The Beautiful Isle

A 14-day, small group birdwatching tour to Taiwan

Our autumn birding tour to Taiwan will introduce you to some of the loveliest parts of the 'Beautiful Isle', with the emphasis on finding its endemic birds of hill and forest. From sublime Swinhoe’s and Mikado Pheasants stalking through mist-laden oriental woodlands, to exotic Taiwan Blue Magpies cavorting in the subtropical canopy, Taiwan boasts 30 or so endemic birds. A November visit also adds the thrill of alluring winter visitors and East Asian specialities, including many shorebirds and the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill, plus migrants - past surprises include Japanese Thrush, and Ryukyu and Japanese Robins!

Tour Dates & Prices

Sun 15th November 2020

Sat 28th November 2020

  • Booking Closed

Sun 14th November 2021

Sat 27th November 2021

  • Booking Closed

Tour Cost: 14 Days from £4795 inc return flights from London Heathrow

Deposit: £600Single Supp: £525Land Only: £4195Group Size: 10Leaders:  Colin Bushell & local guides
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What's Included?

  • Limosa Tour Leader
  • Expert English-speaking Taiwanese bird guide
  • Return flights - London Heathrow to Taipei
  • 11 nights accommodation in Taiwan, staying at good tourist hotels and forest lodges
  • All main meals - with drinking water provided
  • Minibus transport
  • All excursions, local guides, entry fees, permits
  • All tour-based tips (local guides, drivers) & taxes
  • Map & Limosa Checklist of birds

Cost Excludes

Insurance, airport snacks/meals, drinks & other items of a personal nature

View or Download Tour Info Pack


Regional departures: Cathay Pacific flights from Manchester also possible (subject to schedule and availability), please ask at time of booking. • The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights

Tour Cost: 14 Days from £4795* inc return flights from London Heathrow

Deposit: £600Single Supp: £525*Land Only: £4195*Group Size: 10Leaders:  Colin Bushell & local guides
Join the Wait List

* 2020 tour costs shown. Please note costs for our 2021 tour TBA (available summer 2020)

What's Included?

  • Limosa Tour Leader
  • Expert English-speaking Taiwanese bird guide
  • Return flights - London Heathrow to Taipei
  • 11 nights accommodation in Taiwan, staying at good tourist hotels and forest lodges
  • All main meals - with drinking water provided
  • Minibus transport
  • All excursions, local guides, entry fees, permits
  • All tour-based tips (local guides, drivers) & taxes
  • Map & Limosa Checklist of birds

Cost Excludes

Insurance, airport snacks/meals, drinks & other items of a personal nature

View or Download Tour Info Pack


Regional departures: Cathay Pacific flights from Manchester also possible (subject to schedule and availability), please ask at time of booking. • The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights

Tour Highlights

  • Birding on subtropical Taiwan - one time Formosa, the 'Beautiful Isle'
  • Around 30 Taiwan endemic birds - and more than 60 endemic subspecies - to be found
  • Exquisite Mikado and Swinhoe’s Pheasants, Taiwan Partridge and Taiwan Bamboo Partridge to look for
  • Collared and White-browed Bush Robins, Flamecrest, Steere’s Liocichla, Taiwan Yuhina
  • Good range of wintering East Asian waders - plus the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill
  • Migrants such as Daurian Redstart, Siberian Rubythroat, Eyebrowed Thrush, Black-faced Bunting
  • Small group tour - maximum 10 participants
  • Expertly led by Limosa’s Colin Bushell and ‘KC’, our resident English-speaking Taiwanese bird guide

Outline Itinerary

  • Fly London Heathrow-Taipei, arriving on Day 2. Night Taipei

  • Morning visit to Yangmingshan before heading south. We explore the forests of Guguan and the lower slopes of Dasyueshan. Dongshi (2 nts)

  • We head uphill to bird the tranquil highland forests of Dasyueshan and Anmashan. Night Dasyueshan

  • A further morning at Dasyueshan, then descend to Taiwan's west coast wetlands for Black-faced Spoonbill. Night Putai

  • Visit the Putai wetlands and Ba Zhang estuary for shorebirds, Chinese Egret and Saunders's Gull. We then head to the southernmost tip of Taiwan, home to the endemic Styan's Bulbul. Night Kenting

  • After birding Longluan Lake and Kenting, we return north to the Tainan wetlands via Yingda Eco Farm. Night Chiayi

  • Inland to explore the mountain forests of Alishan National Park, in central Taiwan. Alishan (2 nts)

  • We continue through the interior mountains to reach the highland forests at Qingjing. Night Qingjing

  • We drive up to the high passes at Hehuanshan and Wuling (3275m / 10,740ft), before travelling on to Taiwan's north coast. Night Keelung

  • A chance to look for migrants at the coast and to visit forests close to Taipei. Evening departure from Taipei to London

  • Morning arrival London

Trip Info
Trip Reports
mikado pheasant 3a taiwan 191118.jpg
The exquisite Mikado Pheasant is Taiwan's national bird - and it is not hard to see why! © Brian Small, Limosa

Christened Isla Formosa - the 'Beautiful Isle' - by early Portuguese sailors, Taiwan sits astride the Tropic of Cancer. It measures less than 250 miles from top to toe, and just 89 miles across. Yet its dramatic mountainous spine, deep cut forested valleys and broad coastal plain are home to a remarkable 30 or so endemic bird species and more than 60 endemic bird subspecies - including several potential 'splits' waiting in the wings! In November, we can also expect to encounter a good range of East Asian specials, including migrants and winter visitors.

Much of our time will be spent exploring Taiwan's well-protected forests, mainly in the mountains, where the amazing birdlife includes an excellent collection of southern Chinese hill birds - many of which are better seen here than anywhere on the mainland - along with 15 or more of the endemic species found only Taiwan. We will also enjoy some time in the bird-rich lowland forests, haunt of the exotic Taiwan Blue Magpie and the recently split Taiwan Barbet, along with many others. And a visit to the coastal lowlands will add a wide selection of wetland birds – shorebirds abound and we have good chances of seeing the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill (well over 500 were recorded on our November 2018 tour), along with Chinese Egret and Saunders's Gull.

Our birding begins in the north of Taiwan, around the capital Taipei, perhaps watching Malayan Night Herons indulging in a bizarre tug of war with giant earthworms and familiarising ourselves with common lowland species such as Light-vented Bulbul and Brown Shrike.

From there we head south to Taichung, swinging inland and climbing up onto the mountainous ridge that runs the length of Taiwan. Birding at elevations up to 2000m (6500ft), the deciduous and evergreen forests at Basianshan, Dasyueshan and Anmashan are home to most of the island's endemic birds and we’ll spend time here looking for them. Oft shrouded in a delicate mist, the unspoiled upland forests shelter such delights as Taiwan Yuhina, Flamecrest and Steere’s Liocichla, as well as the trickier Taiwan Cupwing and Taiwan Shortwing – and our 2018 tour also saw a white-headed Taiwan Thrush (recently ‘split’ from Island Thrush).

Taiwan’s two endemic pheasants are very special prizes that will lure us deeper into the forest. Swinhoe’s Pheasant - described by some as the most beautiful bird in the world - haunts the deciduous tracts, while the magnificent Mikado Pheasant stalks the cooler evergreen woodlands. Here the delightful endemic White-whiskered Laughingthrush is common - and very tame!

Dropping back down on to the coastal plain, the wetlands near Tainan (on Taiwan's west coast) are famous for wintering flocks of rare Black-faced Spoonbills as well as wintering and passage waders that throng the coastal mudflats and marshes there. Pacific Golden Plover, Marsh Sandpiper, and Red-necked and Long-toed Stints are among the most numerous species.

November is not just a terrific month for seeing almost all of Taiwan’s endemic birds, it’s also a time when migrants from Northern Asia will be arriving. While some will spend the winter here, for others Taiwan is merely a stepping stone en route to their winter quarters in the Philippines and Borneo. The island's spectacular north coast can be productive and makes an ideal place to conclude our travels. Eyebrowed, Pale, Dusky and Naumann's Thrushes, Siberian Rubythroat, Olive-backed Pipit, and Black-faced and Yellow-throated Buntings were among migrants seen on our visit there in 2017, while in November 2018 we encountered Ryukyu and Japanese Robins, plus Brown-backed and Japanese Thrushes!

As a destination, Taiwan not only possesses a great avifauna but a host of other delights: the Taiwanese people are friendly and welcoming, the scenery is often superb and the country has all the benefits of a thriving economy, a well-developed infrastructure... and an excellent field guide! With 30 endemic birds to be found, many endemic subspecies poised for ‘upgrading’ and the thrill of late autumn birding along the busy 'East Asian Flyway', there is so much to look forward to.

Our November 2020 and 2021 tours will be Limosa’s fifth and sixth visits to Taiwan in autumn - and guide Colin Bushell’s fourth and fifth visits there for us - in the company of ‘KC’, our resident English-speaking Taiwanese bird guide.

Travel to Taiwan with Limosa and discover the bountiful birdlife of the 'Beautiful Isle'!

Collared Bush Robin Taiwan Peter Tapsell.jpg
One of the best-looking of all Taiwan's endemic birds, the stunning Collared Bush Robin can be seen in the highlands © tour participant Peter Tapsell

Days 1 - 2
Our autumn birdwatching tour to Taiwan commences with a Cathay Pacific flight from London Heathrow overnight to Hong Kong, with an onward connection next morning to Taiwan. We'll be met on arrival in Taiwan by our local guide and transfer the short distance into Taipei.

Depending on flight schedules, there may be time for a visit to Taipei Botanical Gardens this afternoon, for a gentle introduction to some common lowland species. Birds to expect include Spotted Dove, Light-vented Bulbul, Oriental Turtle Dove, Swinhoe’s White-eye and perhaps a Taiwan Scimitar Babbler or Taiwan Barbet. With care we might also locate a Crested Myna amongst the more common Javan Mynas before heading to our city hotel for dinner. Night Taipei

Day 3

Our main targets this morning will be Malayan Night Heron and the gorgeous Taiwan Blue Magpie - Quianshan Park, on the slopes of Yangmingshan National Park being one of the most reliable spots to see this localised cobalt blue endemic. In company with Grey Treepies they sweep in, then off again in noisy parties.

We will also hope to get our first views of Taiwan Whistling Thrush here, and should find a tame Malayan Night Heron or two - seemingly undaunted by the presence of local residents performing Tai Chi in the park! The night herons feed on the island's giant earthworms and, if one is found, a tug of war begins with the heron heaving backwards with all its weight to lever the worm a few more inches out of the ground. Such contests can last for 10-15 minutes, until the two-foot long worm is finally extracted. Watching the night heron swallow the worm can last just as long - a sight not to be missed!

Leaving Taipei, we drive south this afternoon to Dongshi, on the lower mountain slopes east of Taichung, where we will stay two nights. A spot of late afternoon birding by a river might well produce our first Taiwan Hwamei. Night Dongshi

Day 4

After an early breakfast in Dongshi, we swing south, following the incised valley into the hills where we’ll begin our exploration of the forests that still cloak the lower slopes of Taiwan’s scenic mountainous spine.

We start at Guguan, near Baxianshan National Forest. Its mix of evergreen and broad-leaved woodlands include stands of Taiwan Red Pine, Red and Green Maples, and Taiwan Incense Cedar, while Taiwan White Pine grows along the higher ridges. This fine landscape hosts many key bird species and we have a second chance here of Taiwan Blue Magpie. The forested slopes of the gorge are one of the best places to see Chestnut-bellied Tit (recently split from Varied Tit), so it's well worth the journey to see this attractive endemic.

At these lower altitudes we are likely to encounter Collared Finchbill, Pacific Swallow, Taiwan Scimitar Babbler and Rufous-capped Babbler, while the diminutive Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker might also put in an appearance. Crossing the river via a footbridge, we may be treated to Taiwan Whistling Thrush, Grey-chinned Minivet, Brown Dipper, White-bellied Erpornis, Plumbeous Water Redstart and the endemic Grey-cheeked Fulvetta.

Returning to Dongshi, we have time this afternoon to explore the lower slopes of Dasyueshan (which translates literally as ‘Big Snow Mountain’). The forested slopes here host most of the island’s endemic birds and, as we climb a little higher this afternoon, we will stop for our first exciting chance of the endemic Swinhoe’s Pheasant along the road. Flocks of endearing Black-throated Bushtits, Taiwan Yuhinas, Rufous-faced Warblers and various tits forage through the woodlands - and by keeping quiet, maybe a group of Taiwan Partridges will appear as well! Night Dongshi

Day 5

Following an early breakfast near our hotel, we head higher into the renowned Dasyueshan Forest. Although much of Taiwan’s lowland forest has now been lost, the woodlands that clothe the upper slopes of the mountainous interior remain largely intact.

Along the way we can hope to find the delightful Vivid Niltava, rattling flocks of Black Bulbul and the distinctive Taiwanese form of Grey-headed Woodpecker. We should also encounter the endemic Formosan Macaque, the island's only primate. With luck, we might catch sight of a Silver-backed Needletail as it rockets overhead; this recently discovered population appears to be resident in Taiwan but ranges over a vast area so encounters outside the breeding season are inevitably a bit hit-and-miss.

Most species are quite common within the flocks and we are likely to see the crested (and endemic) Taiwan race of Coal Tit along with Green-backed and Yellow Tits, Fire-breasted and Plain Flowerpeckers and the island's endemic race of Eurasian Jay - looking quite different to the birds we see at home. As excitement builds, the frenzy of activity often attracts other birds to join in and we may well spot some familiar faces such as Eurasian Nuthatch and Wren, too. With luck, the excited calls will lure a Collared Owlet with its rhythmic, four-note whistle. This diurnal owlet preys principally on small birds.

Dasyueshan provides ready access to areas of both primary deciduous and evergreen forest that are home to a wide range of hill country birds. We are sure to see many of Taiwan's endemic forest birds here, from White-whiskered Laughingthrush and Taiwan Barwing to Steere’s Liocichla and the lovely White-eared Sibia. With luck, we might come across a wintering White’s Thrush feeding quietly beside the trail - and in 2018, were fortunate to find a striking white-headed male Taiwan Thrush (split by some from Island Thrush) feasting in some trees near the restaurant!

The pristine Trochodendron and pine forest around our cabins can be a good place to see Ashy Wood Pigeon and the endearing Brown Bullfinch, while a nearby waterfall is home to Little Forktail. In winter, Rufous-crowned Laughingthrushes gather into roving flocks and this species becomes perhaps the most difficult of Taiwan's endemics to find, but we will give them our very best efforts.

If conditions are suitable, after our evening meal we have chances to look for Chinese Muntjac in the forests. The charismatic Red-and-white Giant Flying Squirrel, Chinese Ferret-badger and endemic Taiwan Serow (an elusive goat-like creature) are also possible up here. Night Dasyueshan Forest Recreation Area

Day 6

Early mornings at Dasyueshan are not to be missed! As we drive this morning, we venture higher still into the heart of Taiwan's majestic central mountains. Here, we will search for one of the island’s greatest avian prizes: the exquisitely beautiful Mikado Pheasant, Taiwan's national bird. Endemic to Taiwan, these deep midnight blue pheasants are found amidst the highest evergreen forests, where we should also come across the confiding White-whiskered Laughingthrush and Formosan Striped Squirrel. Nearby, we will be alert for those two stunning Tarsiger chats: White-browed Bush Robin and the very smart endemic Collared Bush Robin.

Heading back down, we’ll scour the grounds around our accommodation, where we may come across the tiny Taiwan Cupwing and Flamecrest, two more of the island’s mouth-watering endemics.

Late morning, we depart Dasyueshan to drop down through the hills today en route to the coast - though we may stop again on the lower slopes if we have species missing from our ‘endemic bucket’ and for a tasty roadside lunch.

We first head towards Taichung City, then swing south into Yumlin County for a dramatic change in scenery - and birds. Here, on Taiwan's west coast, areas of once extensive mudflats that were recently destroyed by land reclamation have unexpectedly reverted to coastal wetlands again in the wake of subsidence and the consequent cessation of farming in the area. In a remarkable turnaround, places such as Aogu and the Ba Zhang River estuary have now established themselves as the best places in Taiwan to see many coastal and wetland birds!

One target species here will be the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill. Over half the world population of 4000 birds winters in Taiwan, and good numbers should be present in November.

In such a rich environment, birds of prey such as Western Osprey and Black-winged Kite can be found hunting the fields and wetlands, with Yellow and Cinnamon Bitterns possible in the channels and ditches. Scrubby embankments may reveal the likes of Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Yellow-bellied and Plain Prinias (the latter of the endemic Taiwan race, flavirostris), Zitting Cisticola, Eastern Yellow Wagtail and mynas. With a little bit of luck (and patience), we might also encounter some of the scarcer or more skulking winter visitors that reach this part of Taiwan, such as Bull-headed Shrike and Siberian Rubythroat.

Scanning the open water is likely to reward us with a good range of winter wildfowl, including Common Pochard, Northern Shoveler, Garganey and maybe the smart Falcated Duck. We even had the good fortune to find a handsome drake Baikal Teal here on our November 2016 tour! Night Putai

Day 7

Right on our doorstep, we have time to enjoy some further birding in the coastal lowlands this morning, checking the saltpans and estuaries for waders and gulls. As well as more Black-faced Spoonbills and wildfowl, wintering waders can include Kentish and Lesser Sand Plovers, Pacific Golden Plover, Marsh Sandpiper and Long-toed and Red-necked Stints. Along with Intermediate Egret and Caspian and Whiskered Terns, there should be some Great Knot about, too. We may well encounter a few lingering passage waders, such as Terek or Sharp-tailed Sandpipers - and our November 2017 and 2018 groups found the rare Nordmann's Greenshank here.

With luck, we will again come across Far Eastern Curlew, the rare Saunders's Gull or even Chinese Egret on the Ba Zhang mudflats. But even if we are not quite so fortunate this year as last, there will nonetheless be a good variety of birds to enjoy before we head to our next overnight stop, Kenting, at the southernmost tip of Taiwan.

If time allows, we will pause along the way to visit an area of farmland that can be good in late autumn for buntings and Oriental Skylarks that ‘bizz’ overhead. Bulky Richard Pipits and introduced Scaly-breasted Munias and Indian Silverbills can also be found - and in 2018, we came across a communal roost of 15 or more Savanna Nightjars before continuing south along the coast road to our hotel. Night Kenting

Day 8

We'll spend some time exploring at Kenting this morning. Our main focus will be the Longluan Lake area and - after ensuring we have seen the endemic Styan's Bulbul well - we will search for birds in the open country, scrub and ponds as well as on the huge lake itself.

The range-restricted Styan's Bulbul is found only in southeastern Taiwan, down to Kenting, and is the main reason for our visit here. Its population is under threat from hybridisation with the closely related Light-vented Bulbul - which is spreading as a result of habitat alteration and releases for religious purposes - and it is quite possible that genetically pure populations of Styan's Bulbul will disappear entirely within 20 years.

This is also a good place for another endemic, the Taiwan Hwamei, that sings loudly from thickets. Eastern Marsh Harriers quarter the fields, flushing Eastern Spot-billed Ducks from the small ponds, and we should see Striated Swallows and White-shouldered Starlings perched on the roadside wires. Careful scanning over the open country may reveal the presence of small flocks of Oriental Skylarks and munias, with Brown Shrikes hunting from fence posts.

Leaving Kenting later this morning, we head back north to Tainan, breaking our journey with a stop at Yingda Eco Farm. Here we hope to find the handsome Maroon Oriole - the subspecies (ardens) here being a possible future 'split'.

Continuing north, we’ll make a couple of afternoon stops at wetlands for more shorebirds and wildfowl – including a chance of Falcated Duck and Baikal Teal at Qieding. Pheasant-tailed Jacanas are numerous in the rice paddies of Guantian district and we'll also hope to see a few Greater Painted-snipe here - although they can be very elusive indeed! Night Chiayi

Days 9 - 10

Leaving Chiayi after breakfast, we head back up into the mountains today. Our destination is the Alishan National Scenic Area (in central Taiwan), which will be our base for the next two nights.

We will stop along the way to stretch our legs and try for the difficult Taiwan Bush Warbler. In the thick vegetation from which they sometimes call, we will be hoping for at least a glimpse of this endemic Locustella - we were lucky on our 2018 tour, when three were seen, albeit briefly. Collared Finchbill, Rusty Laughingthrush, Taiwan Scimitar Babbler and Steere’s Liocichla are also possible as we watch and wait for the elusive bush warbler to appear.

Continuing on to our lodgings at Alishan adds chances of Taiwan Bamboo Partridge, Brown-flanked Bush Warbler and the delectable Daurian Redstart.

Rising early next morning, we drive up high to Tataka, at around 2700m (8860ft) in the Yushan National Park. This is an excellent area for birds and endemics we should find in the evergreen forest here include the cracking Collared Bush Robin, Taiwan Fulvetta and the aptly named Flamecrest. With luck, the furtive Yellow-bellied Bush Warbler will show in roadside grasses.

The higher altitude roads and forest trails offer further opportunities to search for the secretive Mikado Pheasant - always a more elusive bird than Swinhoe’s. At these elevations, other species to watch out for include White-backed Woodpecker, White-whiskered Laughingthrush, Taiwan Shortwing, Golden Parrotbill, the crested local form of Coal Tit, White-browed Bush Robin and Grey-headed Bullfinch.

As we enter the forest of hemlock and dwarf bamboo at the highest points, we should meet the distinctive endemic Taiwan race of Southern Nutcracker, with its silver-spotted cheeks. If it is clear up here (hopefully, we will be up above the clouds), the views here are breathtaking. In the distance, we may be able to see Taiwan’s highest peak, Yushan, which stands just short of 4000m (13,000ft).

One evening, if it is fine, we can try our luck with Northern Boobook, and Mountain and Collared Scops Owls. Two nights Alishan

Day 11

Before leaving Alishan today we have a last opportunity to find some of our "missing" birds from the lower elevations here. Crested Serpent Eagle (another of Taiwan's endemic subspecies), Black Eagle and Mountain Hawk-eagles could be soaring overhead, along with smaller species of raptor including Crested Honey Buzzard and Crested Goshawk. Various buntings, flycatchers and pipits are possible during our walks amid secondary forest that also holds White-bellied Green Pigeon, Emerald Dove, Dusky Fulvetta, White-tailed Robin and the endemic Rusty Laughingthrush. This area also offers perhaps our best chance of seeing the oft-elusive Black-necklaced Scimitar Babbler.

We descend, then climb back up again to reach the ‘alpine’ resort of Qingjing, where the locals come to ‘chill out’ – away from the heat of the coast! This ‘unique’ town lies an elevation of 1720m (5650ft), and is renowned for its sheep population as well as being an ideal base to try again for highland bird species the following morning. Night Qingjing

Day 12

Before leaving Qingjing today, we should have time to check the hotel grounds for migrants. In the past we have been very fortunate, seeing flocks of Eyebrowed Thrushes and careful scrutiny has produced Pale and Brown-headed Thrushes in with them. We have also enjoyed Black-necklaced Scimitar Babblers here, along with Taiwan Bamboo Partridge, Manchurian Bush Warbler, Taiwan Hwamei, Siberian Rubythroat, Brown-flanked Bush Warblers and Black-faced Bunting.

From Qingjing we climb ever higher until we reach the high passes at Hehuanshan and Wuling Shan - the latter a breathtaking 3275m (10,740ft) above sea level. Hopefully we will enjoy good weather up here, but please be aware it can be very cold and windy at times, and shrouded in low cloud. If conditions are good however, we could enjoy some first-rate birding this morning. Key specialities to watch for include the richly coloured endemic Taiwan form of Alpine Accentor (which can often be found in the car park), the simply gorgeous Taiwan Rosefinch (formally lumped with Vinaceous Rosefinch), Collared Bush Robin and White-whiskered Laughingthrush.

In the afternoon we descend from the mountains and travel north via the west coast highway, completing the long drive through Taipei to reach Keelung, on the island's north coast. Night Keelung

Day 13

Keelung lies conveniently within an hour or so's drive of Taipei Airport. Since our flight home doesn't depart until this evening, we should be able to enjoy the best part of today in the field as we take the opportunity to check for migrants and winter visitors arriving on Taiwan’s north coast.

One of the best sites for migrants is the Jinshan Youth Centre grounds. By searching the park and scrubby borders here, we could well find a surprising number of interesting East Asian birds. Our last two visits have produced Dusky, Naumann's and Eyebrowed Thrushes, Siberian Rubythroat, Daurian Redstart, and Black-faced and Yellow-throated Buntings.

Not far away, the impressive Yehliu Geo Park may also be worth a visit - especially if there has been a recent arrival of migrants. Our November 2018 trip was blessed with some very exciting finds, including Ryukyu and Japanese Robins, Japanese and Brown-backed Thrushes, Red-flanked Blutails, Siberian Rubythroats, Asian Stubtails and two different subspecies of Japanese Bush Warbler!

As we return full circle towards Taipei, a visit to the low elevation forests of Yangming Shan ('Grass Mountain') National Park will offer us one last look at Taiwan's resident birds. On our 2016 and 2017 tours we enjoyed superb close views of the endemic Taiwan Bamboo Partridge here - a fitting finale to this exciting tour!

Our birding over, we continue to nearby Taipei Airport for farewells to our local guide and late afternoon check-in for flights home. Evening departure to Hong Kong, with onward overnight connection back to London.

Day 14

Early morning arrival in London on Day 14, where our birding tour to Taiwan tour concludes.

Swinhoe's Pheasant Taiwan Peter Tapsell.jpg
A stunning male Swinhoe's Pheasant at Dasyueshan puts on a great show for our group © tour participant Peter Tapsell

Our autumn tour to Taiwan will introduce you to some of the loveliest parts of the 'Beautiful Isle', with the emphasis on finding its endemic birds of hill and forest. From sublime Swinhoe’s and Mikado Pheasants stalking through mist-laden oriental woodlands, to exotic Taiwan Blue Magpies cavorting in the subtropical canopy, Taiwan boasts around 30 species of endemic birds.

November also adds alluring winter visitors and East Asian specialities, including the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill, many waders - plus chances of migrants such as Japanese Thrush and Ryukyu and Japanese Robins.

Overall this is not a strenuous tour. But please be aware that it's one that does involve a fair amount of travelling (necessary in order to find Taiwan's 30 or so endemic birds), and on which we spend more than one night at only two hotels - Dongshi (2 nts) and Alishan (2 nts).

You should be prepared for early starts, which are the norm for birding tours in tropical regions where the daylight hours are relatively short, and where bird activity is generally at its peak early and late but often dies away during the middle of the day. In late November, sunrise in Taiwan is around 6.30am and sunset at 5.30pm. It will be important to be in the field at dawn so that we can hear the birds calling as the day starts up - in some instances, this may be our only chance to discover if certain species are present or not, so we will naturally want to make the most of it.

Away from the coast, much of our birding in Taiwan will be in forest, from tropical lowland to temperate high montane. We’ll spend most of the time walking on level ground, birding from paved or unpaved roads or tracks, and on some forest trails with occasional steep sections, but these are quite short. As we may sometimes be on our feet for several hours at a stretch watching for birds, some participants may find it helpful to carry a lightweight collapsible stool.

With daytime temperatures in the coastal lowlands ranging between 18-26C (64-80F), November is one of the best times of the year to visit Taiwan. Conditions then are mostly sunny and pleasant, although early mornings will be cold in the higher hills. Although rainfall is relatively low here in November (Oct-Jan being the driest months of the year in Taiwan), note that we are likely to encounter some wet weather during our stay, especially in the lush mountains. Some rainfall is almost certain in and around Taipei and the north coast, where it can also be humid.

The weather in Taiwan's central mountains will be considerably cooler, with temperatures decreasing as we climb higher. It will be cold (0-3C/32-37F) and is often damp at the highest elevations, with a high likelihood of mist and occasionally heavy rain. At night, temperatures in the mountains may drop below freezing, and even the days will likely feel cool above 2000m (6500ft).

170-210 species

5-10 species

11 nights accommodation in Taiwan. Our hotels are well placed for easy exploration of the areas we shall be birding in, with those away from the major cities being of the highest standard available. Those in Taipei, Dongshi, Putai, Chiayi, Kenting and Keelung are modern and comfortable tourist hotels. At Dasyueshan, in Taiwan’s mountainous interior, we stay at a rustic lodge; the Alishan Gou Hotel at Alishan is a simple, modern hotel; and at Qingjing, we stay at a local hotel - all are the best available. All rooms have private facilities.

All main meals are included in the tour price, commencing with lunch or dinner in Taiwan on Day 2 (according to flight schedules) and concluding with lunch on Day 13.

Larger hotels generally provide an international buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner, while smaller establishments tend to serve a delicious and nourishing Chinese meal from a set menu.

Lunches will either be picnics or taken at a convenient restaurant or store along the way, according to local availability and whichever arrangement best suits our daily plan. There are plenty of opportunities to buy 'trail food' at local convenience stores in Taiwan. These places often have seating areas to eat meals there, too - which we have found to be surprisingly good!

Please note! Many restaurants in Taiwan offer set menus only and are unable to accommodate special requests for participants with significant food allergies or special dietary needs.

Few of the restaurants we visit routinely provide knives and forks with meals. Instead chopsticks (often disposable wooden ones) are used. If you are not used to eating with chopsticks, you may prefer to bring your own lightweight cutlery (knife, fork, spoon) with you from home.

The walking effort is mostly easy on this tour, along established paths and trails. The going can be more moderate at times in the mountains, with occasionally longer walks here and at the coast. At Alishan, we shall be birding at altitudes of up to 2500m (8200ft). Inevitably when walking in the mountains, there will be some steep sections along roads and tracks, and one or two places we visit involve descending well-made steps. These sections are usually quite short and, wherever possible, we aim to drive uphill and then bird as we walk back down.

Comfortable lightweight, waterproof walking shoes or boots with stout corrugated soles for grip are recommended for this trip. Some participants might find walking poles or a walking stick-seat helpful.

Altitude: Wuling Pass is the highest point we reach on our Taiwan tour, at 3275m (10,740ft) above sea level. We do minimal walking here and shall be there only for a few hours at most (Day 12).

Return flights from London Heathrow to Taipei (change of planes in Hong Kong), with Cathay Pacific. Flights from Manchester also possible (subject to schedule and availability, please ask at time of booking).

Ground Transport   By minibus or small coach with local driver.

White-eared Sibia Taiwan Brian Small.jpg
A sleek (and oddly squirrel-like in its behaviour) White-eared Sibia at Qingjing © Brian Small, Limosa

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