The river where I encountered the redstart and whistling thrush (described in my last post) was just inside the gates of the reserve, so it was a good place for a morning stroll among the trees lining its banks. It was a good place for birds, too: among other things, this was the only place I saw the endemic Taiwan Barwing (Actinodura morrisoniana). I did get one ghastly photograph of it, but as it is about as instructive as a bunch of tea leaves in the bottom of a cup I am not going to post it here.
Instead, we can have a look at the local plant life (in the hope that one of my botanically inclined readers can name some of this stuff). I suspect that this is a sort of ivy.
These are ferns. Details, anyone?
This appears to be Grape-leaved Anemone (Anemone vitifolia), a plant that ranges from the Himalayas to Taiwan and the Philippines. It's a widely-cultivated plant, so I can't be sure if this is a genuinely wild one or a garden escapee.
I ought to know what this is, but I confess I don't. Help!
I do know what these are. Rhododendrons are among my favourite flowers, and it was a pleasure to encounter these lovely plants at blossom time. This appears to be the Taiwan Alpine Rhododendron (Rhododendron pseudochrysanthum).
On to the birds: this inquisitive bird belongs to the local race of Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius taivanus). These birds vary tremendously across their enormous range in temperate Europe and Asia, so seeing this one was almost like encountering a new species (and at the rate birds are being split these days, maybe it will end up as one). It was certainly more approachable than jays I have seen elsewhere (birds I usually see as they vanish into the treetops).
I met this Rufous Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis orii) marching determinedly along the pavement, obviously with some serious and important goal in mind.
Little flocks of Grey-cheeked Fulvettas (Alcippe morrisonia morrisonia), often accompanied by other birds (the barwing was among them, but was far less cooperative), flitted through the treeetops at eye level. I have written in an earlier post about the taxonomic muddle fulvettas now find themselves in. This one, unlike the Taiwan Fulvetta (Fulvetta formosana) I encountered at Hehuanshan, keeps its original generic name and its place in the Laughingthrush family (Leiothrichidae). The Taiwan form is one of the more strongly marked of eight or nine subspecies, many of which may soon be split off as species of their own.. This, then, may be another endemic species in the making.
A few Taiwan Sibias (Heterophasia auricularis) were hanging out with the fulvettas, which meant from a birding point of view that the birds were at eye level - others I had seen along the way were usually overhead.
After birding along the river, we boarded a bus that took us to a lovely garden area inside the park.
The windmill might be a bit of an over-touristy touch, but the area was attractive all the same.Mind you, I'm not averse to flowers myself, especially when they are as lovely as these rhododendrons.
This rather barren vine arbor (it was still early spring, after all) was a good place to get close views of one of the flightier of the local endemics...
...the Taiwan Yuhina (Yuhina brunneiceps), a bird constantly in the move, in little flocks rather like tits or, more to the point, white-eyes - molecular studies have shown that yuhinas and white-eyes, once placed in separate families, are close relatives.
They take nectar and berries as well as insects, so a flower garden is a good place to find them - but then, this must be one of the commonest of Taiwan's endemic birds. It was nice to have a few of them hold still for a bit!
A shady nook off to one side of the garden was lorded over by a male White-tailed Robin (Myiomela leucura montium), another bird whose full colours were only revealed under a flash. This is usually a fairly shy species, but this one - presumably guarding a territory - was unusually bold, posing repeatedly in the open and flashing his white tail-patches at us.
A stroll down a trail away from the garden turned up this inquisitive Rufous-capped Babbler (Stachyris ruficeps praecognita)...
...and a brief look at this Brown-flanked Bush Warbler (Cettia fortipes robustipes) (yes, responding to a tape). The Taiwan form has sometimes been elevated to species rank, in which case it should be called Swinhoe's Bush Warbler. That's because there already is a Taiwan Bush Warbler (Locustella alishanensis), an extreme skulker that was actually calling at the same place, at very close range, but afforded me only the briefest and most unsatisfactory of glimpses (if that - I'm still not 100% convinced I even saw it).
There were compensations for the non-appearance by the wren-babblers. Steere's Liocichla (Liocichla steerei) is probably my favourite of the Taiwan endemics - a charming combination of beauty and personality. And they did appreciate the mealworms (though I'm not sure I would recommend baiting as a regular birding technique - the Malaysian Nature Society, for example, is dead against it, but it seems to be the norm in Taiwan).
An even more eager customer, and our last new bird for our trip to the mountains, was this Snowy-browed Flycatcher (Ficedula hyperythra innexa). At first I didn't recognize it. I have seen these birds, or their near relations, on Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, and they appeared quite different; for one thing, they didn't spend much time on the ground. Nobody seems to think this Taiwanese should be a separate species; I wonder why not?