This Winter Holiday was not really a birding holiday for me because I could not decide on a place to go; I've seen all the forest birds around Taipei and all the migratory transient birds are gone! Instead, I signed up for a Pi-Li birding trip that took us to Pingtung County for three days and nights (Dec.31 night - Jan.3)!
The place in Pingtung is called Ta-wu Shan, close to the Ta-wu Forest Reserve. The Ta-wu Forest Reserve is the largest reserve in southern Taiwan. It is a large forested area and people suspect that the Taiwan Clouded Leopard (not seen for decades) may still dwell there. The government, however, recently planned to build another cross-island highway straight through the reserve! Due to opposition from environmentalists, though, the construction is under negotiation. I have heard, though, that part of the highway has already been dug out and was even used to mine minerals!
The place we went birding is on the road that leads to the Ta-wu Forest Reserve (it leads to the entrance of the hiking path that takes you into the reserve). The forest path is very young forest with few birds to see except soaring raptors. On the division route along the way, though, there is a more mature patch of forest. We camped at the end of the division route where a running stream provided us with plenty of water. From here, there were a number of paths to take to see birds. One was to take the division route back out again, or you may take the small forest trails that lead high above our campsite. Although the trees were bigger, here, we can clearly see the destruction done. Trees have been cut down and rotting wood was lying all over the place. Between the few trees left standing, there planted rows of seedlings of some commercially-important trees! A perfect example of cutting trees to plant more trees, funds which probably came from "reforestation" campaigns!
Most people quickly discovered that the forest trails were a good place to see rare ISLAND THRUSHES, WHITE-BACKED WOODPECKERS and GREEN PIGEONS. I discovered that the first day. We were lucky to be visiting at a time when many trees were covered with clusters of red berries, attracting birds in huge flocks, such as WHITE-EARED SIBIAS, FORMOSAN YUHINAS, RED-HEADED TITS, MULLER'S BARBETS, FORMOSAN WHISTLING THRUSHES, WHITE'S GROUND THRUSHES, and even PYGMY WOODPECKERS. Large mixed groups of thrushes also gathered, including the EYE-BROWED THRUSH, BROWN THRUSH, PALE THRUSH, and the rare ISLAND THRUSH. Since they were all in large groups, we saw lots of beautiful ISLAND THRUSHES! A flock of about 40 GREEN PIGEONS also lived around the area and we saw them every day. I even found feathers from one that was killed (by a raptor?). I also saw a handful of feathers from a WHITE'S GROUND THRUSH and another handful from an unidentified species, probably both kills also. I did not see the WHITE-BACKED WOODPECKER until the last day; although I heard its call a number of times. Actually, there were probably three or four male birds in the flock I saw. They were together with the many thrushes, PYGMY WOODPECKERS, EURASIAN NUTHATCHES, GREEN-BACKED, RED-HEADED, and WHITE-EARED SIBIAS, FORMOSAN YUHINAS, VIVID NILTAVAS, GRAY-THROATED MINIVETS, and a solitary YELLOW TIT.
We heard owls on both nights we camped, and on the second of these nights, we set out to look for the owls. We took the division route on- to the main path, the walked along the main path. People who took this path during the day said they saw droppings under overhanging branches, so we would go and check them out. Bingo! We saw two owls, a COLLARED PYGMY OWLET and a SPOTTED SCOPS OWL! The SPOTTED SCOPS OWL was so close that we could have reached out and grabbed it! It stood in our lights for five minutes or so before flying to a higher branch. We decided to leave the owl even though we could still see more of it. This is the first time I've ever seen owls in the wild, at night too!
* Heard only
! Endemic species
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