Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Freeing A Kingfisher & A Brief Visit To "Linchu Reservoir"

Although the weather forecast for today had not been good, I decided that as it was the last day of the Chinese New Year holiday period (at least for me), I should get myself up early again to try and answer some questions. I left the house at 5.30am with the intention of seeing whether, and how far, I could follow some of the little farmer's roads adjacent to Luliao reservoir; not all roads appear on google maps, and not all roads that do appear on google maps end where they seem to on the map. The road that I had marked for further investigation on google maps turned out to have a locked gate fairly early on and was guarded by barking dogs. A second road I had tried out last year had led to a cul-de-sac; the only other possibility was to go right the way round to the back and see if I could find a way to approach the reservoir from the feeder river, but that prospect struck me as very likely to be a waste of time. So I will have to leave Luliao reservoir for now.

When I arrived there just before 7am however, I noticed something caught up in the netting one of the locals had strung up over a vegetable patch - presumably to hang various things from later. It was that brilliant blue and orange little bird also common back home in England, a Kingfisher, and it was still alive and occasionally struggling in the net in which it had become hopelessly entangled.

I briefly tried to disentangle the bird, but it was impossible without hurting him. The locals were still asleep, so I headed back off down to the village to buy a pair of scissors. When I got back I made quick work of it, cradling the bird in my hand while I severed the netting around him.

Almost as soon as I had cut away the last few lines that tied him to his unfortunate death trap, he jumped out of my hand and fell to earth. He tried hopping up to fly away but couldn't as there was still some netting tying up one of his wings and around his head and bill. I picked him up again and allowed him to bite my index finger while I worked the scissors to free him of the remaining nylon. I wasn't quite finished, but as soon as his wing and head were free he shot off toward the stream.

I was slightly amazed as I had worried he might be permanently injured and that I was going to have to decide what to do with him once I had freed him. I'm glad I didn't have to make that decision.

Afterward I headed off to find a pond at the edge of nearby Houbi district. In terms of surface area this pond is similar in scale to Luliao reservoir, though it is at a much lower elevation and is probably no more than a few feet deep at most. Somewhat intriguingly however, it actually has a name...

"Linchu reservoir". There were no nearby signs from either the Water Corporation or the WRSB however, so I suspect it may be just a natural pond that has been augmented by earthwork borders and a set of stone framed irrigation outlet gates. Small though it was it was obviously large enough (and clean enough) to induce plenty of locals to go fishing there...

The irrigation outlet gates, operated by screw-wheels at the top to raise and/or lower the gates as necessary. This design is ubiquitous throughout Taiwan.

There was also a very noisy, blue chicken coop at the edge of the water. Almost all of northern Tainan county is filled with chicken farms...

There was also this curious sign...

... which is strange because, aside from whatever "dabbting" was supposed to be a translation of (my guess is "dabbling" since there is a difference of only one letter), the authority of Baihe township is apparently out of its' jurisdiction since Linchu pond is in Houbi district just to the west of Baihe district, according to google maps...

Linchu reservoir is to the left of that map within the pink shaded area of Houbi district. Luliao reservoir lies in a straight line to the east and the similarity in size (area) is obvious. What I would like to know now is the history of the pond, i.e. when were the earthen borders and outlet gates erected? I stopped by at the local tourist office for the Shaonanhai tourist area (famed, as is Baihe district, for its lotus flowers) but being Chinese New Year, one of the few times people might conceivably want to go sightseeing despite the weather, the office was shut. Still, even with that information, I'm probably going to discount Linchu as a "proper" reservoir as it is clearly just a large duck pond.


  1. Colorful little guy. He certainly wasn't going to make it out of that fix on his own. How'd your finger fare?

  2. Yes I couldn't have just left him there to die, I had to get him out. His bite didn't hurt at all and I handled him as gently as possible. I was worried that being caught up in that net might have injured his wing, so I was surprised when he took off.

  3. Its always a good feeling to hear such stories where humans go out of their way to assist other species. I have one small bit to add: You very generously believed that the net was spread for purposes other than ensnaring birds. My experience tells me that it is highly likely the net was spread precisely to catch birds.
    Last year I spent one whole month on and around Shenzhen. Although in mainland China, Shenzhen had the same culture as Taiwan. I was struck by the empty skies. You could spot more aircrafts than birds. When asked about this, host mine told me nonchalantly 'in China we eat birds'. Later that day, as if to price him right, I noticed Deep Fried Pigeon in the menu at the hotel I was staying in (Norinco at Huaqiangbei). This item was accompanied by a picture of the delicacy. It was a common pigeon - the kind you see inhabiting abandoned buildings - complete with feathers actually deep fried. The menu was indeed an honest one.

    Here's a somewhat old post by a lonely bird watcher from Economist http://www.economist.com/node/12795527

    Thanks for your blog.

  4. The thought that the netting had been put in place specifically to catch birds hadn't occurred to me, but I'm doubtful whether that was its' purpose because, although it stretched a good five or six meters in length, and although it was raised to some height by being attached to poles, the netting itself wasn't particularly high - about half a meter at most. If I were stretching out a net to catch birds I would think I'd want it to reach the full height of either pole (about two meters) to increase the probability of catching birds. Thinking about it some more, I wonder whether the netting was put in place in order to hang a dragon fruit cactus plant from - I'm not sure if it'd be strong enough, but the dimensions would be about right.

  5. Mike, hadn't stopped by for awhile, but I'm glad I did this morning to read and see the pics of your kingfisher rescue. Thanks, for that.

    I love listening to the chatter of the kingfishers which hang out on my crick in Northern Michigan. If I'm standing in the stream casting a fly, and the kingfishers' are flying up and down stream, it's interesting to watch them swing wide of my position in the stream, and then immediately return to the stream, once they've passed my position, chattering all the while. It's almost as if they're scolding me for being in their element.

    Thanks again for sharing about your rescue.

  6. You're welcome John. The birds have more reason to fish than we do, I suppose, given that we can just buy our meat from the market. In any case, the only "fishing" I do is with the camera; a good picture of one of these birds (or the Ospreys) in the act of catching a fish would be a catch to be proud of.


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