Taiwan, Okinawa and Amami Islands
March 18-April 1, 2018.Tour Fee: $8,750 single / $7,575 double occupancy
For years, I have been fascinated with the endangered Okinawa, or Pryer’s, Woodpecker. A combination of factors got my attention: the bird’s subtle yet striking plumage; its tenacity, clinging to restricted habitat by a thread; and its phylogeny, or the story of its origin—how did it get to Okinawa, which woodpeckers are its closest cousins, and how has it adapted to this rather small island. For answers, I really needed to visit the bird in its native habitat. But a trip to one small Japanese island to see one woodpecker seemed a little extravagant. I recently learned of another threatened endemic woodpecker on another island in Japan’s Ryukyu archipelago. The Amami Woodpecker lives on Amami-oshima, just spitting distance from Okinawa, and it shares the island with several other endemic and Ryukyu specialty birds. Certainly, visiting two islands in the Ryukyus would make more of an adventure. But, could I really get people excited about visiting these two pint-sized Japanese islands?
Enter Arco Huang, Taiwanese native and international birding guide. We met Arco through a trusted friend of a trusted friend. Arco had led tours to Okinawa and Amami several times in search of island endemics, and this is exactly what we wanted. Right away, Arco said to us, “Why not add Taiwan to the tour? We have 25 endemic bird species.” My ears perked up. Of course. Taiwan would be the perfect complement to the comparatively tiny Ryukyus.
In March 2017, we traveled to Taiwan, Okinawa, and Amami to scout the region for a potential tour. I came home with a list of 172 birds, including 34 island endemics, 51 endemic subspecies, and 102 life birds. And, the whole trip was pretty easy. We enjoyed easy access to unique habitats, mostly on paved roads; we loved being immersed in the unique Asian culture, including the best sushi I have ever tasted; we experienced excellent birding, with great looks at nearly all of our desired bird species; and as a bonus, we found a skilled, personable birding guide who speaks excellent English and knows where to find the birds on all three islands.
We put the trip on the calendar for March 2018, and we want you to be the first to join us on this exciting excursion. The two threatened woodpeckers will be only two of many highlights. From gorgeous parks to quiet villages, and from Taiwan’s Swinhoe’s Pheasant to the Amami Thrush, we are ready to make you some fabulous memories!
-Your host and guide, Stephen Shunk
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