In November, we can expect to see some very interesting species, such as black-faced spoonbill, red-necked and long-toed stints, Arctic warbler and Siberian rubythroat. However it’s the endemics that are probably Taiwan’s greatest attraction, and we’ll be looking for Swinhoe’s and Mikado pheasants and the other 20 or so species that are unique to the island. My personal favourite is the stunning collared bush-robin, though the flamecrest (similar to our firecrest) comes a close second.
Some of Taiwan’s endemic birds and mammals are quite easy to see, and we spend our first morning in Taipei’s Botanic Garden, where we should get good views of Taiwan barbet and red-bellied squirrel. The garden is also one of the best places to see Malayan night heron, and during my visit last year I was treated to excellent views of a pair of crested goshawks.
Taiwan is an easy country for birdwatching, and the tourism infrastructure is very good – with a range of accommodation, good trails, and good road, rail and air links. The sheer variety of habitats is the principal reason why it is so good for birds. Coastal habitats include estuaries and paddyfield, while its forests range from lowland to highland, and with 286 mountain peaks of over 3,000 metres, the wildlife and the landscape can be truly stunning.
You can’t fail to be impressed by a sighting of a group of Taiwan blue magpies, another stunning bird that gives the pheasants a good run for their money in terms of colour and splendour.
I have to refer to the butterflies in similar terms, as they can turn the head of even the most focussed birder, and provide more excellent photographic opportunities.
Many Taiwanese have a love of the outdoors, and this is reflected by the number of protected areas with good recreation facilities that include well-marked trails and facilities. In short, it’s a relatively easy place to watch wildlife and if you’ve never been to Asia, Taiwan makes a fine introduction to its fascinating wildlife. And if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, this tour precedes our winter trip to Japan so the two can be combined in a single visit to this most magnificent part of the world.
Images: Barrie Cooper