Asian Stubtail, Tengjhih National Forest, January 4th

Black Eagle, Tengjhih National Forest, January 4th - one of four seen today.

Black Eagle, Tengjhih National Forest, January 4th – one of four seen today.

You might have thought, after more than twenty visits and perhaps seventy or more hours spent in the field at Tengjhih, that I had seen more or less everything there is to see here. But yet again this excellent site came up with some surprises today, including no fewer than four personal Tengjhih firsts.

I arrived shortly before 9.00am, and started by walking the trail from the end of the road to the old park HQ. It was a cold start (overnight temperatures had been around 8C/46F), and bird activity was initially low, especially in shadier areas not yet warmed by the sun. However, shortly after the start of the wooden signpost to the park HQ, a feeding flock was found which included not only two Eurasian Jays, but also about twelve Rusty Laughingthrushes. This is only my second personal Tengjhih record of this endemic, the first one coming from exactly the same spot last spring – no doubt this bird is a fairly common resident here, but there is a lot of cover for it to hide in!

In a clearing, two partridges turned out to be not the expected Taiwan Hill Partridge, but a pair of Taiwan Bamboo-Partridges, which I hadn’t seen before in this area of Tengjhih. Four Dusky Fulvettas a little further on continued today’s theme of unusual Tengjhih birds. Meanwhile, Steere’s Liocichlas – usually abundant – were conspicuous by their absence, with only four seen in total all day. Business-as-usual birds, but still good to see, were a male Vivid Niltava and a male White-tailed Robin.

A hundred meters past the park HQ, my attention was drawn to a dry trrt trrt call coming from some roadside vegetation. Quite unexpectedly, the bird popped into view to reveal itself as a Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler, hot on the heels of my first-ever sighting of this bird at Chun Yang Farm a few weeks ago. I had always suspected they were at Tengjhih but it was nice to finally have confirmation – and a quality year tick.

More surprises lay in wait on the return journey. Deviating off the trail to follow a feeding flock, I heard what I thought was an Asian Stubtail calling. I was quickly proved correct when the bird showed itself almost immediately – and then a second individual was found not far away, giving great views as it hopped around on the forest floor, flicking its wings. My first Asian Stubtails for Taiwan, this bird is said to be a regular winterer, but is no doubt usually overlooked due to its unobtrusive habits.

My third Tengjhih tick for the day was a White-backed Woodpecker, heard calling high in the tallest trees along the trail, and glimpsed as it took flight. This was not such a surprise here, given the large number of mature coniferous trees in the nearby-but-still-inaccessible Tengjhih National Forest proper. Also noteworthy along the trail was a pair of White-bellied Green Pigeons distantly in a fruiting tree.

Returning to my scooter, I drove back to the village at Km 14.5 and parked near the open air market. My circuit of the Blue Trail was relatively quiet, until a quite exceptional feeding flock in and around a fruiting tree which included a beautiful female Taiwan Thrush seen very well, two Pale and one Brown-headed Thrush, a Yellow Tit, a Yellow-browed Warbler and a pair of Grey-chinned Minivets among legions of commoner species.

Black Eagles were also in evidence today, with four sightings – this bird is always a highlight of a trip to Tengjhih. Other notable sightings today: five Asian House Martins, a Crested Goshawk, a Eurasian Nuthatch, three Black-faced Buntings and a calling Arctic Warbler.

Taiwan tick: Asian Stubtail (total 274).

Eastern Buzzard, Longluan Lake, January 2nd

The New Year started in fairly sedate fashion, with a long weekend at our beach house in Pingtung County, just a few kilometers from Longluan Lake. I’ve never seen anything very special at the lake, and it’s often a rather windy place in winter. However, today’s early morning visit produced a nice surprise in the form of an Eastern Buzzard, passing directly over my head before continuing north. This is a rare winter visitor to Taiwan.

Also at Longluan Lake today: two White-shouldered Starlings, Brown-headed and Pale Thrushes, an Arctic Warbler, a Blue Rock Thrush, and a scattering of Eastern Spot-billed Ducks and Tufted Ducks sheltering from the strong winds.

Elsewhere in the area during the long weekend, an offshore fishing Osprey, a Common Kestrel, and several Crested Serpent Eagles and Crested Goshawks soaring over the hill behind our house continued the raptor theme for the start of 2015.

Taiwan tick: Eastern Buzzard (total 273)

2014 Taiwan Year List Review

With just a few hours of daylight left in 2014 – and with almost no chance of adding another bird to the year list – it’s time for a summary of what was a fantastic year’s birding in Taiwan.

My birding year took me almost all over Taiwan, but as my main form of transportation is a scooter, I was generally restricted to the southern half of the country – mainly the counties of Kaohsiung, Tainan, Pingtung, and Chiayi. I ended the year with 265 bird species seen. This included all the recognised endemic birds with the exception of Mikado Pheasant.

A measure of the quality of this year is that I only saw seven species in 2013 that I did not see again in 2014. These were Mikado Pheasant, Bulwer’s Petrel, Pied Harrier, Oriental Plover, Chinese Tawny Owl, Chinese Hwamei and Eurasian Siskin.

My full year list is shown below. The number in brackets after the species name is the approximate number of occasions I saw the bird during the year (C= common, FC = fairly common). Sites where I saw each bird are also listed where relevant:

  1. Swinhoe’s Pheasant (2) – Dasyueshan, Huisun.
  2. Ring-necked Pheasant (3) – northern Kaohsiung, Qigu, Guantian.
  3. Taiwan Hill Partridge (3) – Tengjhih.
  4. Taiwan Bamboo-Partridge (FC)
  5. Eurasian Wigeon (C)
  6. Mallard (2) – Yuanfugang, Cheting.
  7. Northern Pintail (C)
  8. Gadwall (2) – Aogu, Cheting.
  9. Eastern Spot-billed Duck (FC)
  10. Northern Shoveler (C)
  11. Garganey (FC)
  12. Eurasian Teal (C)
  13. Tufted Duck (FC)
  14. Common Pochard (FC) – Cheting, Budai.
  15. Streaked Shearwater (1) – Lanyu island ferry crossing.
  16. Wedge-tailed Shearwater (1) – Lanyu island ferry crossing.
  17. Brown Booby (1) – Lanyu island ferry crossing.
  18. Lesser Frigatebird (1) – over Highway 9 in Taitung County.
  19. Little Grebe (C)
  20. Black-necked Grebe (2) – Budai, Aogu.
  21. Greater Flamingo (2) – Budai.
  22. Sacred Ibis (C)
  23. Black-faced Spoonbill (C)
  24. Eurasian Spoonbill (2) – Cheting.
  25. Great Bittern (2) – Cheting.
  26. Yellow Bittern (FC)
  27. Cinnamon Bittern (FC)
  28. Black-crowned Night Heron (C)
  29. Malayan Night Heron (5) – Maolin, Sajia, Qigu, Taitung County, Kaohsiung City.
  30. Striated Heron (1) – Qigu.
  31. Chinese Pond Heron (2) – Guantian.
  32. Cattle Egret (C)
  33. Grey Heron (C)
  34. Purple Heron (3) – Qigu, Aogu, Cheting.
  35. Great Egret (C)
  36. Intermediate Egret (FC)
  37. Little Egret (C)
  38. Chinese Egret (4) – Qigu, Dapeng Bay.
  39. Pacific Reef Egret (3) – Kenting, Taitung.
  40. Great Cormorant (FC) – Aogu, Budai, Yuanfugang.
  41. Osprey (5) – Yilan, Aogu, Qigu, , Budai, Taitung County.
  42. Peregrine (4) – Yilan, Qigu, Maolin.
  43. Eurasian Kestrel (FC)
  44. Oriental Honey-buzzard (FC)
  45. Black-eared Kite (FC) – Tsengwen, Maolin, Wutai.
  46. Black-shouldered Kite (FC) – Gaoping River valley, Cheting, Qigu, Budai, Aogu.
  47. Black Eagle (FC) – Tengjhih.
  48. Crested Serpent Eagle (C)
  49. Grey-faced Buzzard (FC)
  50. Besra (2) – Tengjhih.
  51. Crested Goshawk (C)
  52. Chinese Sparrowhawk (3) – NW Kaohsiung hills, Qigu.
  53. White-breasted Waterhen (FC)
  54. Common Moorhen (C)
  55. Eurasian Coot (C)
  56. Ruddy-breasted Crake (2) – Guantian, Qigu.
  57. Slaty-legged Crake (1) – Alishan.
  58. Barred Buttonquail (1) – Aogu.
  59. Black-winged Stilt (C)
  60. Pied Avocet (FC) – Cheting, Budai, Aogu.
  61. Pacific Golden Plover (C)
  62. Grey Plover (FC)
  63. Greater Sandplover (3) – Cheting, Budai.
  64. Mongolian Plover (FC)
  65. Common Ringed Plover (1) – Budai.
  66. Little Ringed Plover (C)
  67. Kentish Plover (C)
  68. Ruddy Turnstone (4) – Dapeng Bay, Qigu, Budai.
  69. Pheasant-tailed Jacana (5) – Guantian, Yuanfugang, Gaoping River valley.
  70. Greater Painted-Snipe (5) – Guantian, Qigu, Cheting.
  71. Common Snipe (FC)
  72. Pintail Snipe (2) – Beimen, Qigu.
  73. Swinhoe’s Snipe (1) – Guantian.
  74. Spotted Redshank (4) – Budai, Cheting.
  75. Common Redshank (C)
  76. Common Greenshank (C)
  77. Grey-tailed Tattler (FC)
  78. Terek Sandpiper (FC)
  79. Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (FC)
  80. Marsh Sandpiper (C)
  81. Green Sandpiper (3) – Gaoping River valley, Aogu.
  82. Wood Sandpiper (C)
  83. Common Sandpiper (C)
  84. Great Knot (2) – Dapeng Bay, Aogu.
  85. Red Knot (1) – Aogu.
  86. Sanderling (1) – Qigu.
  87. Dunlin (C)
  88. Curlew Sandpiper (C)
  89. Broad-billed Sandpiper (FC)
  90. Red-necked Stint (C)
  91. Long-toed Stint (C)
  92. Temminck’s Stint (2) – Gaoping River valley, Budai.
  93. Asian Dowitcher (4) – Aogu, Budai, Dapeng Bay, Qigu.
  94. Long-billed Dowitcher (1) – Qigu.
  95. Eastern Black-tailed Godwit (FC)
  96. Bar-tailed Godwit (2) – Qigu.
  97. Ruff (2) – Beimen, Qigu.
  98. Eurasian Curlew (FC)
  99. Whimbrel (FC)
  100. Oriental Pratincole (FC)
  101. Heuglin’s Gull (1) – near Aogu.
  102. Mongolian Gull (2) – Budai.
  103. Black-tailed Gull (1) – Kaohsiung harbor.
  104. Black-headed Gull (5) – Dapeng Bay, Budai, Aogu, Qigu.
  105. Great Crested Tern (4) – Dapeng Bay, Qigu.
  106. Caspian Tern (FC)
  107. Gull-billed Tern (5) – Qigu, Budai, Dapeng Bay.
  108. Common Tern (1) – Dapeng Bay.
  109. Little Tern (C)
  110. Black-naped Tern (3) – Lanyu, Taitung County, Kenting.
  111. White-winged Tern (FC)
  112. Whiskered Tern (C)
  113. Lanyu Scops Owl (2) – Lanyu.
  114. Northern Boobook (2) – Qigu.
  115. Short-eared Owl (1) – Cheting.
  116. Savanna Nightjar (FC)
  117. Ashy Woodpigeon (1) – Blue Gate Trail, Wushe.
  118. Feral Pigeon (C)
  119. Red Collared Dove (C)
  120. Spotted Dove (C)
  121. Peaceful Dove (2) – Zuoying, Kaohsiung.
  122. White-bellied Green Pigeon (5) – Tengjhih.
  123. Taiwan Green Pigeon (2) – Lanyu.
  124. Philippine Cuckoo-Dove (1) – Lanyu.
  125. Emerald Dove (FC)
  126. Lesser Coucal (2) – Gaoping River valley.
  127. Oriental Cuckoo (3) – Yuanfugang, Aogu, Qigu.
  128. Fork-tailed Swift (3) – Kaohsiung, Wutai.
  129. House Swift (C)
  130. Common Kingfisher (C)
  131. Ruddy Kingfisher (1) – Qigu.
  132. Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker (C)
  133. White-backed Woodpecker (1) – Yushan.
  134. Taiwan Barbet (C)
  135. Fairy Pitta (1) – Huben.
  136. Black-winged Cuckooshrike (1) – Qigu.
  137. Grey-chinned Minivet (FC)
  138. Brown Shrike (C)
  139. Long-tailed Shrike (FC)
  140. Black-naped Oriole (1) – Kaohsiung.
  141. Maroon Oriole (C) – Maolin, Tsengwen, Tengjhih, Zhiben.
  142. Black Drongo (C)
  143. Bronzed Drongo (FC)
  144. Black-naped Monarch (C)
  145. Asian Paradise-Flycatcher (1) – Qigu.
  146. Japanese Paradise-Flycatcher (2) – Lanyu.
  147. Eurasian Magpie (C)
  148. Azure-winged Magpie (1) – Tainan.
  149. Taiwan Blue Magpie (6) – Maolin, Huisun, Southern Cross-Island Highway.
  150. Grey Treepie (C)
  151. Large-billed Crow (FC)
  152. Spotted Nutcracker (FC) – Yushan, Dasyueshan.
  153. Eurasian Jay (4) – Tengjhih.
  154. Coal Tit (4) – Yushan, Dasyueshan.
  155. Varied Tit (1) – Huisun.
  156. Black-throated Tit (C)
  157. Green-backed Tit (C)
  158. Yellow Tit (FC) – Tengjhih, Dasyueshan.
  159. Eurasian Nuthatch (3) – Tengjhih, Yushan.
  160. Grey-throated Martin (C)
  161. Asian House Martin (FC)
  162. Barn Swallow (C)
  163. Pacific Swallow (C)
  164. Striated Swallow (C)
  165. Oriental Skylark (C)
  166. Zitting Cisticola (C)
  167. Golden-headed Cisticola (3) – Kaohsiung, Gaoping River valley.
  168. Yellow-bellied Prinia (C)
  169. Plain Prinia (C)
  170. Striated Prinia (5) – Tengjhih, Wutai, Alishan.
  171. Collared Finchbill (C)
  172. Chinese Bulbul (C)
  173. Taiwan Bulbul (C)
  174. Brown-eared Bulbul (C) – Lanyu.
  175. Black Bulbul (C)
  176. Oriental Reed Warbler (4) – Yuanfugang, Qigu, Cheting.
  177. Arctic Warbler (FC)
  178. Yellow-browed Warbler (FC)
  179. Pallas’s Warbler (1) – Qigu.
  180. Dusky Warbler (1) – Tengjhih.
  181. Middendorff’s Grasshopper-Warbler (1) – Lanyu.
  182. Korean Bush-Warbler (3) – Tengjhih, Yuanfugang.
  183. Taiwan Bush-Warbler (1) – Alishan.
  184. Yellowish-bellied Bush-Warbler (C)
  185. Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler (1) – Chun Yang Farm.
  186. Rufous-faced Warbler (C)
  187. Taiwan Scimitar-Babbler (FC)
  188. Black-necklaced Scimitar-Babbler (5) – Maolin, Tengjhih.
  189. Rufous-capped Babbler (C)
  190. Taiwan Wren-Babbler (1) – Yushan.
  191. Taiwan Hwamei (4) – Kaohsiung, Dasyueshan, Dapu (Tsengwen Reservoir)
  192. White-whiskered Laughingthrush (FC)
  193. Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush (2) – Tengjhih.
  194. Rusty Laughingthrush (6) – Tengjhih, Dahansan, Alishan, Chun Yang, Dasyueshan.
  195. Steere’s Liocichla (C)
  196. Taiwan Barwing (1) – Dasyueshan.
  197. Taiwan Fulvetta (FC) – Yushan, Dasyueshan.
  198. Dusky Fulvetta (4) – Tengjhih, Alishan, Chun Yang.
  199. Morrison’s Fulvetta (C)
  200. Taiwan Sibia (C)
  201. Taiwan Yuhina (C)
  202. White-bellied Erpornis (5) – Maolin.
  203. Fire-breasted Flowerpecker (FC) – Tengjhih, Yushan, Blue Gate Trails.
  204. Plain Flowerpecker (5) – Sun Moon Lake, Maolin.
  205. Golden Parrotbill (1) – Yushan.
  206. Vinous-throated Parrotbill (1) – Puli.
  207. Japanese White-eye (C)
  208. Lowland White-eye (C) – Lanyu.
  209. Flamecrest (FC) – Yushan, Dasyueshan.
  210. Goldcrest (1) – Qigu.
  211. Asian Glossy Starling (FC) – Kaohsiung.
  212. Crested Myna (2) – Cheting, north Kaohsiung.
  213. Javan Myna (C)
  214. Common Myna (C)
  215. Black-collared Starling (1) – north Kaohsiung.
  216. Red-billed Starling (2) – Cheting.
  217. White-shouldered Starling (FC)
  218. Chestnut-tailed Starling (FC) – Cheting, Budai, north Kaohsiung.
  219. Pale Thrush (C)
  220. Brown-headed Thrush (C)
  221. Taiwan Thrush (2) – Maolin, Dasyueshan.
  222. Eyebrowed Thrush (1) – Tengjhih.
  223. Scaly Thrush (3) – Tengjhih, Maolin.
  224. Siberian Thrush (1) – Qigu.
  225. Taiwan Whistling-Thrush (6) – Tengjhih, Wutai, Yushan.
  226. Oriental Magpie-Robin (C)
  227. White-rumped Shama (1) – Tianliao.
  228. Taiwan Shortwing (1) – Tengjhih.
  229. Daurian Redstart (C)
  230. Plumbeous Redstart (FC)
  231. Siberian Rubythroat (2) – Tengjhih.
  232. Red-flanked Bluetail (3) – Tengjhih, Qigu.
  233. Siberian Blue Robin (1) – Qigu.
  234. White-tailed Robin (FC)
  235. Little Forktail (1) – Wushe.
  236. Collared Bush-Robin (FC)
  237. White-browed Robin (1) – Yushan.
  238. Blue Rock Thrush (C)
  239. Asian Brown Flycatcher (3) – Qigu.
  240. Grey-streaked Flycatcher (1) – Qigu.
  241. Mugimaki Flycatcher (1) – Qigu.
  242. Ferruginous Flycatcher (2) – Yushan.
  243. Snowy-browed Flycatcher (3) – Blue Gate Trails, Chun Yang, Huisun.
  244. Blue-and-White Flycatcher (1) – Qigu.
  245. Vivid Niltava (FC)
  246. Brown Dipper (1) – Dasyueshan.
  247. Tree Sparrow (C)
  248. Russet Sparrow (1) – Alishan.
  249. White-rumped Munia (C)
  250. Scaly-breasted Munia (C)
  251. Indian Silverbill (2) – Gaoping River valley, Yuanfugang.
  252. Alpine Accentor (1) – Hehuanshan.
  253. Eastern Yellow Wagtail (C)
  254. White Wagtail (C)
  255. Grey Wagtail (C)
  256. Richard’s Pipit (FC)
  257. Red-throated Pipit (FC)
  258. Olive-backed Pipit (FC)
  259. Brambling (1) – Qigu.
  260. Grey-headed Bullfinch (1) – Dasyueshan.
  261. Brown Bullfinch (2) – Tengjhih, Wutai.
  262. Vinaceous Rosefinch (FC)
  263. Little Bunting (1) – Qigu.
  264. Tristram’s Bunting (1) – Donggang.
  265. Black-faced Bunting (FC)

Lifers (new birds) I saw in 2014: Swinhoe’s Snipe, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Taiwan Hill Partridge, Greater Painted-Snipe, Fairy Pitta, Russet Sparrow, Taiwan Bush-Warbler, Lanyu Scops Owl, Japanese Paradise-Flycatcher, Taiwan Green Pigeon, Philippine Cuckoo-Dove, Lowland White-eye, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Lesser Frigatebird, Slaty-legged Crake, Northern Boobook, Heuglin’s Gull and Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler.

Taiwan Blue Magpie and Plain Flowerpecker, Maolin, December 28th

Birds seen (33 species):

  • Crested Serpent Eagle 2
  • Grey-faced Buzzard 1
  • Black-eared Kite 2
  • Peregrine 1
  • Spotted Dove 2
  • House Swift 8
  • Taiwan Barbet 10
  • Grey-capped Woodpecker 5
  • Grey-chinned Minivet 4
  • White-bellied Erpornis 3
  • Maroon Oriole 6
  • Bronzed Drongo 8
  • Black Drongo 1
  • Black-naped Monarch 10
  • Taiwan Blue Magpie 4
  • Grey Treepie 20
  • Barn Swallow
  • Pacific Swallow
  • Striated Swallow 2
  • Collared Finchbill 1
  • Chinese Bulbul 1
  • Black Bulbul 40
  • Yellow-browed Warbler 6
  • Arctic Warbler 3
  • Japanese White-eye 50
  • Taiwan Scimitar-Babbler 5
  • Grey-cheeked Fulvetta
  • Vivid Niltava 2
  • Pale Thrush 12
  • Brown-headed Thrush 1
  • turdus sp. 15
  • Plain Flowerpecker 5
  • White Wagtail 7
  • Grey Wagtail 3

An enjoyable but – unusually for winter – slightly rainy three hours at Maolin, walking the 4km-long De-En Gorge loop trail.

This fairly low-altitude trail in the foothills of much higher mountains is excellent for several birds that can be hard to find in Taiwan, notably Taiwan Blue Magpie, Maroon Oriole (common here), Plain Flowerpecker, and White-bellied Erpornis, all of which I saw today. Plain Flowerpeckers were especially vocal, with at least five birds heard. I saw one bird very well but had to be content with “heard only” or brief flight views for the others – they can be hard to locate in the treetops.

Winter visitors were represented by many thrushes, which due to their flighty nature were mostly just glimpsed or heard-only. The ones I did get a better look at were mainly Pale Thrushes, and one splendid adult male Brown-headed Thrush. Last winter, I saw several Taiwan Thrushes here, down from the higher mountains for the cold season – this rare species is well worth keeping an eye out for. I’ve also seen Scaly Thrush fairly regularly here in winter. Vivid Niltava is another bird that descends for the winter, and I saw two of them today. Other winter visitors seen included several Yellow-browed and Arctic Warblers, but surprisingly no Taiwan Sibias which can be numerous here in winter. Another no-show today that can usually be guaranteed here is Taiwan Bamboo-Partridge – I usually see several groups of them during a circuit of the trail.

A few raptors were out and about, despite the weather: two Black-eared Kites, several Crested Serpent Eagles, a fly-through Peregrine, and best of all a Grey-faced Buzzard – probably one of the small number that winters in southern Taiwan (this species can be abundant on migration in spring and autumn).

Eurasian Spoonbill and Great Bittern, Cheting Marshes, December 23rd

Great Bittern habitat: extensive reedbeds at Cheting.

Great Bittern habitat: extensive reedbeds at Cheting.

Highlights (64 species seen in total):

  • Eastern Spot-billed Duck 2
  • Garganey 4
  • Common Pochard 33
  • Great Bittern 1
  • Cinnamon Bittern 1
  • Eurasian Spoonbill 2
  • Black-faced Spoonbill 100+
  • Greater Painted-Snipe 3
  • Avocet 180
  • White-shouldered Starling 18
  • Chestnut-tailed Starling 12
  • Red-throated Pipit 15

An excellent total of 64 species seen here today, but the water level at the marshes has dropped markedly since my last visit just one week ago. This is ominous news for the large number of wintering Black-faced Spoonbills, ducks, and waders – I imagine the trend is likely to continue throughout the next four months when rainfall is very low in southern Taiwan.

My personal highlight today was two Eurasian Spoonbills. First seen distantly from the viewing tower, they were feeding separately from the Black-faced Spoonbills before flying off high to the south. A few hours later they were back, this time at the large pool close to Cheting village, at the western end of the area. This species is a personal milestone, as it means my Taiwan list has finally surpassed my Korean one, just five weeks or so before I permanently leave Taiwan.

Eurasian Spoonbill, one of two birds present at Cheting Marshes, December 23rd.

Eurasian Spoonbill, one of two birds present at Cheting Marshes, December 23rd.

It’s amazing what you can see if you’re prepared to get in among the reeds and scrubby pools here. Off-trail forays on the south side of the road produced some excellent birds including three Greater Painted-Snipe (including a smart adult female), at least one Common Snipe, another snipe flushed from almost under my feet which didn’t call and appeared large – quite possibly a Swinhoe’s Snipe – and best of all my second Great Bittern of the autumn. The latter bird was seen in flight only, over the reeds, but at quite close range. Much less welcome was a large snake – probably a Chinese Cobra – which I disturbed and which slithered away into the reeds. It was a timely reminder to be careful here when walking off the trails.

Other highlights of today’s five-hour visit included good counts of 18 White-shouldered and 12 Chestnut-tailed Starlings, a female Cinnamon Bittern, still 33 Common Pochard on the east lake, two Eastern Spot-billed Ducks (rare at this location), 4 Garganey, and increased numbers of waders taking advantage of the lower water levels including 5 Long-toed Stints, 4 Wood Sandpipers, 2 Marsh Sandpipers, and hundreds of Avocets and Black-winged Stilts.

Taiwan tick: Eurasian Spoonbill (total 272).

Taiwan Hill Partridge, Tengjhih National Forest, December 21st

Trail at Tengjhih, December 21st.

Trail at Tengjhih, December 21st.

Birds seen (36 species total):

  • Taiwan Hill Partridge 3
  • Oriental Honey Buzzard 1
  • Crested Serpent Eagle 2 (heard only)
  • Black Eagle 1
  • Crested Goshawk 1
  • Emerald Dove 1
  • White-bellied Green Pigeon 1
  • House Swift 8
  • Taiwan Barbet 5
  • Grey-chinned Minivet 4
  • Large-billed Crow 1 (heard only)
  • Pacific Swallow 2
  • Striated Swallow 1
  • Black-throated Tit 10
  • Black Bulbul 4
  • Rufous-faced Warbler 25
  • Korean Bush-Warbler 1
  • Yellowish-bellied Bush-Warbler 3
  • Yellow-browed Warbler 1 (heard only)
  • Striated Prinia 1
  • Taiwan Yuhina 60
  • Rufous-capped Babbler 20
  • Taiwan Scimitar-Babbler 2
  • Black-necklaced Scimitar-Babbler 2
  • Morrison’s Fulvetta 5
  • Taiwan Sibia 45
  • Steere’s Liocichla 40
  • Vivid Niltava 2
  • White-tailed Robin 2
  • Daurian Redstart 2
  • Pale Thrush 1
  • Fire-breasted Flowerpecker 4
  • Grey Wagtail 2
  • White Wagtail 1
  • Olive-backed Pipit 10
  • White-rumped Munia 7

A wonderful 4-hour visit to Tengjhih, where I focused on the trails starting at the Km 15 village. For only the second time ever, I took the long loop trail that descends quite a way into the valley before climbing back up the mountain through some more open farmland. I also walked most of the usual Blue Trail circuit, taking in the high point of the trail system here before descending back to the village.

Highlights today were many, on a morning where bird activity was high, and the weather crisp and cool. Best of all, three Taiwan Hill Partridges that flew across the trail in front of me before pitching down in dense undergrowth. Another elusive endemic resident of the area, Black-necklaced Scimitar-Babbler, also gave quite good views shortly afterwards. Oddities today included a Korean Bush-Warbler (probably a regular winterer here), a Striated Prinia, a White-bellied Green Pigeon in flight, and an Emerald Dove (my personal first Tengjhih record of this species).

Finally, Yellowish-bellied Bush-Warblers and Fire-breasted Flowerpeckers were seen and heard in small numbers; these birds are absent in summer, but descend from higher altitudes to spend the winter here.

Black-faced Spoonbill and Common Pochard, Cheting, December 16th

High winds this morning made birding difficult. Passerines were staying┬ádeep in the reeds and bushes, and it was challenging to keep the telescope steady enough to observe more distant birds.┬áNonetheless, there was still plenty to be seen today – although no really unusual species were found.

The theme of the day was high counts of some of the area’s winter specialities, notably 143 Black-faced Spoonbills, 180 Avocets, and 42 Common Pochard. The first two species were mostly on the lagoon behind Cheting village, at the far western end of the marshes, where the concentration of birds (including many egrets, ducks, and about 300 Black-winged Stilts) was nothing short of spectacular.

The majority of the Common Pochard flock was on the eastern lake, visible from a very windy viewing tower. Also noteworthy among 45 species seen today: 3 Garganey, a Green Sandpiper at fishponds to the east of the main marsh, a flock of Red-necked Stints flying over, two Common Kestrels together, and at least 15 Red-throated Pipits and 25 Eastern Yellow Wagtails.