A rather frustrating day, as the mountain was shrouded in thick mist and it also rained most of the day as well. Lovely! We were out at 6am and sheltering under the eaves of some cabins, full of optimism to start with and hopeful the weather would lift a little. You could ‘see’ the way it was going to be today when a couple of probable Pale Thrushes disappeared into the mist before we could nail them. So as we looked out into the gloom from our sheltered position, a little luck was due and it came in the form of a small flock of Rufous-crowned Laughingthrushes that just happened to pass right by us.
|Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush - an endemic of mid/high altitude forests|
They were a noisy bunch and hung around long enough for us to get great views – our first endemic of the day. A short while later, David discovered a Taiwan Barwing feeding in a tree and we rushed out and quickly relocated the bird as it made its way higher up into a conifer. So what a result as I’m always a little concerned about just where we’re going to see these two species. Anyway, not a lot happened after this apart from more sheltering from the deluge, so we had our breakfast. And nice it was too! No noodles for us, just granola, cheese on toast and some nice breads! Another group here had to settle for the set breakfast but Richard had done us proud with a fine assortment of foods and even had our own coffee.
Afterwards we drove up towards the summit, stopping for half an hour at the Mikado stake-out but there was nothing doing in the dreary conditions, apart from crappy looks at our first Collared Bush-robin. About a quarter of a mile below the top we hopped out of the minibus as the weather seemed to be clearing – oh how mistaken was I! Both bush-warblers were singing but not responding to tape, yet Flamecrests were everywhere and what a stunning bird. You could say they could light up even the dullest day. Also, a pair of Nutcrackers were hanging out along the road and we eventually made up for initial silhouette views when the weather lifted slightly and could see some plumage detail as one of them fed on the ground beside the road. We walked around the corner and then a Taiwan Bush-warbler sang really close to the road, so everyone got in position and a short, quiet bit of playback from the ipod resulted in the bird coming straight in and perching completely out in the open! Of course it decided to rain heavily just at that moment and I couldn’t be bothered to take the camera out of its raincover, but we’d all seen the bird very well anyway. So with the weather deteriorating we decided to get some hot soup in the café and warm up a bit and give us some welcome relief! Afterwards we walked around the car park and made our first attempt at Taiwan Shortwing which sang its heart out from the bamboo covered slope above us but didn’t come in – no surprise there. However, a Yellowish-bellied Bush-warbler was much more responsive and we had several really nice views of a bird flitting around at eye-level and we enjoyed plenty more views of several stunning Collared Bush-robins and White-whiskered Laughingthrushes.
|Collared Bush-robin - a high altitude endemic|
Buoyed by this success we opted to walk along a nearby trail but it really was dark and gloomy and a torrential downpour literally dampened any optimism with another calling shortwing – although this bird was so close but we just couldn’t see it in the dense bamboo. But the rain eased and we checked out a different spot and found ourselves watching a pair of Mikado Pheasants – the iconic bird of Taiwan! Just like that, a totally unexpected find and we were even treated to clearer conditions and much better visibility for a short while to help us ‘soak’ up the beauty of the bird. See what I did there….?
|Mikado Pheasant in the mist - the best endemic?|
Then we drove back down to the lodge where I planned to have lunch and then walk some of the trails for a couple of skulkers we still needed. Well we had lunch amidst a crowd of noisy locals (bagels and cheese was nice) and then arranged to meet some 20 minutes later. However, the weather had one more trick up its sneaky sleeve and it literally chucked it down for the rest of the day. Oh and don’t forget pea-soup thick mist as well. So that was it – rain stopped birding due to a waterlogged forest! We did walk around the cabins a bit, hiding in sheltered little areas waiting for the rain to ease but it never seemed likely, so we called it quits. And met up again at 6pm for dinner. Its really strange here as everyone comes at the same time and its all over and done with very quickly and the staff are trying to get rid of us at seven!