Birding Daxueshan, Taiwan
When: November 2018 Weather cool: 13-25C
Nikon P900 Leica M10P 35 summilux
After our meeting ended, we planned a day trip to DaXueShan or DaSyueShan or Big Snow Mountain for a birding expedition. As it’s a long way away, we set off at 5am for the 2.5 hour drive to the foot of the forested mountain reserve. Taiwan has nearly thirty endemic species and our guide Ms Liao reckoned that we should get at least 10 of them in a day trip. (Of course most birders do Taiwan in a week, not a day!)
From the bottom of the mountain to the visitor centre at the 50km mark is a 2600m ascent. We drove slowly up in the early morning mist at 730am with the 23km mark as our first stop to seek Swinhoe’s Pheasant. But our guide heard some bird song before we got there…
white wagtail was the first sighting
The hills were green and pretty
at about the 23rd km milestone, we stopped and staked out two locations for the first of our endemics….
The female Swinhoe’s Pheasant was the first to show….
and then another showed up by the roadside
and eventually the magnificent male Swinhoe’s Pheaasant deigned to show and came down from the sloped forested area to join his ladies…
the magnificent Swinhoe’s Pheasant with strikingly blue plumage and red wattles…the first of our endemcics
the back of the Swinhoe;s pheasant
He was quite oblivious to the presence of passing cars…this is the 23rd km bend where we found him
Up close the bright red face …
we then moved on to a nearby copse of trees and heard the distinct tok-tok-tok of a woodpecker….alas I could only manage this blurry partial shot of the also endemic white backed woodpecker
Grey chinned minivet female
white eared sibia with characteristic white plumes radiating back from the eye
white eared sibia
another endemic, the yellow tit
yellow tit and here we can jsut make out the black pointed crest on the head
green backed tit
black thraoted tit
another view of black throated tit with rufous tinged chest which can just about be seen here
The gorgeous Taiwan Barbet also called the 5 coloured barbet in mandarin
and this was a lovely sighting, the eyebrowed thrush
and then this brilliant blue and orange bird appeared unfortunately with strong backlighting…the endemic vivid niltava
Here the vivid niltava in the foreground and I’m not sure what the lighter coloured bird in the background is….
the foliage was pretty too
and so ever higher we went in search of our other main target bird, the other harder to find, Mikado Pheasant…we headed to the 50th km mark…
At the 50km mark, there is a pillar, car park and visitor centre…
it was still very misty and wet in areas
we staked out an area to wait for the pheasant but this little bird showed up instead…the female rose finch
and she quite enjoyed having a bath
and finally just behind the toilets(!!) emerged the regal Mikado Pheasant, the bird featured on the Taiwan $1000 note.
the tail of the Mikado Pheasant is very long…serpent like…
before long, he was joined by his mate, the much less dramatic femal Mikado Pheasant
close up of MIkado Phesant’s face in the rain
Male and female Mikado Pheasants
And having knocked off the Mikado Pheasant, we stopped for a quick lunch and then our guide was determined to find a few more endemics for us prior to our descent….
A map of the DaXueShan national forest reserve
A walk in the forest after lunch amongst the Cypresses
the berries would be attractive to the birds..
and so it proved with the appearance of this attractive bird…the Taiwan Barwing
Taiwan Barwing with its lunch..the bars on its wing clearly seen here.
Taiwan Barwing…yet another endemic
Taiwan Yuhina with its characteristic chestnut crest
they were quite common but were very active and hard to shoot
returning to the 50km point, our guide triumphantly showed us yet another endemic, the white whiskered laughing thrush….
the white whiskered laughing thrush
with its colourful wings
and blue tinted tail
and as we started out descent at 4pm, we stopped off at the 23km mark again to look for one last endemic…
The Taiwan Partridge
a group of 6-7 of them were huddled near the road! Our final endemic of the day..
Actually we saw two other endemics but I was unable to get decent shots….the firecrest and the cupwing….the cupwing was particularly delightful, a small brown ball just hopping away in the fading light….
so we descended in the dusk light..
and had a lovely hakka dinner in the little village at the bottom of daxueshan
As far as dedicated birding days go, this was a pretty good one with many endemics, wonderful scenery and cool if a bit wet weather. We had a great time and our guide did a great job; the drive is long but the ROI was good! highly recommended