This afternoon was spent traversing north to Wulai, a popular hot springs resort town and another great place for birds. Upon arrival we took a brief walk from our guest house and quickly added a number of good birds to our trip list: Plain Flowerpecker, Bronzed Drongo and very colorful Varied Tits. Other species present included Taiwan Magpies, Gray-chinned Minivets and a Malaysian Night Heron. First we heard and then saw double, as in two Taiwan Scimitar-babblers. The dense vegetation on the hills above the river was a beautiful location to search for these birds.
Due to the town’s abundant mineral springs Wulai has been a hot spot for travelers, especially Japanese visitors, for many decades. An “indigenous peoples” restaurant we went to included a hot mineral water foot soak under some of the tables which we had to try for the novelty of the experience. After dinner we strolled the attractive small village near our guest house. The streets were lined with delicious food and beverage opportunities although, without our translators, much of it was mysterious to us. Hot mineral water which cascaded down the steep slopes above was piped directly into our room’s bath until midnight at which time it was redirected to the recharge system until the next day. Very relaxing!
We were greeted by the loud lush melodies of Formosan Whistling Thrush from our balcony at first light…a perfectly lovely way to start the day. Before breakfast we hiked a bit higher observing many of the same species plus a few additions with better light and some better looks. A Crested Goshawk shot across the sky, White-bellied Pigeons called from an unseen hide and a deep blue male Whistling-Thrush shrieked from a perch; a Great Egret with four Little Egrets flapped in formation up the river – it was a superb morning for a bird hike!
When thinking about the skulkiest of the skulky birds we’ve seen (or heard!) – think of a stubborn Winter Wren. I often wonder why, when compared to so many birds who perch up, why are they so darn…well, skulky and often relatively plain. Hiding from predators is obviously a primary benefit but other bright and loud birds (who I’m sure are just as tasty) are very successful despite those behaviors. Asian birds in the genus Alcippe or, Fulvettas, are certainly skulkers. We had seen the other two Fulvetta species (Grey-cheeked and the endemic Taiwan Fulvetta) in Taiwan previously on a trip. Yet despite hearing them, we had never actually seen the Dusky Fulvetta. This morning we were again hearing little chips and blips of the mysterious Dusky (according to our guides) and occasionally we could glimpse a little brown mouse-like creature moving in the super dense undergrowth. Yes it was seemingly in coordination with the sound but after quite some time, it still refused to come out in the open. Onward, we persisted and somehow through a tiny clearing in the vegetation I got just the right angle and click goes the camera shutter. How funny it is that such a plain, little brown job (L.B.J.) could elicit such satisfaction. I don’t know why but this made me feel so pleased to have glimpse this little elfin secret of a bird. Eventually we all got nice looks at the bird. Best bird of the day or at least best L.B.J. of the day.