Monday, March 5, 2012

Wuling Farm


Delivering clients to climb Xue Shan (Snow Mountain) gave me an opportunity to explore Wuling Farm for almost 2 days. The weather was mostly wet and cool. And, because this was a long holiday weekend, in places there were plenty of humans admiring the splendid sakura blossoms. Despite the imperfect conditions Wuling exceeded expectations - easy strolling in great great facilities. An excellent end to the first two months of this project.

Note I have a self-guided package tour for Wuling. Suitable for those wanting a bit of luxury - or with non-birders in tow.

Wuling Farm is located in a high-mountain valley 3 hours to the southeast of Taipei. Though technically within Taichung County, it is easiest to approach from Yilan County or the Hehuan/Taroko area (as Highway #8’s western section is closed between Guguan and Lishan). Note: Wuling Farm has nothing to do with Wuling - the highest pass at Hehuan Mountain.

Spent some time watching from the bridges hoping to glimpse some of the Mandarin Ducks resident here, instead I was entertained by the many Brown Dippers - the bird of the trip. Had great views of a Little Forktail travelling up and down the artificial, terraced stream (where it intersects with the main road) on the south side of the Hoya Hotel.

Caught glimpse near the tea fields on the east bank of the Cijia River of a Red-billed Blue Magpie. Hopefully this is the last specimen of this released species in Taiwan, surprised this one has not been removed.

Taiwan Partridge. 7 near the trailhead for Snow Mountain.
Brown W. Heard only. near Snow Mountain trailhead.
Black-throated Tits. Over 20 seen at various locations.
Brown-Bullfinch. 1 near Qika Cabin.
Russet Sparrow. Over 10 seen near lower tea plantation. Very pleased to see.
Green-backed Tit.
Taiwan Liocicla. A couple in scrub-trees below Snow Trailhead,
Taiwan Yuhinia. Numerous.
Plumbeous Redstart. Numerous.
Red-flanked Bluetail. 1
Rufous-faced Warbler
Eurasian Nuthatch. 2 near Snow Mountain Trail head
Striated Prinia. 2 near Taoshan Waterfall trailhead.
Brown Dipper. Found easily at all likely locations.
White-eared Sibia. About 10 at various locations.
Kestrel. Excellent views at higher campground.
Large-billed Crow.
Tree Sparrow. Japanese White-eyes.
White, and Grey Wagtail. Light-vented Bulbul, Black Bulbul,
Eurasian Jay. 1 in the pine forest near Taoshan Waterfall.
Collared Bush Robin. 3 at Snow Mountain trailhead.
Flamecrest. 2 on the way to Qika Cabin, 2 in forest above campground area.
Mountain Scops-owl
Rufous-capped Babbler
Taiwan Barwing. Several, mostly in forest near Qika Cabin.
Grey-cheeked Fulvetta
Yellow Tit. Near campground and Qika.
Formosan Whistling Thrush. 2 near toll station.

Species hoped for but not seen: Coal Tit, Grey-throated Minivet, Vivid Niltavia, Mountain Hawk-Eagle. Neither Swinhoe’s or Mikado Pheasant were encountered. Swinhoe’s is possible at the tea/fruit farm on the east side of the river - especially in May, and the Mikado on the trail to Taoshan Waterfall. Both Swinhoe’s and Mikado are occasionally seen on the trail to Qika Cabin - which I had permission to walk this time. The upper part of Wuling (around and above the camping area) can be good for raptors.

Other fine creatures: Formosan Landlocked Salmon, Chinese Weasel, Perny's Long-nosed Squirrel, Formosan Macaque (monkey), Muntjac (Barking Deer, several heard only), Red and White Giant Flying Squirrel, other hikers reported seeing a Yellow-throated Marten.

New birds at Wuling Farm:

Brown Wood-Owl    Strix leptogrammica (heard only)
Russet Sparrow    Passer rutilans

Brown Dipper    Cinclus pallasii
Little Forktail    Enicurus scouleri    "Endemic subspecies (E. s. fortis)"
Besra    Accipiter virgatus    Taiwan Endemic Subspecies (A. v. fuscipectus)
Red-billed Blue Magpie, Urocissa erythrorhyncha
Eurasian Jay    Garrulus glandarius    "Endemic subspecies (G. g. taivanus)"

New bird March 1st in Sicao, Tainan.

Little Curlew    Numenius minutus

Yilan and Shuanglienpi


February 26th I made my excuses and escaped to Yilan County ahead of weekend holiday traffic for a day of intensive birding far from my usual haunts. Yilan, situated in Northeastern Taiwan, is mostly lush rugged mountains, the rest is very flat rice fields decorated with houses and tedious towns. The coastal wetlands are some of Taiwan’s most important bird habitats.

Link to Google map
The road tunnel (Freeway #5) through the Xueshan mountain range makes it  convenient to visit from Taipei - but remember, avoid times when millions of Taipei folk are doing the same thing. On this damp (Yilan seems to be always wet) and cool day I explored the wetland complex in the north-east area (east of #5), and north of the Lanyang River. The best locations were the various ponds, fields and drainage channels to the south of Toucheng Town and between roads #2 and #191.

Many shorebirds to be seen. Highlights for me: 8 Black-faced Spoonbills, 1 Hoopee, 10, Vinous-throated Parotbills, 2 Water Rail, 5 Northern Lapwing, 1 Eared Grebe, 2 Purple Herons, 3 European Starling, 1 Ruff...and 2 vagrant Hooded Cranes (yes, was an undeniable twitch; near km mark 143 Road #2).


After enough of the damp and cool plains I went to scout out the road towards bio-diverse Fushan Botanical Gardens. I’ve had repeated bad luck getting the (required) permission to visit Fushan - instead I had a quick look around Shuanglienpi (雙連埤).

Mandarin Ducks - naturally occuring.
At 400 meters elevation, Shuanglienpi (Shuang-lien-pi) is a wetland and small lakes surrounded by well forested mountains. If unable to get permission for Fushan (must apply online early - avoid weekends) I can recommend the drive to, and the walk around these very pleasant ponds.

Various good birds around (Blue Magpies, Scimitar Babblers, Grey-throated Minivets, Maroon Oriole, Dusky Fulvetta, White-bellied Erponis)  the highlight was a pair of wintering Mandarin Ducks.

New Birds seen in Yilan - wetlands and Shuanglienpi:

Water Rail    Rallus aquaticus
Eared Grebe    Podiceps nigricollis
Ruff    Philomachus pugnax
Northern Lapwing    Vanellus vanellus
Hooded Crane    Grus monacha
Mandarin Duck    Aix galericulata
Silver-backed Needletail    Hirundapus cochinchinensis    "Endemic subspecies (H. c. formosanus)"
Yellow-throated Bunting    Emberiza elegans
European Starling    Sturnus vulgaris