by Tinggay Cinco
The Taipei International Bird Fair is one of the longest running bird festivals in Asia. The Wild Bird Society of Taipei (WBST) organizes this prestigious annual event that aims to send the message of nature conservation to its people. Celebrating its 20th year, the central theme evolves around the concept of “A Bird’s Eye View of the City.” This year’s festival focuses on the Green-winged Teal as its migrating population to Taipei has been steadily diminishing over the recent years due to the ever changing landscape attributed to the city’s rapid development.
The 20th TIBF was a four-day event from October 26-29, 2019. The festivities began with a Welcome Dinner on October 26 held at the Taipei City Hall. WBST President Dr. Thin By Liu welcomed all the participating delegates during the brief program. The evening’s highlight was the award of recognition presented to former Taipei Mayor Huang Ta Chuo for protecting the Guandu Plains from being developed into a complex of concrete structures. Through Mayor Huang’s efforts and the efforts of its citizenry, Guandu Park became a nature sanctuary. During the reception, the delegates were treated to a buffet dinner of Taiwanese cuisine while the ukulele ensemble from the Zhishan Primary School provided the entertainment for the night. The evening ended early as the delegates trooped back to Huashe Hotel in Beitou to prepare for the opening day of the 20th TIBF.
The Guandu Nature Park was the venue for the 20th Taipei International Bird Fair from October 27-28. The Nature Park is situated at the Guandu Plains in the Beitou district covering 57 hectares of land between the Keelung and Tamsui Rivers. This nature sanctuary is home to a diversity of plant and animal life with an existing 230 species of birds. As a conservation society, the WBST co-manages Guandu Nature Park together with other concerned government agencies.
As one of the largest bird fairs in the region, there were more than 80 participating exhibitors. Taiwanese and foreign bird organizations showcased the avian life in their own localities. Informational booths from government agencies were also featured. Merchandise ranged from impressive optics, organic agricultural produce to souvenirs from the participating bird clubs. The Nature Park was a busy hub for families, students, and little children as they engaged in various activities such as arts and crafts, coloring stations, puzzle-solving, and face painting. Dances and drum numbers were performed by students simultaneously in the center stage. The Green-winged Teal, Black-winged Stilt, and Taiwan Blue Magpie mascots mingled with a delighted crowd within the exhibition area. The park’s Nature Center held workshops, lectures, and birdwatching activities .The highlight of the opening day was the release of a rescued Crested Chinese Goshawk back into the wild.
The 20th TIBF was my second consecutive year to represent the WBCP. Together with Babie Magadia, we immediately felt at home! The fair became a reunion with old friends from the WBST, Carol Liu from Eco-Education and Resources Centre-Hong Kong, and Lester Perrera of Wildlife Team, Sri Lanka who were regular exhibitors at the TIBF. We were also in the company of previous Philippine Bird Festival delegates who came to represent their own organizations like Vattikorn Sophonrat of Bird Conservation Society of Thailand for the 9th PBF in Zamboanga and Scott Pursner of the Chinese Wild Bird Federation for the 10th PBF in Bataan. We also met once more Holly from Cambodia who was in Korea for the 8th Asian Bird Fair. Taiwanese WBCP member Wayne Hsu, who attended the 6th International Hornbill Conference in Manila, dropped by the booth for his annual membership renewal. The spirit of bayanihan thrived in the fair grounds as Dr. Yun Long, helped set up the WBCP booth. Jenny Rong was our English interpreter while Judy Ou became our number one WBCP merchandise promoter. Several WBST members who have participated in previous Philippine Bird Festivals also came to extend their warm greetings. We even made new friends among the other organizations, but the most overwhelming support came from our neighboring Taiwanese bird clubs!
The bird fair activities ended in the afternoon of October 28, 2018. As a post 20th TIBF activity, the organizers held a birdwatching tour for the delegates the following day on the 29th of October at Neidong National Forest Recreation Area in the Wulai district. The TIBF delegates were one of the first visitors to Neidong, after its closure for several months during the previous typhoon season. The National Forest Park is surrounded by the Nanshih Creek that features two waterfalls namely the scenic Wusha River and the Neidong Waterfalls. The three-tiered Neidong Waterfalls is considered one of the best attractions in Northern Taiwan. After the birdwatching activities, the group had lunch at the nearby Yun Hsien Resort, one of the oldest recreational facilities built in the 1960s. Yun Hsien is nestled high atop a mountain made accessible by a cable car ride and 300 steps to reach the resort’s restaurant. The delegates feasted on local cuisine with freshly caught fish and shrimps from the Nanshih river that flowed within the resort. Yun Hsien literally means “land of the celestial cloud.” I almost backed out for lunch upon being learning of the 300 step climb to the mountain top restaurant!
Congratulations to the Wild Bird Society of Taipei for organizing a most successful 20th TIBF. Being a WBCP delegate, bird fairs are a learning experience by observing educational activities programmed to attract the interest of the citizenry for nature conservation. As a Philippine representative, I take pride in promoting our country’s 695 avian species that thrive in our beautiful landscapes. Participating in festivals abroad broadens one’s perception of the place by travelling to the beautiful nature sights, dining on delightful cuisine, interacting with the locals, and having a real feel of the local culture. All of these experiences sum up all the beautiful memories made during my visit to the country. Fervently wishing to be back to Taiwan soon.