Animals of Yangmingshan National Park

As promised, here were the animals that I saw while hiking in Yangmingshan National Park last weekend. Some of them still remained unidentified, but most of them are known.

Heliophorus ila matsumurae - 紅邊黃小灰蝶
Heliophorus ila matsumurae

Unidentified green spider
Unidentified green spider

Cicindela aurulenta - 八星虎甲蟲
Cicindela aurulenta

Cicindela aurulenta - 八星虎甲蟲
Cicindela aurulenta eating a fly

Argyreus hyperbius - 黑端豹斑蝶
Argyreus hyperbius

Symbrenthia hypselis scatinia - 姬黃三線蝶
Symbrenthia hypselis scatinia

Unidentified bee-like fly (Family Syrphidae)
Unidentified bee-like fly (Family Syrphidae)

Formosan Grass Lizard (Takydromus formosanus) - 台灣草蜥
Formosan Grass Lizard (Takydromus formosanus)

Elegant five-lined Skink (Eumeces elegans) - 麗紋石龍子
Elegant five-lined Skink (Eumeces elegans)

Elegant five-lined Skink (Eumeces elegans) - 麗紋石龍子
Elegant indeed

Unknown insect...



Finally, a bit more outdoorsy tasks today than the past three days. One task was checking up on the status of a nest site where eggs should be hatching soon. This nest started with four eggs, then three, then two yesterday, and when we checked this morning, one nestling had hatched and was wearing a half-egg-shell as a diaper. So cute. In the afternoon, there was still one egg and one nestling, and based on our past experiences, eggs laid on different days should still hatch on the same day so it is quite possible that the remaining egg is empty.

While using the endoscope on the nest cavity, I found a yellow female Trabala vishnou guttata. I believe it was laying eggs on the shrubs, and close by there was a pupal cocoon too!

Another task was photographing a small Red-bellied Tree Squirrel resting in a tree cavity. It was a pretty interesting sighting since it was the first time us seeing a squirrel in a cavity. Furthermore, since the hole entrance was about the same size as a Muller's Barbet's nest entrance, this shows the possibility that squirrels are capable of entering a barbet's nest and wreck havoc!

The third task was that one of the morning exercisers found a very young barbet nestling (still a week away from fledging) on the ground. Why did it leave nest so early, we do not know. We brought it back to the office and took care of it. Soon, it was time for us to head to the garden to look for its parents and potential siblings. After a long search, we finally found another young barbet just learning how to fly. After observing it, we saw the parents coming back and feeding it (with cicadas, berries, etc).

After watching the interactions, we brought the rescued barbet back to the garden and allow the parents to find and feed their missing offspring. As dusk arrived, we decided that it is simply impossible to the young birds to survive their (first?) night outside and decided to bring them back to the lab for an overnight stay before releasing them tomorrow morning.

After working indoors for several days, I forgot how exciting but also tiring field working is. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed everything.

PS - I shall be going on a river trekking trip this weekend (leaving Friday night) in Hualien, so stay tuned next week for some exciting stories and photos. Here's to wishing everyone a nice weekend (in advance). Cheers!


Three days in the office...

I doubt I will have anything interesting to post daily, so here're what I did this week.

July 28, 2009 (Monday)
- Watched people feeding Common Moorhen, fishes, and turtles in TBG in the morning.
- Organized 2008 data all day. Sadly, I accidentally replaced the new file with the old file so a day's work was gone in a second.
- Went to sing KTV after work to say farewell to a work friend leaving Taipei for a married life.

July 29, 2009 (Tuesday)
- Worked inside all day doing yesterday's work. Strangely, it took even longer the second time around. Although I did more analyses this time, such as organizing adult feeding percentages (male versus) female in different days at different time periods (06:00 am - 08:00 am, 08:00 am - 10:00 am, and so forth). There're some pretty interesting things worthy of discussing in a paper.

July 30, 2009 (Wednesday)
- Presented my analyses to my supervisor. I will continue to work on this year's results along with two other research assistants, and it's very likely that I will continue to work here in Taiwan (into the end of this year's breeding season in the autumn) even after my intership has ended. Hooray!


Awesome day hiking in Yangmingshan National Park

Two days ago, a newly made friend (introduced by a co-worker) invited me to go hiking in Yangmingshan National Park on Sunday (today) with other people. I immediately said yes knowing that otherwise I'd be trapped at home all weekend doing work.

This morning, I woke up early to meet my new acquaintances and rode moped scooters up the mountain towards the park. Arriving at the bus terminal, we then rode a bus to Siaoyoukeng Trail Entrance.

Siaoyoukeng is quite a geological sight to see (and smell) because it is a post-volcanic area still with some geothermal activities and fumaroles formations.

Quite a beautiful Sunday, I must say.

Our destination is Mount Cising (at 1120-m above sea level, it is the tallest mountain in Taipei City). Nevertheless, we only needed to walk a 1.6-km hike to reach the peak.

Before heading towards Mount Cising, we detoured to a "secret" Cising Pond that is only known to some regular hikers. To get to this pond, we needed to cross a difficult grassy area with sharp bamboo leaves and silvergrasses, and the grasses are as tall as 2-m!

However, once we arrived, it was all worth it!

A dried-up Cising Pond (七星池)
The "pond" is currently all dried up since there had been little precipitation for the past two months. Otherwise, this will be a natural swimming pool with little or no people. Oh, I can just imagine...

Nevertheless, during this time, the ground is covered with soft mosses and it was a comfortable place to rest and clear our minds.
I wish we could lay here forever and ever - just watching clouds roll by.

However, deserving things must be earned with hark work and dedication in order to feel self-pride. Climbing this mountain is no different, and soon it was time to go back to the original trail and climb!

The extremely hot and dangerous fumaroles formations even reached the walking paths!

In the end, we had arrived!!!

Since it was Sunday, there was quite a large crowd at the top of the mountain, with more coming up, so we didn't stay too long and headed towards the shorter Eastern Peak of Mt. Cising.

After achieving the eastern peak, it was time to headed down the mountain and go for a late lunch.

Along the way, we stopped at the Menghuan Lake Wetlands (also dried up at the moment) to see the famous Taiwan Isoetes (Isoetes taiwanensis), an endemic aquatic fern found only in this little wetland in the entire world!

Taiwan Isoetes at the bottom right corner. It is quite nerve-wrecking knowing that this is the only place in the world where this species is found. Imagine if something happened to it or its habitat, then it won't just be the loss of a species from Taiwan but from the entire planet as well.

Heading on, we wanted to go take a hot spring bath at the public hot spring bath house. Unfortunately, it was closed for cleaning when we arrived (at 1-pm) so we decided to go back down the mountain and get some lunch. The bottom right photo is the Milk Lake. The reason for the strange color is because of the minerals in the water. Not so strange for me (since I've seen lakes in Canada with all sorts of colors), but apparently it is quite unique to people in Taiwan.

Anyways, when we headed down the mountain and was eating lunch, thunder showers came down hard so we stayed inside the restaurant and chatted. In the end, we decided to call it a day and went back to our respective homes. Overall, it was great making new friends who are just as into hiking as myself, and I had a fun time releasing energy couped up in me for quite a few days now. Hooray!

PS - Photos of animals taken on this trip will be posted as sson as I can identify them all.


Crested Goshawk, Dr. Miller, and Mr. Hoodi

Yesterday (Friday), before I arrived at work, a group of people was standing on the pathway of TBG looking at something. So I stopped and took a look too.
It was a Crested Goshawk, perhaps a fledgling or a juvenile, staring at the pond below. Swimming (and squawking) in the pond was an adult Common Moorhen. One of the watchers told me that there are moorhen chicks hiding in the bushes in the pond and the goshawk had been staring at them for quite a while now.

Crested Goshawk (Accipiter trivirgatus) - 鳳頭蒼鷹
In the end, the goshawk finally made its move, but somebody (an elderly lady, it seems) in the audience screamed when it happened, so the goshawk came away empty-handed. I am not totally sure what to make of that.

Before noon, I attended a special talk given by Dr. Jeffrey C. Miller of Oregon State University on the topic of "Repeated Standardized and Consistent Measures for Assessing Lepidoptera Biodiversity through Time for Assessing Climate Change." Quite a mouthful, no?
Besides describing his researches in various sites around the world, the more intriguing part of his talk was his "cyber-field guide" on Lepidopterans - "Lepidoptera Wing Pattern Identification System" at this URL. Basically, when you came across a museum specimen or an individual in the field that you couldn't identify, you can take a picture of it and submit it to this system. By selecting reference marks on the wings of the Lepidoptera, the server will immediately pick the best matches in its library of images and tell you what this species is. What a wonderful tool it is, especially for an amateur naturalist like myself! I can't wait for them to get grants to build a faster server and a better library of images (not just in North America but the entire world). I feel great potentials of using system not for Lepidopterans only, but also for other confusing taxas, such as spiders, ants, marine invertebrates, fishes, etc.

Anyways, after lunch, it was all office work for me. During my breaks, I photographed our next-door-office cat named Hoodi (means Tiger-brother in Chinese). Isn't he just handsome?

Mr. Hoodi (虎弟) in the office
If there's one thing changed about me from this internship, it was transforming me into not just a dog person, but also a cat person too. I just love these independent and cool-looking felines!

Today (Saturday) will be all work (and this blogging) from home, so don't expect another post from today. Have a great weekend, everyone!.


Some Muller's Barbet "info"

According to the Chinese calendar, today's the hottest day of summer. Coincidentally, I spent the entire work day today trying to organize and input observation sheets into Excel worksheets. A little bit of the afternoon was outside walking towards the botanical garden and back. Otherwise, my day was quite normal.

Nevertheless, we now have some quantifiable results to show off, such as:
- Muller's Barbet lay an average of 3.07 eggs per clutch (n = 13).
- Average incubation period is 15.5 days (n = 2).
- Average brooding period is 29.0 days (n = 2).
- The predominate nest tree species is Cinnamomum camphora (40%) (n = 10).

It was interesting to see the long period for the parent barbets to raise their youngs, especially of their small body size. Perhaps it is because they are a cavity-nesting species so that they need to take good care of the youngs so all of their hard work is not in vain. Who knows.


Solar Eclipse on July 22, 2009

It was fairly easy to write today's post (despite the fact that I worked inside all day today) since I didn't miss the rare opportunity of seeing a partial solar eclipse observable here in Taiwan.

It was quite an amazing experience sitting on the rooftop of my work builiding waiting for the moon to slowly cover the sun. I don't think I will ever forget this moment.

A co-worker graciously lend me her developed film negatives to safely observe the phenomenon. But sometimes, a few clouds passed by to allow us to observe the eclipse with our naked eyes. What a sight!

Partial eclipse from Taipei City, Taiwan on July 22, 2009 at 9:22am
Partial eclipse from Taipei City, Taiwan on July 22, 2009 at 9:22am

Partial eclipse from Taipei City, Taiwan on July 22, 2009 at 9:29am
Partial eclipse from Taipei City, Taiwan on July 22, 2009 at 9:29am

Partial eclipse from Taipei City, Taiwan on July 22, 2009 at 9:35am
Partial eclipse from Taipei City, Taiwan on July 22, 2009 at 9:35am

More eclipse photos can be seen in my Facebook photo album here.


Found fledglings and Sparrow taking a dirt bath

The second fledgling that we were observing last week had finally fledged. Unfortunately, it (being the last one to leave the nest) couldn't fly too well and landed in the Lotus Pond soon after. A worker in the garden saw it and rescued it immediately, so we were able to measure and leg-band this little fella.

Muller's Barbet (Megalaima nuchalis) - 五色鳥
I am not sure why, but this pretty little bird was extremely calm when we were measuring it and is such a good sport.

Besides the caught new fledgling, another nest (outside the botanical garden) also had new fledglings. And their fates seem much more dangerous than the one above, especially right beside a busy street. Yikes.

If you look closely (at the left photo), you can see the barbet near the base of the tree.

In the afternoon, it was my shift again at observing the nests (currently feeding one chick). While barbet-watching, a group of Eurasian Tree Sparrows came close to us and was feeding on the little insects in the grasses.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)

Besides eating, an interesting individual took a dirt bath right in front of us, and it was a delightful sight to see!

Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)
You never seen a bird bathing in the dirt before?

Lastly, while maintaining the botanical garden, a worker found a unknown nestling on the ground and gave it to us to care. It was such a small creature, about the size of a cookie only.

We hope we can take good care of it.


Sneak peek of weekend trip & Three-legged Japalura while Barbet-Observing

I had returned from my weekend trip on the east coast of Taiwan, which is mountaineous and rural - compare to the flat and more urbanized west coast. However, the views are quite beautiful and are the ones you'd expect living on a tropical island.

Clouds and Palm Trees
In the end, the typhoon never crossed path with us during the weekend, so our trip was held under the beautiful blue skies.

Acefias selene ningpoana - 長尾水青蛾
The lack of animals observed really dampened my mood. But that was before seeing this huge and beautiful Acefias selene in broad daylight!

Gasteracantha sauteri - 梭德氏棘蛛
Another amazing-looking animal was this Gasteracantha sauteri with a beautiful design on its back!

Anyways, I will put up more photos from the trip when I am done organizing them (same goes for my trips from Fushan and Sun Moon Lake). For now, enjoy the photos from today at work.

Since the fledgling is growing up so fast, the parents only feed it once an hour. Bottom left is the adult male barbet guarding the nest after we took a peek inside his home.

While barbet-observing today (this nest has one fledgling hatched about two weeks ago; however, it has already grown its green feathers when using the endoscope - supporting the idea that smaller clutch size leads to faster-developing youngs), a special-looking lizard caught my attention.

At first look, it is just a common Swinhoe's Japalura. However, after a closer look, I realized that it is missing its right arm.

Three-legged Swinhoe's Japalura (Japalura swinhonis) - 斯文豪氏攀蜥
It must be an old wound since everything looks healed, but it must provide some difficulties for an arboreal lizard like it.

Nevertheless, it seems to be in good health and quite agile without a part of the upper support.

Giving me a wink. Such a interesting fella.
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