Visit your favourite destinations
|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Taiwan, 22-26 Nov 2004,
This report will briefly detail a visit to central Taiwan aimed at finding the Brown Dipper and then as many Taiwan and E. Asia specialties as possible. Having seen the other dippers in Oregon, Venezuela, Spain, and Argentina respectively, it was time to get the last one. The Wushe area seemed to combine access and habitats in a workable manner.
Sources: A trip report by Jon Hornbuckle from Jan 2003 provided info for a framework, once I'd determined I would not need a car. The Lonely Planet 1998 edition is seriously out of date especially re the transport issues. More English was spoken than others have implied.
Weather: Mild weather throughout with brief light rain a couple of times. Birding light about 0600.
Transport: As it turned out, contrary to older reports, there are several car companies with counters at the airport. Also several bus companies serve the airport now so there is no need to go to transport hubs in Taipei in order to get to the interior of the country. I went direct to Taichung (2 hrs), then Puli then Wushe. Buses are reasonable in price but not dirt cheap.
Around Wushe I walked and hitched. Hitchhiking was easy, though Hornbuckle was fortunate that there was snow on the mountain and more tourist traffic. I had trouble getting a ride up the mountain early in the am, and ended up taking the bus that passed through Wushe at about 0650 up to km 12. From there it's a 4 km walk to the Blue Gate road through reasonable habitat, or wait for traffic to pick up. Getting back was easy. I had no problems except a couple of drunks who wanted to practice their English even though it quickly became apparent that their combined vocabulary didn't make double figures, and that was on the bus. One betel-nut smacking maniac did give me a ride, but it was uphill so he couldn't go too fast.
Accommodation: After 36 hours without sleep the hotel over the 7-11 store in Wushe was fine at NT$600 (midweek). I don't seem to have recorded the name. It's probably best to avoid the area on weekends. There is other accommodation higher on the mountain closer to the birding areas, also presumably cheaper options.
I had to go down to Taichung and sleep there the final night in order to get to the airport in time. The Crown Hotel near the bus terminal is NOT recommended.
Food: Wushe does not seem to have any real restaurants at least on the street, but several cheap noodle stands. One across from the 7-11 opens at 0530 (NT$50 for two eggs and a bowl of noodles). The 7-11 itself of course supplies needed junk food. KFC in Taichung was good.
Sites: On the first morning I started to walk and eventually hitched to Lushan to look at the river there. Very touristy but good views of the stream. Brown Dipper, Taiwan Whistling-Thrush, mystery forktails, Plumbeous Redstart, 3 wagtails, etc. The forktails appeared to be White-crowned (I'd have preferred Little). Escapes? Unknown population in such an accessible place? Undescribed form?
That afternoon (more noodles for lunch) I decided to go and check out the Blue Gate road, but a ride with a couple from Hsinchu and their infant twins was going all the way to the top, so I took advantage. At the pass 3200+m on Hohuanshan were Alpine Accentor, White-whiskered Laughingthrush, and Winter Wren.
Second day was direct to the Blue Gate road though not arriving much before 0800. The road is on the left just before km 16, and readily identified by a concrete truck escape ramp. Plenty of birds here, with some of the endemics particularly abundant. The Liocichla was especially annoying, and quickly I was able to identify it by the characteristic thrashing of the vegetation. At least the Sibia, Yuhina, Gray-cheeked Fulvetta, etc are more pleasant to look at. Whistling Collared Owlet was quite effective once I figured out the call (toot too-toot, toot, w/ regular pygmy-owl tone). Most of the list below is from this site, aside from the birds mentioned before and obvious open-country species.
Third day: Got to the Blue Gate site slightly earlier by hitching instead of walking from km 12. Mopped up a few of the regular species that had eluded me the day before, but still missed some endemics. (To add insult to injury, there was a painting of Yellow Tit over a urinal in the Taipei airport when I returned from Manila.) Pheasants still uncooperative, and I thought I would go 0-4 on the chickens (Taiwan Partridge HO) until just before the road returning in the afternoon a pheasant melted into the vegetation, crested profile so apparently Swinhoe's. There were several parties on the road fixing water pipes, which did not help, but I had no more luck with the pheasants the day before when it was deserted.
All in all Taiwan is a fun place to bird, with good infrastructure, friendly people, lots of birds if limited diversity, and moderate prices.
Species List: Taiwan 22-26 November 2004
Ashy Wood Pigeon
Eurasian Tree Sparrow