Saturday, 18 June 2016

Blue-spotted Emperor

I've been lucky so far this June in having had things to occupy me (namely Eastern Grass Owl Tyto longimembris and Scaly Thrush Zoothera dauma). However, all of this now seems to have come to an end. As I'd had such a good time of it the last time I went up there, I decided once again to try Alishan this weekend, and to this time get a couple of days out of it rather than heading straight back down on Friday night. The plan was straightforward enough, i.e. stay overnight Friday in Alishan and wake up fresh the following morning and make a day of it Saturday, but things are never that straightforward at this place. I got off to a decent start just above Alishan with a Himalayan Wood Owl Strix nivicolum sitting on a road sign at about 20:00. This bird was there for the taking, being incredibly approachable, and it looked like I was finally about to get good shots of this species. However, wouldn't you know it, that the first car past for almost an hour would come haring round the corner right at that moment, flushing the bird into nearby trees from which it would not reappear, leaving me once more with record shots rather than decent photographs.

I checked into a reasonably-priced hotel at 22:00, but once more found there to be ambient light all over the place (both in and outside the room) and pillows that were like bags of cement. After less than two hours of sleep, I awoke with what felt like a broken neck to begin my 'pleasant day's birding' higher up at Ta Ta Jia. Fortunately, I found a big group of 'Ta Ta Jia birds' all in the one spot just below the top car park. These included Grey-headed Bullfinches Pyrrhula erythaca (which I had missed last time out and was keen to photograph), several Golden Parrotbills Suthora verreauxi, rather more Taiwan Fulvettas Fulvetta formosana than last time, and (my sole year tick this time round) a single Taiwan Barwing Actinodura morrisoniana.

The birds did their best to raise my spirits, and it looked like I might be set to have a decent morning of it, but by 9:00 all had gone silent and it became a challenge to find even a White-whiskered Laughingthrush Garrulax morrisonianus. I had wanted to look at the Youth Activity Centre for dragonflies on the way down anyway, so decided to set off there early as the bird activity at the top had seemingly come to an end. I found the usual Fiery Darters Sympetrum speciosum and Blue Spreadwings Indolestes cyaneus on the small pool behind the visitor's centre, but no big hawker this time round. However, the hour or so spent there turned out to be time well spent when a female Blue-spotted Emperor Anax nigrofasciatus flew in to lay just before I was about to leave!

So, a predictable trip in terms of birds and yet another disappointingly predictable one in terms of accommodation, but at least the insects did their best to give me something to come home smiling about. Above photos taken at Alishan, Chiayi County, and at Ta Ta Jia, Nantou County 17-18/6/16.

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