20 May–2 June 2017
Taiwan’s diverse habitats, the most prominent of which are the lush forests along its jagged, mountainous spine, are home to twenty three endemic species including such sought-after species as Mikado and Swinhoe’s Pheasants, Taiwan Blue-magpie, Taiwan Barbet and Flamecrest, and nearly 60 endemic subspecies, some of which could be elevated to full species status in the future.
Day 1 Overnight flight from London to the capital, Taipei.
Day 2 On arrival, we will begin by driving south, then east, climbing up to the Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area in the Anmashan mountain range, birding along Mount Tahsueh Road on the way. At Dasyueshan, at an elevation of approximately 2300 metres, we will walk trails looking for the stunning Swinhoe's Pheasant, the elegant Mikado Pheasant, Collared Bush-robin, Taiwan Barwing, Taiwan Cupwing, Taiwan Yuhina, Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush, White-eared Sibia, Steere's Liocichla, Yellow Tit, Brown Bullfinch, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker and Green-backed, Varied and Black-throated Tits. Two nights at Snow Mountain Resort, Dasyueshan.
Day 3 We will drive even higher today, to Hsiaolaishan, where, at around 2600 metres, we will spend all day looking for White-whiskered Laughingthrush, Taiwan Fulvetta, Golden Parrotbill, Rusty Laughingthrush, Taiwan Bush-warbler, White-browed Bush-robin, White-tailed Robin, Mikado Pheasant at dawn or dusk, if not found earlier, Taiwan Rosefinch, Grey-headed Bullfinch and other high-elevation species.
Day 4 Our destination today is Huisun Forest Station, which is at a much lower elevation. We will break our journey at Wufeng to look for Taiwan Hwamei, Taiwan Scimitar-babbler, Taiwan Whistling-thrush, Taiwan Barbet, Collared Finchbill, Grey-capped Woodpecker, Rufous-capped Babbler and Dusky Fulvetta. At Huisun we will have another opportunity to search for the unforgettable Swinhoe's Pheasant. We will also look for Malayan Night-heron, a forest heron that often forages on the lawns of the Forest Station, Taiwan Blue-magpie, Maroon Oriole, Ashy Wood-pigeon, Grey-chinned Minivet, Grey Treepie, Black Bulbul, Rufous-capped Babbler, Rufous-faced Warbler and White-bellied Erpornis. After dark we will try for Mountain Scops-owl. Night at Huisun Forest Station.
Day 5 Early morning birding around Huisun Forest Station will give us the opportunity to see any species that may have eluded us yesterday. We will also keep a lookout for raptors, including the distinctive Crested Serpent-eagle, Crested Goshawk and Besra. Leaving Huisun after breakfast we will backtrack somewhat, then continue eastwards through Puli, the geographic centre of Taiwan, and begin to climb again via Wushe, with birding stops on the way, to Chingjing, where we will spend the night.
Day 6 Before leaving Chingjing we will look for Taiwan Bamboo-partridge, Vinaceous Parrotbill and other species of brushy habitat. Then we will drive higher still, to the Hehuanshan Forest Recreation Area, and reach the highest elevation of the tour, about 3300 metres. Here, just inside the western edge of Taroko National Park, we will look for Flamecrest, Yellow Tit, Alpine Accentor, Eurasian Wren and Coal Tit (Periparus ater ptilosus) of the crested Taiwan endemic sub-species. We will continue eastwards through the Taroko Gorge with birding stops along the way. In the late afternoon we will visit the spectacular Taroko Marble Gorge. This is one of the scenic wonders of Asia, created by immense tectonic forces combined with erosion by the Liwu River. We will watch for Brown Dipper and the rare Little Forktail at the river and Pacific Swift among the hundreds of House Swifts. Night in the Buluowan Valley, Taroko National Park.
Day 7 After early morning birding, we will exit through the Taroko National Park's east gate, turn south to Hualien and drive along Taiwan's scenic east coast, crossing the Tropic of Cancer to Taitung city. Styan's Bulbul is common on the east side of the mountains, but we must be wary of hybrids between Light-vented and Styan's Bulbuls! Near Chihshiang, we will look for the endemic Taiwan subspecies of the familiar, but native and wild, Ring-necked Pheasant. Night at mid elevation in Chihpen Forest Recreation Area.
Day 8 The morning will be spent birding locally. New birds may include Dusky Fulvetta, Oriental Cuckoo, White-bellied Pigeon, Ferruginous Flycatcher and Emerald Dove. We must also be alert for the introduced Javan and Jungle Mynas, which are becoming common and, unfortunately, are gradually displacing the native Crested Myna, an endemic subspecies. Around midday we will transfer to Taitung Airport and board a 19-seat Daily Air plane for the twenty-minute flight to Lanyu (Orchid) Island, which lies about 90 kilometres to the east of the southern tip of Taiwan. Most of Lanyu's inhabitants are aboriginal Yami people, whose culture is closer to that of the Philippines than that of Taiwan. After transferring to our accommodation, we will spend the rest of the day birding on this fascinating island. The birds of Lanyu Island are very different from those of its large neighbour and we will concentrate on looking for the specialities: Philippine (Brown) Cuckoo-dove, Japanese (Black) Paradise-flycatcher, Brown-eared Bulbul and Lowland White-eye. After dark we will search for the endemic Lanyu Island subspecies of Ryukyu Scops-owl. Overnight in the village of Hungtou. Please note, bad weather or military manoeuvres in the area could cause cancellation of the Lanyu portion of the tour.
Day 9 Most of the morning will be spent birding on Lanyu Island, and then we will catch the midday ferry back to Taiwan. The two-and-a-half hour crossing will give us the opportunity to seawatch, with Streaked and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters being the most realistic targets and Bonin Petrel, Bulwer's Petrel and Swinhoe's Storm-petrel requiring a large slice of luck. After docking at Pingtung we will reunite with our bus and proceed to Taiwan's tropical far south, where we will spend the night in Kenting.
Day 10 Early morning local birding at Long Luan Tan Lake, which is part of Kenting National Park, could produce Ruddy-breasted Crake, White-breasted Waterhen and other wetland species. Late northward-bound migrants are also possible in this area, as they are attracted from a great distance by the distinctively-shaped mountain, Taichienshan. To the north, in the Tainan-Chiku area, we may find a few lingering Black-faced Spoonbills, although most of the wintering flock will have departed for the breeding grounds. Chinese Egret is also possible here although it is a rare transient in Taiwan. Night in Tainan.
Day 11 We will drive northeast to Kwantien, to a small reserve where several pairs of Pheasant-tailed Jacanas reside. Next we will head for the mountains again and look for Plain and Fire-breasted Flowerpeckers. Our destination is Kwanghua village, where both Swinhoe's Pheasant and the very shy Taiwan Partridge may be found in a privately-owned broadleaf forest. Birding there from late afternoon to dusk will give us our best opportunity of the tour to find the elusive partridge. Overnight at Firefly Lodge, Kwanghua.
Day 12 Today we will look for Rusty Laughingthrush and Black-necklaced Scimitar-Babbler, and continue to climb, up to Alishan Forest Recreation Area. Here we will search for any montane habitat species we may have missed so far. Night in Alishan.
Day 13 If we have not already seen Mikado Pheasant we will make a very early start to search for one. Our best chance is to find one feeding along the roadside before traffic becomes heavy. We will then drive higher still, to the Tataka Recreation Area in Yushan National Park for additional high mountain specialities. Yushan National Park is known as 'the ridge of the roof of Taiwan'. From here we will be able to see Yushan Peak, also called Jade Mountain, which, at 3952 metres, is the highest mountain in East Asia. We will look again for the secretive Taiwan Bush-warbler as well as Yellowish-bellied and Brownish-flanked Bush-warblers, Golden Parrotbill, Eurasian Nutcracker, the shy Taiwan Cupwing, Collared Bush-robin, White-browed Bush-robin, the endemic subspecies of Island Thrush, and White-browed Shortwing. By late morning we will have to leave the high mountains and return to the lowlands to try for Fairy Pitta, and drive back north. In the late afternoon we will return to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport for the flight home arriving on Day 14.
General Information At this time of the year, Taiwan can be warm to hot and humid at low elevation and chilly at altitude, especially at night. Some rain is likely. We will sample Taiwanese cuisine and, although this is primarily a birdwatching tour, we will, on occasion, dip into Taiwanese culture. Only a general degree of fitness is needed for this holiday, although the heat can be tiring at times in the lowlands and the far south and there will be occasional steep steps and paths to negotiate at altitude.
Group size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 12 with 2 leaders.