Friday, 27 November 2015

The Next Day

I feel much better today and will return to work this afternoon. I'm still not quite 100% yet, and need to be cautious with my food still, but I think my immune system did enough to flush the virus out of my body yesterday. Today is just going to be spent getting back to normal...

From last Sunday at Wushantou reservoir.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Weak As A Kitten

Today is the first cold day of the year and also, to the best of my memory, the first day this year I have been sick. It's almost certainly gastroenteritis (vomiting, dehydration, loss of appetite, and all the right aches and pains), though I haven't been to the doctor to check. I took a day off work and have spent most of it sleeping through the effects of the illness. I'm hoping to recover before Sunday, otherwise I will have to cancel another reservoir trip.

Monday, 16 November 2015

A Brilliant Morning In Guguan (谷關), Taichung: Once More At The Tianlun Dam (天輪壩) & The Ma'an Barrage (馬鞍壩)

Yesterday I got up early (4.30am) and got my act together on time to take the first HSR train north to Taichung. I had only one thing in mind: to get into the Dajia river bed at Guguan (谷關) and walk around the bends upstream to see and photograph the downstream face of the Tianlun dam (天輪壩). Although I had previously visited the area and photographed the small reservoir and facilities from the upstream side, the only way to see the downstream face of the dam is from the riverbed directly opposite, and I hadn't had time to do that. This time I had only that in mind, and nothing else.

Timings: Train arrived in Taichung at 7.30am or so, and I was out of there and on the bike in about ten to fifteen minutes. Although I stopped for gas, I still got out of Taichung city surprisingly quickly and got onto the Taichung 99 at about 8.15am and made the switch to the 95 at 8.35am. I was across the river and onto the central cross-island highway (8) by 8.45am (despite getting stuck behind a slow driver). Arrived in Guguan itself at about 9.10am. So that's just over an hour and a half from the train pulling into the station to me parking my motorbike in Guguan, which is not bad at all.

Hotels in Guguan, as seen from the riverbed.
The view upstream with a bridge connecting the two parts of Guguan on either side of the river.
The walk upstream in the riverbed took about thirty minutes until the dam itself came into view. The little stream had to be waded through barefoot; it wasn't deep but it was chilly.
At just before 10am much of the valley was still in the cool shade.
Direct view of the Tianlun dam from the northern side of the riverbed.
A closer view of the dam taken with the 18mm kit lens with a graduated filter attached.
View overlooking the reservoir behind the Tianlun dam. 
Telephoto shot of the upstream side of the dam gates.
Entrapment pen to let water out into another tunnel that runs downstream to the hydroelectric plant.
Water release gate, letting water out into the reservoir from another hydroelectric plant further upstream.
The same release gate viewed head-on from the south.
The hydroelectric plant downstream from the Tianlun dam and just before the Ma'an barrage.
Yet another bend in the Dajia river as it proceeds toward the Ma'an barrage.
The upstream view of the gates of the Ma'an barrage as viewed from behind the reeds on the northern shoreline.
Another view of the Ma'an barrage with a full river.
Downstream face of the Ma'an barrage.
Overall, this was a successful trip; no major problems, everything done on time, fantastic light and weather and a good feeling. Whilst stopping for a break in Guguan to eat and drink, I noticed an SYM SB 300, which I believe is a new bike that wasn't previously on the market. It was a single cylinder engine with a large gas tank, but otherwise the same basic layout as my two bikes; just owner invited me to lunch, but I had to refuse because I wanted to be back in Tainan as quickly as possible to get the dogs out. I got back to Taichung city in good time and caught the 2pm train back to Tainan and got back into the house at just after 3pm. Very pleased with that.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

The North End Of Tseng-wen Reservoir

Last Sunday (November 8th), I paid a late afternoon visit to Tseng-wen reservoir to re-explore the small road off highway three which leads through the farms and tiny hamlets to the north end of the reservoir. I had been here once previously, though I did not follow the road all the way due to time constraints - this time, I came here expressly to do just that.

First picture of the day was the view overlooking the debris barrier just west of the Dapu bridge on highway three. The water has fallen a meter or so, since I was last here a month ago...

The two central connecting towers of the debris fence with the southern anchoring block visible on the far side; the northern anchoring block is out of shot below the cliff in the foreground. 
The road eventually winds around a bay and brings you out at a tiny wharf on the northern shoreline of Taiwan's largest reservoir...

View directly southward from the northern shoreline, late in the afternoon.
The wharf was littered with broken boulders, and there were a couple of pontoon rafts moored but it was otherwise empty.

View eastward, with the wharf sloping down into the water.
Looking further upstream where the mountainsides guide the river into the reservoir.
Just down from Dapu village; the floating fishing platform docked on the southern shoreline across the reservoir.
Another section of the platform with the pavilion behind it.
Eventually, I was joined by several Black Kites scouring the surface of the reservoir for fish, of which there are plenty. Apparently there are actually very few of these birds in Taiwan.
A pair of Kites pass by one another; they seem to be very sociable birds.
One of my favorite angles because of the view it gives you of their back and topside coloring. Unfortunately the distance here is too great for the photo to be clear.
Taiwanese friends I sometimes bring to the reservoirs misidentify Kites as eagles, and so when these birds glide into view, it is always a "teachable moment".
Another fantastic view, but at too great a distance. Eventually, I will once more get around to upgrading to a better telephoto lens than the one I'm presently using (a Sigma 300mm).
Not bad: brilliant view, and the distance isn't too bad either. "Extinction? When it comes, I won't even notice: I'll be too busy looking good..."
Right-wing flight feathers turned down, left-wing flight feathers turned up: that's how you bank and turn to your left. 
About to glide over me; the light was beginning to fail by this point.
The view south from the rampart above the wharf. Note the pontoon raft in the corner.
Close up on the reservoir's surface under the fading light.
Final shot on my way back home; the same view south, but overlooking the bay and the rounded peninsula which forms the reservoir's northern shoreline.
Tommorow, I'll be taking another reservoir trip but not to Tseng-wen. It might be a few weeks yet before I can be back here again, as there are things I must get done elsewhere first.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Milvus Migrans Numbers?

A story in the Taipei Times about a man who gave up his job to study Black Kites contains the claim that there are only about three hundred of the birds left in Taiwan. Is that number really accurate? I've been watching and photographing these birds at Tseng-wen reservoir, where perhaps five or six of them live, for the past four years. I've also seen them at Wushantou reservoir and Nanhua reservoir and I was long under the impression that they were as common in Taiwan as they are in neighbouring countries.

That being said, one thing I have noticed on my travels is that I see far fewer birds of prey in central and northern Taiwan than down here in southern Taiwan.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Beta Moment

It's been a strange week, pervaded by a faint hint of fatigue. I had to turn down the Halloween party I was invited to last night and go to bed early instead, and I still couldn't rouse myself this morning until almost 9am. I cancelled today's reservoir trip, and may head off to see a friend down in Kaohsiung instead. I'm just feeling a bit sick of everything at the moment. The sooner I can get out of this rut the better.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Second Comment At "Thinking Taiwan" On "Why We Must Push Back"

Worth repeating here, I think. Link to the article.


If two people want to get married, then that is their business and nobody else's (except perhaps the people officiating). This should never have been a political question or issue to even begin with, and the more this issue rumbles on, the better the opportunity is to get the State out of the business of marriage altogether (and the social engineering which that allows).

J.M.Cole writes...

"It is discrimination, in this case based on an other individual’s sexual orientation. It is the organized denial of a human right to a category of people."

The trouble with this though is that laws against discrimination set a very dangerous precedent. There was a court case a short while back in Northern Ireland about a bakery who refused to bake a cake with Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street under the slogan "Support Gay Marriage". Suppose the tables were turned: what if the bakers had been gay and had been asked by a Muslim customer to bake a cake with "Death for Gays", or "Support Sharia Law" as the slogan - if they had refused, would they then have been found guilty of religious discrimination? It is not difficult to imagine other possibilities.

And that is not the only contradiction.

More important is the right to freedom of association. To be free to associate with whom you wish implies that you are also free to disassociate from whomever you wish. The one makes no sense without the other. Anti-discrimination laws directly and clumsily impinge upon this right. Should a gay nightclub be prohibited from refusing entry to a group of religious anti-gay nutters? Of course they should not be - but they should be permitted to do so, because that nightclub is private property. Private property, free trade and freedom of expression all go hand-in-glove with discrimination and the freedom of association it allows. So why not let the bakers refuse the order? It is their business after all, and they are effectively handing money over to a competitor anyway. Let them (possibly) ruin their own business.

We need discrimination, and when I say "we" that includes homosexuals. We need it when we choose among all the people we interact with, whether colleagues, friends or lovers. Discrimination is the foundation of civil society. It is the basis of boycotts and ostracization, just as it is the basis of affiliation, organization and trade. Civil society is vital and we can't afford to let the politicists have the State start dicking about with it. In many cases, discrimination may be the best protection that minority groups can get.