October 17, 2015: Tainan, Taiwan — Wayne, Kuan-Chieh and I had a strategy session late last night in front of the Dasyueshan Lodge, our wonderful accommodation in the mountains. Kuan-Chieh laid out a poster-sized tourist map of Taiwan on the hood of his car and, by flashlight, sketched out an itinerary for the next couple of days. After half an hour, all the drawn arrows, times, dates, bird names, and various notes on the map resembled the schematics for a heist. The plan now includes a vagrant from Siberia, a bullet train, and a typhoon… Wait, what?
Yes, Typhoon Lando is now heading toward the Philippine island of Luzon and is predicted to make landfall on Sunday with 24 inches of rain, hours before I’m scheduled to touch down there. Maybe it will veer north of Manila and I’ll skirt around this particular cyclone. We’ll see soon enough.
Meanwhile, the three of us spent a relatively relaxed day birding Taiwan’s central mountains today, beginning at Dasyueshan at sunrise. “You know, thousands of people go to Alishan National Park in central Taiwan to watch the sun come up,” said Wayne, “but this place is just as good. It’s the same sun, the same sea of clouds, nobody else is here, and you don’t have to get up at 3 a.m. to hike up a mountain!” He had a point.
After seeing most of Dasyueshan’s birds yesterday, we cleaned up a couple more species there this morning, then headed for the Huisun Experimental Forest, farther south and at a lower elevation. At Huisun, we spent a couple of hours searching for the Taiwan Blue-Magpie, a gorgeous endemic, while Malayan Night-Herons stood around like lawn ornaments. The three of us had almost given up the magpie search and were driving out at dusk when Wayne suddenly shouted, “Stop!”
Against a cliff face, almost a dozen Taiwan Blue-Magpies slowly crossed over the road single file. With their long tails, one following another, Kuan-Chieh said the birds looked like a colorful train. Taiwan doesn’t have an official national bird, but if it did, the national bird would probably be either this magpie or the Mikado Pheasant we saw yesterday.
After two days in Taiwan, I’ve seen 24 of the 26 endemics in this country. One more day to sweep up here tomorrow, then on to the Philippines!
New birds today: 11
Year list: 4855