Whos keeping an eye on me....

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Taiwan 2019 Pt 6 - Mopping up Lanyu and back to mainland Taiwan

We woke to continued rain, it looked like the morning would be hard work and we only had 4hrs before our ferry departed. A quick coffee and breakfast while hundreds of Pacific Swifts fed in the bay directly in front of us, we packed up our luggage and we drove the mile or so back to the bridge. We needed to mop up the remaining birds on the island that we missed yesterday, this would be our last chance. We were now standing in large roadside puddles awaiting any sort of movement  in the valley below us. It didn't take too long when we got onto one of our remaining targets.

A russell in the tree tops and out popped a very smart Philippine Cuckoo-Dove.  Jeff and myself missed this in the Philippines so was good to get it second time round. It didn't look like it was going to be in a hurry and pretty much stayed in sight for the next hour as we continued to look for the Pigeon. During this time the weather started to pick up, rain disappeared and the sun shone down. Richard got sight of a distant Whistling (Taiwan) Green Pigeon flying way off at the back of the valley, by now the Philippine Cuckoo-Dove had been joined by its partner, putting on excellent views.

Philippine Cuckoo-Dove

The Whistling (Taiwan) Green Pigeon eventually perched up, it was only really going to be scope views but a few record shots are attached ..... just for the record. Would have liked it to have flown a little nearer, but we gave it as long as we could. In the mean time a pair of Minivets flitted and perched in a similarly distant set of trees, again scope views were all we would get, on inspection they turned out to be Ashy Minivets, new for the trip, but not the Ryukyu Minivets that we hoped for.

We decided to walk along the road past the bridge, Lowland White-Eyes, Pacific Swifts were plentiful, an Eurasian Sparrowhawk flew past and into the wooded area that we walked last night. We came to a section of the road that ran alongside a section of allotments. A short wait and plenty of activity started, a few Thrushes flew across to get our attention, these were Pale Thrushes, then a new bird showed along a fence line, female Daurian Redstart. A nice find, pity it was the female, we lost sight of it and just managed another short glimpse before we lost it all together. Two Olive Backed Pipits, a new species for me, searched for food in a vegetable garden and three more were seen a short walk further back along the road. A Bunting species would seen very quickly, Richard suggested Yellow (Japanese) Bunting, after a little searching we got reasonable views to confirm this.

Taiwan Whistling Green Pigeon (somewhere in there)
Honestly ......... a very heavy crop, was much better view in the scope.

Ashy Minivets (equally distant in the valley and heavily cropped)


Grey Wagtails and Brown Eared Bulbuls by now were pretty much everywhere. This turned out to be a nice area, I am sure a days birding along this road could pick up some additional nice species, we couldn't afford too much time. We walked back to the bridge hoping for a better or nearer view of the pigeon, without luck and gave the road one last walk. Straight away we got onto a wonderful pair of Philippine Blue Rock Thrushes, stunning red bellied variety, posing nicely. One stayed put for long enough to allow Nick a video. Back at the allotments we picked up a Red Throated Pipit , at least one Black Winged Kite surveyed the area and perched on the wires for a moment and another Lesser Coucal and plenty of Common Mynas were now in the area enjoying the baking sunshine.

Richard heard a Siberian Rubythroat, then another. One bird was in a dense bush ten foot in front of us but didn't show, while a second bird called in a much larger bush nearby, the briefest glimpse showed a glorious Male, a stunning creature, a lifer for Nick and myself and a great end to the island of Lanyu.
Philippine Blue Rock Thrush

Olive Backed Pipit

Brown Eared Bulbul


We had already packed this morning so headed straight off towards the ferry. Richard mentioned to keep a look out for Pacific Reef Herons, right on cue we passed three. A quick stop at a small beach got a Red Throated Pipit and a Rock Thrush. We left Lanyu with all targets accounted for and a bonus with the Siberian Rubythroat
Looking out for the Daurian Redstart
Pineapple garden
Lanyu Butterflies
Magellan Birdwing 

The ferry left on time with only ourselves on board, again Nick and myself spent the whole three hour crossing on the deck, the birding was worse that yesterdays crossing, we only had a flock of six egrets and a single Brown Booby that came to check us out, other than that it was birdless, but at least the sun shone down making it a very pleasant boat trip.
Leaving Lanyu island

Back on dry land we stopped at the fruiting tree of yesterday morning. The same species as yesterday, Black Bulbul, Styans Bulbul, Brown Headed Thrushes, Japanese White-eyes, White Shouldered Starlings, this time two small flocks of nine and seven and Grey Treepies. Today they were joined by an Eyebrowed Thrush and five Asian Glossy Starlings, both new species for the trip. After Coffee and about an hour in this spot we birded short distances in the area seeing what we could pick up. Common Snipe and Long Tailed Shrike, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe and Plain Prinia were about all we saw, we headed back to yesterday mornings hotel, to pick up cases. We would now head a little further north towards the highlands.
The fruiting tree that gave us hours of entertainment

Asian Glossy Starling

Styans Bulbul

Our last stop was a camp site. Late afternoon the happy campers were settling down around the stoves as we wandered off around the woods and margins looking for Maroon Oriole. It took about 2 minutes to find one, two three, at least four individuals. I got a very quick Glimpse of Bamboo Partridge as hit flew across a path, unfortunately it was never going to count. This was a hot spot for Taiwan Barbet, a few perched up directly above the campers while during the next hour dozens upon dozens called out of perched out, a lovely bird.
Maroon Oriole

Before we really got going in search of other birds we came across a rather creepy crawly. This spider was by far the biggest bugger I saw all trip, not my thing I am afraid, and Richard reminded me for the rest of the afternoon.......
Creepy crawly

Taiwan Barbet

Black Kites in very good numbers and circling overhead throughout the campsite, the usual Light Vented and Black Bulbuls and a few Black Naped Monarchs giving nice sunlit views.


A Crested Goshawk was on the hunt as it moved along a hedge line stopping in every alternate tree, while a White Bellied Green Pigeon flew over.  We finished in a small copse and added a Yellow Browed Warbler and a new trip bird in an Asian Brown Flycatcher.

White Bellied Green Pigeon

We stopped for dinner in the town of Majia before booking into the very comfortable Indigenous Peoples Cultural Development Centre and theme park.

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..