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Marathon-style bird watching race ends on high note

2012/04/14 19:16:45

Taichung, April 14 (CNA) A total of 152 species of birds were spotted in a marathon-style bird watching competition in a recreation area in central Taiwan that concluded Saturday with contestants in high spirits after their adventure.

Winning team "Brown Shrike" from Pingtung County, which observed 101 kinds of birds during a 24-hour time frame, said it was proud to be part of the bird-watching family and contribute to the massive field survey.

"It was fun to look for birds in the woods with so many guys," said 43-year-old team leader Lin Chih-Hsien of the competition held in Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area.

Lin and his teammates captured the honor after sleeping for only three hours between 11 a.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday and chasing after rare birds such as the Black Eagle, the Swinhoe's Pheasant and the Collared Owlet.

According to organizers, at least three members of a team had to see or hear a bird at the same time for it to be recorded. Last year, 141 species of birds were observed by about 100 participants.

"It frankly requires birders' instincts to get the job done, the same kind of instincts that help women tell if fashion brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton are nearby," said Chen Te-chin, division chief of Taiwan's Chinese Wild Bird Federation.

In its second year, the competition drew 160 participants grouped in 40 teams from seven countries -- including the United Kingdom, South Korea, China and Indonesia.

Most of the contestants treated the race seriously, conducting intensive research on the ground and preparing strict time strategies before the start of the race.

"Uh, I am not sure. Do we still have time for an interview?" was what one of the competitors, Mark Philippart, anxiously asked of a teammate when questioned by a reporter about how he was feeling five minutes after the race had started.

The 42-year-old American's team from Taichung -- "Eastern Wind" -- spotted more than 70 different types of birds last year but still lost.

"We came here to challenge ourselves again -- that's the most important thing," said his partner Liao Mei-feng, adding that the team ended up with nearly 90 species this time.

In 2011, the winner team recorded 98 bird species in the 3,963-hectare park area that ranges from 1,000 to 2,996 meters above sea level and is home to at least 107 bird species from 32 families.

Though the race focuses on tracking the park's biological diversity, its main goal is to raise environmental awareness.

Sugihartini Sudardji, a 28-year-old from Indonesia, said the serene surroundings and bird sounds made it a unique trip for her.

"I hope people will learn to embrace nature through events like this and keep Dasyueshan just the way it is forever," she said.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)