Cheting Marshes and Sihcao, April 8th

Common Kingfisher, Cheting Marshes, April 8th

Common Kingfisher, Cheting Marshes, April 8th

Cheting Highlights:

  • Greater Sandplover 2
  • Avocet 62
  • Marsh Sandpiper 28
  • Black-faced Spoonbill 4
  • Garganey 2

Sihcao Highlights:

  • Dusky Warbler 1
  • Yellow-browed Warbler 1
  • Oriental Magpie-Robin 1
  • Red-necked Stint 5
  • Spotted Redshank 1
  • White-breasted Waterhen 1

I had never been to Sihcao – a well-known wetland just north of Tainan – and I thought I could just about squeeze it into a Tuesday morning before having to be back in Kaohsiung by 11.30am. Unfortunately, that didn’t give me a lot of time to look for birds in this large area of saltpans, fishponds, marshes, mangroves and coastal windbreak forest.

On the way, I stopped at the wader lagoon at Cheting Marshes. As usual, there were plenty of birds to be seen – including an excellent count of 62 Avocets. The two summer-plumaged Greater Sandplovers were still present. Nearby, a pair of Garganey were on the channel close to the photographer’s stakeout, and the usual Common Kingfisher showed very well on its usual branch. 4 late Black-faced Spoonbills flew over, heading north.

I started my Sihcao explorations by getting lost in the maze of small roads there. On a brief stop to scratch my head and wonder where the hell I was, I heard a Dusky Warbler calling from a bush growing out of the roof of an abandoned shed; patience and “pishing” resulted in great views as it came right out into the open.

The coastal windbreak forest at Sihcao looked promising for migrants, although birds would be hard to find in the huge area of trees, ponds and tangled vegetation. A Yellow-browed Warbler was calling from the trees, an Oriental Magpie-Robin hopped on the path in front of me, and I flushed a White-breasted Waterhen.

Wader-wise, a Spotted Redshank called loudly as it flew overhead, and the muddy margins of a drained fishpond held 5 Red-necked Stints.

Salt pans at Sihcao.

Salt pans at Sihcao.

I finally located the salt pan reserve, where there was virtually nothing of note. Unfortunately, time was very short by this stage, and I am sure deeper exploration of the area’s many wetlands and mangroves would have produced some interesting sightings.

No new birds for me today, keeping the total for the year at 161.

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Yilan, April 4th-6th

The beach at Wai-ao, Yilan County.

The beach at Wai-ao, Yilan County.

A lovely 3-day weekend in the far north-east of Taiwan, as far from the madness of Kenting’s Spring Scream festival as it was possible to get – which suited me fine.

Not many birds were seen, but Peregrine (two sightings) and Western Osprey were both Taiwan ticks. Other raptors – Crested Serpent Eagle, Black-eared Kite, and Crested Goshawk – were sometimes seen circling above the hillside behind our beachfront accommodation in the small village of Wai-ao.

Cheting Marshes, April 2nd

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Cheting Marshes, April 2nd.

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Cheting Marshes, April 2nd.

Highlights:

  • Greater Sandplover 2
  • Sharp-tailed Sandpiper 8
  • Red-necked Stint 3
  • Spotted Redshank 2
  • Avocet 30

I took advantage of a break in the recently unsettled weather to head to Cheting for a couple of hours.

The lagoon at the far western end of the reserve, where a small minor road cuts the corner before rejoining the coastal Highway 17, is currently an awesome spot for viewing large flocks of waders. The place was literally teeming with birds, all easily viewed from the roadside at reasonable range.

Among hundreds of Black-winged Stilts, 50 or so Dunlin, plenty of Common Greenshanks and Marsh Sandpipers, there were 2 fine summer-plumaged Greater Sandplovers, 8 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers feeding close to the road, 3 Red-necked Stints and 2 Spotted Redshanks. Assuming the water level and disturbance level remain the same throughout the peak passage period of April and May – something which definitely cannot be taken for granted in this densely-populated area of Taiwan – it’s a good bet that many or even most of Taiwan’s migratory wader species will turn up here.

How I would love a breeding-plumaged Nordmann’s Greenshank to turn up, which – along with Little Curlew and a few of the elusive snipes – is one of the only waders to have appeared in East Asia that I still have yet to see. It’s a rare migrant in Taiwan so I won’t bank on it, but just to have the possibility of seeing one at this site is one of the things that keeps birding fresh and exciting.

On the way back to Kaohsiung, I stopped in for 5 minutes at Yongan Wetlands Park, where the water level has risen and a lot of the birds – including the wintering flock of Black-faced Spoonbills – have departed. 2 Yellow Bitterns, a Long-tailed Shrike and an Intermediate Egret were the best birds here.

Greater Sandplover and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper bring my all-time Taiwan list to the magic 200, and my year list to 159.