25thTaipei International Birdwatching Fair
October 21-22, 2023
Two club members write about their first time experience of attending a bird fair.
MY FIRST BIRD FAIR
By Jenny Ramos
Members who came to Taipei before us must have built immeasurable goodwill for us to deserve VIP treatment from the Wild Bird Society of Taipei (WBST). Krees Castaneda, Karen Ochavo, Nikdye Realubit, Patcha Pangatungan and I joined the 25thTaipei International Birdwatching Fair on October 21-22, 2023.
Upon registering at the hotel, there was Renny, the only Chinoy at the WBST, speaking Filipino while attending to us, and he even accompanied us to the restaurant and helped us order food because the menu was in Chinese characters. In the evening, Victor and friends invited us to a sumptuous welcome dinner. My companions thought they were in food heaven. I opted to stay at the hotel to ensure my injured left foot was ready for the bird fair the next day.
It was my first bird fair! Karen said I was lucky to have Taipei as my first, as it was one of the best bird fairs in Asia. There were so many booths of bird watching clubs, environmental organizations, school clubs, binoculars, spotting scopes, shoes, and clothing galore. Other booths were selling adorable birding merchandise, I thought our WBCP merchandise was no match, but our total sales was not bad at all! Krees, Karen, Nickdye, and Patcha were pros at sales talk. They also give great information on birds and birding trips in the Philippines.
The WBST volunteer assigned to us became our translator and photographer. He also helped us set up our booth and got our packed lunch from the organizers, in aluminum lunch boxes, mind you, and not in disposable plastics. Aside from our assigned volunteer, Judy and Yun Long, both from WBST kept dropping by, bringing candies and food, and translating for us.
At the welcome dinner, I finally had my fill of the famed Taipei cuisine. There was so much food and lots of giveaways from the organizers. After dinner, each club was called to receive a token from WBST. It was an exchange gift of sorts as the clubs came ready with a token for WBST. Each gift, big or small, was received by WBST officers with childlike glee. It was a delight to watch. The camaraderie among fellow birders was just palpable.
On the second and last day of the bird fair, our booth turned into an activity area for bird drawing. We only had few pens and bond paper, but it became a hit for kids and kids at heart. Children, parents, teens, and adults, all showed off their obras. We had to stop right after lunch time as we ran out of bond paper!
The Bird Fair was held at Guandu Nature Park, formerly a wasteland. It looked like Smokey Mountain in the old photos, but the Wild Bird Society of Taipei successfully campaigned to turn it into a 57-hectare wetland protected area. 229 bird species have been recorded in the Park, including Black-faced Spoonbills, which we saw just 15 minutes after the bird fair closed. We were the last to board the bus!
The WBST is now managing the park. The facilities are world-class. They have activities for the community, fund raising program to get that yearly $1 million requirement to run the park, and a strong volunteer network. With our dwindling wetlands here in the Philippines, dumped, filled, and concreted left and right, even as I write, we badly need a similar success story.
MY FIRST OUT OF COUNTRY BIRD TRIP
By Patcha Pangatungan
Embarking on my first out-of-country birding trip was an exhilarating experience, beginning with the captivating Taipei Bird Fair at Guandu Nature Park. Karen Ochavo, Nikdye Realubit, Jenny Ramos and I eagerly joined the bird watching trip in Wulai district on the third day of our stay. This natural haven is just a mere hour and a half bus ride away from our lodging in Beitou.
Early in the morning, a member of the Wild Bird Society of Taipei (WBST) enthusiastically shared insights about Taipei’s avian life as we boarded the bus. Luckily, the delegate from Bird Conservation Society of Thailand (BCST) was fluent in Mandarin, serving as our English translator until Marpoe, an English-speaking WBST member, joined us later on.
The first area we visited was the Neidong Forest Recreation area renowned for its abundant greenery, cascading waterfalls and an emerald green river. It actually reminds me of La Mesa Dam in Norzagaray, Bulacan with Neidong’s dams nestled amidst the lush forest. Notably, the 2km main trail leading to the waterfalls was remarkably accessible, well-paved and even accommodating for individuals in wheelchairs. There are numerous benches and restrooms along the way that offered convenient respites, while the option of a more challenging forest bathing trail appealed to those looking for a more challenging trek.
The weather that day was pleasantly cool with intermittent clouds and cold winds. All in all, we’ve seen 8 different bird species including herons, egrets, serpent eagles, redstarts and Taiwan blue magpies. We’ve also seen other types of fauna such as monkeys, beetles, spiders and even some snake skins. WBST members and other birders contributed in spotting, identifying, and directing others to bird sightings. I was actually amazed by how good the delegate from Sri Lanka spots birds – he didn’t use any bins all throughout but he was one of the first ones who always spots and identifies the birds from afar!
The most memorable part for me in Neidong was when some of us went further up the waterfall view deck when everyone was resting on the benches on the wide bridge. Upon going back, I impulsively explored the longer forest bathing trail, only to be greeted by a flock of vibrant orange and yellow birds flying right before me! My excitement was palpable as I rushed back to share it with the others who I caught at a rest stop along the way, also seeing the flock from there. I think there were 15 or more gray-chinned minivets soaring around and it was such a joy seeing these strikingly colorful birds! I wasn’t able to capture some photos because I forgot to charge the batteries of the camera I brought (lesson learned: always charge your camera batteries before a birding trip).
After a hearty lunch of Taiwan cuisine complemented with a delicious and healthy mountain pepper drink, we visited the center of Wulai, a mountain village home for the Atayal indigenous people and famous for its waterfalls, hot springs, quaint old streets and rich cultural heritage.
Our afternoon birdwatching walk along the riverside proved to be more fruitful, as we encountered a total of 20 bird species, including bulbuls, crows, swallows, drongos, kingfishers, kites, wagtails, and doves. Another highlight for me was observing a brown dipper below the bridge; to my surprise, while it was bobbing its head left and right for a couple of minutes, it dove and swam in the river. It was my first time seeing a bird swim, or for this instance, getting drifted away by the river’s current!
To end our trip, WBST surprised us with a delightful log cart experience to Wulai falls, where we ate some ice cream and took some pictures with the whole group and with the Philippine delegation. All in all, our birding trip in Wulai was an enriching and fun birding trip that filled my bird list of many lifers, my stomach of delicious food, and my memories of remarkable experiences, laughter and camaraderie among diverse birders.