Sunday, 18 May 2014

Taiwan: Wulai & Dashueshan

I arrived in Shanghai on 26th April. It was unbelievably wet & I enjoyed torrential rain for the next eighteen hours, making it impossible to go outside & my planned trip to the Shanghai Botanical Gardens had to be aborted. I had a boring day stuck inside the hotel. The next day I flew to Taipei & met up with the other seven members of the tour. We had all signed up for the first Bird Tour Asia tour to Taiwan & SE China, targeting some of the rarest birds found in Asia. It was led by Frank Lambert, a guy I hadn't seen for a very long time! In fact I think it was around thirty years ago! Frank proved to be an excellent guide throughout the tour and equally excellent company. After a pleasant dinner at the hotel, we all retired early in anticipation of the morrow.  

Our first birding stop at Wulai.

Up at 04.00 am for a two hour drive to Wulai. It proved to be a steep well wooded valley, with a fast flowing river in the bottom of the valley. Lots of small farms were scattered around. Birding was at first slow but we slowly racked up the important species: Taiwan Blue Magpie, Taiwan Barbet & the elusive Taiwan Whistling Thrush.
The endemic Taiwan Whistling Thrush.

Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Taiwan Scimitar Babbler & Grey-chinned Minivet were nice additions. Slightly later in the morning, we had good views of two Red Orioles (a recent split from Maroon) & these proved to be the only ones of the trip! Another good find was a perched Malayan Night Heron, usually a scarce species, but Taiwan is probably the best place in the world to see it relatively easily.
 Jinchan Lake.
Looking towards the estuary mouth.

We then drove to be the nearby coast, the Jinchan Lake which is right next to a small estuary. Open country birds were seen, including a Black-shouldered Kite nesting, which is supposed to be a scarce migrant here. Our first Eastern Spot-billed Ducks were on the lake.
A flock of Terek Sandpipers.
Summer plumage Grey-tailed Tattler.

 A good variety of herons & egrets were dotted around, but it was the waders which held the most interest. 30+ Terek Sandpipers & around 40 Grey-tailed Tattlers put on a good show. 25 each of Red-necked Stint & Dunlin; 2 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers in full summer plumage & a nice Broad-billed Sandpiper. Two Oriental Pratincoles flew overhead. Black Drongos were prominent as they were migrating through the area. A Black-faced Bunting skulked in nearby scrub.
 One of the many Black Drongos.
Dashueshan is a protected area.
The montane forest at Dashueshan.

We then drove up to the flanks of Dashueshan, which is a large well forested mountain, with a good selection of Taiwan endemics present. The altitude was between 2,300 - 2,500 m. We were all a little excited, as we had an appointment with one of the star birds of Taiwan, the wonderful endemic Swinhoe's Pheasant. This species is truly spectacular & it was with mounting tension that we waited at the side of the road for this star performer to appear.
The waiting is always the worst!
 The truly amazing Swinhoe's Pheasant.


 The much drabber female.
King of the road!

It took a while but then a stunning male appeared, eventually joined by two females. Even though the road contained regular traffic these birds fed just twenty metres away. We all watched them for quite some time. It proved to be one of the highlights of the trip for me.
Perny's Squirrel.

Birding from the road, with superb forest all around.

Other species recorded included: 4 Silver-backed Needletails; Taiwan Yuhinas; 4 brilliant Steere's Liocichlas & a pair of White-tailed Robins.
 Male White-tailed Robin.
The rather less colourful female.
Immature male, White-tailed Robin.

We then made our way further up the mountainside to our lodgings for the night, the Anma Cottage. It had been a good first day.
Anma Cottages.
Lost in translation?
One of the many rather curious signs
 seen all over this part of the world!
The restaurant at the top of the mountain.
The food looked good, but was really rather bland.

We were all up early the next morning. We birded early on at the very top of the mountain, before going slightly lower down at around 1,500 metres. It was dull overcast & raining, but we managed to see quite a few good species: a fine male Swinhoe's Pheasant was in the grounds of the resort; after quite a long wait in the cloud & drizzle we saw a pair of Mikado Pheasants. It was well worth the wait, they were superb!
 The weather quickly deteriorated.

We are in the correct area!
 Here it comes!
 The stunning male, Mikado Pheasant.
It was raining & heavy low cloud
 shrouded the forest.

 A Eurasian Nutcracker sat on the very top of a pine tree in the pouring rain; Taiwan Cupwing performed well in a wet ravine; at least 4 Yellowish-flanked Bush Warblers were seen; a superb Taiwan Bush Warbler came into the tape & gave stunning views; the first Taiwan Fulvettas were also recorded; White-whiskered Laughing Thrushes were everywhere.
Very tame, endemic
White-whiskered Laughing Thrush.
Male Taiwan, or Johnstone's Bush Robin.

Good views were eventually had of the endemic White-eared Sibias; both Taiwan & Collared Bush Robins were seen.
A stunning male, Taiwan Vinaceous Rosefinch.
 Taiwan Vinaceous Rosefinches fed by the roadside & we were very lucky to see two Owston's (Grey-headed) Bullfinches perched atop a tall pine tree right on the summit.

Taiwan Macaque.
 A group of noisy Taiwan Macaques put on a bit of a show. The rest of the day was a bit of a washout, as we drove in torrential rain to our next stop at Aowanda National Forest. Arriving late, wet & in the dark.

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