Please note: this page gives details of our 2010 trip.
For details of our 2011 trips please click here
Illa Formosa - ‘the beautiful island’
"It was a brilliant trip, memorable for so many things, not just the birds."...... Mr & Mrs T, Silsden
''Thank you for your report on the excellent Taiwan trip. I just wanted to thank you for giving us such a thoroughly enjoyable time. The country is a marvellous experience and the wildlife totally delightful.'' Mr S, Oxford.
The beautiful island of Taiwan is one of the easiest and friendliest places in which to watch birds in East Asia. Dazzling species are common in the open woodlands of the upland areas. Taiwan Blue Magpie, Grey-chinned Minivet, Flamecrest, Black-throated Tit and the wonderfully named Steere’s Liocichla (pronounced Leo-SIC-la) simply glow in the trees. And all against a backdrop of magnificent mountain scenery, as depicted in the familiar Chinese scroll paintings.
We have chosen this time of year primarily because of the weather. Taiwan gets a lot of rain, especially in the spring and summer when the “Plum Rains” fall. November is drier, when sunshine and clear mountain views are far more likely. In addition, at this time the resident endemics are joined by extra treats for western birdwatchers in the shape of some fabulous wintering birds. These include Red-flanked Bluetails, Eyebrowed and Dusky Thrushes and species that are difficult to see elsewhere, such as the endangered Saunders’ Gull and Black-faced Spoonbill. Another benefit is fewer leaves on the trees, so little gems like Taiwan Yuhinas and Taiwan Yellow Tits are easier to watch.
Roughly eighty of the resident birds are endemic species or races and many of the latter are likely to be split in the near future. So we believe everything is worth a good look, as almost all birds are rare, local or special in some other way, providing high quality birding every day.
Taiwan is a safe, tourist-friendly country, with wonderful national parks, excellent infrastructure, a fascinating ancient culture and delicious food.
From the airport we will drive south for two hours to Lukang, our base for the first night. The next morning we will find ourselves watching our first Chinese Bulbuls, Red Collared-doves, Pacific Swallows, Amur Wagtails and Long-tailed Shrikes. Local paddies are home to Oriental Skylarks, Eastern Yellow Wagtails, and Grey-faced and perhaps Yellow Buntings. Further south is Aogu, the largest zone of estuaries, lakes, rice fields and fishponds in Taiwan. It is the best place to search for Eastern Marsh Harrier, White-winged Black and Gull-billed Terns, Intermediate and Chinese Pond-herons and Greater and Lesser Sandplovers. The sweet potato fields attract Pacific Golden Plovers, and Red-necked and Long-toed Stints.
A little further south is Tainan, our base for the next two nights. From here we will visit Chiku, a wintering ground of the very rare Black-faced Spoonbill; we can expect up to 300 of these magnificent birds. It is a good time of year to find Saunders’ Gull alongside a wide range of wetland birds in this area, including Great Knot and possibly Asian Dowitcher. Around Sihcao we will be alert for any unusual wintering passerines from the Asian mainland.
Tainan is the old capital, and we will no doubt notice the Dutch fortifications, Confucius Temple and other famous local sights as we travel around.
On day five we will head inland to the mountains, via Kwantien Reserve to look for Greater Painted Snipe, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, White-breasted Waterhen, and Yellow and Cinnamon Bitterns. At various sites in the foothills we will search for Taiwan Hwamei and other specialities.
En route to Ali-shan we will break our journey with an overnight stop at a top new site, Fireflies Lodge. An ex-hunter turned conservationist has set up an excellent small hotel near prime habitat. Last year, from his forest hides, we had fabulous views of Swinhoe’s Pheasant, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, White-tailed Robin and the almost mythical Taiwan Partridge. We hope to repeat all those sightings. Around the same area we have found Striated Prinia, Olive-backed Pipit, both endemic scimitar-babblers and more, making this a must-visit place.
During the ascent of Ali-shan we will make birding stops, and perhaps take a tea break at Shihjhuo where they grow the finest tea in Taiwan.
White-whiskered Laughing Thrushes are common at high elevation
We have two nights in this superb upland area, where many of the endemic birds are found. We will explore bamboo clumps, ancient forest with huge trees and stands of pine. At this time many of the small birds are in mixed species flocks, alive with colour and calls as they feed. We will look for Flamecrest, Taiwan Fulvetta, White-whiskered Laughing Thrush, Taiwan Sibia, Taiwan Barwing, Taiwan Varied Tit, Owston’s Bullfinch and the rufous-bellied race of Nutcracker. Eyebrowed, Pale and Brown-headed Thrushes usually winter around Ali-shan.
At higher levels we can expect the beautiful Johnstone’s Robin, White’s Thrush and Vinaceous Rosefinch, plus have our best chance for Mikado Pheasant (we saw four on one visit). This is where we will find the endemic Formosan Macaque. Weather permitting, we may see the distant peak of Jade Mountain (Yushan), at 12966 feet, the highest peak in East Asia. Depending upon our progress, we may also take the narrow-gauge mountain railway up to a scenic viewpoint.
Our next stop, for two nights, is where we are very lucky to have special permission to stay at a lovely University study centre at Hui-sen. Surrounded by mid-elevation forest, we will keep our eyes peeled for the bright red endemic form of Maroon Oriole, Taiwan Barbet, Oriental Turtle Dove, Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Goshawk and Japanese Sparrowhawk. Black Eagle, Silver-backed Needletail, Fork-tailed Swift and Lesser Coucal are all possible.
In the pleasant grounds the sought-after Malayan Night Heron often stalks on the lawns and groups of Taiwan Blue Magpies feed undisturbed. Vivid Niltavas and Fire-breasted Flowerpeckers certainly live up to their names and, with a little luck, northern race Brown Hawk Owls and Collared Scops Owls can be seen.
Mixed flocks, often heralded by Grey Treepies, include Taiwan Yuhinas, Japanese White-eyes, Green-backed Tits, Rufous-faced Warblers, Grey-cheeked Fulvettas, White-bellied Erpornis and Grey-chinned Minivets. Taiwan Barbets, Daurian Redstarts, Red-flanked Bluetails and the crested form of Coal Tit are all likely here. Nearby we will check a mountain stream for Plumbeous Redstart, Formosan Whistling-thrush and Little Forktail. This is a very peaceful place to stay, and some of the famous autumn colour from the maples may be lingering along with butterflies as it is quite sheltered here.
On day ten we will drag ourselves away from the beautiful mountains and head down to Taipei. Our last three nights will be at the outstanding Grand Hotel from where we will visit Yangmingshan National Park, to catch up on any birds we have missed, especially the glorious Taiwan Blue Magpie, Black-eared Kite, Pacific Reef-heron, Red-flanked Bluetail and Himalayan Rubythroat. We will also visit the interesting Botanical Gardens as this is the easiest place in the world to watch the sought-after Malayan Night-heron, with other good birds as well.
Throughout the trip we will see many wonderful landscapes, and experience the best of Illa Formosa, with its classic Chinese gardens, brash night markets, and fabulous temples.
Breakfast will normally be taken at about 7.30am, with some optional pre-breakfast forays. Basic fitness is all that is required. Full days will be spent in the field with short/medium length walks. There are some uphill sections and some steps up to waterfalls, but these will be taken at a sensible pace and are optional.
Full-board accommodation is provided with one night at the Lukang Leader Hotel, two nights at the Evergreen Plaza, Tainan, one night at Fireflies Lodge, two nights at Ali-shan Centre, two nights at Hui-sen Forest Station, and three nights at the Grand Hotel, Taipei. The accommodation is of a very high standard except at Hui-sen and Fireflies, which are simpler but very pleasant with private bathrooms. Food throughout is good quality Chinese, with some western alternatives at most places. Packed lunches will be taken some days, on others we will have restaurant lunches.
PRICE INCLUDES …..
All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local naturalist, full-board accommodation (starting with dinner on 24th, ending with lunch on 5th), soft drinks at meal times, all entrance fees, local transport by mini-bus, international flights and airport taxes.
Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.
Return flight from London Heathrow to Taipei using the scheduled services of Cathay Pacific. Outbound flight departs early evening; return arrives back early morning. Shuttle flights are available on this tour for £70 return (due at time of booking), from other regional airports.
Please note that the Taiwanese are embarking on a large scale road rebuilding scheme, and we are in the process of making some adjustments to our itinerary to see all the birds. Please contact our office for more details.
13 nights including
two overnight flights:
Maximum group size:
Cost with discount
(if you book before
10th August 2010):
23rd Nov. to 6th Dec. 2010
10 clients with one leader
and a local guide
£3400 per person sharing
£3550 per person sharing
The trip report from 2008 can be accessed through this Taiwanese website http://www.birdingintaiwan.org/Birdingst/Story27.htm
Mikado Pheasant, Swinhoe's Pheasant, Claret Oriole, White-tailed Blue Robin, Taiwan Blue Magpie, Black-headed Shrike, Taiwan Yuhina, Scaly (White's) Thrush, Taiwan Yellow Tit, and Taiwan Laughingthrush all photographs by Wu Han who accompanied Roger on the recce trip.
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