Whos keeping an eye on me....

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Taiwan 2019 Pt 10 - Mopping up Endemics

We had spent a few good days on the Dasyeshan Road  a little over a week ago, the last morning was a pea souper and hindered us a little. We still had three major targets to get and the fluid trip itinerary meant that a return here had been on the cards for a week. We hoped for a bright start to the morning, our usual Seven Eleven Coffee stop got proceedings going.
We left the hotel at 05.15 and drove upto the tunnel area at 26.5km. Along the way we picked up two roadside Swinhoe Pheasants, both males, it was nice to get reacquainted again, a lovely bird.

A few cars were parked up here on the roadside, these weren't bird watchers they were camper vans and everyone was asleep, they will have needed to be up a little sooner to get onto our first target bird.

A quick wander around the area got us back onto the Taiwan YuhinasGrey Cheeked Fulvettas and a couple of Steeres Liocichlas. Then Richard heard the target bird. Well in actual fact we heard a number of them. High up in the canopy were at least four Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush, trouble was they were inside the canopy. The views were ok, but these were seriously smart birds, far better than depicted in the field guides. Better undisturbed views were in order. We watched them moving around for a good 30 minutes when eventually one decided to feed in the canopy edge, a difficult bird that we thought would maybe slip through the net, luckily it didn't and as the morning progressed we caught up with even more.

Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush
With this endemic now on the trip list we enjoyed some of the more common species, you know the ones that had been following us around for a week or so, Green Backed Tits, Black Throated Bushtits, a quite confiding Rufous-faced Warbler and only the second sighting of the trip, A Yellow Tit. The Yellow Tit this time didn't treat us to an in your face sighting, more of "I'm over here.... gotcha suckers, I`m now over here"...... it was pretty flighty and we didn't get the chance for another shot.
Black Throated Bushtit with food

We were now at the 31km marker and another tea break allowed us to call in a wonderful male White Tailed Robin, another stunningly understated species, albeit its lovely blue sheen isn't that understated. We would walk now for the next few kilometres uphill, Richard wanted to desperately get us onto an Island Thrush, one of the two species that we needed to get before leaving the area in the morning. Nearly four hours of stop starting, playback and patiently listening didn't do the trick, this was one species that unfortunately got away. We still had plenty of other good species around, another three Taiwan Barwings flew in close by as well as the obligatory Taiwan Yuhinas, that were generally in small flocks around most bends in the forest road. Noisy White Eared Sibias called constantly, and although plentiful in numbers were actually quite difficult to get great photographic opportunities. We found a spot where a small group of Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush, were feeding just off the road down a small track, again they were very flighty although they gave descent views.
Rufous Faced Warbler
White-tailed Robin

We managed a new trip species at marker 32.5km with an Eurasian Nuthatch, the only sighting of the trip, Grey Chinned Minivets another male Vivid Niltava and a quick fleeting glimpse of another Yellow Tit kept the action a little more interesting. All along the road we continued to call for the Island thrush with out hearing one while every now and again we heard at least two Snowy Browed Flycatchers but both were distant and didn't come in close. It was about this time that I mentioned to the lads that it was a shame that while we had been on foot for a few hours we hadn't actually seen any Partridges, of course the birding gods understood this and immediately we disturbed a couple of Hill Partridges which quickly scarpered into the bush and out of sight. We eventually walked all the way to the new Blue Bridge where we heard a very very distant Large-Hawk Cuckoo, while we saw at least two more Rufous-faced Warblers and Taiwan Yuhinas and a Fire Breasted Flowpecker. Asian House Martins nest here in large numbers so were easy to watch as they zipped in and around the bridge structure.
Taiwan Yuhina

Vivid Niltava

Jeff and Nick on the Blue bridge

and the old bridge after landslides and nature taking it back

We headed back down the mountain road towards the van where we would continue up the mountain towards the Waterfall. On the way we stopped at the rest area again where another Swinhoe Pheasant displayed close for us just outside the toilet block, in actual fact the toilet block was a little alfresco and was a good birding spot, sounds a bit weird but its true.....
Weird alfresco bogs
we saw some pretty good species from here including Muntjac deer and Swinhoe Pheasant

Swinhoe Pheasant

We continued upto the Waterfall, this is our last chance for Little Forktail. We had to wait as when we arrived there was no sign, tea break time. A Sebrow kept us company for a little while, it started off feeding just a little way down the hillside on a very steep slope and eventually came upto the road and even went into the drainage ditch to access even better food. After 35mins (I know, I had logged the time as I envisaged this being a major stake out as it was the last must get bird) Jeff called out "they're here", I had just been watching a pair of Taiwan Yuhinas feeding on the moss at the side of the waterfall runoff and was expecting to look up again and see the Yuhinas, but Jeff was spot on as a pair of Little Forktails flew right down the middle of the waterfall almost to within touching distance. One flew down into a gully directly underneath us, they would keep us entertained for 30 minutes or so, a smashing bird and we needn't travel any higher up the mountain now.....

Taiwan Sebrow

Little Forktail
showing the pattern on its tail that gives it its name
male displaying.... not sure the female is too bothered

Another stop at the Rest area gave us another bit of luck. We had decided to trek along a path that we had done the week before, only in the off chance that something may turn up but Richard had got talking to two groups of birders exchanging details of recent sightings, I was called back to the van as we made a quick getaway. We were heading back down the mountain for a few kms where there was a chance of a Collared Owlet. Sure enough we met some traffic, a load of long lenses and a mini twitch was in full throttle. We dived out of the van, Richard had to find a parking space, and joined the twitch where at pretty close quarters perched on the edge of the tree line was the Collared Owlet. It stayed for 5 minutes before flying off. We all got good views, Nick didn't quite get the video set up before it flew.
Collared Owlet

Collared Owlet Twitch


We had an hour to kill and had a favoured little picnic spot that we had been to twice before, we decided that would be a nice location to end the day. We didn't have any particular species in mind and didn't expect any new species. We parked up and got exactly what we expected, Plumbeous Redstart, Brown Dipper, Black Crowned Night-heron, Grey Wagtail, a whole load of Black Bulbuls (100+ in a single tree). A little walk behind the river gave us a Large Billed Crow, a quick glimpse of a Taiwan Scimitar Babbler.... not seen for over a week. Then a little Collared Owlet playback set the paces running as a nice mixed flock of Grey Cheeked Fulvetta, both male and female Grey Cheeked Minivets, Black Throated Bushtits, Green backed Tits and a stunning White Bellied Erpornis.

our own picnic spot that we visited 3 times
home of the Brown Dipper and Plumbeous Redsrarts

juvenile Black Crowned Night-heron

White Bellied Erpornis

Grey Cheeked Minivet male

and the female

Brown dipper

birds on a wire.... Yuhinas, Bushtit and Green Backed Tit.

We had cleaned up all we could, ended the day on a nice mixed flock and could travel down the mountain in relatively good light for a well earned beer after a good day. We reached halfway when we made a hasty stop at an eyelevel perched Crested Serpent Eagle. It stayed perched long enough for all of us to get good shots and enjoy its presence, I think we all even managed some video footage. A few cars stopped behind us as the local Twitchers lined the roadside with extra long lenses, I think a macro lense would have done the trick......


A good day with two targets accounted for and some lovely birds seen during the day. Tomorrow we travel to the far north coast and our last full day on this wonderful trip.  

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