Trip Report – December 2014
Comments: We have passed through Taipei dozens of times on our travels and never left the airport, so on a recent trip to Australia we decided to stop over for a few days. Because it was a brief stop over this is not a very comprehensive trip report. I would not attempt this country without a guide as it is quite difficult to access information or reliable maps on the internet. I should mention that it was December, we were high in the mountains and nowhere had any heat – not the best time of year to visit! Also none of these places serve alcohol so if you enjoy a beer or a glass of wine you better take your own!
Day 1: Our guide met us at the airport at 7am and we drove straight to Jin Cheng Lake, Hsinchu, to start our birding. Quite a good number of the common waders and great views of Ruddy-breasted Crake. The life birds for us were Black-faced Bunting and Brown-flanked Bush-warbler. It was at this early stage of the trip that we realized our guide knew where to go but wasn’t great on what we were seeing! This could be a long 5 days!
After about an hour or so we hopped back in the car to start our drive into the mountains. Stopped at a rest area on the highway for lunch and then wound our way up to Kwanghua – near Alishan.
We were staying at the Firefly Teahouse (cannot find this anywhere on the internet!) and the owner had set up a great viewing area in the forest for us to enjoy Taiwan Hill Partridge and Swinhoe’s Pheasant. Wow!
Had dinner at the teahouse – which was interesting but it was freezing. Nowhere had any heat and everyone seemed to enjoy eating with
the doors wide open.
Day 2: After a cold breakfast, we drove up to Alishan National Park. Headed straight for the top and the birding was fabulous. Life birds for us were Vineaous Rosefinch, Johnstone’s Robin, Flamecrest, White-whiskered Laughing-thrush, Golden Parrotbill, Taiwan Barwing and Steere’s Liocichla. Now we didn’t feel the cold!
After enjoying that for sometime we made our way to Yuishan Naitional Park for lunch – no life birds for us here but so many species in Taiwan are endemic sub-species that we make a note of everything. Black-throated Tit, Coal tit, Spotted Nutcracker, Gray-cheeked Fulvetta etc.
Back down to the teahouse to freeze while having dinner and then out to look for Mountain Scops Owl. Despite the best efforts of our host we did not get the owl but we had an amazing experience with the fireflies in the area and did get a Collared Scops Owl.
Day 3: Before breakfast we birded near the teahouse and our guide called in Taiwan Scimitar Babbler wish was great. Also Duarian Redstart and Plain Flowerpecker. Then after we ate we walked for a while in the area but it was quite quiet. White-eared Sibia, Tawian Yuhina and Whilte-bellied Green Pigeon were new for us but there was nothing much else around so we started to drive on towards Huisin National Forest.
Lunch in another road side stop and then onto some of the strangest accommodation we have ever been to- still freezing and no heat! The good news was that we got Taiwan Blue-Magpie and Malayan Night-heron which were lifers.The better news was that we had beer with us and internet reception!
Day 4: Decided to leave Huisin after breakfast and drive on to Dasyueshan National Park for Mikado Pheasant – but not before enjoying Varied Tit outside the restaurant. On the way up to Dasyueshan there is a very popular photographic stop and we managed to find a life
bird – Vivid Niltava – posing nicely.
Dasyueshan is an incredibly reliable location for the Mikado Pheasant and we had stunning views of a pair beside the road. Unfortunately that was all for the afternoon so we went to our accommodation which was even stranger and even colder than the night before. Frankly we are relieved that this is the last night!
Day 5: After breakfast – which felt a bit like you were in Nepal about to summit Everest
because everyone was dressed in parkas in the dining hall – we headed down. A stop near the entrance gave us Red-faced Warbler but not much else.
We had to be at the airport by mid afternoon to catch our flight to Sydney so we decided to head back to JinCheng Lake on the way. It was a good way to end the trip as we had 12 new birds for the trip and 2 life birds – Eastern Spot-billed Duck and Pale Thrush.
Then to the airport and heat!!!!!
Firefly Guesthouse, Kwanghua
Huisin Education Centre
Dasyuesham Natoional Forest Hostel
NOTE: It does not seem possible to book these accommodations without a guide. They were well located but quite basic. None of these lodges have any form of heat – they were freezing!
Guides & Resources
Guides: Birdingattaiwan.com (not recommended)
Field Guide: Birds of East Asia, Mark Brazil
Bird Song: Couldn’t find any!
Lonely Planet guide for points of interest.