Black-shouldered Kite and Ring-necked Pheasant, Qigu, March 20th

Highlights:

  • Black-shouldered Kite 1
  • Ring-necked Pheasant 1
  • Oriental Magpie-Robin 2
  • Terek Sandpiper 1
  • Eurasian Curlew 1
  • Red-necked Stint c.30
  • Caspian Tern 83
  • Black-faced Spoonbill c.60
  • Korean Bush Warbler 1
  • Arctic Warbler 1

What I like most about Qigu – apart from having some quality alone time under its big skies looking at big flocks of waders – is that it usually turns up a few oddities on every visit. This is what keeps birding interesting, and this is why a visit to Qigu is almost always worth the tedium of a 3-hour roundtrip scooter ride from Kaohsiung.

Today I focused my attention on the Lighthouse Pools, where the star bird was a smart Black-shouldered Kite. This is a recent colonist from the mainland, and I bird I never tire of seeing, despite having seen hundreds of them (or the almost identical White-tailed Kite) in Europe, Asia and North America. The latest taxonomy favors reverting to its former name of Black-winged Kite, and keeping the name Black-shouldered Kite for the Australian species. However, I am slow to change my habits so out of sheer obstinacy I will continue to refer to the Eurasian species as Black-shouldered Kite in trip reports.

The other star bird of the day was heard-only: a male Ring-necked Pheasant calling from dense vegetation around the northern Lighthouse Pools, then later from the pine and scrub belt on the seaward side of the road there.

While wandering through the scrub trying to get a glimpse of the pheasant, I came across a Korean Bush Warbler and an Oriental Magpie-Robin. There was also an Arctic Warbler calling, but I didn’t see it. This coastal belt of trees will probably repay regular observations during peak migration periods in April and May.

The more open pools directly inland from the lighthouse held little apart from a scattering of common waders, and good numbers of Yellow-bellied and Plain Prinias, and Zitting Cisticolas, in the grasslands surrounding the pools. I checked every cisticola carefully, but there was no sign of any Golden-headed Cisticolas – finding one of these is getting to be an obsession.

A few hundred yards inland, a partially drained fish pond held plenty of Dunlin and a minimum of 30 Red-necked Stints, a sign that wader passage is starting to get underway.

From the Black-faced Spoonbill center, about 60 of the star birds were actually visible for once, and at reasonable range, too. Nearby, the Caspian Tern flock was much reduced from my last visit but still held 83 birds. There was a Eurasian Curlew on the mud, and the creek directly in front of the center had a single Terek Sandpiper, perhaps the same overwintering bird I saw in the same area on a previous visit.

Despite the long drive, I will try and visit Qigu regularly in April and May; it’s a great birding area and will surely turn up some really good birds during peak spring migration season.

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