Asian Stubtail, Tengjhih National Forest, January 4th

Black Eagle, Tengjhih National Forest, January 4th - one of four seen today.
Black Eagle, Tengjhih National Forest, January 4th – one of four seen today.

You might have thought, after more than twenty visits and perhaps seventy or more hours spent in the field at Tengjhih, that I had seen more or less everything there is to see here. But yet again this excellent site came up with some surprises today, including no fewer than four personal Tengjhih firsts.

I arrived shortly before 9.00am, and started by walking the trail from the end of the road to the old park HQ. It was a cold start (overnight temperatures had been around 8C/46F), and bird activity was initially low, especially in shadier areas not yet warmed by the sun. However, shortly after the start of the wooden signpost to the park HQ, a feeding flock was found which included not only two Eurasian Jays, but also about twelve Rusty Laughingthrushes. This is only my second personal Tengjhih record of this endemic, the first one coming from exactly the same spot last spring – no doubt this bird is a fairly common resident here, but there is a lot of cover for it to hide in!

In a clearing, two partridges turned out to be not the expected Taiwan Hill Partridge, but a pair of Taiwan Bamboo-Partridges, which I hadn’t seen before in this area of Tengjhih. Four Dusky Fulvettas a little further on continued today’s theme of unusual Tengjhih birds. Meanwhile, Steere’s Liocichlas – usually abundant – were conspicuous by their absence, with only four seen in total all day. Business-as-usual birds, but still good to see, were a male Vivid Niltava and a male White-tailed Robin.

A hundred meters past the park HQ, my attention was drawn to a dry trrt trrt call coming from some roadside vegetation. Quite unexpectedly, the bird popped into view to reveal itself as a Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler, hot on the heels of my first-ever sighting of this bird at Chun Yang Farm a few weeks ago. I had always suspected they were at Tengjhih but it was nice to finally have confirmation – and a quality year tick.

More surprises lay in wait on the return journey. Deviating off the trail to follow a feeding flock, I heard what I thought was an Asian Stubtail calling. I was quickly proved correct when the bird showed itself almost immediately – and then a second individual was found not far away, giving great views as it hopped around on the forest floor, flicking its wings. My first Asian Stubtails for Taiwan, this bird is said to be a regular winterer, but is no doubt usually overlooked due to its unobtrusive habits.

My third Tengjhih tick for the day was a White-backed Woodpecker, heard calling high in the tallest trees along the trail, and glimpsed as it took flight. This was not such a surprise here, given the large number of mature coniferous trees in the nearby-but-still-inaccessible Tengjhih National Forest proper. Also noteworthy along the trail was a pair of White-bellied Green Pigeons distantly in a fruiting tree.

Returning to my scooter, I drove back to the village at Km 14.5 and parked near the open air market. My circuit of the Blue Trail was relatively quiet, until a quite exceptional feeding flock in and around a fruiting tree which included a beautiful female Taiwan Thrush seen very well, two Pale and one Brown-headed Thrush, a Yellow Tit, a Yellow-browed Warbler and a pair of Grey-chinned Minivets among legions of commoner species.

Black Eagles were also in evidence today, with four sightings – this bird is always a highlight of a trip to Tengjhih. Other notable sightings today: five Asian House Martins, a Crested Goshawk, a Eurasian Nuthatch, three Black-faced Buntings and a calling Arctic Warbler.

Taiwan tick: Asian Stubtail (total 274).

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