Saturday, October 20, 2012

Taipei International Birdwatching Fair 2012

I have never been out of the country, so when the opportunity to go to Taiwan to attend their annual birdwatching fair came along, I took it. Jops and I flew to Taipei to represent the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines in the 14th Taipei International Birdwatching Fair.

We arrived at the Taoyuan International Airport Friday afternoon and were arranged to be picked up by Mr. David Fang from the Wild Bird Society of Taipei (WBST.) To our pleasant surprise, we also found Andrew of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) there at the airport waiting for us (our flight was delayed...)

David drove us to the Chientan Overseas Youth Activity Center where we would be staying for the next few days. We were greeted by other WBST volunteers and were given our festival shirts. They were really nice, blue dri-fit shirts =) We checked-in, dropped of our bags, and were off to the Jiantan train station that would bring us to the welcome dinner.

The Chientan Overseas Youth Activity Center is a cluster of buildings
with a nice pond in the front.

Riding the train was just one of the many enjoyable parts of my Taipei adventure. It was so organized, clean, and efficient!

We got off the Zhuwei station and took a short walk to the Danshui Farm for the welcome dinner. It was a small river-side area with a stage and benches all around. A simple informal buffet was set up beside a whole roasted pig, Taiwan draft beer, and a juice station. After dinner, we were called to gather around a bonfire where we had a number of activities.

Delicious buffet!

Free-flowing Taiwan draft beer =)

Some chanting around the bonfire.

We took turns running around the bonfire with a lighted torch.

Some of the parlor games we played.

We sure had lots of games that night! I had a nasty bout of vertigo after the games (with WBST President James waving his hand in front of me as I stared blankly ahead to steady my vision!) but recovered by the time we headed back to the train station. The walk by the riverside helped clear my head. We settled in for the night, preparing for the bird fair the following day.

The Taipei bird fair was held at the Guandu Nature Park. We arrived mid-morning and immediately set-up our booth. We were situated with the other WBST do-it-yourself booths which had arts and crafts activities.

The WBCP booth =)

Since Jops and I were the only delegates from the Philippines, we had limited time to go around the fair and took turns manning the booth to go around a bit when we had no kids doing the activities. I was able to attend the opening ceremonies which included a cultural performance and some speeches.

Cultural dance number.
A portion of the well-attended bird fair.

Jops and I spent most of our time in the booth, with a steady stream of children dropping by and doing some coloring activities and making felt owls. Even with the language barrier, the joy in their faces upon seeing their finished artwork was communicated loud and clear =)

Jops helping some kids make their felt owls while other kids color.
Just look at her happy smile!!!

This little girl was really proud of her owl!

We were asked to pack-up around 4:30PM so we could take a tour around the park followed by a short film showing and then dinner. 

After dinner, as we were walking out of the park, Andrew heard an owl calling in the trees by the pathway. Without a second thought, Andrew, Jops, and I stalked towards the one-note call. It was getting louder! It was so near! A WBST volunteer followed us into the trail, telling us it was time to go, but we were drawn to the owl. After a few minutes, Andrew scanned the trees in front of us with Jops' flashlight. And there it was: a gorgeous Collared Scops Owl just a few feet away staring straight at us in an unobstructed view! We switched off the flashlight while Jops got his camera out, but when we switched it on again, the owl was gone. We were ecstatic with our owl sighting! Such a great and unexpected Taiwan lifer! The three of us were all big smiles as we ended day one =)

And so day two begins. Even if our booth was away from the other international organizations, Jops and I were quite lucky since we were situated with a great view of the wetlands. On our first day, we were able to see some female Green-winged Teals and a couple of Sacred Ibis. On the second day, a big flock of Ibis were already there when we arrived to setup! Around us were Light-vented Bulbus, Black Drongos, and Grey Treepies. We also saw Common Magpies (such nice birds!) and Oriental Turtle Doves.

A big flock of Sacred Ibis in the wetlands just in front of our booth!
A Black Drongo kept returning to perch near our booth.

Black-collared Starling. But we saw a HUGE flock of them in the park!

In the afternoon, Andrew was nice enough to drop by our booth and tell us about some Spot-billed Ducks in another area of the park. He offered to watch the booth while Jops and I ran to see the ducks =)

The two-day bird fair passed by too quickly. It was a lot of fun meeting new friends and seeing old ones (and  also the quick birding in between work.) We thoroughly enjoyed Guandu but we'd love for another chance to just bird and go around their excellent facilities. Who knows, maybe next year, we'd get that chance =)


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