Thursday, 25 April 2013

Taiwan - Fabulous Dasyueshan

We met for breakfast at the rather civilised hour of 6.30am and tackled our first Taiwanese breakfast, which fortunately had toast, fried eggs and coffee, as well as plenty of unidentified inedible objects! So we finally left at 7.15am and drove out of the city and into the countryside at the base of Dasyueshan Mountain, following a narrow lane to a new area where there were several singing Taiwan Hwamei

Taiwan Hwamei - our first endemic of the tour

After a little while we had great views of a pair sat in a tree singing their hearts out on the slope above us and it was very nice to be able to watch them at leisure. As an aside, I was a little surprised to see blue skies and boy was it warm (!), especially after the heavy overnight rain. Despite this, there was a lot of bird activity with Pacific Swallows, House Swifts, Striated Swallows, and a few Silver-backed Needletails overhead, as well as lots of Vinous-throated Parrotbills, Plain Prinias, Chinese Bulbuls, Javan Mynas, Taiwan Barbet, Black-naped Monarch, Grey Treepie and Oriental Cuckoo all being noted. 

Vinous-throated Parrotbill

Best of all though, was a pair of Taiwan Scimitar-babblers that responded very well to the ipod and I managed a decent, albeit distant, record shot.  

Taiwan Scimitar-babbler - a widespread endemic

A short drive up the road to a fruiting tree and we found several Rufous-capped Babblers, Red Collared-dove, Japanese White-eye, Collared Finchbill and Himalayan Black Bulbuls that actually looked a lot different to the mainland forms. The only slight disappointment was hearing Taiwan Bamboo-partridge calling form below us, and with no access to the fields we had no hope of seeing it. It’s always a tricky species and I know it will take some finding! Another short drive higher up and we had White-bellied Erpornis, and our first views of Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, now an endemic species according to the IOC and one of a 4-way split – thanks IOC now I’ve seen them all!! The highlight for me was seeing a male Malayan Night-heron perched up in a tree, with a female sat on a nest nearby, and that’s not something you see everyday is it? 

Malayan Night-heron

With the temperature soaring, we had a nice raptor session this morning as well with lots of Crested Serpent-eagles, Japanese Sparrowhawks and a few Crested Goshawks adding some variety.

Our next stop alongside a tumbling stream gave us Brown Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Plumbeous Water-redstart, a male Grey-chinned Minivet (narcissus race..?) attacking its reflection in our wing mirror and in-your-face views of Rufous-faced Warbler

Rufous-faced Warbler

So from here we drove right up into the mountains, passing through great forest and marvelling at spectacular views until we reached the police station where we went inside and had our picnic lunch! What? Yeah, very surreal to use their kettle to make some tea and have a picnic on their dining table – not something you could do in the UK right? Can you imagine just popping in to the local constabulary and asking to have a picnic there and using their toilet!!!!! Welcome to friendly Taiwan! As we munched on sandwiches, cake, biscuits, fruit and all sorts the mist descended and left to go up ever higher to the Swinhoe’s Pheasant stake-out. 

Swinhoe's Pheasant - one of the key endemics

Rounding the corner just before the site, sure enough there was a male pheasant right there in front of us, with a few Steere’s Liocichlas for company. We had a nice look through the windscreen before driving by and parking further up the hill so as not to disturb the area. Sure enough we walked back downhill and sat down beside the road and had more stunning views of a truly spectacular bird for a while, chatting to some locals and also seeing a White-tailed Robin as well. Easy birding!

Steere's Liocichla - exceedingly common endemic

 Back up at the large layby a Taiwanese photographer had set up a little feeding station and allowed us in to take a look at a Taiwan Hill-partridge that was just sat in the leaf litter about 10 metres away. Nice! Always a tricky species and this really took the pressure off I can tell you. This stretch of road also gave us a Large Hawk-cuckoo that had been continually calling, and we nailed the endemic Yellow Tit and a pair of endemic Rusty Laughingthrush. How about that? 

Rusty Laughingthrush - a much scarcer endemic

A decent supporting cast of Oriental Honey-buzzard, Black-throated and Green-backed Tits, White-eared Sibia, Taiwan Yuhina, and more liocichlas and fulvettas meant that a very pleasurable hour or so was had by all. 

White-eared Sibia - another common endemic

Leaving here we continued up the mountain, stopping for a White-backed Woodpecker en-route,  and headed for the Mikado Pheasant site but it was getting late and there was nothing doing, apart from a brief White-whiskered Laughingthrush, so headed down to the lodge and an early night.

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