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TAIWAN

Thursday 18th April - Tuesday 30th April 2019

Joshua Bergmark

Flamecrest (Joshua Bergmark)

Flamecrest (Joshua Bergmark)

The isle of Taiwan. This lovely East Asian country off the coast of China offers some high-quality, easy birding in a very well-developed setting. From searching for migrants in coastal fields and estuaries to traipsing through the cool and misty highlands where endemics abound, this tour has it all! After a three-year hiatus we started with a bang, finding a selection of wonderfully tame Malayan Night Herons in Taipei before moving to the mountains of Dasyueshan where specialties were appearing left right and center! From the glorious Yellow Tit and noisy Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush to confiding male Swinhoe’s Pheasants and beautiful Steere’s Liocichlas. The following days we found a very nice male Mikado Pheasant by the roadside, the diminutive Flamecrest, Rusty Laughingthrush, Collared Bush Robin, Taiwan Cupwing, Taiwan Barwing, and much more! All too soon we continued onwards towards Hehuanshan Pass, collecting Taiwan Blue Magpie, Chestnut-bellied Tit, Black-necklaced Scimitar Babbler and Taiwan Hwamei along the way. We had been having excellent luck, so it was no surprise that after seeing Taiwan Rosefinch and Styan’s Bulbul as we dropped down to the east coast, we had officially seen all 28 currently recognised endemics, even though the tour was not even half done! Of course, part of the reason we allow for so much time on this tour is to guarantee as many of the endemic subspecies as possible, since many of these are vastly distinct from their counterparts in other regions. “Taiwan” Whistling Green Pigeons, “Lanyu” Ryukyu Scops Owls and “Lanyu” Japanese Paradise Flycatchers were highlights on that lovely little island halfway between Taiwan and the Philippines, while back on the mainland we enjoyed “Red” Maroon Oriole, “Owston’s” Spotted Nutcracker, “Taiwan” White’s Thrush, “Sombre” White-browed Bush Robin, “Taiwan” Golden Parrotbill, “Owston’s” Grey-headed Bullfinch, “Taiwan” Brown Bullfinch, and superb views of the rare “Taiwan” Himalayan Owl at a roost. While searching for passage migrants like the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill, Chinese Egret, Oriental Pratincole, White-shouldered Starling, Black-naped Oriole, Brown-headed Thrush, Black-faced Bunting and Little Bunting, we lucked into some exceedingly cooperative Barred Buttonquail, Slaty-breasted Rail and Ruddy-breasted Crake (incidentally, all endemic subspecies in their own rights). While not exactly specialties, it was amazing to watch a migrating kettle of Chinese Sparrowhawks numbering well into the thousands one morning, see a tiny Little Forktail sitting so politely by the side of the road, and get superb looks at some Pheasant-tailed Jacanas in their breeding finery. It is always good fun to sort through the delicious assortment of coloured-up northward-bound shorebirds on the west coast to pick out things like Long-toed Stint, Great Knot, Red Knot, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank and, this time, a single Saunders’s Gull. The tour culminated with two freshly-arrived Fairy Pitta which provided excellent views, despite the population’s downward trajectory into endangered territory. In total we recorded 219 species of bird (including one heard only and one leader only). From the 88 available Taiwanese endemic taxon, we found an incredible 86, so avid armchair listers can rest easy! We saw and an additional 11 species of mammal during the tour.

Malayan Night Heron (Joshua Bergmark)

Malayan Night Heron (Joshua Bergmark)