Saturday and Sunday (Jan. 18-19), I went birding with Robert Waltner, my biology teacher, Liz Arney, an English teacher, and Sally Arney, Liz's mom who visited Taiwan for birding. We were planning to go to Anmashan in central Taiwan, but there was a problem with the lodging, so we decided to go to Ilan in north-eastern Taiwan.
We left Taipei at 7:00 and drove the mountain road to Ilan. On the way, a flock of FORMOSAN BLUE MAGPIES greeted us by flying across the street one after another. We immediately got out of the car and got good views of this beautiful endemic species. On this road, we also saw colorful MULLER'S BARBETS and GRAY-THROATED MINIVETS and the noisy BRONZED DRONGO. That was a great start for our trip!
When we reached Ilan late morning, we went immediately to the Lanyan River Estuary. Recently, around the Ilan area, I've heard reports of a Smew (vagrant), Oriental White Spoonbills (vagrant), and Black-faced Spoonbills (rare). The estuary was quite windy, but we saw about six OSPREYS, 300 GREEN-WINGED TEALS, 300 DUNLIN, 20 GRAY HERONS, 50 KENTISH PLOVERS, BROWN and BLACK-HEADED SHRIKES etc.
After lunch, out next stop was at a nearby marsh. There, we saw three of our prized BLACK-FACED SPOONBILLS. Along with them were about 80 GRAY HERONS, 40 LITTLE EGRETS, 50 INTERMEDIATE EGRETS, and 10 GREAT EGRETS. There were also 10 RED TURTLE DOVES, 1 SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER, 3 LITTLE-RINGED PLOVER, 50 GREENSHANKS, 6 WOOD SANDPIPERS about 500 GREEN-WINGED TEAL. We looked for the Lapwing, but did not find any. While we were birding, someone came along and warned us not to bird in the area. He said the government wanted to make the place a bird reserve, but the local residents are protesting; they attacked a group of birders some days ago with mud! Anyway, we were safe.
The next stop was at a bird reserve nearby. The bird reserve is fairly new and wooden pathways and blinds were being built. There, we saw 25 GREAT CORMORANTS, 20 GREEN-WINGED TEALS, 20 SPOT-BILLED DUCKS, two male NORTHERN SHOVELERS, a EURASIAN WIGEON, and a pair of MALLARDS. No Smew! Damn, could it have gone already?
We left our hotel at 6:00 heading for Taipingshan, a forest recreational area 2,000 meters high. It was raining when we left Ilan city, but cleared up when we were halfway up the mountain. Further up, above 1,500 meters high, though, we were engulfed by fog and it began raining again. By the time we reached Taipingshan, it was very foggy and rainy. There were also too many tourists, unhappy ones. Well, the only birds we got to see there were two GREEN-BACKED TITS and a pair of BLACK-FACED BUNTINGS. Knowing we won't see much, we left for the lower altitudes, hoping to see more. We reached a place called "The Middle," and stopped to bird. It was sunny there and we were able to see a large flock of FORMOSAN YUHINAS flitting among cherry blossoms eating nectar from the flowers. I was really surprised we did not see the normally numerous birds such as the Steere's Babbler, White-eared Sibia, Formosan Laughing Thrush, Eurasian Jays, Eurasian Nuthatches, Red-headed Tits, and Beaven's Bullfinches. These birds are normally expected at such a location and should be very common.
At a lower elevation (500 meters now), we stopped at a hot spring to look for stream birds. First, we saw a large mixed flock of FORMOSAN and WHITE-BELLIED YUHINAS, RED-HEADED TREE BABBLERS, WHITE-EYED FULVETTAS, and several GREEN-BACKED TITS. Then we saw a very large flock of GRAY-THROATED MINIVETS accompanied by BRONZE DRONGOS. Then appeared two gliding CRESTED SERPENT EAGLES. On the bridge across the river, we saw two BROWN DIPPERS, a GRAY-WAGTAIL, and a pair of PLUMBEOUS WATER REDSTARTS. On our way down the mountain, we saw several flocks of LARGE-BILLED/JUNGLE CROWS and a RUFOUS TURTLE DOVE.
In all, we saw 70 species of birds in these two days -- not a bad trip. Sound exciting? Remember to contact me if you are planning a trip to Taiwan and I might take you birding on a trip like this one!
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