Whos keeping an eye on me....

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Taiwan 2019 Pt 2 - Dasyueshan mid elevation - high elevation. An Epic Days birding

We picked up Coffee at a seven eleven which made the journey start a little more civilised. For the next few days we were to spend time birding along a famous mountain road. Dasyueshan starts at 0km and climbs the Scenic mountain road upto 50km where you eventually reach the Forest recreational area.
We would be based in the town of Dongshi for a further two nights allowing good time to do the mountain justice at all elevations. The whole 50km road goes through a number of differing habitats which hold most of Taiwan's Endemic bird species along with many other good species.

Dasyueshan Map - Courtesy of Dasyueshan National Forest

We had a very short stop at the base of the mountain where we heard a Taiwan Hwarmi, it called but didn't show, Light Vented Bulbuls, Javan Mynas and a few Rufous Capped Babblers showed ok as did a Little Egret on the river. The light was still very poor so we didn't hang around as we wanted to climb a bit higher. As the sun rose it got warmer eventually turning into a roasting hot day. Our first major stop was at 11km marker. Here we got our first endemic species. A Taiwan Whistling Thrush it posed briefly on the concrete behind a café type building. We were starting to pick up plenty of new species even at these lower elevations. Collared Finchbills, Grey Cheeked Fulvetta and a White Tailed Robin were all seen easily but a pair of Taiwan Scimitar Babblers gave us the run around eventually allowing the briefest of glimpses in dense undergrowth. Before we departed a White Bellied Green Pigeon perched in the distance.
Taiwan Whistling Thrush in very early morning light

Richard turned off the road down a track at 14km, we parked up at a lovely bridge. Casual breakfasts were a key feature of this tour. Find a good birding spot crack open Cereal, nuts, bread cheese and Peanut Butter Hot Coffee and tea and enjoy the scenery and the birds.

The spot was fantastic, an open area with a bridge and semi dry river bed, surrounded by a wooded area and not a soul in sight.

A Plumbeous Redstart male flew to the bridge to check us out, while the Female stayed closer to the river bank, a while later a juvenile appeared and stayed close to the male.

Brown Dipper below us, Oriental Turtle Doves, Spotted DovesBlack Bulbuls and Grey Cheeked Minivets flitted around the trees and wires, while a Rufous capped Babbler was nest building.
Plumbeous Redstart

and with the juvenile

Brown Dipper

Grey Cheeked Minivet

Rufous-capped Babbler

Taiwan Yuhina

We continued up the Dasyueshan road stopping at regular intervals to check out potential spots or if we saw or heard anything worth pursuing. The first stop was a parking area which had a wooden structure or viewing point, here we were straight onto an endemic female Vivid Niltava, and was joined by the stunning male, while we would now regularly hear and see the endemic White-eared Sibias and as the days wore on we would become accustomed to their noisy and distinctive calls.
Vivid Niltava

White eared Sibia

A short way up the road we would see our first Swinhoe Pheasant..... a glorious male. Not sure if this was target number one for the trip or target number two, whichever way, it was an important bird to get so early on and just whetted the appetite for the rest of the trip. He strutted straight across the road in front of us. What a Stunner.

Swinhoe Pheasant male

Yet further on up the road we encountered another Swinhoe Pheasant.  A Taiwanese couple had already staked out the roadside and were poised with cameras as we arrived. A stunning male appeared first before a juvenile appeared from the woods. They gave stunning views in the sunshine for 10 minutes before flying off.
Swinhoe Pheasant juvenile (with an adult just sneaking into view)

Beaming from ear to ear we continued to a quiet roadside spot and picked up a mixed flock of birds. Taiwan Yuhinas were the most numerous but mixed in were a few Green Backed Tits and a stunning Yellow Tit. Jeff, Nick and myself were trying to focus in on the flock when Richard gave some good advise and told us to just concentrate on the Yellow Tit "you wont get a better photo opportunity than this" ...... he was right. What a stunning bird. Richard was right that although we did encounter a few more during the trip this was by far the best opportunity to get a good shot.
Yellow Tit

Plenty of tea breaks along the climb up the road ensured we continued to enjoy the changing habitats and catching species of differing elevations. We put in some hard work to eventually see a Taiwan Bush Warbler while plenty of Steers Liocicla noisily skulked in and around the thicker lower vegetation. A short but close view at eyelevel of a Black Eagle as it came into view in a valley but quickly turned into the sun and soared away while a pair of Mountain Hawk Eagles soared over the highest peaks way off in the distance. Just before the new blue iron bridge we had two woodpeckers in the same spot, firstly a Grey capped Pygmy Woodpecker and a White Backed Woodpecker. The White backed worked a branch for a good ten minutes while never really giving a full-on view, we stayed as long as we dared and left it in peace still tying to excavate food from this single branch. We heard quite a few times Bamboo Partridge calling but never managed to locate one near enough to pursue it, this would be a reoccurring theme throughout the day (well actually throughout the trip).

More small flocks of birds appeared this time including the stunningly cute Black Throated Bushtits, more Taiwan Yuhinas and Green Backed Tits, Grey Cheeked Minivets fought each other, probably over a female, while at the bridge 80+ Asian House Martins zipped over and under the iron structure. We made our way back to the minibus only to pass the White Backed Woodpecker again who hadn't moved and was still busy at work.

Oriental Honey Buzzard above made it a good afternoon for raptors and Richard heard a Rusty Laughingthrush deep in some thick vegetation which he prized out just enough to get a ropey image of, by far the trickiest bird of the day so far, while a stunning Fire-breasted Flowerpecker was easy to see as it flew constantly back and forth over the road but wouldn't sit still for long enough for that portrait shot.. Richard was also conscious that while the going was good we should travel upto the highest elevations to try for a few tricky highlight species.

Grey Cheeked Minivets
Rusty Laughingthrush

White Backed Woodpecker
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker

Black throated Bushtit

Just before we arrived at a Visitor centre we managed to catch up with yet more Swinhoe Pheasants, this time both male and female.

The day  continued to deliver as we entered the recreation area at the 50km spot
See part 3 later for the conclusion of this epic day.


Nick Parker said...

Great to relive the day. We were so fortunate to have such a great start to the trip.

Dave said...

Agreed Nick
although Day 3 was a bit of a wash out.