Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The hills above Taipei - September 2011

Taiwan Blue Magpie (an island endemic)

As well as for various diurnal and nocturnal urban exploits, we used Taipei as a base for several trips up into the hills, it being situated in easy striking distance of several national parks; two of these - Yangmingshan and Wulai - provided memorable day trips, with beautiful landscapes, some good birding, plenty of other wildlife, and of course lots of jovial and entertaining locals.

Taiwan Scimitar Babbler (also endemic)

Crested Serpent Eagle (endemic ssp. hoya, perhaps a full sp. acc. to Brazil)

Yangmingshan was pleasantly cool once up into the clouds shrouding the highest peaks, and although very quiet on the avian front, still provided a little quality - a small bird wave included the second endemic of the trip in the form of a very sharp Taiwan Scimitar Babbler, and first Rufous-capped Babblers and Grey-cheeked Fulvettas of the trip (both of endemic subspecies).

Grey Treepie

At least three Crested Serpent Eagles of the endemic (sub)species were an obvious and noisy presence overhead, Striated Swallows buzzed the treetops, and the dragonflies and butterflies were captivating (but barely a shadow of what would follow in the forests).

Pacific Swallows (a likely split, becoming Small House Swallow)

Wulai meanwhile was reached via another very picturesque and entertaining bus ride up into the hills, this time to a small settlement catering for visitors utilising the hot springs; occupying a deep, forested gorge where two rivers join, almost hidden behind guest houses and gift shops, the village included an aboriginal cafe frequented by locals only, which served us some of the finest locally grown and prepared vegetarian food known to humankind.

Otherwise, treks up the winding tracks away from the minor bustle and into peaceful wooded countryside revealed, amongst other things: an overgrown, beautifully ornate cemetery, complete with decaying crypts set into the hillside and a selection of butterflies to die for (as it were); a sprinkling of birds including the first Bronzed Drongo and White-tailed Robin (both endemic ssp.), Grey-chinned Minivets, Pacific Swallows (or perhaps Small House Swallows before long), and last but not least, a pair of Taiwan Blue Magpies - found by Amity, and as it transpired, the only ones seen on the trip.

Much of the entertainment at Wulai was winged but not avian, as a few of these photos show (with the exception of the spider, which is huge, and very numerous...). Two fine days in Taipei county, high above the city and well worth the effort.