Thursday, 15 March 2012

Chain Gang - Sam Cooke

Looking out from the 14th floor of the New California Hotel in Xin Dian it was painfully apparent by the number of umbrellas that it was raining again. By the end of the day all I had to say on the subject was "thank heavens for the Schoffel, leggings and the Brashers" otherwise it would have been a soaking to the skin. I had moved up to XD to meet up with a lady I had encountered on the Internet a couple of weeks ago who was willing to do some bird guiding for me. After the best night so far, in the best hotel I woke to the best breakfast (scrambled eggs with onion and capsicum sausage, ham etc) before meeting up with Vicky Cheng at the MRT Station.

A most personable and knowledgeable lady with a plan to head for some of Taiwan's smaller mountains in the hope of an 'endemic' or two, but was concerned that the rain might put me off.

Finding a little direction we took a bus and soon arrived at the small town of Xiao Cu Ken from where we took the short taxi ride to the

local lake and mountainside walk,

where an Osprey was already stealing the fish.

A beautiful walk despite the weather with a few of what are becoming the 'usual suspects' on the way, such as Japanese White-eye, Great White & Cattle Egrets, Raven, Chinese Bulbul plus a few Barn Swallows.

This juvenile CRESTED GOSHAWK was the second raptor and my first 'lifer' for the day,

and so far despite the rain Vicky was really coming up trumps.

Vicky, a Buddhist herself, posing at one of many shrines and

small Temples.

Second new bird for the World List a PLAIN FLOWERPECKER

responded to a little 'pishing', with my new companion

pointing out what she described as the most poisonous plant in the forest.

Another 'first' for the Trip List' was the brief and distant appearance of this BLACK KITE, but moments later there was what may qualify as the 'bird of the day'.

Vicky couldn't reconcile that what we were looking at was a BLUE & WHITE FLYCATCHER as they don't arrive in Taiwan until late April.

Thumbing through the Field Guide there wasn't really a 'confusing species' but at least this time we had evidence.

As we continued were bumped into a Herbalist and University Lecturer and his wife gathering specimens who confirmed our suspicions saying a few had arrived very early this year - a good find indeed! It was now approaching noon and we had a walk of some 5Km back to the bus to transport us onward to another 'must visit' site.

That's when we encountered these 'convicts' clearing the monsoon ditches and broke into some friendly banter. Carrying out Community Service for such offences as 'drunk driving' and 'running red lights'

it was they who, in typical Asian fashion, suggested we jump aboard for a lift back. They kindly dropped us at a stop just on the edge of town with the news that the next bus would be in 15 minutes. Just 2 minutes into the wait I saw a large bird drop into the tree line

and eventually picked it up at some distance.

Not new to me, but certainly worth seeing again, the huge shape of a CRESTED SERPENT EAGLE.

No not Oil of Ulay, but the village of Ulay (pronounced Oolie) the home of many of the Aboriginal People and something of a 'hot spot' for birding.

Lunch and negotiating a taxi to the forest interior were done in tandem,

also giving us time for a look at the local scenery,

mainly river, bridges and more temples before boarding the taxi.
The National Forest is simply breathtaking (no chance of capturing this in a couple of shots)

and easily equals many such Cloud Forests seen elsewhere. Big bonus here, there are no side tracks, no fires, no pets, no barbecues, no nothing except sticking to the narrow concrete road. This, Vicky tells me, is why nobody comes here - Paradise!

The following 2 bird photos come courtesy of Wiki, but simply couldn't be reported without illustration. Both seen very well, but doubt Lord Litchfield would have captured an image. The first which used to be known as White-bellied Yuhina has now been renamed White-bellied Erpornis.
It was hard to take in all of this fantastically untouched countryside, and looking down at the fast flowing river thoughts turned to something special being down there!

We didn't have to wait long as a few GREY-CHEEKED FULVETTA joined the other small birds reported above.

More beautiful plants, but all was not sweetness and light. Enquiring as to what was in the plastic bags along most of our route it was unfortunate to find that they were full of Tree Ferns. Similar to many of the Oak Trees in UK, they have developed a deadly blight and have been chopped down in hope of preventing further spread.

It was then that the first TAIWAN BLUE MAGPIE was heard, followed by another and another. About 20 in total and surely 'the' bird that has high priority for anyone visiting this country.
Luckily, though mobile, they stuck around and were not the only group to show themselves.

another 'endemic, anouther 'lifer'

Followed not too long after by another 'Lifer' BRONZE DRONGO. If I had any thoughts of an easy day with this lovely lady best I forget it as she was pushing me on despite being fairly wet and a little leg weiry.

Gandalf the Soaked

Eventually we reached the river and while it would have been nice

to stand and survey the view there were birds to be found, and find them we did.

Within this very small section of fast flowing water there were no fewer than


I had already claimed to have seen one from the bus, but with little more than a fleeting glimpse

it could hardly be added to the World List. Now there was staggering and conclusive proof and what a delight to watch these birds in action. Vicky had never visited this spot before but now has it firmly added to her itinary.

It was certainly a moment to enjoy with a little posing

and a fantastic end to a most memorable day.

This Butterfly was spotted on the way back to the taxi, which had been booked for 18:00, when I was also surprised to learn that this was not the end of the trail for Vicky and me. She goes out birding every day she possibly can and has a couple more trips in store with me, so having returned to her home town of Jiao Xi via taxi, MRT and luxury coach (arriving just before mid-night) she found me a hotel before retuning home. What or where tomorrow only she knows but I think I'll be in for a bit of Santa Syndrome tonight as I try to get to sleep?