Temminck’s Stint and Grey-faced Buzzard, Gaoping River corridor, March 18th

Grassy hills north of Highway 22 and west of Highway 21, location of an unsuccessful search for Striated Prinia.
Grassy hills north of Highway 22 and west of Highway 21, the location of an unsuccessful search for Striated Prinia.

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.

Grey-faced Buzzards, March 18th.
Grey-faced Buzzards, March 18th.

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.

Railway Bridge Marsh Park: looks great for Golden-headed Cisticola, but I didn't score.
Railway Bridge Marsh Park: looks great for Golden-headed Cisticola, but I didn’t score.

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.

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