Early spring in the mountainous reaches of Taiwan where we spent much of our time on this trip, is still a bit too cool for many reptiles and butterflies. We were surprisingly lucky with mammals sightings: all three tree squirrels and wonderful looks at flying monkeys…err, one of three flying squirrel species on the island. The Red and White Giant Flying Squirrel – at over a meter long certainly earns the name. Typically they glide from tree to tree at distances of up to 20 meters. Downhill flights of over 400 meters have been documented! We spent a delightful evening with other giant flying squirrel enthusiasts at a scenic mountain lodge tracking and trying to night photograph them. Our first encounter was just outside our cabin with a giant, rather startling, leap less than 2 meters over our heads. We all ducked instinctively, laughter ensued. Later we joined in with a group of people who were “spotlighting”. Somewhat surprisingly, the squirrels appeared unconcerned about (or perhaps acclimated to) the lighting and went about feeding.
We had several close encounters with the relatively common and endemic Formosan Rock Macaque who, despite their name, spend more time in trees than on the ground. Very social, they are often seen moving about in large troops along roadways.
On numerous occasions in different places we heard the very loud bark of tiny Reeve’s Muntjacs (Muntiacus reevesi) (a.k.a. Barking Deer). This mammal was close or at least it sounded very close, although we never caught a glimpse. We felt extremely fortunate to enjoy a stare back for what seemed over a minute with the only endemic bovid of Taiwan, the rather large, but rarely seen, Formosan Serow (Naemorhedus swinhoei)