What We Do

Making Chi-Gu the Permanent Home of Black-faced Spoonbill

-   Hometown Series ¡V The Chi Gu Spoonbill

Script: Chen Chi-Ling

Planning: Kuo Chong-Cheng

         Huang Fu-Shing

Filming and Editing: Kuo Kuo-Tong

under the supervision of

Black Faced Spoonbill Conservation Society

¡@The estuary of Tseng Wen River along the southwest coast of Taiwan represents the last expanse of virgin wetland in Taiwan. Here you find unique topographic landscape of shoals, lagoon, and ecological resources in abundance. More importantly, it is the winter home to Black-faced Spoonbill, a critically endangered bird. From October each year to April the following year, Black-faced Spoonbills that dwell at the estuary of Tseng Wen River account for more than half of its global population.

¡@¡§The La Puei (spoonbill in Taiwanese) loves it here. This is also the wonderful place where we live.¡¨

¡@To preserve this piece of precious land and protect it from the invasion of polluting industrial park, a group of people, comprising school teachers, local fishermen, college students and office workers founded the Black-faced Spoonbill Conservation Society in 1998, in the hope to contribute their efforts to preserving the ecological environment of this piece of land, which they call ¡§home.¡¨


I. Tasks of the Society

¡@In the four years following its inception, the Society has been dedicated to promoting ecological conservation and investigating the winter habits and the habitat environment of Black-faced Spoonbill. In order to track the number and whereabouts of these birds, The Society volunteers visit their main habitat, surrounding fishponds and salt fields, and river mouth daily to watch their behavior and changes of nearby fishing ponds. Two to three times a week, the volunteers conduct their observations at night.

¡@In the promotion of ecological conservation, the Society holds training sessions for tour guide every year. Tour guides are available at the Bird Watching Pavilion on holidays to provide visitors with information and answer questions. The Society also accepts reservation for guided group tour.

¡@From October 2001 to May 2002, the Society has served more than 102,000 visitors. It is estimated that more than 300,000 people a year visit Chi Gu to watch Black-faced Spoonbill.


II. The Black Faced Dancers

¡@When the North Embankment at the estuary of Tseng Wen River was completed in 1985, there created 800 hectares of wetland between the new and the old embankment, which has since become the favorite rendezvous of Black-faced Spoonbill and winter migratory birds. The 300 hectares expanse of shoal on the west side near the coast is the main habitat of Black-faced Spoonbill during the day, also the best spot for bird watching.

¡@Each year after Mid-Autumn Festival, Black-faced Spoonbills from the northeast of China, Korea, and even Siberia start to arrive in flocks. On the east of their main habitat in an area about 500 hectares sit a large number of fishponds. After autumn harvest, the leftover shallow-water fish in the ponds are excellent source of tasty food, thus turning the area into the feeding habitat of spoonbills.

¡@The Black-faced Spoonbills you see at main habitat are mostly napping the majority of time. At dawn or dusk, you might see them extending their long flattened bill, tossing head, combing their feather, stretching their wings or legs. Sometimes they take a bath in tidal areas. For Black-faced Spoonbills that do not swim, they will do their washing in shallow area. If you are lucky, you might catch some exciting scenes of them marching in a queue, taking short-distance flight, or leaping and running.

¡@The twice a day tiding at the main habitat bring plenty of food for the spoonbills. If you watch them longer, you will find whole flock of them abruptly spread toward the shoal. Then the spoonbills begin to sweep left and right in the water, engaging in pursuit and attack. The whole feeding process is highly exciting and fun to watch. After the first wave of action is over, the whole flock of spoonbills stands solemnly at the original spot, waiting for the arrival of next stock of fish.

¡@Generally the Black-faced Spoonbills are quite safe at their main habitat. Any interruption will cause commotion. Upon minor interruption, the spoonbills would raise their heads and stay on alert; bigger interruption, such as the intrusion of unexpected visitor, the entire flock would take off, spread, and hover around. After the alarm is relieved, they would re-aggregate and come back down. If the danger persists, they would fly away in groups.

¡@At dusk seemingly knowing that humans tending the fishponds are going home, the Black-faced Spoonbills start to take off toward the fish ponds. Thus some people reckon that Black-faced Spoonbills are nocturnal birds who rest during the day and feed at night. But the fact is that such behavioral mode is a result of learning to adapt to the work schedule of humans. A piece of evidence at hand is that you will find spoonbills resting, playing or feeding around more concealed, undisturbed idle fish ponds during daytime. Watching the hardworking Black-faced Spoonbills amongst the egret burying their heads, sweeping their flattened long bills into the pond searching for food is a truly engaging and enjoyable sight. No wonder the fishermen like to call them ¡§La Puei.¡¨

¡@To track the nocturnal whereabouts of the Black-faced Spoonbills, volunteers of the Society conduct nighttime observation at nearby fishponds and shoals every week. After nightfall, making sure that all the Black-faced Spoonbills have left their main habitat, volunteers wade through the water to their dwelling area to probe their excretions, mark their trail, measure the water level of the habitat, and examine the fish stock in the hope gain more insight into the characteristics of their habitat and their feeding habits.


III. Promotion of Ecological Conservation and the Setup of Natural Sanctuary

¡@The award ceremony of the internationally famed Henry Ford Conservation Award was held in Taiwan in October 2000. The Black-faced Spoonbill Conservation Society was picked among many contestants the winner of conservation award for its work and efforts in the previous two years. This was tremendous encouragement to an anonymous local conservation group, and a great boost to the morale of the members and volunteers of the Society. Aside from continuing the training of ecological tour guides, the training courses are expanded to the subjects of coastal landscape, tidal hydrology, aquaculture, ecology of mangrove, coastal vegetation, fish, shrimp and shellfish, salt field, and salt-mountain in Chi Gu and lagoon areas near the estuary of Tseng Wen River. The Society hopes that the presence of Black-faced Spoonbill will help drive the local tourism industry.

¡@In its efforts to win support of the local residents, the Society also collaborates with Tainan Normal Institute to train volunteer tour guides to support the outdoor teaching of elementary and high schools. From October 2001 to May 2001, the Society volunteers have served 6,600 people from more than 60 schools, and 90,000 regular visitors, including city council members, government officials and officials of American Institute in Taipei who all paid visit to the long-neck Black-faced Spoonbill with long, flattened bill.

¡@Each year in mid-autumn while the air smacks of the fragrance of pomelo, tens of thousands of migratory birds throng to the estuary of Tseng Wen River. In 2001 over 600 Black-faced Spoonbills, more than half of the world population chooses to stay here for the next six months. These spoonbills coming from all parts of the world social and mate here until the end of spring next year before they reluctantly journey back north.

¡@To provide these distinguished visitors from afar a homey environment and enhance Taiwan's image in the international conservation society, the setup a sanctuary and its subsequent management are essential. Besides preserving the wide expanse of main habitat that has shallow waters with high and low tides, it is necessary to have fishermen keep their traditional breeding ponds to provide food source and safe space for the spoonbills. How to work with local fishermen to create a win-win situation and sustainable operational mode is the key to the success of the sanctuary. Take a look at the throngs of birds flocking around the shallow fish ponds after the autumn harvest. Take a look at the three precious birds- Black-faced Spoon, avocet, and stilt sandpiper gather in one pond, a scene not available anywhere else in the world. The Black-faced Spoonbills seem to have a great time in particular; they play, social, or occasionally fight; the mothers give the young lessons; they pick up food nearby whenever they are hungry. The Black-faced Spoonbills are totally carefree and at home here despite of the nearby high-rises and planes flying across the sky.