

Rusty Laughingthrush

I must say this site is very good and just to name a few goodies we also had here, how about a pair of Rusty Laughingthrushes on view for ten minutes, calling, perching overhead and generally showing off. A pair of White-bellied Green-pigeons were also quality, and there was also White-tailed Robin, Rufous-faced Warbler and Taiwan Barbet, So with that double-whammy (partridge & babbler!) completed before 8am that left us with the easy option of driving up to Hehuan Shan at 3275m, stopping at a ‘7 and 11’ for breakfast and nice coffee. At the pass we quickly found an Alpine Accentor in one of the car parks, but it didn’t hang around for long.

Taiwan Bush-warbler

At another parking area, a Taiwan Bush-warbler performed unbelievably well, singing from an exposed branch right below the road. So from here we took a nice trail down into pine forest, where Flamecrests gave their best showing of the entire trip and a Taiwan Bush-robin was building a nest in a mossy bank. At the end of the trail before it dropped steeply down into the valley, we found the forest edge alive with activity. More Flamecrests, Collared Bush-robin, Taiwan Fulvetta came in to just a few feet, Yellowish-bellied Bush-robin and the distinctive race of Coal Tits adorned the trees here.

Taiwan Fulvetta

 Leaving here we drove down several kilometres and birded the road in excellent mixed forest, where we bumped into numerous bird waves. It was a very enjoyable afternoon seeing lots of birds although we certainly walked several kilometres, so earned the right to our luck I think. I was surprised to see several small groups of Eurasian Siskin coming in to the owlet call, but I think everyone else appreciated our first Ferruginous Flycatcher much better! I was also glad to get a couple sightings of Taiwan Barwing, which had proved a bit tricky for some of the group to date. 

Taiwan Barwing

Most of the flocks comprised of loads of Taiwan Yuhinas and Black-throated Tits, but also Grey-chinned Minivet, Green-backed and Coal Tits, both bush-robins also put in appearances with a Taiwan Bush-robin showing very well on a mossy branch t one stage right in front of us, Steere’s Liocichlas were common, Eurasian Nuthatch, and we even had a Pallas’s Warbler in one mixed flock.
There was also another very confiding Taiwan Cupwing perched in a bush that allowed me to get a record shot at last.

Taiwan Bush-robin

Taiwan Cupwing - another high altitude endemic

 Driving back up to the pass, a female Vinaceous Rosefinch was found beside one of the car parks, and down at the Blue Gate Trail another pair of Black-necklaced Scimitar-babblers gave even better views than this morning. 

Vinaceous Rosefinch - a potential split

A good day indeed.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Huisun and the Varied Tit Chase

A few of us got up early and birded the gardens in much clearer conditions than we’d experienced so far – and even had a bit of blue sky. The male Pale Thrush showed quite well feeding along a path, David and Ian had Taiwan Barwing, and there were plenty of other birds around this morning as well. I knew it was going to be one of those days when I saw a Scaly Thrush and Ashy Woodpigeon and no one else got onto them. Anyway, we left after breakfast and slowly made our way down the mountain, but it took too long as we waited for a while for Little Forktail to show without any joy, then a puncture delayed us further but we did get a Taiwan (Vivid) Niltava during the wheel changing process which was a result. We made a couple more stops on the way out and really only got Strong-footed Bush-warbler in the process that is of any note, and only heard Black-necklaced Scimitar-babbler and Taiwan Bamboo-partridge

Taiwan Yuhina is one of the commonest endemics

I did like getting to watch a huge flock of Asian House-martins feeding below us from the big bridge and when the mist came in quickly got a Grey-headed Woodpecker here as well. Oh and there was a fine pair of White-bellied Green-pigeons on some telegraph wires as well. It took maybe just over an hour to reach Huisun and we drove into this scenic spot where we enjoyed another great picnic lunch. It then took several hours of walking around before we finally managed to find a Taiwan Varied Tit high up in the canopy. Phew and well spotted Ian. There were also flocks of Japanese White-eyes, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Taiwan Barbets, Large-billed Crow, White-bellied Erpornis, Silver-backed Needletail, Bronzed Drongo and a few others but it was hard going. 

One glaring miss was Taiwan Blue Magpie which just wasn’t around and in all we spent over 6 hours here and staking out the entrance where you are supposed to get them without a sniff. A pair of Grey-capped Woodpeckers was a little compensation, but hardly and I must admit I left here feeling a bit despondent. But there’s always another chance or two in the next few days. From here it took an hour to get to Wushe and our excellent lodge.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Still on Dasyueshan

Poked my head out of the lodge at 4.50am and it was clear but when I met up with the group at 6am we had dense mist again. We birded the gardens at the edge of the forest for an hour, seeing a few regular birds, as well as getting decent views of a pair of Pale Thrushes skulking in a damp corner below the restaurant before heading in to breakfast an hour later. Afterwards we drove up the mountain and despite low cloud and/or mist there was no rain at all today, but must admit I was in two minds whether or not to turn around and drive back down. Good job I didn’t as we did pretty well, starting with a walk along the open track where a pair of Mikado Pheasants performed well and we watched the male slowly walk right across the path and up onto the grassy bank.  

Yellowish-bellied Bush-warbler

Several White-whiskered Laughingthrushes and Yellowish-bellied Bush-warblers also proved a bit of a distraction, but best of all along here was our first Taiwan Fulvettas that gave repeated views in the trees right next to us. 

Taiwan Fulvettas - an endemic of higher altitudes

We also had another very close pair at the observation platform that kept moving through the bushes right below us several times. And at the same spot a Taiwan Bush-warbler was most obliging as well. 

Another high altitude endemic - Taiwan Bush-warbler

Another trail here is very good for Taiwan Shortwing, and following our first abortive attempt we had several views of at least two birds. Never an easy bird to see well, but I think everyone had varying degrees of tickable views whilst here. A Taiwan Bush-robin was much easier and eventually hopped out onto the path in front of us, after a bit of a chase but our perseverance was well rewarded in the end. 

Taiwan Bush-robin can also be found at high altitude forests

Several Collared Bush-robins also showed well with one male in particular positively glowing in the murky gloom. After some nice fried rice in the café and a cup of tea we drove lower, stopping at the pheasant site and had more close Laughingthrushes and better yet, a cracking Taiwan Rosefinch feeding right beside the road. What a stunner!

Collared Bush-robin

 Back down by the lodge it didn’t take long to find a Pygmy Cupwing, and a star performer indeed as it worked its way across the bank above us for several minutes, showing all the time albeit usually under the overhanging foliage and no good for a photo alas. A short walk down the road resulted in a great view of a Taiwan Shortwing perched on an old fallen tree before we sent the last couple of hours birding the gardens in nice clear weather. We managed to find a flock of Rufous-crowned Laughingthrushes, but there were no barwings following them unfortunately as we wanted better views.

Masked Civet

 After dinner we had an excellent mammal session, beginning with a couple of Masked Civets feeding on kitchen scraps at the edge of the forest, followed by Red-and-white Giant Flying Squirrel and finishing off with a Taiwan Serow on the slope below.