Birding in Taichung, Taiwan- Alishan 阿里山观鸟

From Taichung (台中), I drove all the way to Alishan ( 阿里山) !! The drive was treacherous as the steep bends were more than challenging, but nonetheless, my driving skills came in handy! *SCREECH*

It was a hot summer August, but high altitudes at Alishan exuded cool weather, very ideal for hiking, and definitely bird watching! There were some fancy hotels around the area, but we stayed at a dodgy hotel called the Alishan Gou Hotel! This “hotel” is well known among birders for it location for birding, as the garden behind the hotel and trails around the area are frequented by local endemics! 😛

Birds seen and photographed included:

1. Johnstone’s Bush Robin or Collared Bush Robin (Tarsiger johnstoniae)

2. Brown Bullfinch (Pyrrhula nipalensis)

3. Taiwan Barwing or Formosan Barwing (Actinodura morrisoniana)

4. Vinaceous Rosefinch (Carpodacus vinaceus) ssp.

5.  White-whiskered Laughingthrush (Trochalopteron morrisonianum)

6.  Golden Parrotbill (Suthora verreauxi)

7. White-browed Bush Robin (Tarsiger indicus)

From left- Brown Bullfinch, Taiwan Barwing

From left- Brown Bullfinch, Taiwan Barwing

From left- white whiskered laughingthrush, golden parrotbill

From left- white whiskered laughingthrush, golden parrotbill

From left- Collared Bush robin, White-browed bush robin

From left- Collared Bush robin, White-browed bush robin

Many have recommended to see the sunrise in Alishan and so after our stargazing activity at 2:30am, and before that, bat-watching at the “hotel”, we got on a very crowded train that took us to the sunrise viewing platform! But to our dismay, there were not just 10 or 20 people, but probably over hundreds of noisy people at the platform! Grrr!

It was a new experience watching sunrise with big crowds..lol! But we quickly comforted ourselves with hot meatballs sold at the vendors!  🙂 It was 0630am and having filled up our growling tummies, we made our way back to the hotel. With chirping birds, glowing sun, and walking downhill instead of up, we had a very enjoyable walk and reached the “hotel” at 0815. Just in time for another breakfast! :))

Oh, here’s a photo of the stars at night

Star gazing at night!

Star gazing at night!

Sydney Botanical Gardens

It’s not my first time visiting Sydney but definitely the first time as a birder. It was Christmas when i visited and as I predicted the shops were closed for the festival and not many people seen on streets. “Great, less people means more birds”, I anticipated with hope. 😛 Afterall I am not into shopping…hehe

On the day of arrival, I quickly made a trip to the park in the late afternoon; To my surprise, I saw many flying foxes hanging on trees….flapping their wings and making loud noises. I stood under a tree to get some photos (BAD IDEA)! Apparently one flew out and pooped on me (Grrr….)! Anyway, after cleaning up the mess, I made my way to the central pond area. Below were some of the birds seen. 😛

Indian myna and noisy miner

Blue billed Duck and Australian Magpie

Pacific black duck and Bell myna

Golden whistler and little pied commorant

I read about a frogmouth and buff banded rail being residents in the park, but I didnt get to see them that afternoon. I knew I have to go back again. On the morning before I head off to Melbourne, I went to the park again and saw a park ranger. My instincts told me that I should ask him if he knew the whereabouts of the frogmouth (I was so smart!)… he pointed at the Pyramid and told me to search there. I took his advice  and soon found them! YAY!

tawny frogmouth

After bagging the frogmouth, I headed back to the store to get some soveniors for my friends…but the store is still closed. And as i walked around the back of the store, I suddenly saw this rail scurrying off! I sneaked behind him and to my delight, I found a family of buff banded rails! What luck!

Mission accomplished, and moving on to the next city- Melbourne! 😛 😛

buff banded rail

Barred Eagle Owl

Many friends have posted the Barred Eagle Owl and it appeared that this owl is a resident in a Golf and Country Club in Malaysia! Because I wanted this so badly, Wong and Jon took me to the resort to get it. While I have my breakfast, Wong and Jon searched the grounds…but with no avail. 😦 I left with disappointment and vowed to come back soon.
When I returned to Singapore again, I asked another good friend of mine-Low to check if the owl has returned. His reply, “okay, 99% still there. If its not there I will wear an owl costume and appear in front of you”. The assertiveness in his answer gave me confidence, and so we made a trip to the resort once again! By the time we’ve arrived at the resort it was almost mid-day and so we quickly made our way to the back garden. There was a gardener there watering the plants. Low spoke to him and the gardener pointed at a tree close by.Low looked up and signalled me to set up my gear!! I could feel my heart thumping hard. “This is it!” I whispered to myself with excitement… When I was ready to take some photos, we found not 1 but 3 barred eagle owls!!! There was a juvenile with its parents standing on their own favourite perch on the same tree! I almost squealed with joy but taking a decent shot of any of those owls was a challenge. They all perched high on the tree with branches and leaves almost covering them. Low and me spent over half an hour running around the tree trying to get the best spot! And guess what-we did!!! Second time’s the charm for this highly soughted owl!

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Adult barred eagle owl

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barred eagle owl juvenile!!

Easy Birding in Langkawi 浮罗交怡观鸟

Where’s the easiest place to bird in Malaysia? Langkawi, no doubt about it!  Every Christmas, I would travel to get away from the noise and crowds in the big city…and having heard about how easy it is to bird in Langkawi, I decided to go for it!

Langkawi is actually a cluster of islands separated from the Mainland Malaysia. Public transport service in Langkawi is scarce, hence upon arrival, I rented a car…with no GPS (duh). With terrible driving skills, I slowly made my way to my hotel with a road map and managed to get to my hotel by the beach with ease.  Once I checked in, I quickly hit the road again, hoping to see some birds before sunset. I was not disappointed.

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Purple Swamphen came close to me!

Whilst I was on my way to the Andaman, I made a stop at the Ton Bon Resort. Located within a large marsh wetland, its not difficult to see ducks, the white throated kingfisher and the purple swamphen while drinking tea!

As I continued to drive along the North coast, I managed to see Brahminy Kites, White Bellied Sea Eagles hovering in the sky, some Baya Weavers feeding on fruiting trees and Collared Kingfisher and the Pacific Reef Egret by the Tanjung Rhu beach fishing!  Beating for time, I hurried my way to the hotel which I have heard so much about! A hotel situated in the midst of a rainforest with wildlife at your doorstep, sounds just too good to be true!

Whilst waiting for my night nature tour to begin at the hotel, I nestled comfortably by the sofa enjoying the tranquil environment when I was “disturbed” by some movement of the trees. To my delight, there was a flock of dusky monkeys in full swing mode! Still astounded by their sudden appearances,  a flock of Oriental Pied Hornbills flew in to join the fun! I quickly “slipped” out of my comfy mood, grabbed my camera and incredibily, an oriental pied hornbill came so close to me, that I had to stand back to take a decent shot of it!

What a cute Dusky Monkey!

Still grinning (my first ever hornbill!) my night tour guide finally met up with me. The Andaman Resort organises free night and morning nature treks for its guests, but luckily for me (not telling you why) I was able to join in free!  I quickly gave Indera, the naturalist a challenge. “Any owls?” I said. Indera grinned. We started our walk from the back of the lobby entrance moving down to the back areas of the hotel which was lushed with flora and fauna. There were no street lights , but we had our torches on. Apart from hearing the calls from frogs and buzzing of mosquitoes, I couldnt hear any owl calls. I started to sink with disappointment, when Indera shoved me and whispered strongly “Owl! Brown hawk Owl!” I looked up, and there it was standing in the open!

Brown hawk owl! No flash was used!

As we continued our walk, we saw a couple of flying foxes and flying lemurs. It was truly an exciting and fruitful night… Alas, it was time for me to head back to my hotel which took me a staggering 2 hours ( I lost my way and ended up at the edge of a cliff). Well, let’s just call it a day.

flying lemur with the babyclinging on!”