Whos keeping an eye on me....

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Taiwan 2019 Pt 8 - Yushan National Park (and some seriously good birding)

Even at the crack of dawn it was hot this morning We drove up the mountain to the 92.5km marker. It was already lively with Grey Cheeked Fulvettas and a few Rufous Capped Babblers showing in a large bank of grasses. Noisy White Eared Sibias called all around.

Then for the next 30 minutes we were treated to a birding bonanza. First off a small group of Taiwan Barwings flew into a dense tree, by far the best views we had since the tour started. At least five individuals treated us to some close views as they picked their way through the Lichen clad branches, this is a seriously good looking bird.

Then just to ensure the morning couldn't get any better around half a dozen Taiwan Golden Parrotbills flew into the exact same spot, even down to eyelevel. This was crazy and was a bit of a sensory overload. This was non stop action, after about five or ten minutes, Richard suddenly remembered that he didn't have his camera with him, he legged it back to the van, luckily the Parrotbills were still here when he returned, then just as quick as they flew in they flew off. We would have tracked them down eventually as we had planned to bird a particular area in search of them, this saved on a job and probably saved some valuable time, maybe we could use that time to get better views of that bloody Bamboo Partridge.....

 Incredible Taiwan Golden Parrotbills......


oh not forgetting that the Grey Cheeked Fulvettas were still in attendance along with a Yellow Bellied Bush Warbler, Large Billed Crow with more calling in the near distance and two good groups of Taiwan Yuhinas while a large troop of Taiwan Macaques fed in the tall trees all around us while we ate breakfast.

Suns out and breakfast on the go, no letting up on the birding.

Yellow Bellied Bush Warbler
(at least showing its yellow belly for good id purposes)

Taiwan Macaque
Grey Cheeked Fulvetta
(a smart little bird but unfortunately totally outdone by this mornings shenanigans)

We drove to the Alishan Scenic Area at the 96.5km marker where we could park up for a little while and wander. A good search of the area picked up a new trip species with a Ferruginous Flycatcher a species that were just returning to the island to breed. Two more Yellow bellied Bush Warblers, a good half dozen Green Backed Tits, a female Taiwan Rosefinch and another trip first with a Eurasian Jay.
Maybe this is why it is called the Alishan Scenic area......
Ferruginous Flycatcher

We had gone just a short walk into the woods where the old train track was. Richard had heard at least two Taiwan Pygmy Wren Babblers or Taiwan Cupwing (in old money) calling, a little playback brought one in really close. It crept left, right and around a tree stump and then flew across the path into more shrubbery giving half descent views, I didn't have a cat in hells chance of a photo but it was a little stunner of a bird. Meanwhile the two Ferruginous flycatchers were hitting it off in the braches above our heads with the male giving an amazing display.

Rail track where Richard tracked down the Wren Babbler

Ferruginous Flycatchers
(male displaying)

The next 20 minutes was spent frustratingly listening and trying to see a Taiwan Shortwing, we had tried on and off a few times earlier in the week without success. This fella was close and eventually it gave up a brief glimpse in the thick tall grasses, I think I got the only view..... It was enough to tick it but I would appreciate better views....... thankfully for everyone, that will come later.

Somewhere in there is a Taiwan Shortwing and it was a not playing ball

Soaring high above we got two rare Mountain Hawk-Eagles, it was pleasing to see them and I was happy enough to get some record shots only, Grey Chinned Minivets and more Taiwan Yuhinas followed us back towards the van. Its at this point that Richard played a Collared Owlet call and a right load of Black Throated Bushtits and Green Backed Tits came to see what the fuss was about, right next to a patch of tall grasses giving  brilliant photo opportunities, one of the trip birds in my eyes.

Black Throated Bushtit

Green Backed Tit
(no its not a Great Tit)

 Mountain Hawk-Eagle
(a hard to see species)

We drove yet higher, a tea break at the 100km marker had a White Browed Bush Robin flying from one side of the road to the other, it eventually perched up. I walked along the road for a short while and picked up no les than Seven Vivid Niltavas, a single bird, a pair and then a party of four.
Further still we drove upto 105km. A dead tree looked right for a Woodpecker, one drummed, I got a quick glimpse, then about  ten minutes later  a Grey Headed Woodpecker eventually showed itself, far better views than the one we had seen at Dasyueshan a week ago.

White-browed Bush-robin
(what a difference the light makes, harsh light to poor light)

Vivid Niltava

if ever there was a dead tree worth checking out it would look like this

and the Grey Headed Woodpecker

at the Tataka Visitor centre which marks the top of the Yushan National Park we parked up and watched the cyclists straining to reach the top while we strained our necks to observe two Crested Serpent Eagles and a Black Eagle, two White Eared Sibias and yet more close views of a very obliging White whiskered Laughing thrush. But this was the area that we had hoped to get onto a species that we hadn't seen yet. Pretty common in the UK but this one has a slight twist, we were looking for Coal Tits. We found them fairly easily as they flitted amongst the evergreens. This species has a distinct crest, other than that its the same bird, apparently, anyway we saw two distinct groups of five and ten.

Coal Tit....... not that a crest makes much of a difference.
Black Eagle

White Eared Sibia

Jeff, Nick and myself had gone in search of yet another calling Taiwan Shortwing when after ten minutes or so Richard called out to us to look up as some Grey Headed Bullfinchs had called and were heading our way, we managed to watch them fly over our heads and they came straight back into the canopy of nearby trees, they quickly flew out and off, I got the shot.... of the back end.
Grey Headed Bullfinch
.....the backend

It was still only mid afternoon and we still had some special birds to track down in this area, one was the Flamecrest. I had seen one fleetingly a week ago but this was a good area for them and would give us the best opportunity. We didn't have to move down the mountain too far. We parked up near a track which led to a hostel. A Muntjak Deer darted across the track, while Taiwan Yuhinas dominated the trees, you just cant ignore this species, they are gorgeous, however we immediately had a calling Flamecrest. It flew into a nearby tree and was seen off by the Yuhinas and it flew a short way across a small valley. It came back time and again and each time it retreated. I saw it once raise its crest in aggression towards the Yuhinas, incredibly smart.
Taiwan Yuhinas
you cant have too many images of this bird especially in a flowering tree


and a poor picture of a hint of flamecrest......

We continued along the track and bumped into a party of young birdwatchers again, we had bumped into them earlier in the day, they must be on the same Flamecrest mission as ourselves. Another White Whiskered Laughing thrush got stupidly close again, down to a few feet. A couple of Taiwanese birdwatchers with long lenses were camped out on the roadside, this was definitely the Flamecrest hotspot. But it wasn't just about the Flamecrest, as a few hundred yards further on is a Hostel. At the back is a sign that gives the game away. It is warning not to feed the Rosefinch...... we didn't have to (and wouldn't have), but within a few minutes and a few meters away was a stunning male Taiwan Rosefinch. It was feasting on the grass seeds. Crippling close views and it wandered around the floor feeding, it eventually retreated beyond the nearest bushes, meanwhile a White-browed Bush-Robin perched on top of the Rosefinch sign, we left in search of more Flamecrests where I found and watched two individuals high in a tree, the trees were in shade and the light was poor so I didn't have an opportunity for more photos mean while we were followed by a White Browed Bush-Robin back up the track.
White-browed Bush-robin
and taking very good notice as it didn't attempt to feed the Rosefinch

White Whiskered Laughingthrush

Taiwan Rosefinch


Back along the track were what I thought were a pair of Collared Bush Robins, and what I thought was the female particularly intrigued by our presence, is actually a immature male, I think, anyway the male was a little more wary, a lovely species.

and just for good measure we located a Taiwan Fulvetta in the scrub near to where we were parked up. Another understated species  that wouldn't give up the perfect image

Richard had gleaned some info regarding a location for a White Browed Shortwing (ssp Taiwan Shortwing) which had been seen on a trail in a nearby town. We pulled up into a very busy car park and had a Nutcracker sat up showing well. We didn't need to walk too far to the trail entrance where we found a couple already waiting for the bird. The path had been baited with meal worm The  couple were keen to show us the images of the bird. We waited for 20 minutes in the meantime plenty of hikers came down the path, it wasn't a good sign to try and see a skulking bird...... wrong. A little movement in the Bamboo and out popped our target. I had seen one this morning but every one got this one as it showed down to a few meters away. Richard had wandered off for a while on a mission after another tip off, he called us back up towards the road. Down on his hands and knees he was searching low into some very dense scrub, after a little searching he got us onto a small patch of open vegetation deep within the bushes and there we found a Whites Thrush. A total bonus, it was stood "bobbing" up and down for a minute or so before wandering off. This was a brilliant end to the day, we drove to a Seven Eleven out side a large coach terminal for a celebratory beer. The day wasn't quite finished as we had two Brown Bullfinch perched up across a small valley........

White-browed Shortwing

somewhere in the Bamboo thicket.....
Richard trying to relocate the Whites Thrush

It had been an epic day, with some very much needed species showing really well and a couple of those species we wouldn't have had the chance to see again. Richard had already planned to return to Dasyueshan for another go at a few species we had missed first time around.

We returned back down the mountain with the last of the light for dinner and a few beers.



Margaret Birding For Pleasure said...

Marvellous images and post. I really enjoyed it. Have a lovely weekend.

Dave said...

Thank you Margaret, and you too

Nick Parker said...

It was quite a day. Amazing birds and mostly cracking views. Great to relive it. Was it really a week between Grey-headed Woodpeckers?