Whos keeping an eye on me....

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Taiwan 2019 Pt 5 - Crane Spotting and an Owl Island hop over

The town of Fenggeng (Kenting Peninsular) where we were staying is famous for Brown Shrikes, in actual fact street lamps are adorned with them although they have now turned a yellowish colour in the sunshine. Shop signs and bill boarding's all show Brown Shrikes. They use to be a local delicacy and fortunately they aren't  hunted or eaten now, the town is also famous for being the birthplace of the president.

This morning was going to be a leisurely stroll along the rocky river, more rocks than water, before heading to the ferry port jaust after lunch to catch a boat to the island of Lanyu.
We had stayed overnight at the comfortable Lung an Hotel which enabled us a lie in..... hoorah!
The birding spot for this morning was right outside our hotel. we were going to follow the river for as along as we had time, we didn't need to be at the Ferry terminal until 1pm. It was warm, very warm.... we were down South and not in the mountains and I didn't put sun protection on, not a problem, for now.

House Swifts and Styans Bulbuls were the first order of the morning.  The Styans Bulbul being a very restricted Endemic species limited to the Southern most peninsular and the Eastern side of Taiwan. Jeff was particularly looking forward to seeing these and they were in huge numbers. The saying goes that most birds are common somewhere, well this species today for us, was common.

Styans Bubul

A few Brown Shrikes couldn't tell if we were local restaurateurs or not so stayed well away from us on the otherside of the river, while a Long Tailed Shrike perched up nicely for a while. On the river we were treated to some good views of Pacific Golden Plover, most in breeding plumage. Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank and 10+ Grey Herons were down on the river or in the margins, while Styans Bulbuls came down to the water to drink. This was a great place to see Plain Prinia perched up well at eye level while a few Black Drongos perched above us. I got my second showing of Manchurian Bush Warbler here, two individuals called and showed well for a short period. A strange looking Yellow Wagtail was distant and disappeared before Richard was able to get onto it, I was unable to get a photo, so a strange looking Yellow Wagtail it remains.        
Plain Prinia
Black Drongo
Common Sandpiper, Greenshank and Green Sandpiper
Little Ringed Plover and Styans Bulbuls feeding on the river
A dozen Indian Silverbills, an introduced species, along with a dozen more Scaly Breasted Munias fed from a farm track while at least two Brown Headed Thrush foraged under the fruit bushes. Richard found a god looking location between the farm and the riverside, rocky, sparsely vegetated and perfect for Savannah Nightjars. It wasn't a bad assumption as first one popped up in front of him and landed a 50ft away giving splendid views and a moment later a second bird did the same. A pair of Blue Rock Thrush perched on the telegraph pole besides the farm while a few Taiwan Hwami gave better vies that a few days ago. They sang and just about sat out in the open. 
Taiwan Hwami

We walked back to the hotel, Grey Treepies gave far better views in good light now and just outside the hotel I managed to get onto a single White Throated Needletail in amongst all the House  Swifts, nick stayed a few minutes longer patiently trying to get onto a calling Oriental Reed Warbler
 Grey Treepie
We decided to pack up and bird an area that had a rare visitor and would certainly be a bonus for our trip and a lifer for all of us. We arrived at a series of paddies, a number of birders were already stalking the area, they were in pursuit of a Hooded Crane. It had been in the area for a number of days. We arrived to find that it had been seen in the morning 08.18am to be precise, the lady birder was very precise. It was now past 10.30am so we were a little worried as we would only have an hour or two at the most to wait for any return, if indeed it would return. As if by magic, or maybe just perfect timing the Hooded Crane flew across the fields behind us and landed in fields a few hundred yards away. We watched it fly past and start its descent, and down it came. We were able to quickly drive around the complex of fields and paddies to get a view, while all the Twitchers made their way through the paddies dykes and boundaries. We stayed well enough away not to spook it and it fed happily in front of us for the next 40 minutes. We needed to move on but managed a pair of Zitting Cisticolas in the same area to add to the trip list which was ever growing and non of us could have predicted todays star bird being on the list.

Hooded Crane
a real bonus bird, right on cue and out of nowhere
and it only goes and lands somewhere over their....
(Cattle Egret, Hooded Crane and a Black Drongo all in shot)
Cant help where a Crane lands..... pity about the rubbish spoiling the shot
but what a cracker
plenty of twitchers getting onto the Hooded Crane

Nick scoping the Hooded Crane

We continued to bird similar habitats along the way and picked up a Common Kestrel, more Pacific Golden Plovers, and found a great pool with eight Garganey including 6 males, while 100s of Northern Shoveler were definitely the default water bird of the trip.
Pacific Golden Plover

We had made good time and had time to stop at a large lake for a tea break, Little Grebe, Coot and Tufted Duck were the only birds on the water, but we parked next to a fruiting tree..... a nice bonus for us. It was alive. Black Bulbuls were most numerous, but Styans Bulbuls, Brown Headed Thrushes, Japanese White eyes were constantly flying in and out, here we got a new bird for the trip when five White Shouldered Starlings flew in. We managed a roadside sighting of a single Chinese Pond Heron the only one of the trip.   

Japanese White-eye

 Black Bulbul
These were the default bird of Taiwan, often in large flocks and noisily going about their business. Quite a smart bird with the vivid red beak and legs.

Brown Headed Thrush
White Shouldered Starling
this would be the only place we would see this species
 The plan was to catch the Ferry just after lunch to Orchid Island also called Lanyu island (the Chinese Name). We were going to catch a few specific species but hoped to see a few Pelagic species on the near three hour crossing.
The boat left promptly and was fairly busy as we were a couple of days away from a Taiwan holiday so plenty of people were making their way across for the celebrations. We stayed on deck for the whole crossing and found the bird life far too quiet. We only managed one species, Streaked Shearwater, with about 5 birds seen . As we approached the island the weather turned and the whole island started to gather clouds. Richard had a pre booked a car ready for when we arrived and within a few minutes of landing we were passing our hotel and straight into birding.
First bird species on the island was a Lowland White-eye, not a new bird for Jeff and Myself but is a different bird to its cousin on main land Taiwan to that of the Japanese White-eye, so a new bird to the trip list. Cattle Egrets were plentiful as were the islands default bird the Brown Eared Bulbul. Now this was a lifer even if Richard warned us that it may become the annoying bird of the island..... he was kind of right. We planted ourselves at a bridge. This over looked a valley on both sides where dense vegetation filled the valley. The idea was to try to get onto two species here and was the best place to get eye level views. We waited a while and were treated to a Grey faced Buzzard that flew in and adorned the top of a tree a little way off, amazing scope views just a little too distant for a good photo. A Lesser Coucal showed well on the other side of the bridge towards the shore, while Jeff got onto a Eurasian Hoopoe. We didn't get onto either of the species that we were looking for either a Philippine Cuckoo-Dove or a Whistling Green Pigeon. We moved into the forest in search of a few more species, we didn't have too much time as the low cloud and early evening meant the light had deteriorated a little. The trail path was layered in cobbles that were incredibly slippy in the light drizzle so we didn't venture too far. Richard easily called in a male Japanese Paradise Flycatcher. We all saw it ok but it was incredibly flighty and I had no chance of getting a photo, it just didn't settle. We quietly left it in peace and went in search of one of the numerous calling Lanyu (Ryuku) Scops Owls. We searched at a known roost site but had no luck even though a few individuals were around fairly close by but as we reached the edge of the wooded area one called loudly directly above our heads. It didn't seem too bothered as it stared back down at us. It was nice to get this in the bag, we only had tomorrow morning to do any birding and may have been problematic if the rain continued into the morning. Happy chaps called it a day and booked into the accommodation and settled down for a few beers and a Chinese meal......

Lanyu Scops Owl

Brown Eared Bulbul

Grey faced Buzzard

A good days birding, The Hooded Crane and the Lanyu Scops Owl definitely made the day, but I was quietly happy with the Brown Eared Bulbul.
The rain teemed down during dinner and all night and we had an early start in the morning, although the birding spot is only a few hundred meters away, we had a few species to knock off before we catch the 10am Ferry back to mainland Taiwan, we wouldn't get another chance..

1 comment:

Margaret Birding For Pleasure said...

So many wonderful birds you have seen and fabulous that you saw the Hood Crane