To: <>
Subject: Taiwan
From: "David Fischer" <>
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 2004 08:16:10 +1100

I recently spent eight days in Taiwan while on the way home from San
Francisco.  Taiwan is a fabulous place to visit and I would highly
recommend it.  The lowland areas are densely populated, but the mountains
are beautiful, rugged and there are not too many people except on the
weekends.  I stayed at hotels in Puli (geographic center of Taiwan) and at
Wushe which is in the mountains above Puli.  I decided to concentrate on
the mountain birds since this is where most of the endemics of Taiwan are
located.  In total, I saw 86 species including most of Taiwan's endemics.

There are a number of birding reports on the net that describe where to
birdwatch in Taiwan.  Most of my birding was along the "Blue Gate" and
"Continuation" tracks that are located just before the 16km marker on the
highway beyond Wushe.  These tracks pass through broadleaf forest at an
elevation of about 2700m.  Many of Taiwan's endemic species and sub-species
may be located here.  I walked these trails either at dawn or dusk on seven
days and found the following endemics:  SWINHOE'S PHEASANT (2 stunning
males), MIKADO PHEASANT (2 males and 3 females seen), TAIWAN PARTRIDGE
(many heard and 1 seen), STEERE'S LIOCICHLAS (common), TAIWAN YUHINA
(common), TAIWAN BARWING (common), WHITE-EARED SIBIA (common) and
COLLARED BUSH-ROBIN (common).  Some of the other interesting species
Ashy Pigeon (fairly common), Pygmy Wren-Babbler (common by call and
seen), Streak-throated Fulvetta (1 flock only), White-throated
(1 flock only of 30+ birds), Snowy-browed Flycatcher (1 male only),
White-browed Shortwing (skulker but occasionally seen), Island Thrush (3
males), Eye-browed Thrush (3), White-tailed Robin (1 male), Rufous-faced
Warbler (common) and Brown Bullfinch (fairly common).

About 4km beyond Wushe is a turnoff to the town of Lishan.  Just beyond
the 5km marker on this road is a small track ("Bedongyuanshan Farm Road"
in internet reports) that descends through a mixture of farmland, tea
plantations and remnant patches of forest to a river at the valley bottom.
This area was good for birds of the open country.  Chinese
Bamboo-Partridges were particularly common here.  Other birds of interest
included a Crested Goshawak, Vinous-throated Parrotbills (two flocks),
Collared Finchbills (common), Daurian Redstart (1 male and 1 female),
Striated Prinia (1 pair) and many bush warblers.  The biggest surprise was
a male White-tailed Blue Robin that fed right on the road in an area of
remnant forest.

On three occasions, I continued up the highway beyond the "Blue Gate" Track
to the top of the 3200m pass over Hohuan Mountain.  This area is mostly
covered with dwarf bamboo and a few confiers.  Alpine Accentors hopped and
sang at the feet of tourists on one visit.  A little beyond the summit is
a restaurant and a small road to Hohuan Villa.  I saw two more endemics
FLAMECRESTS (Goldcrest/Kinglet relative) were a beautiful endemic and
were usually accompanied by Coal Tits as they traveled through the conifers.
Brambling and Vinaceous Rosefinch hopped along the edge of the road and fed
seeding roadside grasses.  Winter Wrens and Yellowish-bellied Bush-Warblers
were common in the dwarf bamboo.

I made one journey from Wushe to Taroko Gorge both for birding and also to
view the spectacular scenery.  I left Wushe at 3:30 am for the 160 km
journey to the small town of Tienhsiang.  I arrived at 6 am and walked to
the two bridges below the Buddhist Temples at the edge of town.  Male
Plumbeous Redstarts sang from rocks along the rivers and they chased away
Blue Rock Thrushes and Grey Wagtails that entered their territories.  Soon,
however, I heard a much louder, more piercing song and this proved to be
another endemic, the TAIWAN WHISTLING-THRUSH.  Others joined in and up to
four of these beautiful birds were in sight at once.  I walked on to the
temple area and immediately found two more endemics:  STYAN'S BULBUL and
YELLOW TIT.  Taroko Gorge was lovely, particularly the lower
section of the gorge between Tienhsiang and the village of Taroko.  This
portion of the gorge was narrow and the river has cut and polished boulders
of white marble.

I visited Huisun Forest Area on one occasion.  This reserve is located in
the lower foothills and is about a 45 minute drive north from Puli.  Huisun
Forest Area is a good location for the locally distributed TAIWAN BLUE
MAGPIE.  I found a flock of 10 of these long-tailed birds in an open, drier
forest along a dirt road that begins near the upper accommodation area.
Grey Treepies and Eurasian Nutcrackers were also common in this area.
I also found a pair of Spot-breasted Scimitar Babblers and a pair of Dusky
elsewhere in the reserve in an area of moist forest.  Most birds in the
travelled around in large interspecific flocks.  Grey-cheeked Fulvettas
were the core species but flocks also included lesser numbers of
Grey-chinned Minivets, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers, Rufous-capped
Babblers, Black Bulbuls, Bronzed Drongos, Black-naped Monarchs,
Black-throated Tits and Varied Tits.

Getting around in Taiwan was not as difficult as I expected.  Signs on the
main highways and many of the secondary roads were in English as well as
Chinese.  When only in Chinese, they still used highway numbers so it was
not too hard to figure out where to go.  The hardest bit was locating
hotels since these were not so obvious.  I could usually find someone who
understood my charades or who spoke a little English.  Food was good but
really exotic.  For breakfast, I usually had pork and noodle soup although
at one nice hotel in Puli, breakfast consisted of boiled cabbage, 5
different dishes of tofu, coongee (rice porridge), bamboo shoots and other
things that I could not recognize.  They use allot of star-anise in their

My adventures in Taiwan included sitting out a typhoon that struck the day
after my arrival.  In central Taiwan, this meant heavy rain for 1 day
(clear the next), but along the northeast coast and Taipei, there was heavy
flooding due to 350 mm rain in 12 hours!  I think that the Taiwanese people
have to be some of the friendliest in Asia.  When I bird-watched along
roads, people often stopped and offered me a lift since they thought that
my car had broken down.  At restaurants, when I looked totally perplexed by
menus in Chinese with no pictures, someone almost always would come up and
help me either with sign-language or with rudimentary English.  Taiwan is a
prosperous country and costs are only a little less than in Australia.  I
did find a basic hotel in Wushe that only cost about $25/night.  In Puli,
where I fled prior to the arrival of the typhoon, a beautiful hotel with
underground parking cost about $75/night.

Taiwan was good for birds, butterflies and snakes.  I did not see a single
lizard but came across at least 7 species of snakes.  The most exciting
encounter occurred in Huisun Forest Area.  I could hear a scimitar-babbler
calling on the opposite side of a narrow valley where I was walking.  I was
slowly stepping forward and studying the opposite forest when I heard a
strange huffing sound at my feet.  I looked down to find a small Taiwan
Cobra that had reared and fanned its neck.  It behaved, however, and
crawled away from me while huffing and puffing.  I wanted to take a photo
but it would not cooperate and it soon disappeared into a rockpile.  I also
found a Banded Krait and a colourful Asian Coral Snake (both cobra
relatives) at night near Wushe.  The most beautiful snake was the
appropriately named Taiwan Beauty Snake.  It is oddly patterned and spotted
for the first half of the body, then striped for the second half including
the tail.  The individual that I saw at Huisun Forest Area was large and
fast.  Another colourful species was a Red Bamboo Snake that I
encountered on the highway while driving up to the "Blue Gate" Track before

The Taiwanese have an excellant freeway system in the plains.  In the
mountains, however, the roads were difficult.  The Taiwanese mountains were
steep and unstable. As a result, I often encountered places where the outer
lane had simply broken away and had fallen down the adjacent slope.

I had a great time and would love to go back again someday.

David Fischer
Wollongong, NSW

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