Saturday, June 30, 2007

The June 29 EPA Hearing

At yesterday's environmental impact assessment meeting, the EPA said they will be responding before the end of July to our letter of intent to sue, but they maintain that they have no legal authority to stop the construction of Hushan Dam at this time. We are continuing to look into the possibility of filing an injunction.

Also see:
Environmentalists give the EPA sixty days to stop Hushan
NGOs set to take on the EPA
EPA Hearing

Friday, June 29, 2007

BirdLife International says Dam raises global concerns over future of Fairy Pitta

BirdLife International, the world's largest bird conservation organisation, has once again voiced its concern over the future of the Fairy Pitta.

Dam raises global concerns over future of Fairy Pitta

Also see:

Editorial: News from the BirdLife Partnership, June 2007

Huben and the Purple Butterflies

Late March through to late April can be a really magical time of the year for nature lovers visiting the Huben-Hushan area. From late March through to about the tenth of April great numbers of Purple Crow (Euploea) Butterflies pass through the Huben area on their spectacular journey from southern Taiwan to northern Taiwan. This butterfly migration is amongst the world's most spectacular butterfly migrations. Indeed, Taiwan is often referred to as the Island of Butterflies. With around four hundred butterfly species found on Taiwan, Taiwan is a paradise for butterfly watchers.

Literally, coinciding with the Purple Crow/Milkweed Butterfly migration through central Taiwan is one of the world's most spectacular raptor migrations. The Grey-faced Buzzard is also moving through the area in their thousands (A Brief History of Grey-Faced Buzzard Conservation in Taiwan). This continues until about 7th April and then it's just about a two week wait until the Fairy Pitta return to the Huben-Hushan area.

Also see:
Highway shut for butterfly travel
Central Taiwan gets opportunity to view butterflies and buzzards
Freeway passage to offer safe route for migrating butterflies
Authorities launch plan to save endangered butterflies
Meinong's valley of butterflies

A researcher during the April 07 butterfly migration through Huben.

Two Band Crow Euploea sylvester swinhoei

Dwarf Crow Euploea tulliolus koxinga

Striped Blue Crow Euploea mulciber barsine

Other Huben Butterfly Photos

Taiwan Asagi Madara Parantica swinhoei

Tailed Green Jay Graphium agamemnon

Purple Saphire Heliophorus ila matsumurae

Ypthima formosana

Byasa impediens febanus

Blue Triangle Graphium sarpedon connectens

Common Jester Symbrenthia lilaea formosanus

Common Mapwing Cyrestis thyodamas formosana

Thursday, June 28, 2007

SAVE International Visits Hushan

On the evening of 12 June 2007 members of SAVE International met up with Representatives of a number of Taiwan NGOs near the Hushan Dam site. SAVE International is an Earth Island Institute project and was founded in 1997 as a volunteer group of professors, students, and staff from the University of California, Berkeley and National Taiwan University with the mission of saving the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor)from extinction.

With SAVE International having successfully worked in Taiwan on the Black-faced Spoonbill issue for the past decade it was felt that SAVE may be able to help with ideas concerning the Fairy Pitta-Hushan Dam issue.

SAVE International at Hushan Campaign Office-Meilin Village near the Hushan Dam site.

Members of SAVE included local members from National Taiwan University and Dr Randy Hester and Barbara Butler from UC, Berkeley. Calvin Wen represented Green Party Taiwan and TEAN. Also present were Jacob Chang and Fountain Chiu of TEPU, Chen Ching-Chun of the Wild Bird Society of Yunlin, Mark Wilkie of Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, and some local residents.

The following morning Randy Hester, Barbara Butler, Calvin Wen, and Fountain Chiu met Mark Wilkie and local bird guide, Chang Ah-kai for an early morning viewing of the Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha .

Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha

After good views of a pair of Fairy Pitta the group had a short meeting which was followed by a trip around the Huben area and a viewing of the Hushan Dam site. Dr Randy Hester, Barbara Butler and Calvin Wen then went on to a meeting with Yunlin County Magistrate, Su Shih-feng.


The swallow-tailed butterfly, Byasa impediens febanus

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Your Help is Needed-Send a Letter to Taisei Corporation

Taisei Corporation has been awarded the contract for the construction of the main structure of the Hushan Reservoir. Please help us by voicing your opposition to the Hushan Dam and sending a Letter to Taisei Corporation.

Also see: Taisei Corporation, the Constructors of Hushan Dam.

Send a Letter

Please copy the letter below or draft your own letter. Then, visit Taisei Corporation's message service and paste the letter and enter your name and contact e-mail address on their message system. Also, if you could copy and paste a copy of your letter and e-mail it to us for our records at

Taisei Corporation Letter of Concern

Re: The construction of Hushan Reservoir, Yunlin County, Taiwan.

Taisei Corporation.
President and Representative Director,
Takashi Yamauchi.

Dear Sir,

Taisei Corporation has been awarded the contract to construct the main structure of Hushan Reservoir in Yunlin County, Taiwan. The construction of a reservoir within an internationally listed Important Bird Area (IBA TW017:- Important Bird Areas in Asia, Key Sites for Conservation. BirdLife International, 2004) which will flood much of this globally Important Bird Area is neither responsible development nor sound management of Taiwan’s remaining natural resources.

Taisei Corporation states in their Environmental Policies that “Taisei endeavors, in every business activity, to protect and create a better environment by effectively using its environmental management system (EMS). To this end, the company has set forth the following principles in order to fulfill our social responsibility as a good corporate citizen.”

You may say that you are only following up on a project approved by the government and can not control what the government chooses to do with its resources. We must inform you first that your participation in the development by wielding the murder weapon if you will, makes you as culpable as any government agency.

Second, we should remind you that this development is currently the subject of pending litigation and as such you could be wasting important assets of your company which would further call into question your commitment not only to social responsibility in general, but your legal responsibility to maximize shareholder benefits.

The proposed construction will irreversibly destroy globally important habitat, directly increasing the risk of extinction of a number of International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red Data listed species.The Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha, is a “star” animal in Taiwan, so your activities will also expose you to a potential public relations disaster. The completed reservoir will be used to supply water to high carbon emission industries that threaten the remaining natural habitat along Taiwan’s west coast and will greatly increase the likelihood that another “star” animal, the Taiwan Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin Sousa chinensis will be pushed to extinction.

We urge Taisei Corporation to make good on your stated intention to be a good corporate citizen and immediately announce your withdrawal from such an environmentally damaging project. Should you be concerned about possible legal exposure due to such withdrawal, we understand that legal services in this regard can be arranged at no cost to Taisei Corporation.

Yours Sincerely,



(Organization, if applicable)

EPA Hearing

The long awaited Hushan EPA hearing has been scheduled for Friday, 29 June 2007. If the issue will actually be discussed remains to be seen. Details of the meeting are as follows:

EIAC Plenary Meeting Scheduled for Friday, 29 June 2007
English Summary of Agenda

The 152nd meeting of the environmental impact assessment commission of Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Agency will be held at the EPA headquarters in Taipei at 0930 on 29 June 2007.

This year has been an unusual one for the commission in many ways. One is the low number of meetings held. According to the EPA’s regulations the meetings are in principle to be held once a month, however this year only three meetings have been held.

Scheduled for Friday’s meeting are the following items:

1. Review minutes of meeting No. 151. Even these reviews are controversial as the EPA has been refusing to include comments to case decisions provided by commissioners despite a ruling by the previous Minister (who is also chair of the commission) that all submissions by commissioners shall be included in the minutes.

2. Review discrepancy report on the Jhangbin Wind Farm. The developer, a Taiwan affiliate of a German investment bank, decided that its turbines were too close to those of Taipower’s and applied for a change in position of two turbines. The subcommittee approved the change with the condition that the developer take on the added responsibility of monitoring for the impact of the turbines on the reproduction of birds in the area, in particular members of the Family Charadriidae.

3. Review proposed development of a 14.7294 hectare marble open pit mine in Hualian County with anticipated annual production of 216,000 metric tones. There are a number of apparent irregularities in the administration of this case as well as some substantive points that the commissioners raised at the previous meeting. The chair during that meeting directed that the EPA staff look into the issues and report back to the plenary meeting. However, the minutes for the current meeting only include a simple statement that “this case will be reserved for further discussion at the next meeting”. None of the points or questions raised by the commissioners are discussed in the agenda.

4. Discrepancy comparisons. These are cases where the developer has proposed a change, but the change is so insignificant that the EPA believes a full discrepancy report (or a new EIA) is unnecessary. For this meeting, two reports are on the agenda: a housing development in Taijhong county and a redesign of a roof of the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium, Pingtung, Taiwan. The former case is controversial on account of the EPA’s interpretation of article 16bis of the EIA Act. Under the law projects that have been delayed more than three years beyond the date of their original approval (not original EIA) must submit what is known as a “current discrepancy report” which is nearly tantamount to redoing the EIA from scratch. The EPA has stated that this article does not apply to the housing development as the housing development was approved prior to the effective date of the EIA Act. Commissioners have questioned whether this is an example of selective enforcement that favors the developers.

5. Dongshan Landfill. The EPA has finally responded to requests filed by local environmental groups in Tainan county regarding what they allege was the illegal approval by the local Tainan County Environment Protection Bureau of an industrial waste landfill in an area that drains into the Hutou Mountain Reservoir. Commissioners raised this at the plenary meeting held in January this year and the EPA has finally responded. At first the EPA declined any involvement saying that the matter belonged to the jurisdiction of the local EPB. When Commissioners cited article 3 of the Organic Act of the Environmental Protection Administration, the EPA was forced to admit it has jurisdiction. The EPA, in preparing for this meeting has given a detailed report on the actions being taken to follow up on the Dongshan Landfill.

6. Extemporaneous motions from the previous meeting

As the chairman cut the last meeting short, seven topics were not discussed despite the presence outside the EPA of representatives from over a half dozen environmental groups from around the nation. The motions included

1) request for the plenary session to rule on the decision of the subcommittee reviewing the Hushan Reservoir to order the developer to cease work on the project until controversies are cleared up.
2) request for a report on why the EPA is not aggressively fining Formosa Plastics for its violations of commitments contained in its environment impact assessment reports.
3) request for a report on how the EPA is responding to requests from representatives of the Losheng Sanatorium to scrap the original approval based on article 123 of the Administrative Procedure Act.
4) request for explanation why the EPA has failed to put several major cases that have been decided upon by subcommittees on the agenda of the plenary committee – the implication being that the EPA is working at the request of the developer and/or the Executive Yuan to delay the cases until the next session of the Commission (the term of the current commissioners ends on 30 July 2007 and although most of the controversial commissioners are eligible for reappointment, the reports in the newspaper indicate that none of the commissioners will be reappointed).
5) request for explanation as to why the EPA will not make public information about companies that violate of environmental laws and EIA commitments.
6) request for EPA to advise on how to compel government agencies to conduct a policy impact assessment for the government’s WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) project.
7) request for an explanation as to whether the EPA will intervene in EIA projects approved at the local government level (answered in EPA’s response to item 3).
8) a new item, request for confirmation from the EPA that commissioner’s notes and opinions for the plenary meeting will be attached to the minutes.

Please keep those letters of concern coming.

Also see: June 29 Hearing

Monday, June 25, 2007

Some Recent Dragonfly Photos From Huben

Some recent shots of Huben dragonflies.

Red Percher Neurothemis ramburii ramburii

Red-bellied Skimmer Orthetrum pruinosum clelia

Common Pruinose Skimmer Orthetrum glaucum

Friday, June 22, 2007

Birding in Taiwan's Yunlin County


Taiwan was called "Ilha Formosa" or "Beautiful Island" by early Portuguese sailors. Taiwan is indeed an island of amazing beauty. Taiwan (32,260 sq km) straddles the Tropic of Cancer and is situated along the Pacific rim about 160 km off the coast of southern China. The highest mountains in East Asia are found on Taiwan. From tropical lowlands climbing upward to over a hundred mountain peaks higher than 3000m (Highest: Yushan 3952m), Taiwan showcase’s the entire range of climatic zones from tropical to subarctic. Nowhere else in Asia can one find all this in so small an area. With such dramatic landscapes, Taiwan hosts one of the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet. Indeed, the total numbers of flora and fauna species found on Taiwan, with its relatively small land area, are astounding (Taiwan boasts over 46,360 described species of flora and fauna.). More than 520 bird species have been recorded in Taiwan. Amongst these, 17 are full endemic species and found nowhere else. Another 67 are endemic subspecies with the likelihood of about 7 of these subspecies being raised to full endemic status sometime within the near future. Apart from Taiwan's endemics, a number of other rare species migrate to Taiwan. The most famous of these are the Black-faced Spoonbill (winter)and the Fairy Pitta (summer). Also, the spectacular fall raptor migration needs mention, when up to fifty thousand raptors pass through the southern tip of Taiwan in a single day.

More information on Central Taiwan Birder Blog and birding in Taiwan.

A list of Taiwan birding trip reports can be found at the bottom of this page.

Yunlin County

Yunlin County is in West-Central Taiwan.; with Chunghua County lying to the north, Chiayi County lying to the south, Nantou County lying to the east; and the Taiwan Strait to the west. The county covers an area of 1291 square kilometers and the climate is sub tropical. The population of Yunlin County is about 735 000 people.

The county extends from the west coast across the flattish western coastal plain to central mountains in the east, with Shihpi-shan (1751m) being the highest point in the county. The Jhuoshuei River forms its northern border and the Beigang River its southern Border.

The county capital is Douliou City, a town with a population of about 90 000 people. Yunlin County’s economy is largely based on agriculture.

The Wild Bird Society of Yunlin

The Wild Bird Society of Yunlin (WBSY) is the local Yunlin County branch of the Wild Bird Federation of Taiwan, which is Birdlife International’s Taiwan partner. The WBSY was established in 1999 and has grown considerably since its founding. The emblem of the WBSY is the Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus. The Black Drongo* Dicrurus macrocercus harterti is an endemic subspecies, which is very common in Yunlin County.

Contact WBSY

English E-mails to the Wild Bird Society of Yunlin can be sent to the following E-mail address: (An English speaking WBSY member)

Birds of Yunlin County

(Malayan Night Heron)

Yunlin County has mountains, forests, rivers, plains, fields, wetlands and seashore, thus a wide range of bird species can be found. The mountains and hills of Yunlin play host to a number of Taiwan’s low to mid elevation birds.

Hills and Mountains

(Taiwan Blue Magpie)

The endemic Taiwan Blue Magpie† Urocissa caerulea can be found in some of the lowland forest areas around Huben and Hushan Villages. Indeed, the hills and forests of the Huben-Hushan area boast six Taiwan endemics. Swinhoe’s Pheasant† Lophura swinhoii; Taiwan Partridge† Arborophila crudigularis; Taiwan Whistling Thrush† Myphonus insularis; Taiwan Blue Magpie† Urocissa caerulea; Steere's Liocichla† Liocichla steerii; and White-eared Sibia† Heterophasia auricularis have all been recorded in that area.

Other interesting birds of the Huben-Hushan area are the Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha (summer); Oriental Cuckoo Cuculus saturatus (summer); Malayan Night Heron Gorsachius melanolophus; Rufous-faced Warbler Abroscopus albogularis; Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonica; White-bellied Yuhina Yuhina zantholeuca; Grey-chinned Minivet Pericrocotus solaris (race griseogularis); Chinese Bamboo Partridge* Bambusicola thoracia(race sonorivox); Maroon Oriole* Oriolus traillii (race ardens); Black-browed Barbet* Megalaima oorti (race nuchalis); Black-naped Blue Monarch* Hypothymis azurea (race oberholseri); White-tailed Robin* Myiomela leucura (race montium); Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler* Pomatorhinus ruficollis (race musicus); Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler* Pomatorhinus erythrocnemis (race erythrocnemis); Dusky Fulvetta* Alcippe brunnea (race brunnea); Grey-cheeked Fulvetta* Alcippe morrisonia (race morrisonia); Rufous-capped Babbler* Stachyris ruficeps (race praecognita); Black Bulbul* Hypsipetes leucocephalus (race nigerrimus); Light-vented Bulbul* Pycnonotus sinensis (race formosae); Collared Finchbill* Spizixos semitorques (race cinereicapillus); Bronzed Drongo* Dicrurus aeneus (race braunianus); White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata; Grey Treepie* Dendrocitta formosae (race formosae); Barred Buttonquail* Turnix suscitator (race rostratus); Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker* Dendrocopos canicapillus (race kaleensis); Collared Scops Owl* Otus bakkamoena (race glabripes); Emerald Dove* Chalcophaps indica (race formosanus); Crested Serpent Eagle* Spilornis cheela (race hoya); Besra* Accipiter virgatus (race fuscipectus); and Crested Goshawk* Accipiter trivirgatus (race formosae).

(Taiwan Yuhina)

The mid elevation mountain areas around Tsaoling and Shihpi are home to the endemic Swinhoe’s Pheasant† Lophura swinhoii; Taiwan Partridge† Arborophila crudigularis; Taiwan Whistling Thrush† Myphonus insularis; Taiwan Yuhina† Yuhina brunneiceps; Taiwan Barwing† Actinodura morrisoniana; Steere’s Liocichla† Liocichla steerii; and White-eared Sibia† Heterophasia auricularis.

Other interesting mid elevation mountain birds are Collared Owlet* Glaucidium brodiei (race pardalotum); Mountain Scops Owl* Otus spilocephalus (race hambroecki); Eurasian Jay* Garrulus glandarius (race taivanus); Vivid Niltava* Niltava vivida (race vivida); White-tailed Robin* Myiomela leucura (race montium); Plumbeous Water Redstart* Rhyacornis fuliginosus (race affinis); Little Forktail* Enicurus scouleri (race fortis); Fire-breasted Flowerpecker* Dicaeum ignipectum (race formosum); Vinaceous Rosefinch* Carpodacus vinaceus (race formosanus); Green-backed Tit* Parus monticolus (race insperatus); Scaly Thrush Zoothera dauma (winter); Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea; Black-throated Tit Aegithalos concinnus; Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos; Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni (winter); Russet Sparrow Passer rutilans; Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea (summer); Eyebrowed Thrush Turdus obscurus; Striated Prinia Prinia criniger; Grey-faced Buzzard Butastur indicus (passage migrant); and Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea.


(Red Collared Dove)

Much of Yunlin lies on the wide western coastal plain. Much of the plain is agricultural farmland. The coastal plain is very densely populated and much of it has been developed, however there are still a number of birds to be seen. Records include: Vinous-throated Parrotbill* Paradoxornis webbianus (race bulomachus); Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus (winter); Plain Prinia* Prinia inornata (race flavirostris); Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia flaviventris (race sonitans); Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis; Brown-headed Thrush Turdus chrysolaus (winter); Blue Rock-Thrush Monticola solitarius (race philppensis)(winter but some resident); Common Stonechat Saxicola torquata (winter) (race maura, some guides classify as Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maura); Siberian Rubythroat Luscinia calliope (winter); Dusky Thrush Turdus naumanni (winter); Taiwan Hwamei† Garrulax taewanus; Crested Myna* Acridotheres cristatellus (race formosanus) (numbers of feral and escapee White-vented Myna Acridotheres cinereus & Common Myna Acridotheres tristis are also found in the area); White-cheeked Starling Sturnus cineraceus (winter); Black Drongo* Dicrurus macrocercus (race harterti); Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus (winter); Long-tailed Shrike* Lanius schach (race formosae); Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata; Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus; Black-billed Magpie Pica pica; Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis; Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum (summer); Common Pheasant* Phasianus colchicus (race formosanus); Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis; Spotted Dove* Streptopelia chinensis (race Formosa); Red Collared-Dove Streptopelia tranquebarica; Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus (winter); Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus; White Wagtail Motacilla alba; Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava (winter); Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus (winter); Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica; Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica (summer); Striated Swallow Cecropis striolata (race stanfordi); Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus (race nigrimentalis); Plain Martin Riparia paludicola (race chinensis); House Swift* Apus affinis (race kuntzi) or (A. nipalensis kuntzi); Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis (race stictomus); Light-vented Bulbul* Pycnonotus sinensis (race formosae); Grey Treepie* Dendrocitta formosae (race formosae); and Barred Buttonquail* Turnix suscitator (race rostratus).

Wetlands, Rivers and Shorebirds

(Painted Snipe)

Yunlin is bordered by two major rivers and the Taiwan Strait. The Jhuoshuei River forms its northern border and the Beigang River its southern Border. Thus, Yunlin offers birders the opportunity of seeing fair numbers of waterbird.

Species recorded in Yunlin include: Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis; Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo (winter); Grey Heron Ardea cinerea (winter); Great Egret Ardea alba (winter with some resident); Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia (winter); Little Egret Egretta garzetta; Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes (rare passage migrant); Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax; Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus; Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor (winter); Oriental Stork Ciconia boyciana (rare passage migrant); Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus (rare passage migrant); Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope (winter); Eurasian Teal Anas crecca (winter); Mallard Anas platyrhynchos (winter); Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha (winter with some resident); Northern Pintail Anas acuta (winter); Garganey Anas querquedula (winter); Northern Shoveler Anas clypeatater (winter); Osprey Pandion haliaetus (winter); Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus; Eastern Marsh-Harrier Circus spilonotus (winter); Slaty-breasted Rail* Gallirallus striatus (race taiwanus); Ruddy-breasted Crake Porzana fusca; White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus; Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus; Eurasian Coot Fulica atra (winter); Greater Painted-snipe Rostratula benghalensis; Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus (winter); Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus (winter); Gray-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus (rare passage migrant); Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius (winter with some resident); Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus (winter , rare summer); Lesser Sandplover Charadrius mongolus (winter); Pacific Golden-Plover Pluvialis fulva (winter); Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago (winter); Asian Dowitcher Limnodromus semipalmatus (rare passage migrant); Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa (uncommon passage migrant); Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos (winter); Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis (winter); Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola (winter); Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus (passage migrant); Common Redshank Tringa tetanus (winter); Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia (winter); Grey-tailed Tattler Heterosceles brevipes (passage migrant); Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres (winter); Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus (winter); Little Curlew Numenius minutus (rare passage migrant); Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata (winter); Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris (common passage migrant); Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis (winter); Dunlin Calidris alpine (winter); Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta (winter); Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminate (passage migrant); Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea (passage migrant); Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris (winter); Herring Gull Larus argentatus (winter); Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus (winter); Saunders's Gull Larus saundersi (winter); Caspian Tern Sterna caspia (winter); Little Tern Sterna albifrons (summer with some winter); Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus (winter); White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus (passage migrant); Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis; Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava (winter); and Hoopoe Upupa epops (rare passage migrant).

* denotes an endemic subspecies.
† denotes an endemic species.


Chang, H. et al (2003) Journey into the Depths of Nature, Yunlin County (Shore, Mountain, and Land). Wild Bird Society of Yunlin. (Mandarin)
Collar, N. J. (2004) Endemic Subspecies of Taiwan Birds-Birding Asia No.2, Oriental Bird Club.
MacKinnon, J. (2000) A Field Guide to the Birds of China. Oxford, UK.
TESRI (Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute) (2003) Endemic species. Nantou, Taiwan. (Mandarin)
Wang, J. et al (1991) A Field Guide to the Birds of Taiwan. Taipei, Taiwan. (Mandarin)
Yunlin County Government. (2006) Introduction to Yunlin.

Also see:
Birding in the Huben-Hushan Area
Hushan Bird List
Huben Bird Stories
Threatened Birds of the Huben-Hushan area
Fairy Pitta Gallery
Taiwan Bird Books
Wild Bird Society of Taipei

Links to Taiwan Trip Reports

Taiwan: A Birder's Paradise, May 16-30 2008, Albert Low.

Typhoons and Taiwan Endemics-Hanno Stamm

Taiwan Endemics Near Taipei-Mike Kilburn

Taiwan, endemics and spoonbills, Dec 2006-Paul French

Philippines and Taiwan, April 2007-Rich Lindie

The Penghu Islands(Pescadores), Taiwan strait-M B Wilkie

Bee-eaters and Battlefields, Kinmen Island (Quemoy), Taiwan Strait-M B Wilkie

Matsu Islands and the Chinese Crested Tern, Taiwan Strait-M B Wilkie

Taiwan-Gruff Dodd

Birdwatching Trip Reports, Taiwan-Birdtours

Taiwan Trip Reports-Surfbirds

Birding in the Huben-Hushan Area


Huben is a recognized Important Bird Area (IBA). Huben(TW017)is listed as an IBA on Birdlife International’s IBA list as an A1 criteria IBA.


The Hu-ben / Hu-shan area is globally the most important breeding area for the migratory Fairy Pitta (Pitta nympha).The global population of this vulnerable species may be as low as 2500-3500 birds, and each summer (late April-August) between 100-140 pairs breed in the area. The Pitta are best viewed from the last week in April through to mid June. Sighting Pitta after the end of June is very difficult. The area has some good low altitude forest and bamboo thickets, thus many of Taiwan's other low altitude forest birds can be seen.

(Fairy Pitta)

Species common in the area are Grey-cheeked Fulvetta; Dusky Fulvetta; Common Kingfisher; Oriental Cuckoo (summer); Spotted Dove; Red Collared Dove; Barred Buttonquail; Arctic Warbler (winter); Rufous-faced Warbler; Rufous-capped Babbler; White-bellied Yuhina; Plain Prinia; Japanese White-eye; Grey Treepie; Black Drongo; Bronzed Drongo; Black-naped Blue Monarch; Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler; Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler; Light-vented Bulbul; Black Bulbul; Collared Finchbill; Black-browed Barbet; Grey-chinned Minivet; Striated Swallow; Pacific Swallow; Brown Shrike (winter); Malayan Night Heron; Crested Serpent Eagle; Crested Goshawk; Besra; Emerald Dove; Chinese Bamboo Partridge; Grey-headed Pygmy Woodpecker; Scaly-breasted Munia; White-rumped Munia; Mountain Scops Owl.

(Malayan Night Heron)

Six Taiwan endemics have been recorded in the area: Taiwan Blue Magpie; Taiwan Partridge; Taiwan Whistling Thrush; Swinhoe's Pheasant and in winter White-eared Sibia and Steere's Liocichla. Striated Prinia and Maroon Oriole are rare residents.

Hu-ben Village is in Yunlin County, Southern West-Central Taiwan. The village is about 10KM north-east of the town of Douliou (Pinyin spelling)/Touliu (Wade Giles spelling). Douliou is just off the No.3 National Highway, and can be reached by train or bus. The village of Hu-ben is about 10km from the Douliou CBD. It's possible to take a taxi from Douliou or Lin-nei to Hu-ben. A good place to bird is the area behind the Tian-sheng Gong Temple. There is a small track on the right of the temple grounds (it is a continuation of the road leading into the temple), and that's where to go. A quiet walk along this track that leads up into the hills should offer encounters with most of the common birds in the area.

(Huben Street)

There is the Fairy Pitta Café & Information Centre, with accommodation in the village. A bed is about NT$350 per night. The telephone number is +886(0)5 5890375, but you'll need to speak Mandarin for them to understand you. Local English speaking help is available through the Wild Bird Society of Yunlin or Birdingpal.

(Crested Serpent Eagle)

Also see:
Birding in Taiwan and Yunlin County
Huben Bird Stories
Threatened Birds of the Huben-Hushan area
Hushan Bird List
Hushan Mammal List
Hushan Frog List
Hushan Reptile List
Endemic Species & Subspecies of Hushan: Mammals, Reptiles & Amphibians
Fairy Pitta Gallery
Fairy Pitta Video
Recently Published Papers on the Fairy Pitta

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Huben Birding Stories

The Fairy Temple

“Your Local Patch,” I looked at the heading again. It got me thinking. I had never really thought of having a local patch. Did I have one? Well, I do more birding around the Tian-sheng Gong Temple in Huben than any other place around, so it must be my local patch, and now that I think of it, I really like the idea.

This afternoon at 3:30 I headed out of the small town where I live to my LOCAL PATCH. It takes 15 minutes to get there. I parked my red scooter in the temple grounds, looked up and scanned the sky. I looked and looked, they weren't there. Looking for the resident pair of Crested Serpent Eagle is kind of a "starting to bird now” ritual before I head off into the forest. If I see them soaring above, I feel good and think the birding is going to be good. Well no eagles!

I get into the forest and it's quiet, too quiet. The forest is quiet sometimes. I’ve noticed that it can be very noisy and then silence. When this happens, I’ve often seen one of the small raptors put in an appearance a few moments later. I guess everyone kind of disappears when a Besra or Crested Goshawk is seen looking for a meal.

Well the silence went on for quite sometime, and I didn't see any raptors. When there are no birds around, the low altitude forests of Taiwan can be very uncomfortable places. I think the name low altitude forest is a name that they put in field guides because they don't want to scare birders. The truth is these low altitude forests are a 35 degree in the shade jungle with about a 100% humidity factor and full of starving mosquitoes.

I walked up and up, I was cursing and puffing. All I had seen by the time I got to the top of the hill was a Black Bulbul, a few Chinese Bulbul, and two Grey-cheeked Fulvetta. I turned around and started to walk back down.

I must have been about a third of the way down when I heard was a Fairy Pitta. Now, the area is famous for Fairy Pitta, but I still get blown away every time I see one. Instantly I was transported from the state of birding in the *@#* mosquito jungle to the Utopian state of looking for forest Fairies in low altitude forest. The Pitta was close. I could hear by the call. I stopped to listen and look. The calling stopped. I didn't move. I listen....and wait for the calling to start. I'm standing next to a tree. A moment later there's a movement and the Pitta lands not more than 3metres from me. It has no idea that I'm there. It hops from perch to perch. It must have spent two to three minutes hopping about in front of me before moving off, and so ended the best sighting I've ever had of Taiwan's Forest Fairy.

Also see: Fairy Pitta Gallery

Mr.Chang and the Shamas.

I'm walking along one of the many little forest tracks around the temple and as I round a corner I run into Mr.Chang. Mr.Chang is the local birding guide. He was a hunter for most of his life, but when the area became famous for Fairy Pitta and some other birds he was able to reform himself into a Birding Guide. Now, he's the Pitta's most faithful protector. Meeting up with Mr.Chang if he is out checking on the well being of his Fairies is a wonderful stroke of luck, because you get invited to come along.

After about 30 minutes, as we are watching a Malayan Night Heron, I hear a strange call which I don't recognize. Mr.Chang imitates the call and the bird calls back. Off we go in the direction of the call. We stop and Mr.Chang points to a bird in a tree. The light is not that good, but I know that I've never seen this bird before. I see another movement and it appears that there is a second bird partly obscured by foliage perched near by. There are not that many birds in Taiwan with very long tails. I know I'm not looking at a Treepie or a Paradise Flycatcher. I can see a clear white patch on the rump. I get a good look at the bird, and then turn to Mr.Chang. I take out my field guide and Mr.Chang laughs and says it's not in there. I ask what it is and he says he doesn't know, but the pair lives there. I look again and realize that the bird I'm looking at appears to be a White-rumped Shama (which isn't found in Taiwan).

I head back home and have a good look at pictures of White-rumped Shama and conclude that it is indeed the bird in question. I know that the White-rumped Shama is a popular cage bird in China. I guess that this pair must be escapees that have established themselves in the area. Escaped and released cage birds can be a big problem in Taiwan. These birds can displace resident species and in some cases interbreed with them creating hybrids or if they are of the same species, but a different race, they can dilute the genetic purity of the local endemic race. This has been a major factor in the decline of the Taiwan Hwamei.

The Silver Ghost

Before dawn I was in Huben. It was still very dark and there was a chill in the air as I turned into the yard of Mr. Chang's traditional Taiwanese house. Multitudes of dogs snarled and yapped. They didn't seem too happy to see me. A large roster came over. He seemed friendlier. It was almost as if he was coming over for a predawn chat before doing his morning duty and waking the neighbourhood. Mr. Chang came out and we headed off up the track following the river. We both bounced around on our motorcycles as we headed for his little wooden cabin further up the valley. Today we had a purpose. We were after the very elusive Silver Ghost of Taiwan's forests.

We reached the cabin and parked the motorcycles. We loaded up and climbed down onto the rocks in the river. To go deep into the Huben forest one has to follow the course of a river or stream. The steep cliffs and thick vegetation make it impossible to get deep into the remote parts of the forest other than by this means.

Streams in Huben are very rocky. Generally, they don't carry very much water but when it rains they become raging torrents. It was still dark as we started on our way. We hadn't gone far when the predawn calling of an endemic Taiwan Partridge started. Mr. Chang responded and the partridge called back. It wasn't too far off but the thick forest shielded it from view. We carried on and dawn began to break. The calls of songbirds surrounded us but it was too dark to see anything.

High in the trees above us a Crested Serpent Eagle greeted the new day with a call. Mr. Chang smiled and called back. The eagle immediately responded. We carried on with the soft calls of the eagle floating to us on the breeze every so often.

It was hard going. Despite the chill in the air I was beginning to build up quite a sweat. Mr. Chang indicated we were getting close. Even the slightest rustle of clothing is enough to startle the Ghost. We moved very quietly. We carefully stepped from rock to rock. The forest was light enough to see a fair distance ahead now. We moved forward slowly. We would stop to listen and scan the area ahead for movement. Mr. Chang's sharp ears caught something. I hadn't heard it but he said he had. The Ghost was near.

We moved on. The river narrowed and vegetation had taken root in the stream bed. We stopped and searched the shadows ahead. One second I was looking at a shadow and the next instant the Ghost stepped forward from out of the shadow. We had seen the Ghost at the same instant. We just smiled and nodded. There it was, the distinct silver-white back, crest and tail contrasted with a dazzling blue of the body and the fire-red head and legs. I started to shake with excitement. I could hear my heart drumming in my ears. The Ghost melted into the vegetation and disappeared. I stood there breathless. There really wasn't enough light for a shot but I took my camera out of its bag and moved forward.

I crept over boulders and moved towards where the Ghost had vanished. I crept forward and once again it stepped out of the shadows. It was very dark but I took a few shots just to capture the moment. In an almost dream-like state I watched the Silver Ghost moving about in front of me.

Robert Swinhoe had discovered the species, which is endemic to Taiwan, in April of 1862. Gould had described the species in the 1863 edition of The Ibis. Even the stuffy Victorian, Gould, was impressed by Formosa's Silver Ghost and stated, "This exceedingly beautiful species is one of the most remarkable novelties I have had the good fortune to describe." Gould had described many species from around the world. He named the species after Swinhoe, Lophura swinhoii. When this majestic species was first revealed to the West, many dubbed the newly described Swinhoe's Pheasant as the world's most beautiful bird. To some, it still is.

The pheasant moved off slowly. It was unaware of my presence and I was able to watch it for about two minutes in all. All too quickly time passed and it melted back into the forest. Mr. Chang and I pressed on. I was euphoric. This was my first Huben male. The Swinhoe's Pheasant is considered a bird of the mid elevation mountain forests. The handful that inhabit the lowland hills of Huben indicate that the species probably did inhabit the lowlands before man turned much of the lush lowland forest into fields and paddies.

We moved on and then retraced our steps hoping to get another view of the pheasant. No luck, so we pressed on again. Just as we came to a steep rise Mr. Chang’s sharp ears had heard something. We stopped and waited. Moments later I heard it too. There were Ghosts in the undergrowth. We waited. Suddenly Mr. Chang pointed. I didn't see anything and then my eyes caught a movement. There was a pair. I watched them moving through the undergrowth and then they vanished. It was time to go back.

We walked back down the stream. Monarchs, Fulvettas, and Bulbuls moved about through the trees. Some Spot-breasted Scimitar Babblers started to call. The Crested Serpent Eagle was calling, too. I was soaking the tranquility up and savoring it.

At Mr. Chang's cabin we made some Oolong tea and relaxed. We talked about Huben and its birds. I mentioned the Malayan Night Heron and Mr. Chang imitated the call. From just outside the window there was an immediate response. We both laughed.

It was time to go and I climbed on my motorcycle. I had only gone a few meters when the Malayan Night Heron flew across the road. I stopped and snapped a quick shot of it in the sun. It had been a very special morning.

A Good Saturday's Afternoon

I arrived at the bridge leading into Huben village at about 2:30 and was greeted by the calling of the young Crested Serpent Eagle I had seen on Monday. I have seen a young eagle in this area quite a few times over the past two months so it looks as if it's established a territory in this area. I pulled over and watched it circling overhead for a few minutes before caring on.

Just before arriving at the temple I spotted another Crested Serpent Eagle sitting in a dead tree across the valley. I stopped and watched it for a few minutes. It was a majestic looking mature Eagle. Its crest fluttered in the breeze like plumes on a knight's helmet. I snapped a few long distance shots and moved on.

I parked my motorcycle under the big Bayan tree at the temple and headed off down the track. The usual Light-vented Bulbuls, Spotted Doves, Eurasian Tree Sparrows, Pacific Swallows, and Striated Swallows had all quickly put in an appearance when the calls of a Bronzed Drongo stopped me. As I watched the Bronzed Drongos the calls of some Dusky Fulvettas and Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers alerted me to their presence. It wasn't long before some Rufous-capped Babblers were putting on a show just off to my right. Shortly they were joined by the Dusky Fulvettas and Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers.

I moved on and was treated to a view of a dazzling Black-naped Monarch. Some Grey-cheeked Fulvetta started calling just out of view. The sharp almost hiss like alarm call showed that they were well aware of my presence. I spotted a single Japanese White-eye fly overhead and land in the top of some bamboo I was standing near. Moments later a flock of about fifteen joined it.

I arrived at a field planted with orange trees. Light-vented Bulbuls and Collared Finchbills were darting between the trees. There were a great number of these birds amongst the trees. Moments later I spotted a pair of Black Bulbul with there blood red bills and legs offset against there jet black plumage. Then something else caught my eye. It disappeared off amongst the trees. I never got a second look but it was a thrush of shorts for sure, probably a Pale Thrush or Dusky Thrush. Moments later I heard the distinct chi-up notes of the call of a Plain Prinia. I searched the scrub near the path and it wasn't long before I had located it. I looked up and the sky was filled with House Swifts.

I moved on and spotted my third Crested Serpent Eagle for the afternoon flying out of a tree across the valley. I then noticed a flock of about fifteen doves in a dead tree across the valley near to where I had seen the eagle. Something about the doves looked odd. They didn't appear to be the usual Spotted Doves or Red Collared Doves that are very common in Huben. I glassed them and to my joy they were Oriental Turtle Doves. This was a first for my Huben list. Oriental Turtle Doves are quite common in the North of Taiwan but down in the central areas they are uncommon to even pretty rare in some places.

It was getting on and I needed to get back. I had a good walk back to the temple and the second eagle was still sitting in the dead tree across the valley. I started off on my motorcycle and just as I was leaving Huben I had fine views of the brilliant green of a Black-browed Barbet. In Mandarin it is called Wu-se Niao or Bird of Five Colours. A great way to end the day.

Also see:
Taiwan birding stories continued: A Brief History of Grey-Faced Buzzard Conservation in Taiwan
Birding in the Huben-Hushan Area
Birding in Taiwan and Yunlin County
Hushan Bird List
Threatened Birds of the Huben-Hushan area
Fairy Pitta Gallery
Taiwan Bird Books

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Collage of Hushan Biodiversity

A collage showing some of Hushan's amazing biodiversity.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Pitta on an Excavator

Early on the morning of June 12 a newly fledged Fairy Pitta was photographed as it landed on the tracks of an excavator. The Pitta had only fledged about an hour before. The excavator stood parked and ready to tear apart the area where the nesting site was. The first photo shows the newly fledged Pitta resting on the tracks of an excavator. The second photo shows the excavator. The nesting site was just behind the bamboo to the left of the photo. The third photo shows the nesting area with the CCTV camera monitoring the nest. This construction work is unrelated to the Hushan Dam but is taking place within the same Huben Important Bird Area. Habitat is being destroyed at an alarming rate and it's not just the dam that is threatening the Pitta.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Taisei Corporation, the Constructors of Hushan Dam

On hearing the news that Japan’s Taisei Corporation had been awarded the contract for the construction of the main structure of the Hushan Reservoir we were eager to find out a little more about the construction corporation that seems so willing to construct a reservoir that will flood a large area of an internationally designated Important Bird Area (IBA: TW17, Important Bird Areas in Asia: Key sites for conservation, BirdLife International, 2004) and that reservoir will be used to largely supply water to expand heavy-pollution-generating industry on Taiwan’s west coast, which apart from increasing Taiwan’s greenhouse gas emissions substantially, will in turn also threaten marine species like the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin and important wetlands like the Dacheng wetland area (IBA: TW16, Important Bird Areas in Asia: Key sites for conservation, BirdLife International, 2004).

The Taisei Corporation name has been in the news in Taiwan before. Remember the Kaohsiung MRT scandal? Taisei’s name came up in that. Remembering the Kaohsiung MRT scandal we wondered what a simple Google search with “Taisei” and “scandal” would come up with. The answer, twenty-nine pages worth of hits. It would appear that Taisei Corporation is no stranger to scandals.

In January 1995, The New York Times reported that Taisei was prohibited from seeking new business for 18 days as a penalty for bribing public officials. A different story covered alleged Taisei bribes in the 1999 trial of Mitsuo Moriya, a senior official of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, convicted for his role as an intermediary in which he transferred a total of 30 million yen in bribes from former vice presidents of Taisei Corporation and Obayashi Corporation to then Sendai Mayor Toru Ishii in late 1992. Taisei’s name also came up again in a 2006 bid-rigging scandal involving US Defense contracts.

Taisei’s Environmental Policies state:
“Taisei’s corporate goal is to create a vibrant living environment for all members of society, and the company contributes to the well-being of society by designing and constructing buildings and infrastructure based on a management principle that values the interaction between people and the natural environment.

However, Taisei recognizes the fact that such activities involve altering the natural
environment, consume a large amount of energy and resources, generate waste, all of which have, to some extent, an adverse impact on the global environment.

Therefore, Taisei endeavors, in every business activity, to protect and create a better
environment by effectively using its environmental management system (EMS). To this end, the company has set forth the following principles in order to fulfill our social responsibility as a good corporate citizen.”

They go on to say “Taisei will take global environmental aspects into consideration, including the protection of biodiversity, at the planning and design stages and will provide clients with environmentally sound proposals to create facilities that have a symbiotic relationship with the natural environment and require less energy or resources in the long term.”

This all sounds very good but what happens when a project will cause such harm that Taisei won’t be able to “protect and create a better environment?” What does fulfilling social responsibility as a good corporate citizen require then?

Your Help is Needed-Send a Letter to Taisei Corporation.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Recent Images of Hushan

The follow is a a collection of recent photos of work on the Hushan Dam project.

Also see:

The destruction continues