Friday, January 18, 2019

Lone Wild Goose - Lesser White-fronted Goose

Lesser White-Fronted Goose (Anser erythropus) looked slightly smaller compared with the ducks in the farm. This endangered goose is considered a rare winter visitor/vagrant to Taiwan and we were very lucky to see it early that morning as we entered the last day of birdwatching in southwestern coast of Taiwan. We had a night flight to catch at the Taoyuan International Airport. This species of Goose is classified as Vulnerable in IUCN redlist HERE
This Lesser White-Fronted looked like it was trying to mingle with the ducks. The ducks looked bigger than this Goose - I wonder whether this could be due to hormone injections. Have read that such injections are common practice in industrial duck farming to expedite the growth rate and  subsequent supply of duck meat for the hungry hordes of humans. Hopefully this is not the case for the ducks in this farm, and that there would be agricultural grains fed to the ducks, with some to spare for this endangered goose as it looked to be spending its winter with the ducks in the farm. How this Goose ended up in this farm remains a mystery. Nevertheless, the Lesser White-Fronted Goose was indeed a sight to behold, its greyish plumage standing out amongst the snow white plumages of the ducks. It had such a slim neck, pink beak and such pink webbed feet! Its occasional honks almost drowned out by the noisy quacking of the ducks which were in the hundreds.    
Lesser White-Fronted Goose "honk-ing" to the ducks
Wild Goose trying hard to mingle with ducks
Lone Goose figuring out where it stands......
Lesser White-Fronted attempts to mingle again with the ducks
The ducks seem bewildered by this individual Goose 
LWF Goose lowers it neck and appears to be looking for food
Ducks are moving away from the LWF Goose 
LWF Goose looks lonely and hungry
Off it goes in search of food on the sandy soil
LWF Goose facing us neck down in quite a threatening-looking pose...
But it was actually poking its beak into sandy soil looking for food 
LWF Goose waddles daintily forward... 
In search again of tasty morsels hidden in the sand
World Wide Fund for Nature in Finland has a Project known as the Lesser White-Fronted Goose Life Project which you can read about HERE.
This Lesser White-fronted Goose, alone, hungry and trying its best to mingle with the domesticated ducks in the wind-swept coast of Taiwan, was the subject of a poem written by a Chinese scholar centuries ago. The poem, in English as below:-   
Lone Wild Goose (Du Fu, Chinese poet)

Alone, the wild goose refuses food and drink,
his calls searching for the flock.

Who feels compassion for that single shadow
Vanishing in a thousand distant clouds?

You watch, as it vanishes from sight,
Its plaintive calls cutting through you

The noisy crows ignore it:
the bickering squabbling multitudes 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Pretty Pheasants and Partridges

Taiwan Partridge
Dasyueshan had more avian surprises waiting for us. This family of Taiwan Partridges turned up on a sleepy afternoon. They look similar to our Malaysian Hill Partridge of the highlands. However, Taiwan is lucky to have this as their endemic species. Click HERE to read more about Wild Bird Club Malaysia's special encounter with the Malaysian Hill Partridges of Fraser Hill. The Swinhoe Pheasant was another special species which we encountered. Quails, partridges and pheasants are not doing well in South east Asia, according to this article HERE. The researchers in Mongabay article concluded that three Sundaic endemics - the Dulit Partridge (Rhizothera dulitensis), the grey-breasted partridge (Arborophila orientalis) and the Sumatran partridge (Arborophila sumatrana) now live only inside protected areas. Taiwan's Swinhoe Pheasants look to be thriving in the mountain ranges of Daesyushan. 
Taiwan Partridge with reddish tinge on throat
Standing still for a few seconds
Taiwan Partridge looked resplendent
Swinhoe Pheasant behind foliage - its colourful plumage gave it away:)
Looking so turkey-like, this Swinhoe Pheasant
Male and Female (or Juvenile Male?) Swinhoe Pheasant
Male Swinhoe Pheasant with its entourage
Swinhoe dance was performed by a group of ladies during the 9th Asian Bird Fair 2018 opening ceremony in High Heels Park, Chiayi County, Taiwan. You can read more about this HERE.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Mikado pheasant in Daesyushan

Mikado Pheasant, Male
Mikado Pheasant, Female
We were lucky to have encountered both male and female species of Mikado pheasant as soon as we reached Daesyushan (Big Snow Mountain). Soft clucking sounds of both pheasants were music to my 
ears, with recordings from Xeno-Canto to relive that special encounter. A frequent pit-stop was a 
shop lot near a persimmons hillside farm. The lady shop owner allowed us to sample some of the persimmons. Many of the fruits had ripened and the ones we tasted were sweet and juicy. Persimmons were in season and we bought enough to last us for the next 3 days. 
Mikado Pheasant, male with its strikingly long tail feathers
Female Mikado Pheasant walked into this cold water puddle
Mikado pheasant is one of the birds featured on front cover of Field Guide to the Birds of Taiwan
The lodge at mountain top consisted of tatami-style bedrooms, with mattresses which heat up gradually when plugged into electrical power outlets. Mattresses in our room heated up quite fast so we switched the power off in the middle of the night. Mountain goat bounded across the car park during our first toilet break at Dasyueshan. The goat is bigger than the Muntjac but its size didn't hamper its speed. Could hear the goat's hooves pounding on tarmac road as it jumped into the bushes and descended downhill. We had a simple dinner at the hall canteen nearby our lodge. Hot porridge, soup and vegetables tasted extra good, when one is up in the cold mountains. We went out looking for nocturnal birds after dinner. However, only the mountain goats, large squirrels and a curious civet cat were seen by us, later that night. 

Hearing the dawn chorus of mountain birds in Dasyueshan, we birded around our lodges early in the morning. The morning walk amidst the crisp mountain air coupled with scent of pinewood, was invigorating. There was a bird wave just outside the canteen hall, with jays, tits, yuhinas flying from tree to tree, before we headed into the hall for our breakfast. Some of the Mountain birds seen including the Muntjac (slightly larger than our Mousedeer) as below:-
Muntjac
White-Whiskered Laughingthrush
Eurasian Nutcracker
Mikado Pheasant, male and female up close and personal
Taiwan Yuhina 
Vivid Niltava 
Collared Bush-Robin

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Jacana Park Tainan City South Taiwan

Light-vented (Chinese) Bulbul, many of them perched on wires was the first avian species seen as we arrived at the Jacana Park in Tainan, Taiwan. Grey Treepie was also out in the open as we walked into the Park to admire the Pheasant-tailed Jacana, wild ducks and coots. The Pheasant-tailed Jacana's growth in numbers and spirit of volunteerism was described in a Case study on this park HERE. The pheasant-tailed Jacana and its preference for habitats where water chestnuts thrive, including its status as the official bird for Tainan is described in this Taipei Times article.
Grey Treepie
Never knew plumages of wild ducks could be this colourful. The Green-Winged Teal pictured below looked like it had emeralds growing out of its wings. 

Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal with its hidden emeralds
Emerald green of the Teal really fits its name
Two Green-winged Teals and Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal - last picture (I promise)
Green-winged Teal (female) looks so similar to female species of Northern Pintail
The Green-winged Teal female had such distinct white eyeline which almost reaches it head. If only Beauty and make-up artistes could draw such eyelines for human females that would look just as natural as the eyelines of this duck species. The Common Coot was swimming around the pools, together with the ducks and some pictures of it in action as below:-
We munched on Water Chestnuts earlier that afternoon before entering the Park. By the time we exited the Jacana park, it was time to head back to Fairy Pitta Inn but not without stopping by town first for our dinner that day.
Sugarcane Fields next to the Jacana Park

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