Sun, Apr 01, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Bird race boosts conservation efforts, organizer says

Staff writer, with CNA

An international bird-watching competition in mountainous central Taiwan later this month has created a buzz among bird lovers and is expected to contribute to local conservation efforts, campaign organizers said yesterday.

So far more than 160 people have registered for the Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area International Bird Race, which will take place on April 13 and April 14, the organizer said. They include about two dozen participants from countries as far afield as Canada, the US and the UK.

“We are very excited to introduce this birders’ paradise to both local and foreign friends,” said Huang Po-chun (黃柏鈞), vice general secretary of the Chinese Wild Bird Federation.

The race will be held in a 3,963 hectare park area that ranges from 1,000m to 2,996m above sea level. The park is home to at least 107 bird species in 32 families, including the endemic Mikado pheasant, the federation said.

The competition has drawn much attention from the birder community because of its marathon-style rules, Huang said. Winners are those who observe the most bird species in 24 hours.

According to the organizers, for a bird to count, at least three members of a team must see or hear it at the same time.

During the first Dasyueshan bird race last year, the organizers said that 141 species of birds were recorded by around 100 participants in 24 hours.

“You must plan carefully in advance,” said Richard Foster, a seasoned bird guide running ecotours in Taiwan.

Having participated in last year’s competition, Foster, who is from Northern Ireland, said a strict schedule and research on the site were essential.

“This wacky scenario is just like the movie The Big Year,” bird guide Simon Liao (廖世卿) said, referring to the Hollywood comedy about three bird enthusiasts who spend a whole year documenting birds.

A guide for hundreds of foreign birders to Taiwan each year, Liao said the competition has much to offer because it both unites the bird watching population in Taiwan and spreads the idea of wildlife conservation.

“The intense yet friendly showdown is like a family reunion,” the former federation chairman said. “We know we are all competing with ourselves, no effort is spared.”

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