Taiwan - Quest for Endemics 2019
Saturday 30th March – Wednesday 10th April
This small strikingly attractive island with its growing number of endemics is a 'must-visit' for anyone interested in Asian birding. Situated some 200 kilometres off the eastern coast of China, the often mist-laden and dramatic mountainous interior with lofty peaks cloaked in mature forest will be our base as we search for some very special birds. Our unique itinerary covers the best birding sites in order to see all of the endemics and many of the endemic subspecies that make this such a fascinating country to visit. On this tour it is quality rather than quantity that counts as we target the 30 or so endemics currently recognised, although taxonomic revisions are increasing this figure all the time! Inevitably most of our time will be spent in the mountains, yet a whole new range of species awaits us along the coastal plain where some fine wetlands and estuaries are home to an impressive array of waders, as well as an important population of the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill. We will also spend time looking for passerine migrants along the coast, and make a special visit to Lanyu Island for its endemic scops-owl and other extremely localised species. Our last tour in 2016 at the same time of year produced a number of exciting bonus birds such as Siberian Crane, Japanese Robin and Japanese Yellow Bunting - so anything is possible! So why not join us on this exciting adventure which is only available for a small group of 6 birders to experience some of the most fascinating birds in Asia.
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Upon arrival in the late afternoon of 30th March we will transfer to a nearby hotel for the night.
We will begin early this morning and head to the Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area in the Anmashan mountain range where we have two full days to explore the whole area. The lower areas of this wonderful mountain are home to Malayan Night-Heron, Taiwan Barbet, Taiwan Hwamei, Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Taiwan Scimitar-babbler, Rufous-capped Babbler, Collared Finchbill and Grey Treepie. As the road slowly winds it way up higher a few stops along the way could result in our first Oriental Honey-buzzard, Black Eagle, White-bellied Green-Pigeon, Japanese White-eye, Brown Dipper, Plumbeous Water-redstart, Daurian Redstart, Grey-chinned Minivet or Grey-cheeked Fulvetta. Any fruiting trees could prove attractive to species such as Vivid Niltava, Brown-headed and Pale Thrushes or even a Red-flanked Bluetail.
Another early start will see us at Huisun Forest Reserve (2530 ft.) which is an excellent site to find the stunning Taiwan Blue Magpie. It is also a good site for Malayan Night-heron, as well as Red Oriole, Taiwan Varied Tit, Taiwan Bamboo-partridge (split from Chinese Bamboo-partridge) and Collared Finchbill. After lunch we will check out a good area for Rusty Laughingthrush, Vinous-throated Parrotbill and Brownish-flanked Bush-warbler. A nearby area can give us Scaly Thrush, Taiwan Scimitar-babbler, Taiwan Whistling-thrush, Taiwan Hwamei, Taiwan Barbet (split from Black-browed Barbet), Collared Finchbill, Grey-capped Woodpecker, Ashy Woodpigeon, Grey-chinned Minivet, Grey Treepie, Black Bulbul, Dusky Fulvetta, Rufous-capped Babbler, Rufous-faced Warbler and White-bellied Erpornis. Returning to Huisun we will have another opportunity to search for the unforgettable Swinhoe's Pheasant, whilst it’s worth trying in the evening for the often tricky Mountain Scops-owl. Night at Huisun Forest Station.
Days 5 - 6 Huisun - Wushe
After some final birding at Huisun we will cross the Hehuan Shan pass, at 3275m the highest road in East Asia, to the Wushe area for a two-night stay. As we cross the pass, where there are magnificent mountain views on a clear day (the surrounding peaks rise to 3605m), we will stop to look for another endemic, the drably-coloured Taiwan Bush-robin (split from White-browed Bush-robin) and we will also hope to find Alpine Accentor and the beautiful Vinaceous Rosefinch. Amidst these splendid montane forests we shall look for two of the most exciting and most sought-after endemic birds in Taiwan, the handsome Taiwan Hill-Partridge and have further chances of the lovely Swinhoe’s Pheasant. Both are shy and elusive and we shall devote much of our time to tracking them down in some of their most favoured locations. Another star bird of the area is the endemic Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush. Other species we may well encounter include Besra, Collared Owlet, Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Oriental Cuckoo, Northern Boobook (split from Brown Boobook), Grey-capped and White-backed Woodpeckers, Large Cuckooshrike, Eurasian Nuthatch, Eurasian Jay and the rather uncommon Brown Bullfinch. Away from the forest, areas of cultivation, tea gardens and scrub hold Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler (the local form robustipes may perhaps represent a distinct species), Striated Prinia and Vinous-throated Parrotbill (a Chinese near-endemic). We can also spend some time on the famous Pipeline and Blue Gate Trails with a visit to some higher areas at the Hehuan Pass in Taroko National Park which is a good site for White-bellied Green-pigeon, Ferruginous Flycatcher, Taiwan Barwing, Flamecrest, Taiwan Cupwing, Taiwan Shortwing, Alpine Accentor and Vinaceous Rosefinch. Nights Wushe.
This morning we shall leave Wushe and visit an area of lowland forest which is good for the uncommon Taiwan Varied Tit. Whilst searching for this delightful species, we may also find Crested Goshawk, White-bellied Yuhina and Grey Treepie, and will have another chance to find the superb Taiwan Blue Magpie if we have missed it earlier. We will also look for Rusty Laughingthrush and Black-necklaced Scimitar-Babbler before climbing up to Alishan Forest Recreation Area (7,200 ft.) where we will search for any montane species we may have missed so far. Early mornings give us our best chance for Taiwan Bamboo-partridge and we can also see Striated Swallow and Rufous-faced Warbler in the same area. Tataka Recreation Area (8,536 ft.) in Yushan National Park is another excellent site for more montane specialties and if we have not already seen Mikado Pheasant we will make a very early start to search for one. As always, searching for pheasants requires a great deal of patience and our best chance is to find one feeding along the roadside. Throughout our time here we will be within sight of Yushan Peak, or better known as Jade Mountain which at just under 13,000 ft.is the highest mountain in East Asia. In its shadow a wide variety of species can be found and our birding depends on which ones we still need. Collared Bush Robins and White-whiskered Laughingthrushes are everywhere here and Yushan is also a good place for the shy Taiwan Wren-babbler and Taiwan Bush-warbler. We can also drive higher still to the Tataka Recreation Area in Yushan National Park for additional high mountain specialities, including Taiwan Shortwing (split from White-browed Shortwing) and the endemic subspecies of Island Thrush.
Days 9 - 11 Tainan - Kenting NP - Tsengwen Estuary - Lanyu Island
Day 12 Arrive UK - End of Tour - 10th April
Group size: Minimum of 3 and maximum 6.
Included in cost: Acommodation in twin rooms, all en-suite, all meals, ground transport throughout, entrance fees to national parks, and services of leaders.
Not included: International airfare, insurance, drinks, tips, and items of a personal nature.
Accommodation: Our hotels and lodges vary in quality from good to excellent, but all are within easy reach of the areas we wish to bird, eliminating long travelling days.
Tour Code: This is a standard birding tour with all day birding. We will generally take picnic lunches unless close to our lodge where we will take a restaurant lunch. The weather can be unsettled at this time of year, so expect some cooler weather in the mountains and with chances of a shower or two.
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