Birding Highlights of Taiwan 2017 Series
“Apart from scanty records of individual sightings and specimen records from Borneo, exact wintering grounds of Fairy Pitta (Pitta nympha) remains quite a mystery, yet to be ascertained by scientific researchers.
“Personally, in the past I had made no less than ten visits to Sarawak and Sabah in one decade and have not once encountered a Fairy Pitta.
“Readers who had enjoyed many contributed articles of Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis) at BESG will disagree to say, Avian Writer can’t tell difference between the two species, if encountered a nympha bird.
“As such, I will not be too quick to say/accept that Fairy Pittas find their wintering grounds in Borneo, until more promising sightings get documented.
“Classified as ‘Vulnerable’ status under IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, breeding grounds of these colourful birds are known to be SE China, Taiwan ROC, South Korea and Southern Japan.
“In Taiwan ROC, these breeding visitors arrive as early as mid-April. Known to locals as ‘Pak Sik Neo’ (eight coloured bird), the tone phrase hilariously sounds somewhat like, ‘kill mother-in-law’ in the Chinese Hokkien dialect.
“There are several locations where these endearing Fairy Pittas be found. Their habitat range/population is constantly monitored annually; mainly by researchers from the TESRI (Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute) under the stalwartship of Prof. Scott Lin (above).
“To chance a ‘no guarantee’ view of Pitta nympha, visitors – local/overseas, need to make a Mecca trip to Linnei Township, Yunlin County. Linnei Township and its surroundings is a popular, designated location known for high concentrations of this 16-19.5cm breeding migrant.
“To know more about this nympha bird is to visit ‘Pitta Café’ in Huben Ecovillage- the only village café where lots of information may be had (above, below).
“Be delightfully surprised to receive decent, freshly brewed coffee, very acceptable by western standards from this friendly and homely joint (above, below).
“An active member of MAPS Program (Conservation of birds and their habitats by demographic monitoring), owner JH Chen with Manageress Ms. Yao of Pitta Café, co-host visiting individuals and groups, meetings, bird organisations and bird banding workshops etc. (next 4 images below)
“The BnB functions also as a modest guesthouse, providing home stay facilities with meals, free access to mini bird library, exhibition materials of Pitta nymphas’ old nests, free internet and bicycle use and a souvenir purchase corner (last 2 images below).
“For a probable ‘sure’ and brief US$100 view of Fairy Pitta in the wild, birders with tight travel itinerary, generous cash flow, need hire the only freelance and converted trapper- bird guide in Huben Ecovillage.
“Be transported to a secret site at predawn hours, watched the maestro execute a ‘Pavlov’s experiment’ by blasting call backs of pitta bird from his pre-recording device and await a meek, curious, breeding bird appears from amongst the trees tops! All over by breakfast morning, leave satisfied… but no guarantee of any photo opportunity.
“Or… if one is highly spirited, possesses excellent field craft, four wheels to scout around, extremely lucky to hear and locate the breeding call of a Fairy Pitta, check into overnight accommodation, get more bird sighting tips from friendly, in-house guests, hit the road by 0430hours next morning, stay focus and pursue that same bird call that had hypnotised your mental faculties over night…
“The chances of seeing the nympha bird is good, if… born under a lucky star. Give yourself a twitcher’s tick on the wanted birds’ list, still hang on to your ‘Benjamin’ and move on happy!
“My scheduled stay in Huben Ecovillage would usually be no less than a week for each trip, with ample time to savour the laid back, simple country lifestyle of friendly Taiwanese people.
“I enjoyed observing birds in different seasons during numerous visits and became acquainted with visiting guests, science researchers and fostered many good friendships over the course of my stays at Pitta Cafe.
“Fairy Pitta is much photographed and well researched and documented by residents and science researchers in Taiwan ROC. As such, my visit in April-May 2017 was a one chance opportunity to view a life Fairy Pitta in the wild. Not too different to compare a visit to Paris and not get to see the Eiffel Tower or vice-versa.
“Fairy Pitta is a close cousin of the Blue-winged Pitta – the latter, an endearing bird I fondly monitor and have become familiar with in P. Malaysia. Together, they form a superspecies with the Indian Pitta (Pitta brachyura) and Mangrove Pitta (Pitta megarhyncha) for their similar coloured plumages.
“Now where does Avian Writer fit in to see a Fairy Pitta bird without letting go a hundred bucks, tread carefully on haloed grounds, have only pedal and leg power and humping a third eyed, photographer companion – DGscope?
:The answer came in the form of… Part 2 – the finale!”
Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
Copyright article and all copy images
Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund
Reference: Birdlife International
The Birds of Borneo by B.E.Smythies. Revised by G.W.H. Davison 4th Edition.