2019 Taiwan Birdathon

Chiayi is one of the counties of Taiwan in the southern part with many attractions for Ecotourism and birdlife of Taiwan. Amongst those, I would like to highlight a few birding hotspots you should visit while you are in Taiwan e.g. Aogu Wetland, Alishan, and Dayuashan.

Because of Chiayi is abundant in biodiversity and cultures, Birdathon is held every year within this county supported by the local government and managed by Ecotourism Taiwan. Thanks to the President of Ecotourism Taiwan — Mr. Victor Yu and The Director of Southwest Coast Scenics Areas — Director Hsu for your invitation and companies.

Why Birdathon? Well, the event is similar to the Bird Races in other countries in Asia but named in a different way. This event happens every year in Chiayi with 25 different teams from locals. There are 5 international countries every year except 2019 Birdathon there were 6 countries — Cambodia, Singapore, South Korea, America, Africa, and Canada. “There were 100 participants and each team is unique as they have their own vehicle and team up within their family,” said Victor Yu. Based on my experience, this case makes Birdathon unique! I could see the teams came with their children carried binoculars, Field Guides, compact and DSLR cameras out in the fields on a sunny day. The race is only 24 hours and each team is required to submit their lists on eBird by 10:30am. There are two different categories: The Winner of Most Endemics and The Winner of Most species sightings and each category divided into 3 prizes (I was not explained what the prizes are).

I teamed up with my friend from Singapore and we went birding together with another team from South Korea and our Bird Guide Mr. Chung Han Wu and his student/assistant Ms. Lin. We started from Beimen Visitor Center to Yunlin County including Aogu Wetland and many other sites that I cannot remember those Chinese names but I would recommend Ecotourism Taiwan to you if you wish to bird here and of course our guide Mr. Chung Han Wu who has lots of experiences in birding for the Southwest Coast Scenics Areas.

We had a really good time during the Birdathon and many species were seen including rare and endemic birds e.g. beautiful Northern Lapwing, Black-faced and Eurasian Spoonbills, etc.

Conclusion: Birdathon is not only birds and it’s a good opportunity for making friends and seeing friends. It also lets us understand more about local life e.g. culture, food, sceneries and other undescribed things around Taiwan. I would recommend the organizer to create more categories for international participants if Taiwan wants to promote its birding activities to the world to benefit local businesses and improve the English speaking to locals.

Here are some pictures from Birdathon…

Pursat Grassland

On 08-10 November 2019, together with my colleague from Cambodia Bird Guide Association (CBGA) went for birding and to have site inspection at Pursat grassland at Southside of Tonle Sap lake. The grassland has been damaged dramatically from agricultural activities from Zone 1 to Zone 3. There are mango farms, new ricefield, and canals at where we used to bird with nice grassland and no disturbance from agricultural activities. Click for more

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Kirirom Trip

Last month Cambodia Bird Guide Association (CBGA) conducted a recce trip to Kirirom in search of Austen’s Brown Hornbill (Anorrhinus austeni)  and Sultan Tit ((Melanochlora sultanea). We began our from Siem Reap; Kandal; Phnom Penh and Kirirom on the next morning. We saw Cambodian Tailorbirds and many other species nearby Phnom Penh and Kandal.

We had a ranger up in Kirirom to guide us to the highest spot and also the cliff sharing the border of Koh Kong and Kampong Spue province. It was a great sunny and cool day up there where Wreathed and Great Hornbills were flying down along the cliff but on top of the forest to feed on fruits. We enjoyed the whole day looking at those Hornbills and raptors flying around till dark and we camped next to the cliff.

The next day after breakfast we split our team into 2 and wandering at different locations for Austen’s Brown Hornbill and Sultan Tit. There were so many Great Hornbills in that morning and a few Wreathed flying from trees to trees. Blue bearded Bee-eater; Yellow-browed Warblers; Asian Brown Flycatchers; Velvet Fronted Nuthatch; Sooty Drongos; Bulbuls were singing and hopping around us.

Amongst those birds, there were 2 Hornbills flying from the east of the cliff to the Bayan fruit tree next to tall bamboo bushes. The wing flap and size are similar to Oriental Pied Hornbill but the white trailing edge is not white. I pulled my binoculars and look… Boy! That’s what I was looking for! Austen’s Brown Hornbills! I was trying to call my team members to come but the connection was so poor and some of them didn’t even answer my call. I decided to leave my voice message on Telegram and one of them read the message. They came to me 20 minutes later and I told them where I saw the birds flew in. We spent our afternoon looking for these two birds but we didn’t have the second chance. They might be flying off sometime when I was trying to call my team.

We left the first camp to the second one at the border of Kampong Som province where it’s called Ou Bak Roteh. We had no chance to bird here because of the rain. We spent a couple hours to bird the next day and it was really productive! We filled our list with Thick-billed Green-Pigeon; Gray-headed Pygmy-Woodpeckers; Little Green Bee-Eaters; Asian Fairy Bluebirds; Yellow-browed Leaf-warblers; Asian Brown Flycatchers; Sooty Drongos; Mountain Imperial Pigeon; Large Billed Crows; Bulbuls, etc. and the most interesting one is White’s Thrush.

As we have to travel further to Bokor for partridge research we didn’t spend more time for this campsite

My suggestion is to stay longer at the second campsite and continue to explore further for Tits as the habitats are good for them. Click here for some images

By Johnny ORN

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មគ្គទេសក៍សត្វស្លាបកម្ពុជា

The newly released field guide to the Birds of Cambodia by Cambodia Bird Guide Association, published by Lynx Edicions (a Lynx and BirdLife International Field Guides Collection), is now available in stock at CBGA in Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Please come to our office to get one copy for yourself or as a gift for your birding friends who might like to do a birding holiday in the Kingdom of Cambodia sometime. And it is 50 USD for the waterproof flexible cover.click here

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Birding in India

India! I know a little about it after my travel in July 2019 for two weeks to many parts of India in the North with a few friends from England and Taiwan. Thanks to our best friends, from Asian Adventures who has been operated for more than 25 years, Mohit Aggarwal and his great bird guides and driver Mahesh, Pawan and a few more that I cannot remember all their names.

We began our journey from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Pangot, Corbett, Chambal Sanctuary, Keoladeo National Park, Jhalana, Sokhaliya, then Delhi.

Pangot is the most interesting birding spot amongst others which we enjoy the pheasants, and the weather is great. We stayed at Jungle Lore Birding Lodge for 2 nights before heading to Corbett for megafauna. The manager of the lodge is very friendly and helpful to us… Food is nice with reasonable portions, the room is clean and private surrounded by trees, birds and Himalayan Monkey. If you don’t want to go far, you may sit in a hide and enjoy looking at many species come down to the water and leftover food from the restaurant. Bird of Pangot was Brown fronted Woodpecker — a cute little woodpecker perching on a dead trunk which everyone manages to have nice pictures before the sleeping Asian Barred Owlet. We saw Koklas and Khalij Pheasants but not Cheer Pheasant because of heavy rain up there.

Along the way to Corbett we saw Tawny Fish-Owl perching nicely by the stream. Corbett is more to Megafauna than birds. We saw Tiger and Elephant on the same morning after a short ride from the Tiger lodge. A tigress was secretly creeping for her prey deer herd but she missed her chance possibly because of our Jeep. On the way back along the main road, there was a male elephant with single tusk crossing right behind our Jeep for just 20m. We were explained that the elephant lost his task because he lost his fight for a female in the forest and he has to leave the forest after his loss and he can be very aggressive for that reason. Besides those, we also saw some interesting birds, e.g. Indian Silverbill, Orange Headed Thrush, Bristled Grassbird, Jungle Babblers, Ashy Prinia, Bengal Bushlark, Indian Golden Oriole, Gray Hornbill, etc.

On the way to Chambal, we met Mr. Mohit, the owner of Asian Adventures, and travel together to Chambal Safari Lodge. This place is a family running a business with some historical buildings from the British Colony. Again, this is another nice place for Safari and birding lodge I would recommend. The owner and staffs are nice with experienced guides and drivers. We didn’t take the cruise tours because of the tide is high and strong current. We spent a couple hours in the morning safariing and birding. We filled our checklist with Blackbucks, Yellow-wattled Lapwings, Jungle Babbler, Spotted Owlets, and Indian Peafowls, etc.

Keoladeo is the busiest place during the trip as it’s the wetland with many water birds being bred. Many Indians are on remorques in the hot day back and forth every 15 minutes as I noticed. There are many storks flying over with camera clicks all over the places. Our list was Painted Stork; Great, Intermediate, Little, Cattle Egrets; Black-necked Storks; Indian Cormorants; Indian Pond-Herons; Stork-billed Kingfishers; Spotted Owlets, etc. before heading to the next town.

Jhanana is a famous Leopard Safari place in India. We took Jeep for 2 hours moving around 3km in the park. We saw a male Leopard briefly before he went deeply into the bush. Indian Cuckoos, Chestnut-winged Cuckoos, Red-wattled Lapwings, Indian Nightjars, Breen Bee-eater, Gray-headed Pygmy-Woodpeckers, etc. before another lying Leopard up high in the rocky mountain.

The Leopard day has gone over after we arrived in Sokhaliya. We stay in a small town with lots of temples decored with Hanuman Lord. I was not well that afternoon so I didn’t see many birds besides Scarlet Minivets and Black Drongos while my travel mates went for more birding. The next morning, we went to see the Lesser Florican — a rare species strictly being conserved. We were so lucky to have the officer taking us to the location for Florican and Owl. Only one male displaying florican was seen far away but good enough for seeing. The final list for us today included Lesser Florican, Indian Thickers, Indian Rollers, larks, Indian Eagle-Owl, Savannah Nightjar, etc. We headed to Delhi for our last night in India and say goodbye to our friends.

Conclusion: India is a good country regarding bird watching whether in Dry or monsoon season. Monsoon doesn’t rain the whole day but some time of the day so you still have enough pace to flavor your holiday. I would recommend Asian Adventures to you if you wish to visit India.