Sunday, 18 May 2014

Taiwan: Aogu, Alishan & Taitung.

Up at the crack of dawn & drove to the Aogu Wetland Reserve. This was a departure from our itinerary, but proved to be a superb birding area, with some very special birds present. The area is vast & we really didn't do this site justice, but we still had a great morning's birding.
The superb Aogu Wetland Reserve.
 Several viewing hides can be found.

This site was packed with herons & egrets: 3 Yellow & 1 Cinnamon Bittern; 55 Grey Heron; 25+ Eastern Great Egret; 2 Chinese Egret; 40+ Little Egret; 80+ Eastern Cattle Egret; 15 Black-crowned Night Heron; 8 Black-faced & a vagrant European Spoonbill.

Adult Yellow Bittern.

 Black faced Spoonbills.

 Adults, coming into breeding plumage.
Heavily cropped.
Gull-billed & Caspian Terns.
 Chinese Egret.
 Still a very rare bird.
Good numbers & variety of waders were seen: 16 Pacific Golden Plover; 25 Lesser Sand Plover; 5 Kentish Plover; 120+ Pied Avocet; 1 Spotted Redshank; 5 Common Greenshank; 3 Marsh Sandpiper; 2 Wood Sandpiper; 8 Common Redshank; 47 Eastern Black-tailed Godwit; 2 Great & 15 Red Knot; 180+ Red-necked Stint; 2 Long-toed Stint; 250+ Sharp-tailed Sandpiper; 6 Dunlin; 150+ Curlew Sandpiper; 1 Broad-billed Sandpiper; 1 Ruff & 3 Asian Dowitchers.

Red & Great Knots.

Asian Dowitcher.

It was hard to tear ourselves away, but time was pressing & we had a long drive to Kwanghua, where we would stay at the delightful Fireflies Cottage.
 Fireflies Cottage.
The view from the front lawn, over the valley.
One of several orchids in the garden.
One had to remove your boots
before entering the building.
They provided slippers for guests, but unfortunately
they were a little small for me!
 On the back of the truck, for the steep ride up the hill.
The blind.

We arrived there just after mid-day & shortly after we jumped on the trucks to take us to the blinds where hopefully Taiwan Partridge can be seen. We climbed down to the blinds & had a long wait of over one & half hours before we saw anything at all! The first birds were a pair of Swinhoe's Pheasants & we had prolonged, close views of them.
 The male, right next to one of the blinds!
 The more cryptically coloured female.
 The beautifully marked, Taiwan Partridge.

 Then there was nothing before a covey of seven Taiwan Partridge rolled up. Really beautiful birds & much appreciated by all present.
But the day was not quite over. After dinner we went owling & this was very successful with two species been seen well.
Yes I know it is blurred!,
But this is my bogey bird finally laid to rest.
A wonderful Mountain Scops Owl in the torchlight.
The rare Collared Scops Owl.
This photo doesn't do the bird true justice,
it was fantastically marked.
 The valley, just above the cottages.

 A good mixture of habitats.


The 3rd May saw us birding the road just above the cottages at around 1,200m. We saw little that was new & with the clouds rolling in and rain pouring down we left a little earlier than we would have liked for the scenic Tataka, but yet again rain stopped us enjoying this superb area & we drove on to Alishan. best birds: 2 Eurasian Nutcracker; 3 Green-backed Tit; 6 Black-throated Tit & Rufous-faced Warbler;  We arrived in the wet. 
Alishan is one of the great tourist & birding locations in Taiwan. it is a huge mountain, cloaked in montane forests. Lots of endemics are found here, but yet again, the weather was against us, pouring rain & swirling mist greeted the dawn on 4th May. We started at the top of the mountain and saw an Alpine Accentor, just as well it was five metres away, you could only just make it out among the cloud & rain!
 Here it comes again!
We did!
 The tourist train which runs for over 100 kms.
 through the mountains.
 Another curious sign!
 White-whiskered Laughing Thrush.

Despite the torrential rain, we did manage to see some great birds, but photography was out of the question! 2 Golden Parrotbill were much appreciated; a couple of Flamecrests high in a pine tree; Taiwan Hwamei; White-whiskered Laughing Thrush;  2 Taiwan Barwing; 2 Ferruginous Flycatcher; Olive-backed Pipit & 2 Brown Bullfinch. Not bad, considering the conditions.
We then had a long drive to Taitung, where we stayed in a nice hotel. I went out to do my laundry & saw 3 Savannah Nightjars, before the heavens opened up again & it was heavy rain all night.
The next morning saw us birding in Taitung Park. It was heavily overcast & before long the rain came down again, stopping us birding. We saw a nice Malayan Night Heron.
 Malayan Night Heron.
The rest of the day was wasted in the airport, waiting to fly to Lanyu Island. We didn't make it, as the wind was rising & at the wrong angle for take off & landing. The weather forecast was bad for the next few days, so if by some miracle we had taken off, there was a real risk we would have got stuck on the island. The rest of the day was spent driving to Huelin City & little birding was done. 


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