Ferruginous Duck and Great Crested Grebe, West Coast Wetlands, January 20th

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Ferruginous Duck (presumed adult female), Yuanfugang Wetlands Park, Kaohsiung, January 20th. Record shots with hand held camera, taken through a gap in the fence!
Ferruginous Duck (presumed adult female), Yuanfugang Wetlands Park, Kaohsiung, January 20th. Record shots with hand held camera, taken through a gap in the fence! It was preening constantly, hence why that “extra” white patch is visible on the wing.

With Ferruginous Ducks turning up all over Taiwan at the moment it seems, it was about time I found one for myself. At the rather derelict Yuanfugang Wetlands Park on the northern outskirts of Kaohsiung (just off Km 212 on Highway 17), I found what I had been keeping an eye out for. Probably an adult female (based on its dull chestnut plumage and dark eye), this bird was preening on a rocky island. Getting a clear view was fairly difficult as the area is closed off to the public, and a snatched photo through a fence and emergent vegetation was the best I could manage as scoping the bird was impossible.

Elsewhere, it was a day of mixed fortunes. I arrived at the Ba Zhang River, on the Tainan/Chiayi border, just as a very large and long-winged adult gull with pale grey upperparts was making a distant exit to the north (it seems that rising water forces the gulls off this river at high tide). My gut feeling told me it was the adult Great Black-headed Gull, and that it wouldn’t be back for a while! Searching elsewhere failed to reveal the bird, but I did see at least three Mongolian Gulls during the day, as well as six Saunders Gulls and three Black-tailed Gulls at the sandbar roost on the Puzi river.

I also missed the Hooded Crane – again – near Tainan City, and somewhere deep in Sihcao Reserve I almost ran over a rail that crossed the road in front of me. The latter was either a Slaty-breasted Rail or an Eastern Water Rail, but unfortunately it was little more than a glimpsed silhouette that quickly disappeared into thick cover – which is a shame, as either one of these birds would have been a lifer.

I had a bit more luck with the wintering Great Crested Grebe, on the pool just north of road 163 at Xinwen. Nearby, six Greater Scaup (four females and two immature males) and 32 Common Pochard were among the Tufted Duck flock. On the pool immediately to the south of the road, there was just one Black-necked Grebe – a big reduction in numbers since my last visit a couple of weeks ago. The area also produced two Ospreys, a Black-shouldered Kite and a Richard’s Pipit, as well as plenty of common wintering birds to look at.

Other odds and ends picked up today included four Azure-winged Magpies at Sihcao Fort, Tainan, two Curlew Sandpipers with a large wader roost at Budai, nine Little Terns near the Ba Zhang river, and a lone Pheasant-tailed Jacana at the Yuanfugang Wetlands Park.

East Asia tick: Ferruginous Duck (total 880). Taiwan tick: Great Crested Grebe (total 282).

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