Watching the Black-faced Spoonbill in Taiwan

Hold on

Hold on

While visiting my favorite drink stand the other day, I was invited to go bird watching. Foreseeing the chance for a novel adventure, I accepted.

The Black-faced Spoonbill, a bird species that lives in the coastal regions of eastern Asia, is considered endangered. As there are only about 2,000 of these birds left in the world, the BFSA (Black-faced Spoonbill Conservation Association) of Tainan County, Taiwan works to ensure the preservation of those remaining. Their efforts have been worth it, as the worldwide spoonbill population was at a mere 900 in 2002.

As it turns out, the man and woman who invited me along on their bird-scouting jaunt are members of the BFSA, and they typically spend their weekends recording local animal populations. So, we drove to Cigu, a flat expanse of land covered in man-made and natural lagoons. Everywhere I looked flocks of various birds dotted sky, land and water.

“Some say the Tainan area is a seabird paradise,” said the man who was with me.

And he was right. I had never seen so many birds. I spotted thousands of egrets, herons, ducks and other shorebirds all across the wetlands.

After venturing to various bird-watching sites, we arrived at one specifically dedicated to viewing the spoonbills. Nearly 800 of the birds, which rest during the day and are active during the night, were lined along shore. Then, as the sun began to set, they took flight and brought an end to our bird watching.

But, that wasn’t the end of the adventure. In addition to being home to thousands of birds, Cigu is also home to Salt Mountain. The Taiwan salt industry was shut down in 2002, leaving behind 50,000 tons of salt worth roughly $4 million. Since then, the “mountain,” which rises to about 65 feet, has become a popular stop for tourists. Visitors can climb to the top and catch a view of the surrounding area.

In addition to the big pile of salt, the site also features pony rides, food vendors, a salt museum and even a giant pig statue. Vendors offer all sorts of salty snacks ranging from salt coffee to salty ice cream. The ice cream comes in several flavors, including “blue algae grape” and “salty egg.” Though the taste wasn’t terrible, I’m quite used to ice cream made with sugar.

Salty ice cream and endangered birds – a novel adventure indeed.