Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dasyueshan National Forest, Taiwan - Sep 2011 (part 2)

A few hours later, and the maelstrom of after hours Taichung was replaced by sunrise over the otherworldly, wonderfully lush subtropical montane forest of Dasyueshan.

Formosan Macaques - shy endemic monkeys of the forests

Bruce (his chosen english monicker, inspired by a certain Mr. Lee), on location to film sequences for an upcoming documentary about Taiwanese endemic Pheasants, picked us up at 4 a.m. outside our hotel, and after a drive through darkness, sprawling suburbs and then a winding ascent into the hills, we reached our first stop, just as dawn was about break.

Vivid Niltava

We were seeking a certain bird, at a certain spot - which justifies its own post a little later - suffice to say we were spoiled by a stellar performance; from there on, the day consisted of multiple stops along the long and winding road, hair-pinning and switch-backing through unspoilt montane forest, subtly changing in habitat-type as we ascended throughout the day.

Grey-cheeked Fulvettas - common components of multi-species flocks

Green-backed Tit

Which was the best way to enjoy the mountains and its birds; at this time of year (i.e. post-breeding season, and with territorial tendencies having broken down), the forest hosted the classic bird-waves, whereby multi-species flocks roam vast expanses of habitat together.

Rufous-faced Warbler

Japanese Paradise Flycatcher - a bonus scarce migrant which zipped through in a bird-wave

This can, and usually does, mean long periods of zero activity, followed by a frenetic avian whirlwind that may only last a minute or two as the flock moves relentlessly on through every level of the forest. And when it happens, it's a case of taking as much in as possible and making the most of a precious opportunity.

Steere's Liocichla - common and musical endemics of higher elevation forest

While Mark had provided info for certain spots, and Bruce assisted enthusiastically (though he's more of an all-rounder than a birder per se), it was - in the best possible way - a baptism of fire, as most of the species within the waves were unfamiliar, and some were endemics which were unlikely to give up a second chance...

But for the best part of two full days, this is how we rolled, and with great success.

migrating Chinese Sparrowhawks - part of a flock of about forty

Kiwi fruits, hand-picked and eaten deep in the forest

(Part three to follow)