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First 'birdathon' in southwestern Taiwan set for November

2012/09/18 12:08:26

Taipei, Sept. 18 (CNA) Yunlin and Chiayi counties and Tainan city will hold a marathon-style bird watching race for the first time in November to raise environmental awareness and promote the island's ecotourism, event organizers said Tuesday.

The race will be held over a 5,400-square-kilometer area in southwestern Taiwan and will require competitors to chase birds from the mountains to the sea, the Taiwan Ecotourism Association said.

"It will be a true marathon, physically and mentally," said association project manager Elva Hsu, who estimated that the 30-hour challenge will draw about 100 Taiwanese and foreign contestants.

The object of the competition is straightforward: spot as many different bird species in the 30-hour time limit as possible.

But successfully completing the task is another story, Hsu said.

Each team will need to cover a vast area ranging from the mountainous Alishan National Scenic Area to the coastal Budai Salt Pan Wetlands and the Qigu Reserve, putting a premium on planning because getting from the mountains to the coast can take five hours, Hsu said.

The hard work will be worth it, however, because birders will have a good opportunity during their trip to spot the endangered black-faced spoonbill, a migratory bird that usually inhabits the southwestern Taiwan coastline from October to April.

The race follows a successful bird watching competition in central Taiwan's Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area earlier this year, when 152 bird species were documented by nearly 200 birders, she said.

Meanwhile, the event's co-host, the Tourism Bureau, said it hopes that similar events can help showcase both the country's rich biodiversity and environmentally friendly credentials.

"The birdathon is a good start to introduce southwestern Taiwan's unique natural environment to foreign tourists," said Cheng Jung-feng, acting director of the Southwest Coast National Scenic Area.

The bird watching race will run from 8:30 a.m. Nov. 23 to 2:30 p.m. the following day. For registration information, go to http://en.taiwanbirdathon.org.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)
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