Saunders Gull and Greater Scaup, West Coast Wetlands, January 6th

Today was a “four gull day”, which is most unusual in Taiwan where – apart from the locally common Black-headed Gull – gulls are very scarce winter visitors.

There was an adult Mongolian Gull at “Chiayi Xin Wen”, the area of lakes I refer to as Budai, which lies between Km 134.5 on Highway 17 and local road 163 to the south. Further north, a sandbar in the Puzi River – viewable through the mangroves from the top of the embankment just east of Highway 17 – was teeming with birds including three splendid winter adult Saunders Gulls and an adult Black-tailed Gull among the abundant Black-headed Gulls.

I might have added a fifth species to the day list – Heuglin’s Gull – if a suspiciously dark-mantled fly-by adult larus had stopped at the sandbar for closer scrutiny.

Aside from gulls, I had been informed of a Ferruginous Duck at Cheting, which was apparently photographed there “recently”. Checking the Tufted Duck flock on the eastern lake, I quickly found a female-type individual that showed obvious white undertail coverts, and a slightly warmer brown tone to the plumage than the rather cold brown normal for female Tufted Duck. The bird was sleeping, but it did briefly raise its head on several occasions to reveal a rather steep forehead and peaked crown above the eye, and no obvious tuft at the rear of the head. But somehow it just didn’t feel quite right, and given the wide range of Tufted Duck plumages (including several other female-type birds present at Cheting that also showed striking white undertail coverts), as well as the distinct possibility of hybrids, this one won’t be making it on to my Taiwan list yet.

Another very notable record at “Chiayi Xin Wen” was a flock of no fewer than six Black-necked Grebes on the lake south of road 163. This must constitute a very high count for Taiwan. However, I couldn’t find the Great Crested Grebe that had been reported here a few days earlier. North of the 163, the western lake held a big flock of diving ducks consisting of 280 Tufted Duck, 16 Common Pochard, and 3 Greater Scaup (two immature males and a female) – a long-awaited personal Taiwan tick.

Other notable birds seen today: Black-shouldered Kite (1 Budai), Osprey (1 Budai), Spotted Redshank (1 overhead at the Puzi River, calling loudly), Eurasian Spoonbill (2 Aogu) and Purple Heron (1 Aogu).

Taiwan ticks: Greater Scaup, Saunders Gull (total 276)

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