2021 Bird Counts in Taiwan

Hello. This is Mayu Komori from Team SPOON, a Japan-based sister organization of SAVE. I am a graduate student at Tokyo Institute of Technology spending 8 months in Taiwan to study Chinese and participate in bird surveys such as those introduced below.

I participated in the New Year bird count called “Taiwan New Year Bird Count (NYBC)” on 1/9/21 and “International Black-faced Spoonbill Census (IBFSC)” on 1/16/21!

NYBC is a counting event for migratory waterbirds held only in Taiwan. NYBC is organized by Taiwan Wild Bird Federation (TWBF), the Wild Bird Society of Taipei (WBST), the Kaohsiung Wild Bird Society (KWBS) and the Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute (TESRI). NYBC started in 2014. It is held every year from the end of December to the beginning of January for 23 days, with January 1st serving as a midpoint. Birds inhabiting each habitat type are counted throughout Taiwan.

It was very cold on 1/9 when I participated in the NYBC, when the second big cold wave was coming to Tainan. In order to survive the cold, many birds that I saw were hiding behind trees and earthen walls and staying still. Mr. Pan of the Wild Bird Society of Tainan, one of the coordinators, said that due to the cold weather, there were few birds and the count was lower than usual. But I was able to observe a total of more than 40 species of birds in the area I counted. It was the first time I saw so many birds and many local species in Taiwan. I was very moved.

IBFSC is an event that counts the Black-faced Spoonbills (BFS) in each of its habitats all over the world, for three days in January. IBFSC began in 1993; the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (HKBWS) coordinates all of the groups participating from different countries. The survey date for 2021 was from 1/15 to 1/17. The reason for doing it during the three days of January is that most of the BFS have finished migrating, and the BFS stay stably in the wintering spot during this time.

The Tainan area count is led by both the Wild Bird Society of Tainan and the Taiwan Black-Faced Spoonbill Conservation Association (BFSA). The two organizations have different survey areas. They collaborate and count the BFS in Tainan by division of labor. We conducted surveys in four BFS habitats: Tainan, Kaohsiung, Chiayi, and Yunlin. I participated in the count of the area conducted by the Wild Bird Society of Tainan and counted the BFS at the Tainan Tucheng District. The 16th was warm because of the big cold wave had passed, so I was able to observe and count many BFS. I counted from 7 to 10:30 a.m. at Tainan Tucheng District, and I was able to observe about 360 BFS. The time I counted was breakfast time for the BFS, so I searched for them mainly in the fishponds. Mr. Guo, member of the Wild Bird Society of Tainan, said that the BFS are not in the same place every day or every year, so we investigated all the places where the BFS might be.

It seems that counting takes a lot of time. We need to watch BFS carefully so that we don’t miss the flying spoonbills. The flying BFS guides us to the place where other BFS are staying. Fortunately, I was able to observe more than 100 BFS staying in one fishpond, eating, and resting. This scenery was really amazing, so I forgot the time and was fascinated by BFS.

Participating in the NYBC and IBFSC, I was very moved that all the participants love the birds and are working hard to protect them. And I strongly felt that I would continue to do my part to protect this landscape with BFS and many other birds. I appreciate Mr. Pan and Mr. Guo!!

I have more spoonbill news. More than 20 BFSs were infected with botulism throughout Taiwan recently. According to Mr. Guo, 12 BFSs were infected with botulism from December 2020 to early January 2021 in Tainan City. This is more than a typical year. Unfortunately, 6 of the 12 have already died. It seems like there are two causes. First, there was little rainfall in Taiwan in 2020 so the water level in the wetlands has dropped and the water has dried up and many fish died. When a fish dies and its carcass rots, Clostridium botulinum grows. Also, wintering birds are vulnerable to sudden cold weather. They can’t move, so they can’t get enough food to maintain their physical strength. The cold wave is also thought to be a cause of fish die-off, and it is thought that a sudden cold also leads to an increase in Clostridium botulinum. Many fish that are thought to dead due to the cold wave were found in the Budai salt pans on 1/5/21.

Three BFSs were released in the Sicao Wildlife Refuge in Tainan City having recovered from botulism. They were equipped with T95, T97, and T98 foot rings. I participated in this event! When the door of the box that contained the birds opened for release, they came out cautiously and then flew off.

Two of the remaining BFS yet to be released are said to have eye problems and are still being treated. The other is undergoing rehabilitation because its physical strength has not fully recovered.

The following images are courtesy of Mayu Komori, used with permission.
Click on an image to see it at higher resolution.

Birds hiding behind trees and staying still on 1/9/21

Black-faced Spoonbills eating breakfast at fishpond on 1/16/21

Counting the Black-faced Spoonbills for IBFSC on 1/16/21

Releasing three Black-faced Spoonbills — T95, T97, and T98 — on 1/19/21

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