24 Wader Species at Budai, Beimen, Qigu, Guantian and Cheting, April 22nd

Waders (with very approximate combined totals from all the sites visited):

  • Broad-billed Sandpiper 20
  • Curlew Sandpiper 200
  • Marsh Sandpiper 50
  • Sharp-tailed Sandpiper 40
  • Terek Sandpiper 12
  • Dunlin 5
  • Red-necked Stint 70
  • Long-toed Stint 4
  • Wood Sandpiper 2
  • Common Sandpiper 4
  • Eastern Black-tailed Godwit 8
  • Avocet 50
  • Black-winged Stilt 100
  • Common Redshank 1
  • Common Greenshank 10
  • Greater Sandplover 20
  • Mongolian Plover 50
  • Pacific Golden Plover 300
  • Grey Plover 1
  • Kentish Plover 30
  • Common Snipe 3
  • Greater Painted-Snipe 2
  • Oriental Pratincole 7
  • Pheasant-tailed Jacana 30

Other Birds (highlights only):

  • Black-shouldered Kite 1
  • Osprey 1
  • Black-faced Spoonbill 10
  • Sacred Ibis 3
  • Yellow Bittern 1
  • Caspian Tern 10
  • Whiskered Tern 50
  • Little Tern 10
  • Eurasian Wigeon 50
  • Northern Shoveler 10
  • Common Teal 1
  • Ring-necked Pheasant 2 heard
  • Chestnut-tailed Starling 1
  • Oriental Magpie-Robin 1
  • Long-tailed Shrike 3
  • Richard’s Pipit 1
  • Eastern Yellow Wagtail 6

An exhausting day with nearly 300km driven on the scooter, but a huge number of birds was a fair reward for my efforts!

First, a 10-minute early-morning stop at the main Cheting Marshes lagoon kickstarted the day’s wader list, with a flock of about 15 sandplovers containing mostly the scarcer Greater Sandplover. Also 9 Red-necked Stints, 2 Kentish Plovers, and a few other common waders – but no sign of the usual Avocet flock today.

I then drove steadily north all the way to Budai Township, in Chiayi County, glimpsing some Oriental Pratincoles, Whiskered Terns and a Yellow Bittern along the way. The salt pans at Budai are mentioned in many trip reports as being a good bet for big numbers of waders in peak migration season (now!). Not having precise directions, I was hoping to stumble across some good habitat by just driving up Highway 17, and indeed I did. The very best pools were on the right hand side just after the small village where local road 163 crosses the 17. A fantastic selection of waders – mostly in their beautiful summer plumage – included about 20 Broad-billed Sandpipers (Taiwan tick) and 200 (!) Curlew Sandpipers, with a supporting cast of other birds around the complex including a few lingering Black-faced Spoonbills and wintering ducks.

The muddy margins of dried-out fishponds are a good bet for a subtly different selection of waders to open marshes, and that was the case here at a small roadside pond just to the south of the above-mentioned village: several Long-toed Stints, Wood Sandpipers, and Marsh Sandpipers feeding close to the road and giving excellent scope views.

Scooter-based birding at Budai salt pans.
Scooter-based birding at Budai salt pans.

A larger area of salt pans to the north, easily viewed from Highway 17, was the favored area for Avocets and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, and a lone Eastern Black-tailed Godwit (Taiwan tick). There was also a fine Osprey fishing here.

My next stop was Beimen. I had no idea where to concentrate my search in this large area of – predictably – fishponds, cropfields and coastal lagoons. I didn’t find much I hadn’t seen already today, although a flock of 7 Eastern Black-tailed Godwits flew over. I searched the dry rice paddies for Little Curlew to no avail, but I did encounter three Long-tailed Shrikes here.

It’s not clear from Google maps, but it’s possible to “shadow” Expressway 61 along most of its length on a service road, instead of following the twists and turns of Highway 17. This is ideal for scooter-based birders, who cannot legally drive on the Expressways. Heading south by this method, it’s a direct and quick journey from Beimen to Qigu. I stopped for 15 minutes at the Black-faced Spoonbill visitor center, where the majority of the waders visible were – surprisingly – Terek Sandpipers (I didn’t see this species at all at Budai or Beimen). Also here, a single Grey Plover and a scattering of distant Caspian Terns on the mud.

Finally, I figured I could fit in an hour at the Guantian Pheasant-tailed Jacana reserve, 40 minutes drive to the east of Qigu, before I had to return to Kaohsiung. As I walked around the reserve, I was pleasantly surprised by the high number of Pheasant-tailed Jacanas on view. They are really splendid birds in summer plumage, and even on a Tuesday afternoon there were several photographers enjoying them. Not much else was around except for three Common Snipe, and at least two Ring-necked Pheasants heard calling from nearby fields but not seen.

My main target bird for this area was Greater Painted-Snipe. A little disappointed not to encounter one on the reserve, I drove slowly east along minor roads through rice paddies. First, a beautiful Black-shouldered Kite drifted through. Then, just 50 yards west of Highway 1, in the last furrow of the last rice paddy before the main road, there it was …. a Greater Painted-Snipe. A true last-minute bird. Very good views, although it was the slightly duller male and not the brilliant chestnut-with-white-braces female (this species exhibits reverse sexual dimorphism) – but in any case a long overdue bird for the life list that perfectly rounded off a great day’s birding.

Greater Painted-Snipe, Broad-billed Sandpiper and Eastern Black-tailed Godwit bring my Taiwan life list and year list to 212 and 176 respectively.

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