Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hualien's Baibao River

Many of my favourite places in Taiwan are famous within the country. One that isn't so well known is Baibao Brook (白鮑溪), also known as Baibau Creek, not far from Liyu Lake (鯉魚潭) in Hualien County's Shoufeng Township (花蓮縣壽豐鄉). English-language information is thin on the ground, but Chinese-language websites and bloggers provide good coverage of the area's attractions. The creek is one of very few places in Taiwan where jade can be found. Tour operators occasionally bring visitors here to try their hand at picking jade, but I wonder if removing stones from the stream bed is legal...

On sunny weekends you can expect to see dozens of people cooling off in the stream, so last weekend my wife and I thought ourselves lucky because conditions varied between murky and serious drizzle. Fewer people means birds and dragonflies are easier to spot.
The typhoons which batter Taiwan each summer sometimes cause rivers to dramatically change course. Baibao Brook used to flow northwards to the Mugua River and not southwards into the Hualien River. Shifting waterways cause great inconvenience for humans, and since the Japanese colonial era great efforts have been made to keep rivers where they are. The huge amounts of concrete poured onto the landscape have hurt numerous species. Weirs built to hold back sediment make it difficult for fish to move up or down river, and are likely one reason for the decline of the Formosan landlocked salmon.
Baibao Brook demonstrates river-management techniques which aren’t so disruptive, such as low wooden weirs and fish ladders (above and below). From what I’ve seen during a couple of visits, a wide range of small creatures thrives in the valley. According to various websites, amphibian residents include Moltrecht’s tree frog, the Japanese Buerger's frog and the endemic Buergeri robustus. Among river dwellers are Geothelphusa bicolor (the Chinese name means ‘two-coloured pond crab’), goby and Taiwan shoveljaw carp (Onychostoma barbatulum). 
My wife, whose birding skills far outstrip mine, identified some species above and beyond the usual egrets. The highlight came when we were walking back to our car: a single Grey-throated minivet. A beautiful creature in a beautiful place!

No comments:

Post a Comment