Sunday, 16 April 2017

Forest Jewels

Nothing in the woodlots Friday meant further time to be spent with waders. The Little Stints Calidris minuta remained at Ding Shan, and of course I was once more obliged to photograph those. Whilst there were still one or two atrifrons Lesser Sand Plovers Charadrius mongolus present on the same pool, only a nominate race individual would come close this time. This is fair enough, as the resulting photos do at least provide images that can be compared with the atrifrons of my last post. En route back to Qi Gu (where I would once again depressingly find the sandbar crawling with fishermen), an empty fish pond produced a few surprise Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris, one I rarely get the opportunity to photograph at close range.

The drive back along the embankment produced a relatively confiding (if only for very brief periods) Richard's Pipit Anthus richardi, another bird I rarely get the opportunity to photograph well. This individual did not seem like a 'classic' one at the outset, as its bill was anything but 'strong' and 'thrush-like'. The rest of the bird was certainly all Richard's (rather than something else), though, e.g. straight-looking hindclaw, prominent supercilium, poorly-marked scapulars, contrastingly white belly etc. I'm assuming that this one is a first-winter as it has retained, worn, and white-fringed lesser and outer greater coverts, together with old innermost tertials.

Saturday produced nothing other than a female Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus, which I was unable to photograph at all until Sunday. Having wasted the previous day in woodlots, I settled on a change of tack Sunday and headed inland to look at dragonflies immediately the penny dropped that the coast was going to be poor. This proved to be the correct decision and even produced a few birds, including singing White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus (two males on a 200 metre stretch of stream) and Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica, both of which I was more than happy to photograph. Shamas have spread like wildfire through this particular area, and their beautiful songs made for pleasant background noise whilst I was pottering about on the stream.

It proved to be still too early for the dragonflies I wanted most (Black Riverdarter and Dog-legged Clubtail), but a couple of other targets were available. The first of these was Orange-backed Threadtail Prodasineura croconota, a widely-distributed and common species, but a highly attractive one nevertheless. The second was Lineated Orange Jewel Libellago lineata, restricted in range to the south of Taiwan, but fairly common where it occurs (especially so around Xin Hua). I was chuffed that I could get flying dragonflies with my camera 'upgrade' (although I've had it over a year already, today was the first time I've tried seriously to use it with dragonflies). I was also chuffed to find one or two females, which are generally a lot harder to find than are males.

I called in at Da Jhoa en route home to see if any Little Curlews Numenius minutus had dropped in. A flock of around twenty were busying themselves feeding in the farm fields there, and it looked as though I would be able to get very nice shots of them. However, this proved to be easier said than done, as they were more or less a perfect match in terms of colouration for the background! This made focusing on them hard work for any camera!

So, a very tolerable and pleasant Sunday at least, made so by the change of scenery i.e. the jaunt inland. It is a shame that my once spectacular coastal sites seem now too small to produce migrants with any regularity. This will probably mark this year out as another dragonfly one for me, but, once that's done, what then? Above photos taken all over the place, Tainan County 14-16/4/17.

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