In February, I was sent on a business trip to Taiwan and Japan. In the one week I had to prepare I obtained some information on birds and birding locations in Taiwan through the internet (in part thanks to Wayne Hsu who also helped me with the identification of some of the species). For a business trip to Tokyo some time ago I bought a copy of Birds of Japan which covers some of the birds of Taiwan. But this was my first trip to Taiwan.
Because my plane couldn't land in Taiwan (due to fog) my first night was unexpectedly spent in the Holiday Inn at Narita Airport, Japan. I got up early and walked around the grounds. The first bird I saw was a BROWN-EARED BULBUL followed shortly by a small group of AZURE-WINGED MAGPIEs. Behind the hotel was a little flowing water, a dense stand of trees, and some wasteland. This area was frequented by thrushes. In the short time there I saw BROWN-HEADED, PALE and DUSKY THRUSH. On my way back a GRAY HERON flew by. At a flowering tree I had the first JAPANESE WHITE-EYE of the trip. After a few minutes a HAWFINCH popped out into the open. Finally my bus left to the airport were I saw a flock of WHITE-CHEEKED (GRAY) STARLINGs.
My trip from the airport to Hsinchu was by taxi. I saw a number of birds from the car but couldn't tell what they were. When I finally arrived at the hotel it was nearly dark. I was only able to see a LIGHT-VENTED (CHINESE) BULBUL, a common bird in this area of Taiwan.
My first morning at the Lakeshore Hotel in Hsinchu I started watching birds as soon as it was light enough. Right behind my bungalow was a creek that drained from a large, flat lake. The first birds were LITTLE EGRETs, BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONs, and JAPANESE WHITE-EYEs. On my way to breakfast I had a flock of TAWNY-FLANKED PRINIAs, the first species not covered by my guide book. Fortunately, I had a description from the internet!
My meeting was over at 4 pm. I decided to walk to the front entrance of the research park where I was. In an area with lawns, bushes and trees I had RED TURTLE DOVEs, RUFOUS TURTLE DOVEs, and 2 AUSTRALASIAN (RICHARD'S) PIPITs. Back at the hotel I added STRIATED HERON, EURASIAN KESTREL, GRAY WAGTAIL, and PACIFIC SWALLOWs.
I was up early again and explored the lake. There I had INTERMEDIATE EGRET among other egrets and waterfowl. I also had a probable BULL-HEADED SHRIKE, a rare migrant in Taiwan. Back at the hotel I added a male BLUE ROCK-THRUSH to my life-list. Further I had what looked like a GREEN HERON to me at the creek. I don't know if both Striated and Green Heron occur in Taiwan. So I am unsure about the identification, although I am sure of what I saw! Odd was the unexpected appearance of a green parakeet that flew by noisily. Taiwan does not have naturally occurring parakeets or parrots!
After breakfast a non-bird-watching friend of mine who now lives in Hsinchu brought me to the temple at Sanhsia. It was a rainy, windy day, and I didn't have much time for bird-watching. But at the river in Sanhsia I had very good looks at HOUSE SWIFT, HOUSE MARTINs, and a single BANK SWALLOW.
For this day we had planned a visit to Wulai, up in the mountains. Before we were going to leave I was, of course, out around the hotel. This early morning I added GRAY TREEPIE, LONG-TAILED (BLACK-HEADED) SHRIKE, and YELLOW-BELLIED PRINIA to my life- and trip-list. In Wulai it was raining heavily. However, that was no reason to stop bird-watching! We followed the signs from the parking lot to a covered bird observation platform, which also sports a poster depicting the local bird-species. Immediately we saw lots of BLACK BULBULs. A little later there were the beautiful colors of a pair of the inappropriately named GRAY-THROATED MINIVET. During a break in the rain a CRESTED SERPENT EAGLE soared overhead, and a BRONZED DRONGO made a short appearance. Finally a BROWN DIPPER flitted across the stream. Despite the rain we decided to check out the native village park close by. While walking among flowering rhododendrons I saw a mixed flock of small birds. Easiest to spot were the perky GRAY-CHEEKED FULVETTAs. But I also saw RUFOUS-CAPPED (RED-HEADED TREE-) BABBLER and WHITE- BELLIED YUHINA. Just before we left the park I saw a plover zigzaging down the river, but I couldn't identify it.
This day started well with a flock of 12 CRESTED MYNAs. But on my trip to Taipei I lost my Zeiss binoculars! What a disaster! It didn't hinder me, however, to add BROWN SHRIKE to my lists; after all, I still had my Kowa!
This ended my birding in Taiwan. The greatest difficulty in Taiwan for the business bird watcher is the horrendous traffic in the cities, the difficulty of deciphering directions in Chinese, and the difficulty in getting around with busses. More preparation would probably have made it somewhat easier, but getting around is clearly not just a question of renting a car! Without my friend I probably would have been stuck in my hotel during the weekend!
Late yesterday I had arrived in Tokyo again and bought some pocket 8x21 binoculars. Today I had a day off! So I went to the upper Tamagawa river as described in M. Brazil's A Birdwatcher's Guide to Japan. It was a clear, sunny day. On the river there were many ducks, in particular SPOT-BILLED DUCKs, and several SMEW. A BLACK KITE kept checking out the area. On some islands in the swiftly running river were LONG-BILLED RINGED PLOVERs. A delight were the beautiful JAPANESE WAGTAILs, the only endemic bird I saw on this trip. I also saw several WATER PIPITs which some time ago were split from American Pipit. When I ventured into the reeds I had a pair of BULL-HEADED SHRIKE, a female DAURIAN REDSTART, a FAN-TAILED WARBLER, (SIBERIAN) MEADOW BUNTINGs, BLACK-FACED BUNTINGs, REED BUNTINGs, ORIENTAL GREENFINCHes, and two species of crows.
In the afternoon I decided to go on to a mountain area, Takao-san. There I added forest species such as VARIED, GREAT, COAL and LONG-TAILED TIT, (JAPANESE) PYGMY WOODPECKER, EURASIAN NUTHTCH, and a WHITE-BACKED WOODPECKER. The last trip-bird of the day was a complaining WINTER WREN.
This was the day of my return trip. Fortunately my plane was only to leave at 5 pm. I would still arrive in New York at 3:30 pm the same day! The best thing to do with half a day and luggage is to go to the City Airport Terminal, check in, and then go to Tokyo Port Wild Park (also called Oi Bird Park). This is a good spot about an hour from the City Airport Terminal using various trains, the way of getting around in Japan. In the one hour I spent there I had 29 species, among them COMMON POCHARD and TUFTED DUCK. On my way out of the park I saw a skylark. Back home I realize that this skylark is considered a separate species, JAPANESE SKYLARK. However, A Fieldguide to the Birds of Japan and many Japanese birders have not accepted this split.
This trip, although confined to mostly urban or near urban areas, again showed me that as a birder one will see more of a country. The wish to see new birds makes each trip, even a business trip, an adventure. The only thing bad was the loss of my binoculars, something that can happen when attentions are not completely focused on birding!
T: Taiwan only, J: Japan only, TJ: Taiwan and Japan, * life-bird
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