Saturday, 27 July 2013

Wulai, Taiwan

The morning of my second day in Taipei was spent with Professor Bruno Walther who is one of the BirdingPals from the city. Bruno also invited 3 other local birders: Carol and Will Mullen, and Scott Simon. And a very enjoyable time we had too.

We had agreed in advance to visit the hilly Wulai area. It the only place that I visited in Taipei that couldn't be reached using the metro alone. Bruno drove us the short journey from the end of metro line, Xindian station, to Wulai.

Taiwan barbet seen at Wulai

However my birding started well before reaching Wulai. The walk at 6am from the hotel to the local metro station on the first leg of the journey proved fruitful. 

Two common magpie were seen down a side road. Apparently this is a fairly recent addition to Taiwan's bird life.

Common magpie

On a wire over the main road a black drongo was perched. Of course tree sparrow and Chinese bulbul were everywhere.

black drongo

Bruno told us that though the number of species regularly seen is usually relatively low, the quality and rarity is often significant.

our birding team

Our first interesting bird was a Taiwan blue whistling thrush on the rocks near the river flowing through Wulai town.

Taiwan whistling thrush

Carol and Bruno had usually seen plumbeous redstart in the same place but this time it was missing.

Maroon oriole

The trees out of town and up the hill were thronging with bulbuls : mostly Himalayan black bulbul but with a few Chinese bulbul too.

Near a local wooded cemetery,  two much rarer birds were seen. We were privileged to have prolonged and good views of a maroon oriole. This Taiwanese endemic is only found in three small areas of Taiwan and Wulai is one of them.

second view of Maroon oriole

Also near-by were several Taiwan blue magpie which I had seen the day before in an urban environment. This wasn't the second significant "rarer" bird though.  

Taiwan blue magpie

That was grey capped pygmy woodpecker. One of the interesting characteristics of this bird for me was that it seems to like foraging among young sprigs and sprouts rather than dead or old wood like larger woodpeckers.

Grey capped pygmy woodpecker

Names of birds are often deceiving, in this case, I don't believe the Taiwan sub species actually has a grey cap. It looked black to me!

second view of grey capped pygmy woodpecker

As is often the case in birding, often the best moments are compressed into a few minutes with periods of inactivity when you begin to wonder where the birds have gone.  This time it was on and near a single large fruiting tree. A mixed flock of Himalayan bulbul with grey cheeked fulvetta and white bellied erponis were swarming all over the tree and near-by. While we were watching them a group of Taiwan Scimitar Babbler moved through the near-by undergrowth. To top it all a couple of birding group also spied an island thrush in there too. Unfortunately I wasn't one of them. 

There was so much to take in that photography had to take second place. I had seen three lifers in one spot and I needed to absorb this.

Grey treepie at Wulai

After this excitement was moved down back towards the town noting that the swallows here were pacific swallow (I having seen only barn swallow in the city). Pacific swallow was not new for me as I had seen it last summer on Vanuatu. However house swift were also in the air and this was a lifer. 

Pacific swallow

We took lunch down in the town of Wulai over looking the river where we had seen the Taiwan blue whistling thrush at the start of the trip.

female plumbeous redstart

This time there was a plumbeous redstart on the river bank after all. A female was seen first. This all lead-grey coloured bird is unusual for a redstart in that it has no red in its tail.

male plumbeous redstart

A male was seen soon after and this does have a red tail!

butterflies drinking for minerals

Very near the redstarts, ten of butterflies were taking minerals out of the water.

hornets near lunch

Only late on, did we realise that we had been standing next to a large group of hornets while watching the butterflies and birds.

However the trip won't be remembered for that but for 7 lifers and the hospitality shown by my local birding colleagues.

List of birds seen by me at Wulai

Rock Dove 
House Swift (lifer)
Taiwan Barbet

Little Egret 
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker (lifer)
Maroon Oriole (endemic, lifer)
Taiwan Blue Magpie 
Grey Treepie 
Large-billed Crow
Pacific Swallow 
Chinese Bulbul 
Himalayan Black Bulbul 
Taiwan Scimitar Babbler (endemic, lifer)
Grey-cheeked Fulvetta (lifer)
White-bellied Erponis  (lifer)
Japanese White-eye 

Taiwan Whistling Thrush (endemic, lifer)
Plumbeous Redstart (lifer)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Species seen by others at Wulai
Island Thrush

Species seen on the way to the metro station
Common Magpie
Black Drongo
Barn Swallow
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Chinese Bulbul

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