Tri-mountain Ecology - Regional Features
The Tri-mountain National Scenic Area spans five counties and cities. Its sheer size leads to very diverse geological features and natural resources such as plants and animals, making it very suitable for people looking to spend time away from the city. In terms of geological features, most of Lion’s Head Mountain Scenic Area is in the buffer region between the hills and the mountains. The terrain therefore consists of river terraces, hills and high mountains. Cliffs are easily formed by the interleaving layers of sandstone and shale that make up the local geology. Lishan Scenic Area is situated in the Dajia River Basin. The river has a varied terrain with majestic cliffs and oddly-shaped rocks along its banks.
The evergreen Camphor Tree (Cinnamomum camphora) and the Wood Oil Tree (Aleurites montana) are originally from China’s Guangxi/Guangdong regions, and are a common sight amidst the vegetation of Lion’s Head Mountain. Great expanses of snow white blossoms can therefore be seen in April and May of every year. From a distance, they look like snow on the branches, so the trees are also known as “Summer Snow.” The Shell Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet), which also goes by the folk name of nutmeg, welcomes visitors between May and July every year with bunches of creamy-white flowers. Several species of vines are a common sight in the mountains. The Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela), a bird sup-species endemic to Taiwan, makes its home among the medium and low-altitude broadleaf forests. It generally feeds on small animals and snakes in particular hence they are also known as “Snake Eagle”. Apart from birds of prey, another inhabitant of the mountains is the Formosan blue magpie with its long, black and white tailfeathers, ruby blue wings, black head/chest, and bright red beak. They are nicknamed the “Long-tailed lady of the hills.”
The sound of “Common Chinese Treetoad” (Hyla chinensis) appears to communicate with the Formosan blue magpie. Common Chinese Treetoad has a bulging vocal sac that is larger than its head to provide extremely loud croaks, thus its nicknames the rain monster or rain frog. It is easily distinguished by its long, dark stripe that runs from the mouth past the eyes and eardrums to the shoulders, making the toad look as if its wearing a dark brown mask. The road from the Central Cross-Island Highway into Lishan is lined with the welcoming Taiwan Red Pines (Pinus taiwanensis). The Taiwan Red Pine is rich in pine resin which is an important ingredient for the making of turpentine and rosin. Between the end of winter and early spring, a white layer can sometimes be seen on the cliffs along the Central Cross-Island Highway. Though it looks like snow, it is actually the Taiwan Bridal Wreath Spiraea (Spiraea prunifolia). Common names include Pearl Flower or Snow Flower. Animal-wise, there is a good chance of seeing the White-eared Sibia (Heterophasia auricularis), a protected species. Their most distinctive features are their long, white eye-line and stylish feather tassels. Its “Huei, Huei, Huei, Huei...” call that ends on a rising pitch is also hard to forget amongst the forest. A captive breeding and rehabilitation program for the Formosan Landlocked Salmon (Oncorhynchus masou formosanus) that is well-known in Taiwan is now underway at this location as well. Visitors should take care because a great deal of effort has gone into the conservation of these rare, living treasures.
Other common animals include Swinhoe’s Japalura (Japalura swinhonis), Swinhoe’s Nesionhelix Snail (Nesiohelix swinhoei), Common Chinese Treetoad, Shan Ying window Firefly (Pyrocoelia praetexta Olivier), Two-pointed Shovel Beetle (Prosopocoilus astacoides blanchardi), Formosan Bear Cicada (Cryptotympana holsti), Luna Moth (Actias) and Orange Oakleaf (Kallima inachus). There is also the less well-known Jewel Beetle (Chrysochroa fulgidissima) with its green-gold body and purple-red longitudinal stripes. This is the largest species of jewel beetle in Taiwan.
The Lishan Scenic Area is located in the Dajia River Basin so it possesses riverside features such as cliffs, oddly-shaped boulders and pebble beaches. It is also surrounded by high mountains so you can climb to the top to admire the beauty of the surrounding mountains. There are many types of unusual terrain here as well. At Siyuan, stream capture is in progress at a fork in the river. There is also the meander terrain at Huanshan, the meander core terrain at Songmao, the corner step terrain at Lishan, the amphitheater river terrace at Jiayang, and the river terrace cluster in the Guguan region are all examples of how rivers change the shape of the land.
The best-known animal here is the Formosan Landlocked Salmon (Oncorhynchus masou formosanus), a relic species from the ice age. Lishan is also on the international bird-watching route. The clusters of red berries on the Wonder Tree (Idesia polycarpa) in particular is irresistible to more than twenty species of birds. These bird species include endemic sub-species such as the Varied Tit (Sittiparus varius), Plumbeous Water-redstart (Rhyacornis fuliginosa), Taiwan Barbet (Megalaima nuchalis), Brown Bullfinch (Pyrrhula nipalensis) as well as the endemic species like the Taiwan Yuhina and White-eared Sibia. Between June and September, the Highland Red-belly Swallowtail Butterfly (Astrophaneura horishana) butterfly which is endemic to the high mountains of Taiwan can also be sighed flitting between flowering bushes.
The Mt. Bagua Scenic Area is defined the Central Ridge lineament terrain. Famous terrain features include the Hengshan Cliff, Longzaitou Mountains and Mingjian Plateau. Most of the other parts are gentle slopes. Common plants include the Incense Nanmu (Machilus zuihoensis Hayata), Elephant’s Ear (Macaranga tanarius), Formosa Acacia (Acacia confusa), Camphor Tree and Wood-Oil Tree. The most spectacular ecological feature is the annual migration of the Grey-faced Buzzard (Butastur indicus) on their way back north in spring each year. Apart from the Grey-faced Buzzard, Mt. Bagua is also used by the Fairy Pitta (Pitta nympha) during their summer migration, and by Euploea butterflies when they leave their wintering grounds to return north. A Formosan Rock-Monkey (Macaca cyclopis) at Ershui offers the opportunity to meet Formosan Rock-Monkey at close range.