Today I invested a bit of effort into researching the exact location of Cheting Marshes, and discovered that they are in fact a few kilometers to the north of where I spent my time last week. They cover the area inland from where Highway 17 finally starts to run alongside the coast, and are in effect boxed-in by Highway 17 to the south and west.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived, early on a sunny Sunday morning, is the popularity of this site. There were already plenty of photographers in position on the viewing platforms overlooking the marshes, and on the wooden tower which offers panoramic views of the area. Tents and stands were being set up alongside the road, presumably for the Kaohsiung Wild Bird Society, although they still weren’t open by the time I left.
There wasn’t a great deal for the photographers to look at, as the marsh is very dry at the present time. The majority of it is covered with flat, sun-baked mud, probably as a result of the dry season (it hardly rains at all in this part of Taiwan between November and April). Just a few pools remain, close to the viewing tower and at the far western end of the reserve.
I took a short walk along the southern then the eastern shore of the reserve. The most obvious birds were Eastern Yellow Wagtails on the dry ground and among the patches of vegetation; more than 100 were counted. Among them, on the ground or in flight overhead, were a handful of Oriental Skylarks and 3 Red-throated Pipits. On the wires, among the mynas, Tree Sparrows and Black Drongos, I saw 2 Long-tailed Shrikes, 1 Brown Shrike, and a Chestnut-tailed Starling. Grey-throated Martins, and Barn and Pacific Swallows, swooped over the marshes. In the tall grasses resided abundant Plain Prinias and singing Zitting Cisticolas.
In the absence of anything exciting, the photographers were most interested in a large mixed flock of Grey Herons and Great Egrets, whose occasional forays into flight were marked by the loud clicking of camera shutters.
Patches of water here and there produced only Common Teal, Little Grebe, and a smattering of waders: Common Greenshank, Kentish Plover, and a lone Wood Sandpiper.
I drove to the western end of the reserve, where there is a small parking lot. A small group of photographers were hunkered down at the water’s edge to take photos of a Common Kingfisher and a Yellow Bittern; both of these usually shy birds were right out in the open, not more than 15 feet from where the photographers were sitting.
Further away, a deeper channel held plenty of common ducks, including about 20 Garganey. This attractive and uncommon dabbling duck is always good to see; mid-March must be peak passage time for them as they head through Taiwan on their way to more northerly breeding grounds.
Through my telescope, I finally got my only year tick of the morning: a group of 4 Spotted Redshanks preening and roosting among the numerous Black-winged Stilts. Number 142 for the year list.
I called in briefly at Yongan Wetlands Reserve on the way back to Kaohsiung. This is where the Black-faced Spoonbills were hiding today, with more than 80 of them visible from the viewing blind, and not a photographer to be seen!