© Endemic Seed Foragers at Dasyueshan NFRA – Taiwan

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“Taiwan- a small island of approx. 36,000 sq. kilometres, surrounded by its waters- geographically helps contain and sustain high percentages of endemic birds; especially ground dwellers in its undulating mountains and valleys. Together with good, effective forest management policies and excellent maintenance, many of its Forest Recreation Areas are well preserved, wild life protected and enjoyed by their citizens and visitors alike.

“There are numerous Non-Government Organisations and volunteering nature loving societies in Taiwan e.g. ‘Society of Wilderness.’ They contribute tremendously to these efforts.

“Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area (NFRA) is considered one of best ten birding locations in Taiwan.
Towering between 1800-2996meters, landlocked in Heping District of Taiwan, plant diversity ranging from warm temperate, mixed broadleaf to frigid, coniferous forests provide a haven to wild life- especially birds. No less than 100 bird species have been recorded at Dasyueshan NFRA (top).

“The winding road up 49K to meet ‘Heaven’s Lake’ provides spectacular, scenic views of mountains nearby and forest floors along the way is home to endemic feathered ‘ground jewels (above).’

“Here at mountain top, a grass field ends abruptly into a gorge. A small flock of endemic Taiwan Rosefinches (Carpodacus formosanus) flew onto grass patch and began foraging (above).

“They were all brown looking birds. I later read them to be the females. They were engrossed chewing away grass seeds and shoots (above).

“Behind slope at field edge, a moving red object appeared to be bobbing up and down. ‘Prince’ the charming dimorphic male eventually appeared in resplendent feathering gear of burgundy wine and red rosé colours (above left). In addition to seeds, this high elevation bird was also nibbling at grass roots (above right).

“A single Collared Bush-robin (Tarsiger johnstoniae) made debut; flew in to join the foraging flock of Rosefinches. The rear view defines the name of the bird well- with a contrast of orange collar plumage attached to rear matching pair of shouldered straps (above left). Another image of same showed foraging bird with food in beak -what appeared to look like a stem shoot or possible seed grain (above right).

“Bird-photographers who came from near and far to photograph two endemic Pheasant species at Dasyueshan NFRA were not disappointed.

“A pair of Swinhoe’s Pheasant (Lophura swinhoii) stole the show as they appeared from sloped forests edge on scheduled time. Shy, female bird did a runner across the road upon roar of approaching vehicle. The immature male could not be bothered but was only too pleased and carelessly posed. He was more interested in ‘Pavlov’s breakfast gong’ grains generously scattered on road side (above).

“This opportunity sighting I felt came too early, too easy, thus depriving me that adrenalin rush and heart throb feeling in my head. It was like a stage set up with half dozen and more photographers waiting patiently, hours on end on road side for a ‘Madonna’ celebrity to show up to do her number. In the middle of her act, I walked in…….

“I would prefer to fall on my knees to chance one crossing my trail path, teasing with his titillating tail, giving a ‘come heather look’ and disappearing. That would perhaps entice me to play ‘Hide- and -Seek’ and yearning for more of the ‘jewel of the crown’!

“Taiwan’s National Parks are clean and well maintained. Taiwanese citizens take great pride to ensure they stay that way. Many signboards are placed sending clear messages such as this (above left). Whether bird-photographers comply with these excellent notice boards or choose to have temporary, selective blindness is something else… (above right).

“A shroud of misty fog blew and enveloped broadleaf-coniferous forest of oaks (Castanopsiscyclobalannopsis) and Lauraceae- Machilus species. The weather forecast of a late afternoon rain was chasing us from behind as we began our descent.

“As our vehicle roll-passed foggy road and negotiated a bend, I saw a black blob ahead through the window screen and gasped.

“‘Look… it’s a MIKADO!’ Vehicle screeched to a halt.

“Glued to our seats and contemplated, we watched the ‘Emperor’ from a distance as he took to foraging naturally at grassy edge of forest until…

“Small opportunities to photograph the crowned Emperor of Dasyueshan were had in between abated drizzle (above).

“Photographers who had longed awaited the ground dweller’s appearance were observing and photographing with raincoats on. Heaven could not hold its piss anymore, and rains pelted us all.

“For Mikado Pheasant (Syrmaticus mikado) it was his tea-time. The ‘Emperor’ bird is so revered that Syrmaticus mikado gets carried around in any wallet with a 1000NT dollar bill (above).

“Have ‘Emperor Mikado’ close to heart and wallet will travel!

“Appreciation and thanks to my guest contributor – Alex Hsu for sponsoring the logistical trip to Dasyueshan NFRA and making this memorial and successful birding trip together.”

DAISY O’NEILL
PENANG MALAYSIA
7th August 2015

Copyright article and copy of all bird images – Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund.

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