FEATURE: Taipei ornithologist promotes harmony

FEATHERED FRIENDS::The first thing keen bird-watcher Tseng Yun-lung buys on trips away is not a map of local tourist hotspots, but a handbook on local birdlife

By Wu Liang-yi and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 - Page 5

Most weekends and holidays, Tseng Yun-lung (曾雲龍), wearing boots, a multifunctional vest and cap, and carrying binoculars and a camera, can be seen at Guandu Nature Park in Taipei observing birds or hosting a bird-watching event.

The 48 year-old Tseng’s dedication to bird-watching is well-known among his colleagues, one of whom said Tseng once rushed to Hehuanshan (合歡山) at 10pm just to take pictures of a vinaceous rosefinch, and formed a group to visit Palau — not to snorkel, but to take photographs of birds endemic to the island.

“At work, I specialize in biochemicals; outside work I’m an ornithologist,” said Tseng, who works at a biotech company.

“No matter how busy my job gets, I still take every chance I get when I go on business trips to go bird-watching,” he said, adding that he packs his camera and scopes along with his laptop during these trips.

Tseng said the first thing he buys on business trips is not a map of local tourist hotspots, but an illustrated handbook of endemic birds.

“Whenever I go back to my hotel, it’s not to rest, but to change into casual clothes and head out for bird-watching and to take photographs,” he said.

Tseng has photographed more than 600 bird species. Although that is still far from his dream of taking pictures of the more than 9,000 bird species worldwide, he said he is happy every time he sets eyes on a species he has not seen before.

Tseng’s collection includes photographs of the Mikado pheasant, black-faced spoonbill, Muller’s barbet, demoiselle crane and Japanese robin.

Sometimes he chooses the more exceptional ones, has the pictures framed and gives them as gifts to friends and family.

As one of Guandu Nature Park’s management team, Tseng also organizes ecology tours and shares his many years of experience bird-watching with visitors.

The ecology, and in particular the birds, at Guandu, in Taipei’s Beitou District (北投), make it a world-class spot for bird-watchers, he said.

Commenting on the local birdwatching scene, Tseng said the quality of most bird-watchers has improved, but he is worried whether the scene has progressed enough.

Using the Swinhoe’s pheasant as an example, Tseng said the population of pheasants in Dongshih (東勢), Greater Taichung, has increased, but it was mainly due to feeding by photographers.

Some photographers entice the birds with food to get a good shot, but that goes against the bird’s natural feeding habits, he said.

“Animals may die because of such feeding,” Tseng said.

If a bird becomes accustomed to being fed, it might not sense danger if a person intent on catching it entices it with food, he said.

True bird-watchers “observe, research and preserve,” Tseng said, adding that bird-watchers should seek to co-exist in harmony with the natural environment.

“Let birds live happily in their natural habitats, so that future generations of people can also enjoy the joys of bird-watching,” Tseng said.