Taiwan & Okinawa____________________________________
This was the third Birdwatching Breaks tour to the North Pacific islands of Taiwan, Okinawa and Amami Oshima. Birding proved to be extremely successful with all the endemic birds being recorded. On Taiwan, despite un-seasonally heavy rain and poor visibility, we managed to locate all the endemic species and the majority of the endemic subspecies. We were particularly fortunate to enjoy good views of Mikado Pheasant at a new site, after our previous location had become inaccessible following a landslide. We were also fortunate to find a flock of at least 33 Black-faced Spoonbills, representing 2% of the world population, as the main wintering flocks have departed by the end of April. On the Ryuku Islands of Japan we saw a number of Okinawa Rail, both by day and night and enjoyed good views of Okinawa Woodpecker. We also enjoyed spectacular views of Ryuku and Collared Scops Owls at night. On Amami Oshima we enjoyed tremendous views of Owston's Woodpecker and Lidth's Jays, the latter feeding young. Nightime and early morning ventures provided good views of Amami Woodcock and the early dawn song of the very rare Amami Thrush respectively.
The tour was a great success for everybody involved. I am much indebted to Jon for driving us safely around Taiwan and acting as a very professional guide. The birding skills and company of Mu-Chi Tsai in the Central Highlands of Taiwan, Mamoru Tsuneda in Amami Oshima and Mamoru Kudaka on Okinawa was a considerable asset. Yenhui Hsu co-ordinated our Taiwan trip and acted as an excellent guide during our return to the island, as did Junko Oshima on Okinawa and Amami Oshima, providing good company throughout the Japanese part of the tour. Without their local expertise and knowledge, the tour would not have been the enjoyable and rewarding success it turned out to be.
April 22nd/23rd: London - Bangkok - Taipei - Taoyan.
A long travelling day from Europe to Asia with EVA the national carrier of Taiwan. The flight went smoothly, despite delays on departure and the re-fuelling stop in Bangkok. On arrival in Taiwan we were met by Jon, our local guide and driver. Short journey down to Taoyan for a nights stay.
April 24th: Shirmen Reservoir and environs - Puli.
Weather: Overcast, heavy rain overnight and mid-day, light drizzle during morning.
We left the hotel at 05:30, after an unexpected cooked breakfast, and drove to the reservoir area, arriving at 06:30. En route we located Long-tailed Shrike perched on roadside telegraph wires, along with a host of common species. A female Taiwan Whistling Thrush was present as we stepped out of the vehicle, but, along with a male, only showed briefly. A Taiwan Blue Magpie on the road was another early endemic bonus. A male Blue Rock Thrush of the orange-bellied form phillippensis was a welcome find by Michael on the rocks around the dam, where Rufous-capped Babbler and Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler were located. A Dusky Fulvetta was coaxed into view along with another pair of Scimitar-babblers, one of which provided excellent prolonged views. Light-vented and Black Bulbuls and Japanese White-eye proved abundant, the latter responding very well to spishing. Several Black-browed Barbet proved tricky to locate in their motionless vocal perches, until Michael found an obliging individual. White-bellied Yuhina, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta and Black-naped Monarch were all located as we descended. A couple of Oriental Turtle Doves were found near the entrance gates on our return. We then took the freeway south towards Puli, picking up a circling Crested Serpent Eagle and several Crested Goshawks. We stopped en route for lunch and then checked in at the Apollo Hotel at Puli in heavy rain. Fortunately the rain was only short-lived, allowing us to explore the agricultural area around Puli. Our first stop produced a pale headed Black-headed Munia amongst a mixed flock of Scaly-breasted and White-rumped, Plain and Yellow-bellied Prinia, Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Yellow Wagtails of the form taivana (with a single male simillima), Brown Shrike (of the distinctive grey-headed form luscionensis) and up to 3 Ruddy-breasted Crake foraging along a gravel track. Further exploration located a male Painted Snipe, White-breasted Waterhen and several escaped Asian Pied Starling. Dusk found at us at the riverbank on the edge of town, awaiting Savannah Nightjars. The birds started to call with their repetitive single, loud note as the light faded and we were eventually rewarded with a bird perched on top of a telegraph pole along the road. We retired back to the Hotel at 19:30 after a successful first day.
April 25th: Hui Sun National Park - Tsung Yang - Ao Wan Da National Park.
Weather: Overcast, occasional light showers.
Left Hotel at 05:15 to be greeted by a Taiwan Whistling Thrush and a party of Taiwan Blue Magpie at the entrance gates to Hui Sun at 06:00. Birded road and trails around the first main car park, which provided our first Grey-chinned Minivets, Varied Tit and a large party of Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker behaving as a family group. We also obtained further views of White-bellied Yuhina and Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler. After a picnic breakfast we headed up to the summit car park, where Michael located a group of Asian House Martin and another group of Silver-backed Needletail flew over. From here, we headed to the agricultural hill area of Tsung Yang, picking up provisions amongst the hustle and bustle of Puli market en route. At Tsung Yang, we made our way around the narrow roads, having to avoid the steady stream of traffic heading to the tea plantations. Our efforts were rewarded with our first Steere's Liocichla, White-eared Sibia, Taiwan Yuhina, Rufous-faced Warbler, White-bellied Green Pigeon and Oriental Cuckoo. White-tailed Robin and Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler frustratingly failed to reveal themselves well to everyone, but we were extremely fortunate to get outstanding views of singing Hwamei and Rufous Laughing-thrush. After a picnic lunch, another Hwamei was moving through trackside vegetation as we departed, providing further views of this form, which seems likely to be elevated to species status in due course. From here, we headed back to Wushe and then up to Ao Wan Da in steady light rain. Janet and Michael located an extremely obliging pair of Chinese Bamboo Partridge foraging in the car park adjacent to the visitor centre, which continued to provide excellent views for a prolonged period. We booked into our accommodation in the National Park and then headed up a roadside rocky stream, leading to a number of waterfalls. Plumbeous Redstarts performed admirably, but we couldn't find Little Forktail in the gathering gloom. Back at the road Janet located another Taiwan Whistling Thrush on the dried up stream bed below the road. We returned to the accommodation and dined in the restaurant. Post log call, a stroll outside revealed the presence of several Mountain Scop's Owls calling. From 19:30 – 20:30, we searched for them with a spotlight, but despite getting close enough to hear them moving, we failed to lamp one. The owls remained audible from our bedrooms throughout the night.
April 26th: Ao Wan Da National Park - Yeun Feng Pass.
Weather: Overcast and warm in morning, with prolonged intermittent rain from midday and cool (17C) and misty.
Out at 06:30 and explored the area adjacent to the accommodation where we found two more Taiwan Blue Magpie and a small party of Oriental Turtle Dove, before meeting our birding guide Tsai at 07:00. Spent the rest of the morning exploring the forest, which yielded a fine pair of Vivid Niltava, excellent views of Taiwan Yuhina and Black-throated Tit, parties of Grey Treepie and Eurasian Nuthatch and a pair of Crested Serpent Eagle soaring from the birdwatching platform. A Snowy-browed Flycatcher also gave fleeting views and several White-tailed Robins were heard. Mammals included Taiwan Macaque and Red-bellied Squirrel, whilst a small deer was heard barking. A river on the forest trail had produced a family of Plumbeous Redstarts, but Little Forktail continued to elude us so we decided to return to the waterfall trail in a final attempt to connect with this species. An obliging Taiwan Whistling Thrush provided good views on the roadside, but the forktails were not to be found. Tsai speculated that the recent heavy rainfall had swelled the rivers, causing the birds to move upstream. From here, we drove to our Hotel at Chinging and checked in. The weather had deteriorated significantly, but we determined to move on towards Houhan Mountain. After a picnic lunch we set off, but by the time we reached the Yeun Feng pass visibility was down to only 30m at times and the prolonged showers had become increasingly heavy. The White-whiskered Laughing Thrushes in the car park below the pass revived our spirits, hopping around our feet in search of scraps. With a little patience we were rewarded with Yellow-bellied Bush Warbler, Streak-throated Fulvetta and Black-throated Tit in the bamboo and scrub, whilst a pair of Collared Bush Robin and a fine male Vinaceous Rosefinch sat out the rain. We soldiered on up the road and got terrific views of the difficult Golden Parrotbill, along with Taiwan Barwing and several more skulking Streak-throated Fulvettas. Coal Tit and Flamecrest could be heard calling from roadside conifers, and a White-browed Shortwing sang from the undergrowth, but all remained invisible in the gloom. Drenched, but with some fine birds under our belts, we returned to Chinging for coffee and cake before a final birding session in the area around the hotel. Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler and Hwamei sang from the mist on the far side of a tea plantation, but despite Tsai's fine efforts at imitating their vocalisations, could not be coaxed into view. A Steere's Liocichla provided our last sighting of the day as it perched up within the tea plants. As we dined in the evening the rain grew progressively heavier and a thunderstorm passed over. We retired to bed hoping for an improvement the following day.
April 27th: Bei Dong Yen - Reng Yeng Shee - Hohuan Shan.
Weather: Overcast, cool (17 C), intermittent showers in morning, turned to more persistent heavy rain and mist in afternoon
Left hotel at 05:00 for Bei Dong Yen. Here a road through the grounds of a University horticultural research station provides good forest birding. The approach road was somewhat treacherous - sections having been washed away by recent rains, but we arrived at the entrance gate by 05:45 and were watching a female Swinhoe's Pheasant before 6am. Despite the gloomy, overcast conditions, we located at least 7 Swinhoe's Pheasants on our drive up the track, including 2 lingering, obliging females and 2 fleeting males. We also enjoyed good views of a male White-tailed Robin perched in the track. Breakfast at the buildings by the small tea plantation was interrupted by White-throated Laughing Thrushes, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker and our first Jay. We then walked back down the track, locating another fleeting male Swinhoe's Pheasant, more White-throated Laughing Thrushes, Ashy Woodpigeon and our first Yellow Tit, which, despite uttering frequent bursts of song from the canopy, remained very hard to obtain decent views of as another spell of rain set in. Several Taiwan Hill Partridge called in the distance as we descended. With the onset of more persistent rain we were picked up by the vehicle and headed back to Chinging to pick up coffee, locating Collared Finchbill on the wires en route. With coffee on board, we made our way to Reng Yen Shee. Recent heavy rain had left the track quite muddy, and Mikado Pheasant were distinctly unlikely following the landslide 1.8km along the trail from July 2004, nonetheless we persevered and were rewarded with a fine selection of species. A singing White-browed Shortwing performed exceptionally well, whilst Pygmy Wren Babblers remained frustratingly elusive. Tsai's sharp ears picked out a singing Island Thrush, which was shortly answered by another. Brief views were obtained of a bird flitting through the canopy, but on our return we were rewarded with several sightings of a pair moving around together. An unexpected bonus indeed! We also heard Stripe-backed Squirrel and caught up with a pair of Yellow Tit foraging at mid-storey and giving protracted views of these delightful birds. Janet also picked up more Ashy Woodpigeon flying over, whilst their deep, haunting songs frequently accompanied us. Back to the car for a picnic lunch and then up to the summit, where the cloud and mist rolled in and the rain became persistent and heavy. Once again, this frustrated our attempt to pin down the key high altitude endemics, but rewards came in the shape of several Vinaceous Rosefinch, Collared Bush Robin and a singing Alpine Accentor. The miserable weather provided a slight anti-climax to what had been another very good day's birding.
April 28th: Houhan Shan - Reng Yeng Shee - Yushan National Park.
Weather: Heavy rain in early morning gave way to intermittent light showers. Overcast & cool.
Left the hotel at 05:30 accompanied by rain, which had persisted most of the night. Despite the weather, we again headed for the summit. Stopping at the conifers just beyond Yeun Feng we were rewarded with two Flamecrest and a very close Yellowish-bellied Bush Warbler. At the summit, a couple of Alpine Accentor, a Wren and a migrant Chinese Pond Heron provided the main interest, with a singing Taiwan Bush Warbler remaining distant in the gloom. We descended to the road below Reng Yen Shee, where the rain eased off and visibility improved for a while. A Pygmy Wren Babbler sang from deep cover, but a fine male Vivid Niltava gave stunning views. After breakfast and coffee, we embarked on the long drive to Yushan National Park, arriving just before 1pm. The decision to visit this site followed news that it offered our only chance of Mikado Pheasant and that Changua (our proposed destination) had been pretty poor for waders in recent days. We drove the stretches of road that had been suggested to us and Michael located an obliging female Mikado Pheasant. She allowed us to get good views before she slowly ambled into cover and we breathed a collective sigh of relief! From here, we cruised the roads slowly and birded around the large dead Fuci trees. Highlights included Streak-throated Fulvetta, Yellowish-bellied Bush Warbler, Golden Parrotbill, Black-faced Bunting, Alpine Accentor, Black-throated Tit, Vinaceous Rosefinch, White-whiskered Laughing Thrush and many Collared Bush Robins. Several singing Taiwan Bush Warbler proved very difficult to locate, but one was glimpsed briefly along the roadside. The finale arrived when a Pygmy Wren Babbler revealed itself in a roadside gully. A late afternoon check for more pheasants proved unsuccessful and so we made the long drive to our accommodation at Doulan.
April 29th: Huben Village - Jishuei River - Tainan.
Weather: Overcast and warm, with rain in early morning.
Left the hotel at 05:30 and met another local guide, Akai, at the temple at Pillow Hill. He took us to a forested gully where we chanced upon a pair of Chinese Bamboo Partridge. Distant Fairy Pittas were heard calling in response to Akai's whistles. However, with the onset of heavy rain, the trail went cold and we relocated to another potential site on the edge of the village. Again, Pittas were heard responding, and after an anxious wait, we located two birds and got reasonable views. We said thank you and goodbye to Akai and picked up a couple of Oriental Cuckoo on the opposite side of the riverbank. Flushed with success we headed out towards the bird rich wetlands north of Tainan. A small roadside pool en route produced Long-toed Stint, Grey, Yellow and White Wagtail and a bizarre looking partially leucistic Marsh Sandpiper, as well as our first Common Kingfisher and the first of many Brown Shrike. We continued to the Jishuei River where the tide was in and we located a good variety of waders on the fishponds, pools and sandbanks at the river mouth. The first pool enabled close comparison of Red-necked, Long-toed and Temminck's Stint, alongside Curlew and Marsh Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Grey-tailed Tattler, Greenshank and a pair of pirouetting Red-necked Phalaropes. Egrets and Black-crowned Night Heron were constantly flying over and we soon located a large breeding colony in the mangroves towards the river mouth. This area also held a singing, but concealed Oriental Reed Warbler. The sandy shore and pools around the river mouth held roosting Ruddy Turnstone, Lesser and Greater Sandplover, Terek Sandpiper and Great Knot, along with Whimbrel and Kentish Plover. A good number of Great Crested Tern were loafing on the poles in the estuary and a single Common Tern of the black-billed form longipennis was picked out from the numerous Little Tern feeding over the fishponds. We soon located a drained fishpond, which revealed a wealth of northbound waders, many sporting fine breeding plumage. We were able to enjoy protracted study of Pacific Golden Plover, both sandplovers side-by-side, Broad-billed and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and our only Grey Plover. From here, we headed towards Tainan, diverting en route to another area of extensive lagoons. Here Michael located our quarry - a party of 33 Black-faced Spoonbill, which we watched whilst eating a picnic lunch. Whiskered Terns foraged overhead and a Yellow Bittern was picked up as it briefly left the dense cover of the fringing mangroves. Further exploration located a small colony of Oriental Pratincole, including at least one half-grown chick being delivered food (a welcome relief after a single fly-over on the morning drive). From here we moved onto the Black-faced Spoonbill hides at Cigu, adding Common and Spotted Redshank, Intermediate Egret and Chinese Sparrowhawk en route, and again Michael located the quarry species, a fine breeding-plumaged Chinese Egret, whilst an Osprey successfully caught a fish and Gull-billed Terns flew by. Flushed with success, we prepared for the long drive south, stopping briefly at another area of ponds at Shihyihuzi, on the south bank of the Zengwen river, which produced two Cinnamon and another Yellow Bittern. Arrived at our accommodation at Checheng, north of Kenting, just after 7pm.
April 30th: Checheng - Kaoshiung - North Pacific Ocean.
Weather: Warm, overcast with occasional sunshine, increasing in afternoon.
Greeted by our first Taiwan Bulbul on trees outside the accommodation at 05:40. This completed our set of Taiwanese endemics (all seen except for Taiwan Hill Partridge). A short walk through agricultural fields found a female Blue Rock Thrush, Brown Shrike, Zitting Cisticola and White-breasted Waterhen, but distant singing Hwamei could not be found. By 06:05 we were en route north, picking up more Taiwan Bulbul to just north of Fonggang, where the last birds were found alongside their Light-vented relatives. Michael picked up a welcome Lesser Coucal, which provided good views for all and a Crested Serpent Eagle sat in a roadside tree. We arrived at the docks at 08:40 and breakfasted before joining the cargo ship for Okinawa at 10:00. We set sail at 13:00 and enjoyed our first couple of Long-tailed Skua a few kilometers out of the harbour. These provided the pre-cursor to a significant passage of birds for the Taiwan Straight, with at least 17 logged before we rounded the southern tip of the island. They were accompanied by at least 4 Pomarine and single Arctic Skua, several of the Poms heading north. Numerous Common, several Whiskered and a few Great Crested and Little Tern, several Brown Noddy, Brown Bobby, Wedge-tailed and Streaked Shearwater and Bulwer's Petrels kept the interest up, whilst a tropicbird found by Michael was a real bonus bird, but frustratingly eluded specific identification. Small parties of Red-necked Phalarope provided a challenge to locate amongst the flotsam and jetsam, but this material also provided perches for a noddy and several Great Crested Tern. Several pods of Pilot Whales and numerous flying fish maintained our interest. We retired to our cabins with a sense of expectation for the following day..
May 1st: North Pacific Ocean - Naha - Hentona.
Weather: Cloudy and warm, with protracted heavy rain showers in afternoon.
Emerged onto deck at 06:15 (the clocks having gone forward an hour) and soon located our first party of Sooty Tern. Several more groups and pairs were picked up during the course of the morning, along with a few Streaked Shearwater, single Bulwer's Petrel and a fine Long-tailed Skua. The boat attracted a Blue Rock Thrush and Striated Heron, which made several attempts to land on board. A pale-phased Arctic Skua was our last bird upon approaching Naha, where we docked at 13:30. We met Junko and Kudaka San and picked up our hire vehicle. We headed north towards Hentona in frequent heavy showers, locating numerous Oriental Turtle Dove, Large-billed Crow and a few Blue Rock Thrush. Checked into hotel and then explored the local paddies and agricultural fields, finding Brown-eared and Light-vented Bulbul, four species of egret, Zitting Cisticola and a flock of Chestnut-cheeked (Violet-backed) Starling. Returned to the hotel for dinner and then headed out for a nocturnal excursion at 20:00. Within the hour, we were spotlighting a fine Okinawa Rail roosting in a tree, apparently oblivious of our presence. A magical moment! The wet roads also hosted a number of endemic reptiles and amphibians, including Holst's Frog Rana holstii, Okinawa Tip-nosed Frog Rana (Eburana) narina and a Ryukyu Odd-tooth Snake Dinodon semicarinatum.
May 2nd: Yambaru Forest and environs, Northern Okinawa.
Weather: Cloudy and humid, with intermittent showers
Headed out after breakfast, initially in the area close to the hotel, where we found a Peregrine roosting on a communication tower and then to the Hiji waterfall car park, where Kudaka San had an Okinawa Woodpecker nest staked out. Whilst waiting for the birds to deliver food to their young we picked up our first Great Tit, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker and a fine male Ryuku Robin foraging around the picnic tables, together with a Swordtail Newt Cynops ensicauda popei. After a protracted wait, the woodpecker pair arrived and the female proceeded to provide her well grown young with a large grub. The male's behavior appeared very odd, as it clung upside down to some foliage near the nest hole. Eventually the bird was clinging on with just one leg, before dropping some distance to the ground. An inspection revealed a slight wound to the lower back and Kudaka San speculated that the bird may have been attacked by a poisonous snake. Unfortunately, the bird died shortly afterwards. We took the corpse to the local wildlife centre for further analysis, chancing on our first Ryuku Minivets in the car park. From here, we drove further into the forest, stopping at a picnic area for lunch. Several Japanese Bush Warblers were singing, and with a bit of patience we were able to locate a couple of foraging individuals. From here, we headed to a forest trail, but the rain increased and a singing Ruddy Kingfisher would not reveal itself, unlike an obliging male Ryuku Robin and its less obliging mate. Returning to the vehicles, we dropped down to a wetland agricultural area which proved productive, with at least 4 Cinnamon Bitterns, a pair of Painted Snipe, Wood, Green and Common Sandpipers, Black-crowned Night Heron and at least one snipe that appeared to show the features of Japanese Snipe. Driving back to the coast at Hentona we found a dark phase Pacific Reef Egret and a Common Kingfisher flew by. More agricultural fields near Hentona produced a flock of Chestnut-cheeked Starling, another Cinnamon Bittern and our only Mallard for the Ryuku islands. Returning to the forest, we ascended to the Nagao Bridge to look for pigeons, finding an endemic Ryukyu Black-breasted Leaf Turtle Geoemyda spengleri japonica on the road en route. Initially several lumbering Ryuku (Orii) Flying Fox Pteropus dasymallus inopinatus aroused interest and we were soon rewarded with a Whistling Green Pigeon, followed by good telescope views of Ryuku Minivet and Brown-eared Bulbul. A Ruddy Kingfisher called frustratingly from within the canopy, before revealing itself by flying across the valley. A female Okinawa Woodpecker was located foraging in the canopy and then Janet located a male below the bridge. Very satisfied with the day's haul we headed back to the Hotel for dinner. We were back out again at 20:30, heading up the steep road to the Azumaya rest area above Hentona. Several Ryuku Scop's Owls were heard calling and we were soon enjoying tremendous views of a pair. We also located a roosting female Okinawa Woodpecker in a hole (the females roost away from the nest, as the males predominantly incubate the eggs or brood the young in this species). From here, we drove a short distance and fortuitously flushed a Collared Scop's Owl from a roadside perch. The bird was quickly located in the spotlight and we enjoyed excellent views of this species. Flushed with yet more good fortune, we were back at the Hotel for 21:30.
May 3rd: Yambaru forest - Manko Wetland Reserve, Okinawa - Amami Oshima.
Weather: Warm and hazy, with intermittent sunshine in morning.
Left Hotel at 05:30 and drove to an area in the north east of the Yambaru forest to look for Okinawa Rail. We arrived just after 6am, to find two Japanese photographers already in position. After a short wait, we were treated to several views of up to 5 rails, nervously emerging from roadside vegetation and even lingering in the middle of the road! We also saw at least two Okinawa Woodpecker on numerous occasions as they flew back and forth over the road, along with Japanese Bush Warbler and brief flight views of Japanese Paradise Flycatcher and a pair and female Mandarin Ducks. From here, we returned to the hotel for breakfast at 8am, and then headed back up to Nagao bridge where we were treated to further views of Whistling Green Pigeon, Ryuku Minivet and Okinawa Woodpecker. Several singing Ruddy Kingfisher remained hidden in the canopy and a single Varied Tit proved very difficult to pin down. We returned to the Hotel to pick up our luggage, said our farewells to Kudaka San and left Hentona at 10:45. Fortunately, we were traveling against the increasingly heavy flow of traffic heading north from Naha on the first day of a three-day public holiday. On arriving at Naha, we were greeted by a hunting Osprey alongside a major road bridge and then visited the Manko Wetland Centre, where the observational camera beaming live from the estuary revealed the presence of two Black-faced Spoonbill. Relocating to the telescopes provided upstairs the birds were found before they flew out of view. We then moved to the bridge across the mudflats and mangroves and ate our picnic lunch whilst watching Black-crowned Night Heron, Pacific Golden Plover, Terek Sandpiper and Grey-tailed Tattler amongst a variety of other waders. After a brief journey past Senaga Island, we dropped the hire car off and checked in for the 15:00 to Kagoshima and connecting flight to Amami Oshima. We arrived at 18:15 and collected our hire car to transfer to our hotel in Naze. We checked in at 19:45 and dined in hotel before meeting our local guide, Tsunada San for a night excursion at 21:30. We all travelled in his 4x4, traversing rough tracks through the forests encountering numerous frogs, including the very large endemic Otton Frog Rana (Babina) subaspera and the Amami Tip-nosed Frog Rana (Eburana) amamiensis. Several endemic Amami Black Rabbit Pentalagus furnessi were encountered and, finally, Amami Woodcock provided stunning views in the track at very close range. At least three individuals were seen on a number of occasions. Very satisfied, we returned to the hotel at 1:20am.
May 4th: Toguchi- Amami Natural Forest, Tatsu-go - Ose Beach - Amami Natural Forest.
Weather: Warm, cloudy with sunny spells.
After breakfast, we travelled to a restaurant overlooking the coast to see a nesting pair of Lidth's Jays. The female was just visible on the nest, together with her two 10 day-old chicks, when we arrived. A party of five birds around an adjacent building attracted our attention and we were eventually rewarded with stunning views of the male and female delivering food to their young. From here, we travelled to an area of forest, picking up a picnic lunch en route. Several singing Ryuku Robins took a short time to reveal themselves, but a male was shortly followed by a pair feeding young which allowed very good views to compare the differences between the Amami race and the birds we had seen on Okinawa. A little farther along the trail Tsuanada showed us a nesting hole of Ownston's Woodpecker. He was not sure what stage the nest was at, but shortly afterwards we picked up a foraging female that treated us to very good views. After lunch at a viewpoint overlooking the coast, we headed to Ose beach, where we found a good selection of waders, including a small flock of Great Knot, Long-toed Stint and a vagrant Little Stint. From here, we returned to the forest site where the male Owston's Woodpecker was now drumming loudly and we found an obliging family party of Varied Tit, but the vocal Ruddy Kingfishers remained stubbornly elusive.
May 5th: Suryi River Forest, Amami Oshima - Senaga Island, Okinawa - Taipei.
Weather: Cloudy, but warm
A 4:30am start to travel to an area of forest to hear Amami Thrush. We arrived at 05:25 and heard at least three thrushes, along with Ryuku Scop's Owl and Ruddy Kingfisher. The thrushes remained typically elusive, so we relocated to a road running along a mangrove edged estuary, where a pair of Spot-billed Duck provided an addition to the trip list. Calling Ruddy Kingfishers on the adjacent forested slopes remained concealed, but we did see a single, vocal Lidth's Jay. From here, we returned to the Amami Thrush site, but all vocal activity from the birds had ceased, with a calling Lidth's Jay and singing Ryuku Robin and Varied Tit also remaining out of view. We made our way back to the hotel for breakfast. We said our farewells to Tsunada San and headed for the airport for the 12:30 flight to Naha, Okinawa. Arrived at 13:45 and had lunch at the airport before taking a taxi to investigate the area around Senaga Island, an inter-tidal area at the end of the runway. A smattering of shorebirds, Little Terns, Osprey and Pacific Reef Egret provided some interest, despite the crowds that had poured to the coast in the fine weather on this public holiday. Returned to the airport and said our farewells to Junko before checking in for the 19:30 flight to Taipei. We transferred to central Taipei for our final two nights.
May 8th: Wulai National Park - Guandu Nature Park- Taipei Botanical Gardens.
Weather: Overcast and warm, with occasional sunny spells
Left the hotel at 05:30 to visit Wulai, accompanied by Yenhui. Arrived to find a Taiwan Whistling Thrush, a pair of showy Streak-breasted Scimitar-babblers and a singing Arctic Warbler. Heading into the National Park, we scoured the rivers before locating a Brown Dipper in the shadows from the main road bridge. A little farther up, we walked a stretch of road where Michael picked up a flying passerine that transpired to be our first Maroon Oriole. It alighted and allowed brilliant telescope views. Continuing along the road, a period of raptor activity saw several Oriental Honey Buzzard, Crested Serpent Eagle and Crested Goshawk swept into view. From here, we travelled across town to Guandu Nature Park, which was hosting a sculpture festival and was particularly busy. Nonetheless we managed to locate numerous herons, several Spot-billed Duck, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Whiskered Tern. We ate lunch in the visitor centre and then scanned from the balcony, where we enjoyed good views of Brown Shrike and picked up at least a couple of Sand Martin hawking amongst their Plain cousins. Our next destination was Taipei Botanical Gardens. Another couple of Arctic Warbler provoked initial interest, whilst Michael picked out a Grey-streaked Flycatcher, a scarce migrant in Taiwan. Proceeding up another path Yenhui found a Malayan Night Heron loafing next to its nest containing two young. These birds provided a lot of excitement for Taiwanese folk visiting the park and the excellent views we enjoyed provided a fitting finale. We visited Longshan Temple on the way back to the Hotel, winding up a very successful trip.
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