For me, one of the most exciting (and hardest) parts of experiencing a new place is always becoming familiar with the local birds. No matter that I've notched 250+ species in East Africa, since I've moved to Taiwan it's been rather slow going. Sometimes species overlap, but there are differences in taxonomy and naming protocols not to mention completely new habitats, elevational gradients, local variations, and pockets of particular species.
Taiwan has an enormously vibrant community of avian enthusiasts, but a relative lack in English language reference materials. The Taipei Wild Bird Society has published some materials (and the first English-language field guide to the birds of Taiwan is dropping in October!!!), but for new-comers and non-birders alike, I decided to put together a very brief field guide of some of the more common species that I see around our home in Dashe District, Taiwan.
Feel free to download the guide for personal use either by clicking on download icon on the file embedded above or via Google Drive.
Anna painted a field of flowers this morning, which was a welcome respite in a week otherwise defined by disappointment, anger, and frustration.
Collared Finchbill, (Spizixos semitorques), from a photo taken at Poseidon's Pools in Pingtung, Taiwan
Kate was looking for a new banner for her website, sounds & bites. She had a general idea in her head of what she was looking for but it was tough to decide without actually seeing it, so about a week back I put her ideas together into a sort of working draft (sounds & bites 1, posted below). Using that, we tweaked color selections for brighter, more standard colors. We also decided to swap out the vintage radio for the Tivoli Model One that we have, use, and love. Here's the final result, which I'm quite pleased with.
Spent a couple of days exploring Taitung and Hualien over our winter break. A few highlights: the Walami Trail, Qingshui cliffs, and Hehuan North trail.
Anna was not feeling great this morning, so we stayed in and read for most of the day. This afternoon we decided to get out and do a little exploring and road birding.
One of the cooler experiences was coming upon a Crested Serpent-Eagle perched on a palm at the edge of a pineapple field while two others circled overhead calling. Not sure why this one was perched and allowed up to approach, but it appears that the eagle's right eye had some sort of infection.
Anna wanted to go swimming on her 7th birthday, so this morning we headed off into the mountains above Sandimen in Pingtung County in search of Shalawan waterfall (for the geographically-inclinded: 22°39'27.2"N 120°43'13.8"E). After a few wrong turns, guided by GoogleMaps and a great set of instructions, we arrived without incident and set off on the 1.5km hike.
Anna and Lucy did a great job on the hike in, which afforded us some amazing views. The series of waterfalls in the photo above descends 600m from a hanging valley high in the mountains, and I lost count of the number of waterfalls we saw on the drive in. 40? 50? For the most part, the trail to Shalawan was wide and well maintained. It looked like 4X4s actually used to drive in, however this landslide now prevents all but foot and scooter traffic.
But once we descended the 150m in elevation from the parking lot, we were rewarded with this view.
Imagine the volume of water it would have taken to destroy that suspension bridge! With the careful assistance of some adults, the kids crossed the stream at the rope and played in the pools next to the water, on the stone beach, and climbed around on the rocks. Anna made herself a stone knife and opened up shop teaching the other kids (and adults) how to break rocks to make stone tools. Lucy just loved the water.
We hear it's possible to trace the river upstream to the 160m Deer Creek waterfall. There is just SO MUCH to explore at this particular location. We didn't even make it to the big Shalawan waterfall downstream because the trail was steep and this particular spot was AMAZING. The hike back up to the parking lot was tiring for Anna's legs, but Lucy managed to run the entire way up the switchbacks.
The terrain here is just spectacular to me. I got lost clicking around the terrain level of GoogleMaps last night for a few hours (am I the only one who can get lost in GoogleMaps for hours?). We parked around 750m ASL and then descended to just below 600m. If you look up the valley the terrain quickly rises to the 3000m ridge that divides the eastern and western watershed on Taiwan, only about 4km to the east. We'll be back - there are so many cool things to explore here and it only took about 2 hours from walking out the door at home to swimming.
I've always been a bit of a mystic when it comes to places (this is probably part of the reason I became a geographer). I often marvel at terrain, vistas, flora, fauna, and even (occasionally) the human-made components of the landscape. I'm always excited when I find art that captures some element of the aesthetic and wonder of a place. The screenshot above is captured from a video by adilblues on Vimeo that inspires me. I haven't seen all of these sights yet (perhaps one day), but I did stand in awe of the seascapes of Kenting on our first weekend here in July.
You too can spend watching 4 minutes of inspired wonder.