Eurasian Spoonbill and Great Bittern, Cheting Marshes, December 23rd

Great Bittern habitat: extensive reedbeds at Cheting.
Great Bittern habitat: extensive reedbeds at Cheting.

Highlights (64 species seen in total):

  • Eastern Spot-billed Duck 2
  • Garganey 4
  • Common Pochard 33
  • Great Bittern 1
  • Cinnamon Bittern 1
  • Eurasian Spoonbill 2
  • Black-faced Spoonbill 100+
  • Greater Painted-Snipe 3
  • Avocet 180
  • White-shouldered Starling 18
  • Chestnut-tailed Starling 12
  • Red-throated Pipit 15

An excellent total of 64 species seen here today, but the water level at the marshes has dropped markedly since my last visit just one week ago. This is ominous news for the large number of wintering Black-faced Spoonbills, ducks, and waders – I imagine the trend is likely to continue throughout the next four months when rainfall is very low in southern Taiwan.

My personal highlight today was two Eurasian Spoonbills. First seen distantly from the viewing tower, they were feeding separately from the Black-faced Spoonbills before flying off high to the south. A few hours later they were back, this time at the large pool close to Cheting village, at the western end of the area. This species is a personal milestone, as it means my Taiwan list has finally surpassed my Korean one, just five weeks or so before I permanently leave Taiwan.

Eurasian Spoonbill, one of two birds present at Cheting Marshes, December 23rd.
Eurasian Spoonbill, one of two birds present at Cheting Marshes, December 23rd.

It’s amazing what you can see if you’re prepared to get in among the reeds and scrubby pools here. Off-trail forays on the south side of the road produced some excellent birds including three Greater Painted-Snipe (including a smart adult female), at least one Common Snipe, another snipe flushed from almost under my feet which didn’t call and appeared large – quite possibly a Swinhoe’s Snipe – and best of all my second Great Bittern of the autumn. The latter bird was seen in flight only, over the reeds, but at quite close range. Much less welcome was a large snake – probably a Chinese Cobra – which I disturbed and which slithered away into the reeds. It was a timely reminder to be careful here when walking off the trails.

Other highlights of today’s five-hour visit included good counts of 18 White-shouldered and 12 Chestnut-tailed Starlings, a female Cinnamon Bittern, still 33 Common Pochard on the east lake, two Eastern Spot-billed Ducks (rare at this location), 4 Garganey, and increased numbers of waders taking advantage of the lower water levels including 5 Long-toed Stints, 4 Wood Sandpipers, 2 Marsh Sandpipers, and hundreds of Avocets and Black-winged Stilts.

Taiwan tick: Eurasian Spoonbill (total 272).

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