Seeing an out-of-season White's Ground Thrush and Barbet catching lizard!?

Second day of internship started with a beautiful morning.

Before heading to the office, I walked around the Lotus Pond and took pictures of the blossoming water lilies.

Soon after, I saw a Malay Night Heron flying up on to a rooftop.

For the most part of the day, I spent time in the office looking over research papers on what to include in a fundamental biological paper regarding a specific species. Another task of the day was heading out to the botanical garden and try to capture and leg-band the adults of some nest sites.

Our method was to set up a mist net before the nest entrance of the barbets. This particular nest site has one fledgling in it, so the parents had to fly regularly to feed it. We allow the parent bird to enter the nest without harm. Once it had entered, we rushed to the bottom of the tree and hold up the poles (with the mist net). We caught an adult once, but the net was too loose and the bird bounced off after. So we made another net, but no success catch afterwards. Sigh. We will have to wait for tomorrow again.

Waiting for the adult barbets to arrive requires a lot of patience. Thankfully, a lot of interesting critters were found around us so we weren't bored at all.

A moth caterpillar belonging in the Family Psychidae with parasitic eggs laid on it. We suspect it's the work of a parasitic wasp. I brought the caterpillar back to the office and will observe it everyday from now on.

Another task was to follow through with yesterday's work and see if the third egg has been laid or not (only two eggs had been positively identfied yesterday). While moving things around to assist our work, we found a larvae of some kind of a beetle.

What a juicy looking thing. If I am a bird, I would definitely eat it!

One of the most interesting things of the day was seeing this White's Ground Thrush (Zoothera dauma). It is an interesting sighting since the species migrates and winters in Taiwan during winter only. To see this bird in the summer is definitely a surprise!

It was found underneath the canopy and the boarded pathways, so it was extremely difficult to photograph and get a good image. These were the best ones I have.

When returning back to see if the adult barbet had arrived for us to catch it, we received a major surprise and saw a Swinhoe's Japalura in the bill of the parent barbet!!! It was the first time that I (and my experienced co-worker) had witness Muller's Barbet feeding its offspring a lizard!

After feeding the fledgling inside with a large lizard, (another?) parent barbet came back and brought back a smaller japalura again this time!

What a day!


First Day Interning

I arrived back to Taipei last night from my 5-day group orientation (a.k.a. traveling and partying all over Taiwan). I was so exhausted when I came back home that my energy level remained low at work today.

I am still organizing and compiling all of the photos from the trip. The trip itself was quite boring to me since most of the places we visited were in the technology and/or humanities fields - none in the ecology or biology field. Same goes for all the guest speeches we heard. Plus, I am not a big party person or a heavy drinker. So, it was hard to keep me interested for a long time, let alone for 5 straight days. Nevertheless, I kept my eyes and ears sharp whenever we were near natural places and still managed to see some pretty cool stff, so be patient.

Some things happened when I was away from TBG, such as discovering a new nest tree, capturing a new fledgling (but missing another), etc.

The new fledgling that my co-worker caught yesterday. I tried to look for its sibling that we failed to catch today, but I came up short.

This adult seemed to be its parent.

This past few days, my co-worker had been caring for this newborn Red-bellied Tree Squirrel. It must be only a few days old.

Such a small thing

Feeding it milk

Hairless Newborn Red-bellied Tree Squirrel (Callosciurus erythraeus) - 赤腹松鼠
Caring for this baby is such a dilemma (for us) since we will release it back to TBG when it's older, but also knowing the overpopulation issue of squirrels in TBG and the direct predation effect it has on Muller's Barbet as well. Sigh.

Malayan Night Heron (Gorsachius melanolophus) - 黑冠麻鷺
In the afternoon, an adult Malay Night Heron was spotted in the parking lot of our building (right across from the TBG). Some workers saw it carrying sticks in its beak. Maybe it's building a home here?

PS - After thinking and discussing my internship research topic with my supervisor, we decided that 1.5 months is too limited for me to produce a detailed scientific paper. Therefore, we decided to compile and write a short report on the general biology and breeding ecology of Muller's Barbet in TBG, which seems like a very important missing work too. So now, I will have to read a lot of papers to see what kind of variables do biologists usually write about in a general report.


Mushrooms, Night Heron, and Announcement

While checking the nesting status at one of the sites, I came across these (unidentified) mushrooms underneath the canopy. The particular site I checked had two eggs. This is the second brood of the pair using this nest hole. However, the female remained the same individual, but the father had changed! This certainly came as a surprise to us since this should be a monogamous species. I wonder where the original male is now...

In addition, we found another new nest tree today inside the botanical garden. When we checked inside, there were already three eggs! What a find!

Black-crowned Night Heron

As some of you may remember, the current (work) position that I work at is all voluntary. However, beginning next week, I will officially start my internship as a "Research Assistant" at the Forest Protection Division, Taiwan Forestry Research Institute, Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan. But before that, all of the interns partaking in this so-called Taiwan Tech Trek internship program will go on this 5-day orientation trip (or to simply put, touring around Taiwan for 5 days). It will begin tomorrow so I will not be posting during this time. But please sit tight, and I will be sure to share some nice photos and stories next week.


Monday...back to work

I came back from my trip to Fushan Research Station last night. It was an amazing place in the mountains with few people and lots of animals, plants, and scenaries to enjoy. However, we found only 4 nest holes, so my plan to conduct research here will likely be axed. I think the main challenge is that the region has one of the highest precipitation levels in the country; thus, dead standing trees rot faster than usual. Other challenges include: the presence of epiphytes growing on tall trees (affecting cavity nesters from making nests) and the presence of tree climbing Formosan Macaques (disturbing cavity nesters). I took a lot of photos from the trip and posted them as a photo album in my Facebook. You can see them here; however, the photo album is not yet finished as there are still some species that need to be identified.

Tourists and fellow volunteers had been questioning us about the material that had been appearing on the outside of this barbet's nest. Is it manmade or some natural material. Well, today, I finally climbed up to the hole and collected a sample of this material to be analyzed. However, when looking and smelling the material upclose, it is some kind of fungus growing on the outside of the hole. Quite an interesting phenomenon.

This is the new location where we moved the camera to.


Weekend Announcement and Cute Baby Tree Squirrel

Really need to keep today's post short today since I am going to spend the weekend in Fushan Research Station in another county in northern Taiwan to look for my internship project topic. Originally, I am suppose to intern at the Fushan Research Station for 1.5 months. However, after spending this past month volunteering in Taipei Botanical Garden (TBG), I am really learning a lot about research methods and techniques here researching about Muller's Barbet. Therefore, I asked for a transfer to TBG instead (both areas are owned to the Taiwanese government as Taiwan Forestry Research Institute). Nevertheless, I am still very much interested in going to Fushan since it's a restricted access (to the public) area with parts of it opened to the public as Fushan Botanical Garden, and the rest for research purposes only; thus, you can imagine how natural and well-preserved the area is. This weekend, I hope to find some nest trees of Muller's Barbet in Fushan Botanical Garden and then I can conduct a comparative study between the differences in the characteristics of nest trees and cavities in urban and reserved botanical gardens.

Today, we set up a video camera recording one of the nest trees. However, after we set up the camera, no parent barbet came back to incubate the three eggs inside the nest cavity. This got us quite worried. Perhaps the camera was too close to the nest entrance (about 1.5-m away) and the parents were worried about the strange thing pointing at their nest. So we moved the camera to a better-hidden location, and the parents came back shortly afterwards. Whew!

The initial (bad) location and the fina acceptance of new location.

While going back to the office, a security guard in the garden gave us a baby Red-bellied Tree Squirrel (Callosciurus erythraeus) that was under attack from a stray cat in the garden. Thankfully, it wasn't badly injured.

Rescued Baby Red-bellied Tree Squirrel (Callosciurus erythraeus) - 赤腹松鼠

Rescued Baby Red-bellied Tree Squirrel (Callosciurus erythraeus) - 赤腹松鼠
Isn't it a cutie? Aww.

I won't be able to post anything over the weekend, but be sure to check-in to see some pretty amazing sights and animals! Have a great weekend, everyone!


First Accipiter Saw in Taiwan

In the morning, we went back to where we released the fledglings yesterday and searched for them again to see the interactions between the offspring and their parents.

While observing the above fledgling, I discovered an interesting observation.

In a large crevice of a Camphor tree, I saw three different Muller's Barbets utilizing the hole as a drinking and a bathing hole. It was pretty exciting to see so many barbets busy on a certain tree.

The barbets had a refreshing bath as they got their feathers nice and wet in this hot day.

Nearby, a Swinhoe's Japalura was saw hugging this branch.

When I got too close, it got scared and ran away. I picked it up and placed it on another tree.

Swinhoe's japalura (Japalura swinhonis) - 斯文豪氏攀蜥
That was when it gave me the scary look and showed me teeth.

On the way to lunch, I came across another Black-crowned Night Heron - standing on just two sticks in a pond. Quite a sight. For some reason, the Night Herons in Taiwan are just as active as when they are at night. Totally defies the meaning of a "night" heron.

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) - 夜鷺

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) - 夜鷺

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) - 夜鷺

Besides finding a bath hole for the barbets and getting good photographs of the Night Heron, the highlight of the day probably seeing my first Accipiter in Taiwan! It was a Crested Goshawk (Accipiter trivirgatus) perched on a tree that was also a barbet's nest tree!

Crested Goshawk (Accipiter trivirgatus) - 鳳頭蒼鷹

Even though it is a common Accipiter in Taiwan, today was my first time seeing them. And memories of the beautiful raptors back in Canada came rushed back to me.

Crested Goshawk (Accipiter trivirgatus) - 鳳頭蒼鷹
What a handsome raptor! Its look reminds me of the Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawk. Oh, how I miss my bird friends.


Another beautiful blue sky day in Taipei

I'm quite tired and sleepy at the moment, so I will keep this post nice and short.

Today's weather in Taipei was wonderful! A rare day with clear blue skies. Unfortunately, the tropical sunshine penetrated directly through the atmosphere and it was quite hot today (and painful if you stand underneath the sunshine for too long).

In the morning, I helped volunteer observers with identifying the barbet pair in this locaton. Turned out there is one fledgling left in this nest (there used to be two).

While helping the volunteers with observing the barbets, a couple of other birds had my attention as well, such as Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), Spotted-necked Dove, and Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax).

After lunch, another TV program came to the botanical garden to videotape some footages. After helping them getting what they want, we went over to some nests to see the latest status. While walking, I saw another beautiful Black-crowned Night Heron.

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) - 夜鷺

Afterwards, we accidentally found two more barbet fledglings that we aren't sure who the parents are. We still caught them and brought them back to the lab for the standard procedures. After we finished, we released them (and the subadult found yesterday) and observed them until it got dark.

PS - I finally had the chance to release the Red-banded Snake caught at the beginning of the month. Even though the snake was found in the botanical garden, it is a species living along side streams in the mountains; therefore, we suspect it was abandoned in a city garden. Fortunately, there is a large stream near where I live (which is at the base of the mountain) so I released it today after work. Hope it will like its new home.

By the way, the PTS TV station that had being "bothering" us for quite a while now will finally air the show (about the Muller's Barbets in the TBG) tomorrow afternoon at 6 pm. I suspect everyone (in the office) will tune in to watch it.

That's all for now. Time for bed.



Today, we rescued another Muller's Barbet that flew into a window. It seemed to be a subadult since it doesn't have the fledgling feathers. We again measured and leg-banded it for research purposes. We will be releasing it tomorrow.

After the lab work, we headed back out to the field to retrive the surveillance equipments near the already-gone nests. We will be using them again for new nests soon. Then, we spent a good hour or so searching for the fledgling that we predicted will leave the nest soon. When we arrived, it had already left! It took us a long time to locate the little green bird in the tall thick trees. In the end, it flew way up the reach of our "scaring stick" and we gave it up. I think that when the parent has only one young to care for (parent to young ratio is 1:1) the young seems to be smarter and stronger, because for the previous two nests, the fledglings were all quite weak and poor flyers (and also not very smart). Not today's fledgling though.

While looking for the fledgling, an adult Malay Night Heron was enjoying the sunshine.

After dragging our tired bodies back to the office for a late lunch, it was almost time for my time at the observaton station. However, the clouds fortold a thunderstorm coming.

Indeed thunderstorms came! I saw and heard more than 10 lightnings and thunders in just a short half-an-hour. It was quite serious - especially being outdoors in the heavy rain. Soon, I decided to call it quits and headed back to the office.

After a while, the rain stopped and sunshine and clear sky returned again. Such is the life living on a tropical island.


Rain and another death

In the morning, I went to the nest tree from last week to see if the fledgling is ready to leave its nest yet, especially after the rainy weekend which I suspect had flooded the nest cavity. We will be trying to catch, measure, and tag it if it does leave nest today.

The young fledgling shyly poking its head out of the nest hole.

Afterwards, I went back to the office and saw the bad news that our rescued barbet had just passed away a few minutes before I arrived the office. Sigh. Death seems to be quite common for these pretty birds. This young bird was not suppose to survive long with all of its injuries, but it had grow strongly during our care. It was sad to see it pass away.


While helping the volunteer observers, we caught this Swinhoe's Japalura and placed it near the a molted cicada shell.

In the afternoon, heavy rain and thunderstorm kept me in the office editing and translating papers. We went to check on the fledgling again, and we saw the (single) parent bird returning back to the nest and feeding its young. So, I guess we will be trying to catch the fledgling tomorrow again.

PS - The adapter for connecting my camera with the teleconverter lens has finally arrived! Can't wait to try it out when the weather gets better.


Attending aunt's Ph.D graduation ceremony

Today, I attended my third aunt's graduation ceremony at Tamkung University. My grandparents and my first aunt also travelled from central Taiwan to be a part of the celebration - my aunt receiving her Ph.D degree in Banking and Finance.

I travelled to Danshui by myself and met up with my aunt and grandparents at the MRT station.

One thing that really shocked me about Taiwan's university graduation ceremony (compare to Canada's) is that the whole school graduated students all on the same day! Our university had a week-long graduation ceremony, but my aunt's university graduated over 7000 students (Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D) in just 1.5 hours. Too many studens and parents led to a packed ceremony, and so televised ceremony were needed for guests not able to squeeze in to the gymasium.

Good luck with the future.
Sigh. Yes, I know. Luck will have a lot to do with it.

It was definitely an interesting experience. Afterwards, we had lunch and visited my grandfather's younger sister (i.e. my grandaunt) and her family. Thankfully, it didn't rain during the morning and afternoon, and only started when my grandparents and aunt returned home back to central Taiwan, otherwise, it would be a terrible experience.

Predicted rain all week long. I really hope it's not true.


Blue sky in Taipei

Lately, the Water Lily Pond in the botanical garden had been surrounded by many photographers as the flowers are in the blossoming stage.

The weather forcast for today was suppose to be rainy (same as yesterday), but drizzle came in short phases and soon the sky was cleared!

View from the 12th floor of our building. The tallest building in the background is the famous Taipei 101.

Royal palm (Roystonea regia) against rare blue sky in Taipei
Beautiful blue sky with Royal Palms.

In the afternoon, I watched the barbets all by myself. After I finished, I came back to the office to work on translating the written barbet research paper (from last year) that is to be submitted to Taiwan Journal of Forest Science. It is pretty exciting to be helping with a potentially published paper. Afterwards, I discussed my research ideas with my supervisor for my actual internship that starts in two weeks.

While in the garden, my co-worker showed me a nest cavity of Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis) that he just found. Even though it is a pretty bird, they are quite disliked as they are an alien species that competes for nest cavities with barbets and other native cavity nesters.
Align Center
Two White-rumped Shama fledglings.

As I was about to leave work, I went to the rooftop and sky-watched. I don't think I stopped and really enjoyed the sky in a while. But of course, it is quite rare to see a cleared sky in Taipei.

Sky-watching and Taipei 101 watching.
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