Geography: The leaf-shaped island of Taiwan lies off the southeastern coast of mainland Asia, between Japan and the Philippines and across the Taiwan Straits from China. Taiwan sits on the western edge of the Pacific Rim of Fire and the resulting tectonic movements have formed a varied terrain of high mountains, rolling hills, fertile plains and basins and beautiful coastlines.
Culture: Taiwanese culture is a mix of Chinese heritage, Japanese colonial influence and aboriginal culture, where fine art, folk traditions and popular culture all mix together. Traditional writing has been preserved in Taiwan for centuries and calligraphy provides an insight on it. The Taiwanese regard calligraphy as an art form. The precious stone jade has been known in Taiwanese culture since antiquity. Its popularity spread throughout the world in the 18th century. The Jade Emperor has been revered as the godhead of the folk religion since the 11th century and today in Taiwan, the ring disc, a symbol of heaven, is worn as a talisman.
Getting there: EVA Airways flies direct to Taipei from Heathrow daily. Emirates has also recently launched flights from Dubai, giving wider access to regional airports in the UK.
Bird watching in Taiwan
Because of its warm and humid climate, Taiwan has extremely rich vegetation, which attracts many species of birds to the island. Located at the western edge of the Pacific Ocean, it also is a favourite resting area for migratory birds. The long isolation of Taiwan following the Ice Ages has resulted in 15 endemic species and around 70 endemic subspecies within the 550 bird species so far recorded.
Bird watching in Northern Taiwan
Northern Taiwan has many excellent bird watching areas, including Guandu Nature Reserve. Guandu Nature Reserve offers a large variety of natural settings suitable for the needs of many different bird species. Situated at the northwestern corner of Taipei City and covering around 57 hectares, the best time of year to watch the variety of birds is between September and May, during the height of the migration season. Birds of interest include the Waterfowl, the Black-winged Stilt, Barn Swallow and Shorebirds.
Bird watching in Eastern Taiwan
The topography of eastern Taiwan, with its high peaks and wet conditions, provides birds watchers the chance to see more endemic species in their natural habitat. The Yilan area in the eastern part is made up of wetlands and hot springs. In Anmashan, bird watchers can see 13 of Taiwan’s 15 endemic species, including the popular Swinhoe’s Pheasant and Mikado Pheasant.
Bird watching in Central Taiwan
The area of central Taiwan is one of the best places in Taiwan for bird watching. In particular, the Dadu River, the mouth of which is the largest resting site for water birds in central Taiwan. Of the birds to be seen here, 24 are listed as protected species. The best bird watching season at Dadu River is from October through to May. Highlights include world-endangered Saunders’ Gulls and the Siberian Rubythroat.
Bird watching in Southern Taiwan
Southern Taiwan offers bird enthusiasts a wide range of rare and near-endemic species to watch. One major area where over 100 species can be spotted is the Si Cao Reserve, which is recommended by bird experts from around the world. Highlights include the Steere’s Liocichla, Mikado Pheasant and the Swinhoe’s Pheasant.
14 types of birds exclusive to Taiwan: