After striking pay dirt at the Taipei Botanical Garden, bagging eight lifers in just a few hours, we decided to switch tracks for a little while and experience the more cultural side of Taipei. Melanie had looked into some of the local temples, and the Xingtian Temple (行天宮) was one of her top picks.
Xingtian Temple does not have a long history, unlike some of the other temples in Taipei, but it is one of the city’s busiest temples. It was built in 1967 in honor of Guangong (162-219 CE), a famous general who was deified and worshiped as the god of war and the patron of knights and those who follow a righteous code. This temple is also significant to people in business, as Guangong was said to be very adept in finances.
At this point we had been birding and sightseeing for half of the day. Melanie was getting a little tired, so she decided to head back to the hotel and catch up on some reading. I pressed on and went to the Hua Jiang Wild Duck Nature Park (永續公共工程). This planned park is nestled along the Tamsui River, and is a short walk from the Longshan Temple MRT station. From the Longshan Temple station, follow Xiyuan Road, Section 1, north towards Guilin Road. Make a left onto Guilin, and follow it to the expressway; Hua Jiang is on the other side of the expressway, just take the underpass entrance.
There is a well-traveled bicycle path along the Tamsui River, and this constitutes the main walkway through Hua Jiang. The park itself offers great views of the river, and has enough diverse habitats to make the birding interesting. Upon arriving, I was greeted by at least twenty cattle egrets foraging on the lawns. By this time of year most of the egrets had lost their orange color, so they were a little trickier to identify than usual. There were also a plethora of mynas, including common mynas and Javan mynas. Two spotted doves were picking through the grasses. I decided to head north for awhile, following the river in the hopes of spotting some interesting herons or perhaps some shorebirds. The water was low in places, revealing mudflats, and hidden in the vegetation I found three Eurasian moorhens and an adult white-breasted waterhen. A single common sandpiper and common greenshank were the only shorebirds around. There were also a few black-crowned night-herons, little egrets, and a common kingfisher to the north of the Park.
Heading south into the heart of Hua Jiang led me past an expansive mudflat area. In the reeds I found three plain prinias flitting about. Several groups of shorebirds were out on the flats, including the resident little ringed plovers, a few more common sandpipers, and two migrant black-bellied plovers near the waterline. The most impressive species, however, were the half dozen or so sacred ibises. A Saharan species, the sacred ibis was introduced to Taiwan, and there are now an estimated 300 ibises throughout the country.
Picking through the masses of mynas on the lawn, I was able to locate three crested mynas hiding in a large tree. Black-collared starlings called from the trees and tall electrical towers nearby. Every step along the bicycle path flushed countless Eurasian tree sparrows, and one flock contained a few Indian silverbills. These small finches are common cage birds, and resemble tiny sparrows with large bills capable of cracking seeds.
For such a small park, Hua Jiang Wild Duck Nature Park packs the proverbial punch when it comes to delivering on a variety of bird species. The sun was getting low in the sky, and my feet had decided that enough was enough. Just before calling it quits, I spotted a yellowish heron flying low over the reeds. I got the binoculars on it in time to ID the bird as a yellow bittern! No sooner had it appeared than it dropped into the reeds and vanished.
I returned to the entrance to Hua Jiang, satisfied at having bagged another eight lifers. I wouldn’t get another chance to visit Hua Jiang before leaving Taiwan, but it had definitely been worth the trip out. Our first full day in Taiwan came to a restful and relaxing close.
Day List: 34
Lifers of the Day (8): Sacred Ibis, Indian Silverbill, Common Myna, Plain Prinia, Black-collared Starling, Spotted Dove, Crested Myna, Yellow Bittern
Taiwan List (to date): 34
Life List: 520