Two “little brown jobs” (birder slang for small, nondescript brown birds) that have so far eluded me in Taiwan are the Striated Prinia and the Golden-headed Cisticola. Neither is a full endemic species, so they don’t seem to receive a lot of attention in trip reports. As a result, it can be hard to find English-language information about where exactly to look for them.
Most available information suggests that the Striated Prinia is a bird of low hills to mid elevations, where it is found in grassland, scrub and secondary growth. So I headed to just such an area this morning to try my luck, a range of hills north-east of Kaohsiung, bordered by Highway 22 to the south, and Highway 21 and the Gaoping River to the east.
The habitat looked great, and was fairly overflowing with prinias: mainly Yellow-bellied Prinias, and a handful of Plain Prinias, but no Striateds. It wasn’t a wasted trip, as I was fortunate enough to encounter an early migrating flock of Grey-faced Buzzards, numbering around 20 birds. Among many common species here were 2 Taiwan Scimitar-babblers, 2 Rufous-capped Babblers, a female Daurian Redstart, and a Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker.
I had a hunch that my other target bird, Golden-headed Cisticola, probably occurs in the riverside grassland along the Gaoping River. So I headed south along Highway 21 to check out the Railway Bridge Marsh Park, which covers quite a large area of the west bank of the river directly underneath and to the south of the railway bridges.
A Chinese-language-only sign at the entrance had lots of pictures of birds that one can presumably see in the area, including a tantalising image of a Great Bittern, and – yes! – a picture of a Golden-headed Cisticola. So I optimistically set out through the grasslands, encountering millions of Plain Prinias, but precious little else.
A quick binocular scan revealed a scattering of feeding waders on the riverine islands and sandbars, so I set up my scope for a closer look. Finally, a little luck came my way: at least 8 Temminck’s Stints (Taiwan tick) on the nearest of the vegetated islands, furtively creeping along on the edge of the mud in their charismatic fashion. Nearby, 6 Long-toed Stints occasionally allowed for direct comparison as they wandered into the same scope view. Excellent!
Also here: an Intermediate Egret, 6 Spot-billed Ducks, and the usual assortment of common waders (Common Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt and Kentish Plover).
So 0 for 2 in terms of my main targets today, but 5 additions to the year list made it a very worthwhile morning and boosted my year’s total so far to 147.