Monday, 19 March 2012

The Tale of Two Pheasants - Part I

It is now safe to say 'my friend' Vicky Cheng is studying to be a Wildlife Guide and to this end attends night school twice a week. Her determination is such that nothing gets in the way of these important classes, not even me, so as our adventure was to start early I decanted to a posh hotel to write up my notes. It is simply the way here to go into a hotel and use the facilities, with WiFi being everywhere. With most of my photographs edited and notes completely up to date I was joined by some eminent company indeed.

I had met Kung Chien Hua, aka Tony King, from the Chihee Institute of Technology 3 days ago, enjoying his conversation and wit. This evening he was in company with some of his colleagues who he would like to introduce me to. On my right is Carlota a delegate from Shanghi, China, and to my immediate left Ko, Yu-chih Ph.D. an Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of International Relations of Chengchi University, alongside Mu-Hsiang Yu, aka Rita Yu, an Assistant Research Fellow of the International Affairs Division. Well, with Jolly Jack Tar in Poll Position how could we fail, only problem so much to say, so little time.

In what seemed like a flash Vicky had returned and moments later her Taxi Driver friend, who doubled as what turned out to be something of a Taiwanese Bird Expert, arrived to take us on the 'secret' jaunt. We left Taipei City Centre around about mid-night and just a little over 3 hours later we arrived in the foothills of Dasyueshan.

I think we all got some 'shut-eye' but by 05:00 the BAMBOO PARTRIDGES were taking care of the wake up call, while Wu Hai Yang had the coffee perking and Vicky was handing out the rolls.

The 'dawn chorus' was amazing, but of little meaning to an English Lad well out of his depth, but as luck would have it the first bird seen was familiar and correctly identified as a Black-napped Monarch.

The essence of the day would depend on altitude, especially variations of the same, but it was thought worthwhile to spend some time at this lower level. First on the scene was a pair of the 'endemic Sub-species (ESp) COLLARED FINCHBILL and a 'Lifer' (in bold red) to boot.

I was also told that one of the most distinct singers was a TAIWAN HWAMEI a full 'endemic' (E) which Wu coaxed out of cover in no time at all. Might as well stay here thought I, but there was a Master Plan which would begin at 1,600 metres and what a BANG it would start with.

We were not the first to arrive, with all who had pipped us to the post carrying every optical gadget imaginable, thus far I'd had no idea just how popular the hobby is among the Taiwanese. A small party of small birds included YELLOW TIT (E), a single RUFOUS-CAPPED TREE BABBLER (ESp), sometimes called simply Rufous-capped,

plus loads of the very fast moving WHITE-THROATED FLYCATCHER WARBLER

aka Rufous-faced Warbler.

I eventually caught up with a Taiwan Sibia that allowed me a shot, but nothing like as good as the one borrowed from Wiki, but it's in the bag along with GREEN-BACKED TIT which I have seen before, but this one is an (ESp) and like all those of the class could become a 'species' in their own right one day?

The star of the 1,600 metre vigil had already been seen by some, but as the gathering crown would doubtless tell you "one look is not enough". At that precise moment I had just found myself another (unidentified) Lifer, when Vicky and Wu started some frantic arm waving to which I responded 1, 1, 2.

There, stood on the side of the road was a most magnificent female SWINHOE'S PHEASANT (E)

and OK, some might say 'only' a female (a male would have been nice, still time yet)

but she was an absolute 'cracker'!

She wandered around for a short time, during which time some said they saw a couple of Bamboo Partridge but alas not I, before simply slipping over the bank and disappeared.

For me it was a wander back from whence I came and to find the tiny birds had decided to hang around.

TAIWAN YUHINA (E) was claimed a few days ago but I had got that totally wrong.

On the post of Thursday 15th March I had simply mixed the names up and called this White-bellied Erpornes (or White-bellied Yuhina as it was previously known)

a Taiwan Yhuina which this is. The appropriate amendment has been made to the post of 15th and both species were seen at this location today.

One fruit tree was attracting a good proportion of the birds, with a male VIVID NILTAVA (ESp)

being next to arrive, but was seen later

with a much less 'eye-catching' female.

Similarly, a pair of WHITE-TAILED ROBIN (ESp) had the male showing off his stuff. Wiki Pic.

while the female couldn't be budged from the undergrowth. A good deal of time has been spent studying the Field Guide for this trip, both at home and on the flights to get here. Of all the birds on offer the one that stood out for me, because of its subtle and varied coloration, was one that I can't even pronounce,


There were at least a dozen seen over the course of the day.

Because of the length of our day and the number of interesting species seen, it was decided to make this a 'two parter' by elevations. On these lower slopes the final species to be seen was the delicate and tiny BLACK-THROATED TIT sometimes referred to as RED-HEADED TIT,

This little beauty would make for a fond farewell to this elevation,

but as we started stowing out gear back into the car there was to be a far more dramatic end to Part I.

From out of the under-story and almost touchable out swaggered this 'full blown' male


what a finale and on the way up the hill there were 3 other additions, all Corvides LARGE-BILLED CROW, EURASIAN JAY and COMMON MAGPIE.