Monday, 23 May 2016

Fairy Pitta

I had booked to fly back from Kinmen on the early afternoon flight rather than the late one Sunday as I had the intention of trying to pick up Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha locally that evening (before they all stop singing for the summer). After the disappointments of Kinmen, it was a bit of a surprise that I could still muster any enthusiasm for birding, but I nevertheless did manage to force myself to drive straight past the turn-off home after landing and continue on towards the foothills of the mountains. As no pittas had been reported from nearby Xin Hua, I chose to head to Wu Shan Tou as the habitat there is anyway similar and I had actually seen Fairy Pitta at one spot here in the past (rather than simply hearing one pipe up right before dusk, which is generally the case in Xin Hua). In fact, I saw my very first Fairy Pitta at Wu Shan Tou (now an astonishing twelve years ago), and it was to this very same spot that I optimistically headed this time round. I had my tape recorder with me anyway (having taken it to Kinmen) and set up right at the spot where I got my first of these forest gems all those years ago to see what would respond. The answer (after a few quick bursts of song) was nothing, and I was left wondering just where else might be suitable before the onset of dusk. As I was about to leave, I figured that it might be worth giving a few bursts of whistled song as my speaker set up is not all that loud and might not be carrying sufficiently through the forest. Astonishingly, there was an immediate response (from a bird less than fifty metres away), which meant that I would be staying put until I had seen Fairy Pitta for this year too!

This bird managed to outsmart me for a while by moving through the canopy of the bamboo rather than on the ground. However, I caught up with it in the end, and managed to snap off a couple of poor record shots. It was exceptionally dark down in the forest, not helped by a thunderstorm which was brewing overhead, and it did not look like I would be able to do any better picture-wise than I already had done. So, I contented myself with what I already had and left for home before the heavens opened. I couldn't help but marvel all the way home (once more in the rain) at the astonishing site fidelity this species had shown after all these years (obviously, this was not the same bird). Suffice to say that I was also really very grateful that it indeed had! Above photo taken at Wu Shan Tou, Tainan County 22/5/16.

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