Northern Boobook and Daurian Redstart, Qigu, October 18th and 21st

Northern Boobook, Qigu coastal forest, October 21st.

Northern Boobook, Qigu coastal forest, October 21st.

A couple of fairly uninspiring visits to Qigu coastal forest, the highlight being my second Northern Boobook of the year on 21st, which was fairly flighty but I eventually got good enough views for a record shot.

On the 18th, the long-staying Asian Brown Flycatcher was seen again, plus a male Daurian Redstart, about four Arctic Warblers, and a Eurasian Kestrel. On the 21st – with the notable exception of the Northern Boobook – there was virtually no evidence of migration whatsoever. The weather has been clear, with light north-easterly winds, for a long time – we need a weather system to pass through to shake things up a bit.

The following resident species can usually be found in the coastal forest – the first two in particular may be of interest to birders: Oriental Magpie Robin, Grey-capped Woodpecker, Japanese White-eye, Scaly-breasted Munia, Chinese Bulbul, Tree Sparrow.

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Brambling, Qigu, October 14th

Bramblings, Qigu coastal forest, October 14th. Two of the three birds that were present.

Bramblings, Qigu coastal forest, October 14th. Two of the three birds that were present.

A couple of hours spent at Qigu in the afternoon produced three Bramblings in the coastal forest, a personal Taiwan tick. The birds were feeding among the piles of driftwood and showing very well. Otherwise, the forest was extremely quiet – just one Arctic Warbler and two Brown Shrikes provided the only other evidence of migration. The breezy, clear and sunny weather of recent weeks means that migrants have probably been overflying the area without stopping.

Nearby, on the reserve, at least 300 Black-faced Spoonbills showed distantly – but in excellent afternoon light – from the embankment. Accompanying them, nineteen Caspian Terns also back for the winter, two passage Gull-billed Terns, and two Eurasian Curlews.

Just west of the terminus of Expressway 61, a drained lake is currently an excellent place to view very large numbers of common waders and a scattering of terns, with the most numerous species being Dunlin and Red-necked Stint. A scan of the flocks revealed nothing unusual, but several White-winged Terns and a lone Gull-billed Tern were perhaps noteworthy.

Taiwan tick: Brambling (total 259).

Northern Boobook and Striated Heron, Qigu, October 4th

Northern Boobook, Qigu, October 4th.

Northern Boobook, Qigu, October 4th.

Even on quiet days, the coastal forest at Qigu can still come up with quality birds. This morning, a splendid migrant Northern Boobook showed very well, to just a fraction of the number of photographers who were here for the Siberian Thrush on Tuesday.

Another personal Taiwan tick – a Striated Heron – dropped out of the sky in front of me at the pond, but it remained for less than a minute before flying off south. Otherwise, the coastal forest was quiet, with just an Asian Brown Flycatcher and at least eight Arctic Warblers of note.

Elsewhere there didn’t seem to be much happening, although I didn’t spend much time looking. Perhaps noteworthy were a Richard’s Pipit along the embankment, a late Broad-billed Sandpiper among much-reduced numbers of common waders on the south side of the Tsengwen Estuary, and a fly-through Eurasian Kestrel near Highway 17.

This weekend I also spent some time double-checking my Taiwan and year lists, and found a couple of mistakes which boosted each list’s total by one. So my totalsĀ are now 258 and 249, respectively.

The nine species I saw in 2013, but not so far in 2014, are: Mikado Pheasant, Bulwer’s Petrel, Pied Harrier, Oriental Plover, Chinese Tawny Owl, Taiwan Varied Tit, Chinese Hwamei, Eyebrowed Thrush, and Eurasian Siskin. Of these, I hope to at least get Mikado Pheasant and Eyebrowed Thrush before the year is out, but I won’t be holding my breath to see the likes of Bulwer’s Petrel, Pied Harrier or Oriental Plover again!

Taiwan ticks: Northern Boobook, Striated Heron (total 258). Year tick: Eurasian Kestrel (total 249).

Siberian Thrush and Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Qigu, September 30th

Immature male Siberian Thrush, Qigu, September 30th.

Immature male Siberian Thrush, Qigu, September 30th.

Highlights:

  • Siberian Thrush 1 immature male
  • Black-winged Cuckooshrike 1
  • Blue-and-White Flycatcher 1 immature male
  • Grey-streaked Flycatcher 1
  • Pallas’s Warbler 1
  • Arctic Warbler 8+
  • White-shouldered Starling 1
  • Richard’s Pipit 4
  • Black-shouldered Kite 1
  • Ruff 1
  • Great Knot 1
  • Bar-tailed Godwit 2
  • Eurasian Curlew 1
  • Terek Sandpiper 2
  • Grey-tailed Tattler 1
  • Pintail Snipe 1

An excellent day at Qigu, with no fewer than six personal Taiwan ticks. I was at the coastal pine forest by 7.30am, where a large crowd of photographers was already assembled for the immature male Siberian Thrush that was first found yesterday afternoon. After a short wait, the bird appeared distantly on the ground before showing well in flight. Later in the morning, it gave very close views as it performed around the baited log that had been set up for it, accompanied by the clicking of a hundred cameras. It was about my fourth Siberian Thrush, but my first in Taiwan where it’s a very rare visitor. What a fantastic bird, both beautiful and elusive, and deservedly one of East Asia’s most sought-after thrushes.

In stark contrast to the thrush, it seems I was the lone observer of a Black-winged Cuckooshrike, which gave reasonable views in the treetops for five minutes before disappearing. It had not been relocated by the time I left, despite several groups of birders looking for it. I managed the poorest of record shots with my camera, but enough to confirm the ID (I think!). Again, it’s a bird I’ve seen before in Thailand but it’s a very good record for Taiwan.

Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Qigu, September 30th.

Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Qigu, September 30th.

Nearby, beside the pond, a Pallas’s Warbler showed exceptionally well – even coming down to ground level on several occasions. Arctic Warblers were also fairly numerous and easy to find in this area today. In the same area, I finally caught up with the Grey-streaked Flycatcher that has reportedly been present for several weeks.

Stopping to enjoy the Siberian Thrush once again on the way out, my attention was drawn to several photographers running through the woods. Following them, I was able to get onto the bird they were chasing – an immature male Blue-and-White Flycatcher. It looked rather strange, with a very plain buff-brown head contrasting with bright blue wings, rump and tail. Whenever I see this species, I am always struck by how big it is – it’s a real monster of a flycatcher. Perhaps this was the same individual reported from here last week.

Waiting for the Siberian Thrush at Qigu, September 30th.

Waiting for the Siberian Thrush at Qigu, September 30th.

Elsewhere in the area today, two Bar-tailed Godwits on the mud outside the Black-faced Spoonbill visitor center were a long overdue Taiwan tick, which I was lucky to connect with because just five minutes after my arrival they flew off north. There was also a distant Eurasian Curlew here, my first of the autumn, and two Terek Sandpipers among the more common species.

On the way home, I stopped once again at the pools on the south side of the Tsengwen Estuary, close to Highway 17. The lone Ruff was still present, and most oddly, a Great Knot in very atypical habitat. Finally, I had the rare opportunity to enjoy prolonged views of a small group of snipe on an embankment, one of which was readily identifiable as a Pintail Snipe by it’s “bulging” buff supercilium in front of the eye, noticeably shorter bill compared to nearby Common Snipes, and subtle differences in size and structure.

Taiwan ticks: Siberian Thrush, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Pallas’s Warbler, Grey-streaked Flycatcher, Blue-and-White Flycatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit (total 255).

Coastal pine forest at Qigu - a magnet for flycatchers, warblers and other migrants (and rarities) in spring and autumn.

Coastal pine forest at Qigu – a magnet for flycatchers, warblers and other migrants (and rarities) in spring and autumn.