Birdwatching in Taiwan – Taiwan Trip #20

April 17, 2009 at 1:49 pm | Posted in itchy backside | Leave a comment
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Itchyfingers did some birdwatching while walking around the Taroko National Park. Most of these birds were our ‘lifers’ – meaning, they were birds which we saw for the first time…so naturally we were thrilled to be able to see them. 😀

Our first bird just outside our hostel was this beautiful and cooperative bird…

This is the female Daurian Redstart (Phoenicurus auroreus) 北紅尾鴝

This small 15cm bird feeds on insects, berries and seeds. It breeds in Siberia, northeast China, Tibet and Mongolia and is a common winter resident in most parts of Taiwan, from low to medium elevations, including secondary forest, clearings, gardens and open areas near settlements. Hmm…no wonder we saw this female perching prominently in the open. The female is brownish overall, with a white wind patch, and rufous tail with dark brownish central feather. The bill and feet are black.

And Itchyfingers were so lucky to see the male Daurian Redstart! If we were to take a bus instead of walking in the chilly winter weather, we would surely have missed it since the bus would probably just zoom past!

The gorgeous male Daurian Redstart has brownish-black face, back, throat
and wings, with bright rufous underparts. The crown and nape are grey with
silvery edges. There is a prominent white wing patch, and the central tail
feathers are blackish, the rest of the tail being rufous

At this same spot, the Lyushui Geological Information Centre near the Lyushui Trail, we also saw two other birds. A pity this trip was not meant to be a birding trip, so the camera equipment we brought along was not ideal…which means that the birds would turn out too small unless we were to go nearer to them. So Tisu Boy was busy trying to catch all three without frightening them. 

We weren’t too sure if it was the Pale Thrush…as we couldn’t find an exact
match on our books  

This should be the Dusky Thrush…

We saw a few Plumbeous Water Redstarts (Rhyacornis fuliginosus) while
walking. This cute female Plumbeous Water Redstart 鉛色水鶇 (12-14cm)
was posing  for us at the campsite. Click here to listen to birdcall

The male has dark, lead-coloured plumage, a light gray lower belly and tinted black forehead and cheek; chestnut red upper and lower tail coverts, tail feathers, and flight feathers, which are also dark brown on the edges.

Females have a dark gray abdomen and back, with the former covered with
white spots and the latter slightly light brown on the sides; white upper
and lower tail coverts; and dark brown tail and flight feathers. Both male
and female Plumbeous Water Redstarts have black beaks and light brown
legs and feet

Formosan Yuhinas 冠羽画眉 are gregarious and always seen in flocks. Click here
to listen to its beautiful call 

The Taiwan Yuhina (Yuhina brunneiceps), formerly known as “Formosan Yuhina”, is a small songbird endemic to the island of Taiwan. The Taiwan Yuhina is 13 cm in length with a deep brown chestnut-coloured crest and a black beard stripe descending from its beak. The bird’s back, wings and tail are olive brown, and its lower breast is lighter in colour. 

On our last day in Taipei, Itchyfingers decided to pay the Taipei Botanic Garden a visit to check out on the supposedly ‘very easy to find’ and ‘everywhere also can see’ Malayan Night Heron. We walked around for about 10 minutes at the areas where sightings of the heron were reported and could only see this other heron.

The Black-crowned Night Heron 黑冠夜鹭(Nycticorax nycticorax), though
not that common, can be seen in Singapore

As we had only one morning before flying back home, we were quite anxious to find the Malayan Night Heron. As Tisu Boy was looking around and taking pictures of some other common birds, I saw the Visitors’ Centre and thought of going in to check it out, and maybe asked the staff if they had any idea where the herons could be found. But before I could go near the centre, a lady doing stretching just outside greeted me so we started chatting. She said she was a volunteer guide of the garden, so I asked her if she knew where to find the heron. But handicapped by my limited knowledge of bird names in Mandarin, I had to resort to describing the bird’s look and size before finally remembering the chinese name for heron is 鹭. 

“夜鹭?”, she asked. “Just over there you can see one.”

“Oh, no, not 夜鹭 (Night Heron)…we saw that there too”, I replied. “Is the other kind of heron….”. Er…I really dunu what is the name of the Malayan Night Heron. “It’s something a lot of birders come to see…”. I could only say that. 

是麻鹭吗?”, she asked. I was lost and luckily Tisu Boy walked over in time, and confirmed that’s the Malayan Night Heron we were looking for.

So the kind lady offered to bring us to look for the bird. 🙂

She took us to the few possible roosting and feeding spots in the garden but unfortunately there was none to be found. On the way while looking for the heron, she also showed us some interesting plants. We saw two photographers taking photos of a Barbet and saw many of these bulbuls…

The Light-vented Bulbul 白头翁 (Picnonotus sinensis formosae)

“The Light-vented Bulbul is a medium-sized (19 cm), noisy, conspicuous bulbul with a black crown, a white nape stripe bordered posteriorly by a black band, a thick black moustachial stripe and a buffy auricular patch.  The back and wings are grayish with olive yellow highlights and edgings to the flight feathers;  the throat and undersides are white, separated by a grayish-brown, diffuse breast band. The bill and legs are black.

Light-vented Bulbuls feed on berries, soft fruits and vegetables, as well as insects, which they sometimes capture in the air.  They are noisy and gregarious, forming large flocks in winter. They make a wide variety of whistling, chattering and chirping calls. In Taiwan their breeding season is from March to July. The nest is cup-shaped, usually placed in the fork of a bush or hedge. It is constructed mainly of coarse grasses, and may be lined with rootlets, fine grasses, leaves and flowers, as well as man-made materials such as pieces of cotton and paper. Usually 3-4 eggs are laid. The Light-vented Bulbul is a common resident of Taiwan from lowlands to about 500 m, preferring borders of cultivated areas, orchards, gardens, scrub and open woodland.”

A record shot of the Gray Treepie (Dendrocitta formosae formosae) 灰樹鵲

The lady was kinda determined to help us find the heron we wanted to see, and even asked around regular visitors if they had seen the birds that day. Nope. No one seemed to have seen them, but they were all very helpful to suggest places. One lady even showed us her video clips of some nice birds at another park she took just few days ago. 

It was only after more than half an hour of walk that we finally spotted a lone heron! Wow! 

The Malayan Night Heron (Gorsachius melanolophus)马来亚夜鹭 or 
黑冠麻鹭, as it is known in Taiwan. This should be an immature bird with
“grayish-brown with black and white spots; underparts are buff with brown
spots and bars”

The Malayan Night-Heron is a medium-sized heron, about 47 cm in length. The crown is black, with black crest extending to the nape. The upperparts are dark reddish-brown with fine streaks. The eye ring is light blue. Wings are black, fading outward to reddish-brown. Primary feather tips are white. The face is reddish-brown; the chin and upper breast are paler.  The yellowish-brown breast has a central row of black streaks. Malayan Night-Heron is a shy, rare resident of lowland vegetation near water. When disturbed, it may raise its crest.

Wow! Lifer again…! 😀

We wanted to stay to take better and closer shots of the lone heron but the enthusiastic lady wanted to show us the herons’ nesting place. We were feeling grateful to have been able to see the Malayan Night Heron if not for her help, so we were glad to just follow.

Like any other herons, the nest of the Malayan Night Herons is a messy
collection of twigs built high on tree. This was a left over nest from the last
breeding season 

A Common Moorhen swimming gracefully…

The kind lady excused herself as she needed to attend to her volunteering work so we ended our walk, left our thank-you message on the guestbook at the Visitors’ Centre and bid the kind lady good-bye, before going on a last-minute- scheduled quick visit to the Contemporary Art Gallery of Taiwan. 

Also see related posts:
> National Treasures – Taipei, Taiwan Trip #19
Funny Signs. Interesting Finds – Taiwan Trip #18
Food Glorious Food! – Taiwan Trip #17
Everyone Says Good Good Eat…Again! – Taiwan Trip #16
Answer to Nature’s Call #3 – Taiwan Trip #15
Nine Portions with Nine Lives – Taiwan Trip #14
Déjà Vu and a Brief Encounter – Taiwan Trip #13
Letting Our Imagination Run Wild – Taiwan Trip #12
Walking in the Wind – Taiwan Trip #11
A Walk Along the Cliff – Taiwan Trip #10
Away From the Concrete Jungle – Taiwan Trip #9
Shit Happens – Taipei, Taiwan Trip #8
Gorilla in the Mist – Taipei, Taiwan Trip #7
It’s a Cat! No! It’s a Bear! – Taipei, Taiwan Trip #6
Wow Cow! Holy Cow! So Many Cows! – CowParade @ Taipei, Taiwan Trip #5
Gong Xi Fa Cai! – Taipei, Taiwan Trip #4
Holy Cow! – CowParade @ Taipei, Taiwan Trip #3
Wow Cow! – CowParade @ Taipei, Taiwan Trip #2
Buy One Get One Free! – Taipei, Taiwan Trip #1 


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