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Xitou (Sitou), a popular scenic destination in central Taiwan, can properly be termed a natural classroom. This is a forest recreation area that is richly covered with fir, cedar, cypress, and gingko trees, and with many different species of bamboo. Its ancient trees pierce the sky and forest roads give easy access to all parts of the area, making it a perfect spot for observing vegetation and watching birds.
At 850 meters above sea level, Xitou (Sitou) is a place for observing mid- low-elevation birds. April and May are the best nesting periods, and at least a full day should be reserved for bird-watching. Xitou (Sitou) contains about 70 species of birds; when traveling Xitou (Sitou), bring along a bird-watching guide and binoculars of about eight power to facilitate observation of the representative mid-elevation birds in this forest recreation area. There are a great many babblers, and such rare birds as yellow tits and island thrushes are also easily seen here.
The Shanlin River (Sun Link Sea) Forest Recreation Area, just 17 kilometers from Xitou (Sitou), has flower seasons all the year round: cherries blossom in the spring, rhododendrons bloom in the summer, the fragrance of orchids fill the autumn air, and the bright colors of maple leaves embellish the winter. Entering the Xitou (Sitou)- Shanlin River (Sun Link Sea) Tourist Road behind the Mengzong Villa at Xitou (Sitou), you will pass by such scenic spots as Shijingji, Qinglong Waterfall, Juying Village, the Flower Center, Songlongyan, and Tiandiyan, each of which offers special attractions for your enjoyment.
Another major tourist destination not too far away is the internationally known Sun Moon Lake, which even in the early days was listed as one of Taiwan's eight top scenic attractions. The round-the-island highway and Nantou Highway No. 131 give access to all of the lake's attractions; the round-the-island highway passes by Meihe Garden, Lalu Island, Zhushi Garden, Wenwu Temple, Dazhu Lake, Tutingzai, Ita Thao, Xuanzhuang Temple, Xuanguang Temple, Cien Pagoda, Shuishe Dam, Maolan Mountain, and 14 nature trails. Nantou County Highway No. 131 takes you to the Minghu and Mingtan reservoirs and the town of Checheng. In addition, you can also visit such privately operated attractions as the Shuili Snake Kiln and the Formosan Indigenous Culture Village.
The natural environment of Sun Moon Lake contains mountains as well as water, along with an abundance of animal and plant resources--especially insects and birds. Among the most numerous insects here are beetles, dragonflies, phoenix butterflies, honeybees, cicadas, and fireflies, while commonly seen birds include the little egret, black-crowned night heron, common kingfisher, white-breasted waterhen, serpent eagle, Muller's barbet, bamboo partridge, babbler, and lesser scimitar babbler. The best places for catching sight of these birds include the Dazhu Lake, Shuiwatou, Mt. Shuisheda, Mt. Maolan, and Evergreen Hostel trails, as well as the Sun Moon Lake Waterfowl Preserve. Aquatic animals here include lake shrimp, bigheads, mud carp, tilapia, rose bitterling, and the predatory carp which is famous throughout Taiwan. Vegetation is composed mostly of low-elevation broadleaf forests which include natural forests, man-made forests, and lakeside swampy-area plants.