Crested Myna and four species of starlings, Cheting (茄萣) area, March 11th

Black-faced Spoonbills at the Yongan Wetland Reserve in Greater Kaohsiung, March 11th.
Black-faced Spoonbills at the Yongan Wetland Reserve in Greater Kaohsiung, March 11th.

Highlights:

  • Red-billed Starling 6
  • White-shouldered Starling 100
  • Black-collared Starling 1
  • Chestnut-tailed Starling 5
  • Crested Myna 4
  • Black-faced Spoonbill 34
  • Sacred Ibis 1
  • Avocet 16
  • Black-winged Stilt 100
  • Common Greenshank 20
  • Common Redshank 1
  • Marsh Sandpiper 1
  • Wood Sandpiper 1
  • Common Sandpiper 1
  • Little Ringed Plover 2
  • Red-throated Pipit 1
  • Eastern Yellow Wagtail 1
  • Oriental Reed Warbler 1
  • Long-tailed Shrike 2
  • Common Kingfisher 10
  • Grey-throated Martin 5
  • Barn Swallow 20

This winter, Qigu’s Black-faced Spoonbill flock has been dispersing a little more widely than usual, with the result that good numbers are wintering further south in Greater Kaohsiung. Local media has cited disturbance caused by visitors to the Qigu reserve, and changes in the management of the Qigu fish ponds as possible causes.

Today, I went to check out one of the Kaohsiung wintering areas, Cheting (茄萣), which has been the focus of local media attention because of a proposed new road through the middle of the marshes.

Cheting lies to the west of Highway 17, close to the intersection where the northbound 17 turns sharply left and Highway 28 joins from the right. It’s a huge area covered mostly with commercial fishponds, canals, scrub and industrial wasteland. I never did find the “exact” spot for the spoonbills (or at least, nothing that quite resembled the marshland area pictured in the China Post article).

Getting lost has its advantages, however. On a minor road alongside a canal, there were big numbers of White-shouldered Starlings in the bushes, on the ground and on overhead wires. I guessed there were well over 100 birds in the flock. Closer scrutiny revealed at least 6 Red-billed Starlings among their number. This is a scarce winter visitor to Taiwan, and a bird I have only encountered once before on a remote Korean offshore island.

Also in this area were two Crested Mynas among the abundant Javan and Common Mynas, a singing Oriental Reed Warbler, plenty of Common Kingfishers, and a flock of 18 Black-faced Spoonbills passing overhead. I wanted them to land somewhere and reveal the location of the best marshes, but they seemed to overfly the area completely, heading north.

I returned to Highway 17 and headed back south for a few kilometers, as far as a small village, where I turned west again and tried to navigate a large and confusing area of fish ponds. Roads petered out or were blocked by gates, and there were plenty of locals giving me curious stares. There was no sign of any spoonbills or marshes, but there were some interesting birds to be seen: a beautiful summer-plumaged Red-throated Pipit, an Eastern Yellow Wagtail, a Long-tailed Shrike, and a scattering of waders whenever a fishpond had been drained to reveal its muddy basin. These included Common Greenshanks, Black-winged Stilts, a pair of Little Ringed Plovers, and singles of Marsh, Wood and Common Sandpipers and Common Redshank.

My third and final port of call in this extensive area was the Yongan Wetland Reserve, which lies a couple of kilometers west of Highway 17 and is clearly signposted. A small blind offers views across a large, shallow lagoon. There were plenty of birds here, but a rather limited list of species: 16 Black-faced Spoonbills, a Sacred Ibis, 16 Avocets, and plenty of Black-winged Stilts and Eurasian Teal.

Trees in bloom near Yongan Wetlands Reserve, which were full of birds including Chestnut-tailed Starling.
Trees in bloom near Yongan Wetland Reserve, which were full of birds including Chestnut-tailed Starling.

Nearby, some flowering trees attracted lots of birds, including a few Chestnut-tailed Starlings. This attractive bird is introduced in Taiwan, and according to the literature, the Kaohsiung area is a good place to look for it.

As I headed home, I speculated on the chances of seeing a fourth starling species today. I must have manifested the appearance of Black-collared Starling because, just a few kilometers further along, I spotted one on the roadside. This large and beautiful starling is a native of south east Asia and has been introduced to Taiwan, but it is uncommon. In the same spot, there were also 2 Crested Mynas on overhead wires, allowing a direct comparison with the far more common introduced Javan Mynas.

So I didn’t find the Cheting wetland today, but the starlings and Crested Mynas provided more than ample compensation, and a good reason to return to the area soon and try again.

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