Monday, 28 July 2008

Birding Locations - Hsitou Forest Reserve, Nantou County

The Bamboo Bridge, University Pond, Hsitou forest. The trees around the pond can be very productive.

Hsitou Forest Reserve is situated in West-Central Taiwan's Nantou County. Hsitou is a national forest reserve at an altitude of 1150m in Taiwan's central mountains.

Hsitou is recognized as one of Taiwan's top birding areas. Hsitou is a very popular weekend get away spot so the best time for birding is during the week or very early morning on weekends. Hsitou is easy to access and can be done as an easy day trip or even a half day trip.

Hsitou is a good spot for Taiwan's low and mid altitude birds. The endemic Steere's Liocichla, White-eared Sibia, and Taiwan Yuhina are common all year round. Hsitou is also one of the better sites for looking for the Taiwan Tit. The endemic Taiwan Whistling Thrush, Taiwan Barbet, Taiwan Scimitar Babbler, Black-necklaced Scimitar Babbler, Taiwan Barwing (very common in winter with smaller numbers present all year), Rusty Laughingthrush, and Taiwan Bush Warbler (look in the grassy area behind the hotel) can also be seen. There are Taiwan Partridge and Swinhoe's Pheasant in the area but they are not easy to locate.

Other birds to look out for are Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Pygmy Wren Babbler, White-browed Shortwing, Vivid Niltava, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Eurasian Jay, White-tailed Robin, White-bellied Green Pigeon, Ashy Wood Pigeon, Collared Owlet, Large Hawk Cuckoo (summer), Ferruginous Flycatcher (summer and rare resident), Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Eurasian Nuthatch (mostly winter), Yellow-bellied Bush Warbler, Grey Treepie, Rufous-capped Babbler, Rufous-faced Warbler, Island Thrush (mostly winter), Black Bulbul, Black-throated Tit, Grey-chinned Minivet, Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Goshawk, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Little Forktail and Large-billed Crow. In winter some of the high mountain endemics can be seen in Hsitou.

About 20km by road from Hsitou there is the Shanlinshi National Forrest Reserve which is part of Hsitou and well worth a visit as it is slightly higher at 1600m.

There are a number of hotels in and around Hsitou. Hsitou is best visited on week days or early over weekends. Open 7:00-17:00. If staying in Hsitou the forest can be accessed anytime. There is a restaurant and food kiosk inside Hsitou and a number of shops outside the entrance.

By car Hsitou is about 50km south of Taichung and easy to access from Taiwan's No.3 National Highway. Exit at Jhushan-Mingjian and follow the Lugu-Hsitou signs to Hsitou. Lugu is about 10km before Hsitou. Lugu's Oolong tea is amongst the finest of all Oolong teas and a great stop for tea lovers.

By bus from Taichung, take the Lienyin Express Bus bound for Hsitou and Shanlingshi. Alternatively, at Jhushan, take the Yuanlin Express Bus bound for Hsitou and Lugu. At Hsitou, there is a bus running between Shanlinshi and Hsitou.

Jhushan is easily accessed by taking the train or bus to Douliou or Linnei and then taking a bus (Taisi Bus Company) to Jhushan from the back of the Douliou station or along the main road in Linnei heading in the direction of Jhushan.

Path through the bamboo woods. Always a good place for tits.

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