Visiting Zhishan

On the last day of this long holiday break, I decided to go check out a Zhishan Cultural and Ecological Garden mentioned in the traveling guides. However, the place was harder to find than I expected. But I still managed to find this pretty interesting geological landmark in the Zhishan Park, and it offers a pretty nice view of the city at its highest point of 52.8-m above sea level.

On the other side of the mountain is this nice-looking temple.

Along the way, there was this large Cinnamomum camphora tree more than three hundred years old! It is the oldest tree in Taipei City - the reasons why it has not chopped down during all of this time were: the entire mountain was a military base during the takeover by the Japanese government of the island, and the fong shui is excellent on this mountain so that nothing was disturbed.

Afterwards, I finally found the way to the garden that I was looking for. I came across another large tree along the way.

Big tree

Near the entrance of the garden, several of these crawling bright red Leptocoris abdominalis were found all over their dead friends.

Finally, I had arrived.

Now, to tell you the truth, I don't think I would visit this place again as it was poorly run and very small. The entrance fee is less than $1 CDN, so it's not a big concern. The only thing I can justify for visiting this garden is its Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center which houses several injuried and sick birds.

Intermediate Egret (Mesophoyx intermedia) - 中白鷺
I finally got a decent photo of an Intermediate Egret here in Taiwan!

When you first enter, you will cross over a small pond on a bridge. The first thing I saw was this King Ratsnake (Elaphe carinata) over 1-m long. It was very cool. It was looking for food and swam across the pond.

The Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center. In it includes several Magpies, Egrests, Herons, Owls, Doves, Pigeons, etc.

An injuried Black-crowned Night Heron.

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) - 黃頭鷺
An injuried but graceful-looking Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis).

Outside the cages was this wandering Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis).

Touring the entire garden took less than 30 minutes as there was not a whole lot to see and learn. So sad. I hope this place will improve in the future.

Finally, back to work tomorrow!


Hiking up the Tianmu "Ancient" Trail

I don't like having such a long holiday because the natural places in Taipei City that I know of and can go to are quite limited. Nevertheless, I discovered another excellent place to visit just near where I live. It's a 2.8-km trail to the mountains in northern Taipei. At the end of the trail, there are other places to visit and trails to continue. Due to time limitation, I only hiked up the short trail, and with me being a shutter bug, a relatively short hike turned out to be more than five hours journey.

The entrance to the Tian-Mu Trail, and the tropical views along the trail. Plus, you can almost see the entire urban Taipei right below you.

One of the fascinating creatures that I encountered was this stick insect! So beautiful and well-camouflaged.

Thanks to some help, its scientific name is Phraortes illepidus.

There are plenty of crevices between the rocks and boulders that they provided excellent hiding places for this Indian Forest Skink.

Indian Forest Skink (Sphenomorphus indicus) - 印度蜓蜥
Such a neat find of this Sphenomorphus indicus.

An unidentified insect that I am still working on. The only thing I know is that it belongs in the Family Pentatomidae. [Edit: I think this is a Dalader formosanus.]

Hiking up the stairs with humans was this puny Blister Beetle (Epicauta hirticornis). I picked it up with a leaf and put it where it won't get stepped on.

A japalura catching a nice fat meal of some sort of a larvae. Yum.

One of the animals that I hoped to encounter but didn't was the Formosan Macaque. Maybe next time.

Some of the prettiest sights along the trail were these beautiful Lepidopterans.

Clear Sailer (Neptis nata lutatia) - 台灣三線蝶
Clear Sailer (Neptis nata lutatia)

Neope muirheadi nagasawae

Nyctemera adversata

Chui-Fong Waterfall (翠峰瀑布)

Chui-Fong Waterfall (翠峰瀑布)
One of the side trails off the main trail leads to this 4-m tall waterfall named Chui-Fong Waterfall. Not too impressive but it makes a beautiful photographic moment, especially being surrounded by a serene tropical forest.

In the evening, a couple of friends (from the Botanical Garden) and I went out for dinner together. Afterwards, we headed to Danshui to enjoy the busy night market and the views across the river.

Night view from Danshui

And before you know it, another day has passed.. Time sure goes fast when you are having fun.


Visited C.K.S. Shilin Residence Park

On the second day of this long weekend, I visited the Chiang Kei-Shek Shilin Residence Park in Taipei City. It is the official residence of the former president, Chiang Kei-Shek, and it has been transformed into a park/garden/historical attraction. I would definitely recommend this place to visitors coming to Taipei City as it is a free park and offers plenty of photographic opportunities - people, wildlife, nature, landscape, architecture, etc.

I took many photos today, so I will just briefly comment on each photo.

Entrance of the park.

Views inside the park - ranging from trails in the mountains to well-cared gardens to an outdoor concert center.

There are plenty of Muller's Barbet in this park too.

Evident by the crowd hanging outside a barbet's nest - from curious visitors to serious photographers.

An unidentified skipper. It is a butterfly belonging to the family Hesperiidae, that's all I know for now.

A juvenile Malayan Night Heron (Gorsachius melanolophus). The juvenile has black and white spots with streaked underparts. Compare it to the adult at the end of this post.

One of the biggest attractions is the beautiful and colorful roses, orchids, and other flowers.

Three unknown beetles enjoying the sweetness of the flower.

There is a small ecological pond that attracts many insects, including this Ceylon Blue Glassy Tiger (Ideopsis similis).

Beside the nest of the barbet surrounded by people, I stumbled across this site all by myself and watched by no one. So exciting. In the bottom right photo, a preying matis was caught by the adult barbet.

An unidentified dragonfly.

Malayan Night Heron (Gorsachius melanolophus) - 黑冠麻鷺

Malayan Night Heron (Gorsachius melanolophus) - 黑冠麻鷺
An adult Malayan Night Heron (Gorsachius melanolophus).

Common Tiger (Danaus genutia) - 黑脈樺斑蝶

Common Tiger (Danaus genutia) - 黑脈樺斑蝶
A Common Tiger (Danaus genutia) - closely resembles the Monarch butterfly (D. plexippus) of the Americas.

Thank you, caretakers of the park, for maintaining this beautiful park!


Watching Speaker Cup 2009 (Dragonboat race)

Today is the first of the four-day long weekend here in Taiwan, and Taiwanese people celebrate it by eating rice wrapped by bamboo leaves and watching dragonboat races. My friend from my internship last year is part of a dragonboat race team and so today I headed out to Bitan (in Taipei County) to cheer him and his team on.

It is quite a serious competition as this is the 17th year and the total prize money is 1 million dollars NTD. The competing teams range from firefighters (who won nine years in a row), soldiers, student atheletes, First Nation tribes, companies, and so forth. So the atmosphere is intense and exciting. But it is easy to separate the good teams from the bad in the prilimnary rounds as the well-trained and discipline teams leave the unprepared and poorly trained teams far behind.

My friend's team - made up of enthusiastic swimmers. The oldest member of the team is over 80 years old, and you can see him in front of the boat ready to snatch up the flag (first team to snatch the flag in their lane wins the race).

Exciting times arises when well-matched team go head-to-head at the very last moment!

Today is elimination rounds, and tomorrow will be even better as good teams compete with each other and fight for a spot in the final round.

Besides the dragonboat race competition, there are many tents and vendors set up for food, entertainment, shows, and games (a typical part of Taiwan's outdoor events). One that caught my attention was set up by Taiwan's scouts - showing the different caterpillars and pupae of the butterflies of Taiwan.

I don't know the identity of them all, but aren't they amazing looking!?

After the race, I continued to walk around the river, and below the bridges I saw many Small Egrets (Egretta garzetta) and Black-crowned Night Heron resting and fishing.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - 小白鷺

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) - 夜鷺

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) - 夜鷺

That's all for today. I haven't post a sky-watch photo in a long time as the skies in Taipei are normally gray and thick (or maybe it is the pollutions?).

But the sky finally cleared a little for me to take a picture of it while riding the MRT.
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