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Old Tuesday 10th October 2017, 17:12   #1
arodris
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Help with some ID from Japan (Honshu) (August 2017)

Hi,

I have some doubts about the ID of some birds that I saw in a recent trip to Japan, to Honshu island. I include you some pictures.

Picture 1 was taken on the Jigokudani Monkey Park, in Yamanouchi, within the Japanese Alps (August 8th). Possible asian brown flycatcher (Muscicapa dauurica)?

Picture 2 was taken in the Arakurayama Sengen Park, in Fujiyoshida (August 9th). Possible eurasian sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)?

Pictures 3-4 were taken in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (Tokyo) (August 12th). Possible japanese cormorant (Phalacrocorax capillatus)?

Picture 5 was taken in Katsura river, in Arashiyama (near Kyoto) (August 1st). Possible great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)?

Thanks in advance.
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Old Wednesday 11th October 2017, 10:45   #2
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You'd be better off placing this in the bird identification forum - you would get a lot more traffic with people looking at your pics.

I'm afraid I'm not an expert enough to give and solid advice on the first two, although those seem like solid guesses to me.

The cormorants though I believe are all great cormorants - as a rule of thumb Japanese Cormorant is a coastal species while great cormorant is more limited to inland bodies of water than it is in Europe. There's also the differences in the shape of the yellow section at the base of the beak - with great cormorant/these birds from the corner of the mouth the border of the yellow section goes roughly vertically down. On a japanese cormorant it goes diagonally down more towards the front of the face, resulting in a much smaller, wedge shaped yellow area.
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Old Wednesday 11th October 2017, 10:56   #3
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I've now moved this to the Bird ID Forum.
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Old Wednesday 11th October 2017, 14:34   #4
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Hi Antonio,

I'd agree with all of your IDs myself (though await correction), and with Alex's revisions.

#1 Can't think of anything else that looks like that other than Asian Brown.
#2 There's a very short P10 there I think, making 6 fingers (5 on Japanese).
#3,4,5 In addition to the gape patch mentioned by Alex, Japanese Cormorant is more green, less bronze above, with less distinct scaling: http://www.mangoverde.com/wbg/images/00000004244.jpg

At least, this is my understanding of things!

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Old Thursday 12th October 2017, 02:35   #5
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The second bird looks (to me) a little too long-winged for an Accipiter. I would suggest it's a Grey-faced Buzzard.
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Old Thursday 12th October 2017, 03:05   #6
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The second bird looks (to me) a little too long-winged for an Accipiter. I would suggest it's a Grey-faced Buzzard.
I considered that - in fact, it was my first reaction - but aren't the coverts too dark? I've lightened the picture but they still look a bit brownish, although you can see the spotting on the coverts. I think I can make out a gular stripe too.
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Old Thursday 12th October 2017, 05:51   #7
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I think the cormorants are both Great.

Is Kestrel out of the question for #2? The photo isn't very clear, but it would be the most common possibilty in given the location and season.
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Old Thursday 12th October 2017, 07:08   #8
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The second bird looks (to me) a little too long-winged for an Accipiter. I would suggest it's a Grey-faced Buzzard.
Interesting!

I can see the long wings, John, but also I fancy a long and slender tail not really in keeping with Grey-faced Buzzard. I still think this is some kind of Accipiter, albeit one at an 'unconventional' angle. Which one would depend on how many 'fingers' it had/has (I fancy six), but Japanese does also tend to have a notched tail.

As Andy also points out, shouldn't the underwing coverts be whitish on a Grey-faced Buzzard, especially the under primary coverts?

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Old Thursday 12th October 2017, 07:33   #9
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Originally Posted by MacNara View Post
I think the cormorants are both Great.

Is Kestrel out of the question for #2? The photo isn't very clear, but it would be the most common possibilty in given the location and season.
Yes, Kestrel would be out on wing shape.

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Old Thursday 12th October 2017, 23:44   #10
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I can see the long wings, John, but also I fancy a long and slender tail not really in keeping with Grey-faced Buzzard. I still think this is some kind of Accipiter, albeit one at an 'unconventional' angle. Which one would depend on how many 'fingers' it had/has (I fancy six), but Japanese does also tend to have a notched tail.
My impression of GfB is that they have quite a long and narrow tail like this bird in direct flight, whereas my impression of Japanese Sparrowhawk is usually of a noticeably short-tailed bird (compared to other Accipiters). For me, this is a poor fit for Japanese on tail length.

I'm struggling with the lighting on the photo to really get an idea of the plumage pattern on the body or underwing coverts. I had the impression that the shadow was making the underwing look darker than it would be in life.

But looking again at the overall shape of the bird and the pattern of barring
on the flight feathers (especially primaries), I now agree that this fits best for Eurasian Sparrowhawk.
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Old Friday 13th October 2017, 03:06   #11
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My impression of GfB is that they have quite a long and narrow tail like this bird in direct flight, whereas my impression of Japanese Sparrowhawk is usually of a noticeably short-tailed bird (compared to other Accipiters). For me, this is a poor fit for Japanese on tail length.
As far as I can tell, there is a short outermost primary just visible on the leading edge of the wing, giving 6 fingers to the hand. On Japanese Sparrowhawk (and Grey-faced Buzzard, incidentally) there should be only 5.

As you say, the tail is too long and narrow for Japanese Sparrowhawk, on which he tail is also usually notched. So, all told, I think we can say with certainty that this one is a Eurasian Sparrowhawk.

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Old Friday 13th October 2017, 14:46   #12
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Thank you to all of you for your comments. When I saw the raptor in the field, my impression was that it was an accipiter, but I was not sure on the species. The ligth was poor at that time of the evening. I agree with most of you in that it was an eurasian sparrowhawk.

My main doubt were the cormorants, and now it become clear that they are great.

Thank you again

Antonio
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Old Friday 13th October 2017, 19:48   #13
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More cormorants

Hi again,

I guess that these two pictures (sorry for the quality), taken in Odaiba island, Tokyo, are japanese cormorants (Phalacrocorax capillatus) (taken on august 12th).Do you agree?

Thanks
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Old Monday 16th October 2017, 03:58   #14
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Hi again,

I guess that these two pictures (sorry for the quality), taken in Odaiba island, Tokyo, are japanese cormorants (Phalacrocorax capillatus) (taken on august 12th).Do you agree?

Thanks
Not at all sure with these, but I would guess that they are most likely Great based on a combination of bronze-toned upperparts (on some), rounded-looking gular patches (on some), smallish white face patches (on all), and lack of yellow in the lower mandibles of immatures.

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Old Monday 16th October 2017, 07:46   #15
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Hi again,

I guess that these two pictures (sorry for the quality), taken in Odaiba island, Tokyo, are japanese cormorants (Phalacrocorax capillatus) (taken on august 12th).Do you agree?

Thanks
I would have said that the foreground bird in the first photo is a great cormorant again, and possibly the other two, although honestly the angle isn't good enough to tell for sure.

In the second photo however, I do think you have some Japanese cormorant! At least the birds on either side, not sure about the central one with it's face turned away.
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Old Monday 16th October 2017, 09:59   #16
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Having failed with the Sparrowhawk, I was going to stay out of the rest of the thread about the cormorants. But I hope my comments on the cormorants and my photos will help the OP and others who may be reading.

I don't think that there are any Temminck's (Japanese) Cormorants in any of the photos, and even if there were, you can't see enough to call the ID. Great is overwhelmingly the common cormorant in Japan, even on the coast.

I have been birding in Japan for ten years or so (and had never birded elsewhere previously). Just last week by chance, I started to combine all my bird photos into one catalogue. Otherwise they are in annual catalogues (originally I never expected to get even moderately serious about birding), mixed in with scenic and family photos and whatnot. One purpose of making a Japanese birds catalogue is to try to weed out ID errors I've made, and I've found quite a few already.

Anyway, when I looked at my ten-year catalogue, I was surprised to find only about sixty photos ID'd as Temminck's. And when I looked at them, some were probably Greats and others were uncertain. But when I looked at the locations, I realised why. I live quite a way from the sea. But even at the coast, the cormorants are Great, unless you are at a remote and rocky location (I'm not saying they never stray; just that you would need very good evidence in another location). Another reason is that I have only a 300mm lens - I like to walk around rather than stand by a tripod. And Temminck's are rarely close enough to get a good shot with a 300mm lens.

The Japanese word for Great Cormorant is Kawau - U is cormorant, and Kawa is river, so River Cormorant. (Fun fact for use in birding club pub quizzes: the Maori word for Great Cormorant is Kawau, with some completely different etymology.)

The Japanese for Temminck's Cormorant is Umiu - Umi is sea, so Sea Cormorant. But sea doesn't seem to mean on the coast, it really means on the sea or out to sea.

I am attaching some of my photos to illustrate some points. There are more than five photos, so the photos and my comments will spill over to the next post (i.e. my reply to this post).

As far as I can see from books and observation, the key feature differentiating the two birds visually is the shape of the yellow face patch. If seen clearly, this comes to a point behind the bill line in Temminck's descending in a concave path after the point (relative to the bill). In Great, a clear point is often not obvious, and the yellow makes a convex shape below the bill. Another way of saying this would be: if the bill is horizontal, then there is never yellow below the bill which is behind the point at the rear of the bill in Temminck's, but there usually or always is in Great.

However, seasonal (and age) differences are large, and then there's the fact that when you see them, their feathering is affected by water, mud, and other stuff.

I also looked at illlustrations and photos in books I have, and another point I would like to make is that the photos and illustrations tend to illustrate the best case; but many birds in the field are not so obviously species A rather than species B.

Photos 1 (Temminck's) and 2 (Great) are juvenile birds, but illustrate the difference of facial yellow well.

Photos 3 and 4 are breeding Temminck's from two different places. Notice how little yellow there is, as well as its shape. Great has a more yellow than this even in breeding plumage (though see photos in next post).

Photo 5 shows some breeding Temminck's. Again, notice the pointing of the yellow, and how little there is. And on the right-hand bird, maybe you can see the green sheen to the coverts that is supposed to be a distinctive feature of Temminck's as opposed to Great (though I wouldn't recommend relying on it).
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Old Monday 16th October 2017, 10:23   #17
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Photo 1 in this post shows the location of the birds in photo 5 of my post #1. This is the kind of location you find Temminck's. It's a sea bird.

Photo 2 shows a broader view of the birds in photo 5 of post #1. You can see they are sharing the rock with Pelagic Cormorants (on the left of the photo) - not Great Cormorants.

Photo 3 shows a 'typical' Great Cormorant at a pond near my house well away from the sea. You can see what I meant in my earlier point about the yellow below the bill sometimes extending further back than the 'point' at the bill in Great Cormorant.

But photos 4 and 5 show Greats in or near breeding plumage. Photo 4 is at the same pond as photo 3. You can see the famous 'bronze' sheen which is said to be distinctive of Great (as you can in 3). Photo 5 is at the shore, but as you can see, not a rocky shore. So, it's not always easy, depending on season and age.

Of course, given my success on the Sparrowhawk, I'm psychologically prepared for someone to tell me my IDs of these photos is wrong. But I hope they help the discussion anyway.

And a final message to Arodris: I hope you enjoyed your visit to Japan. Although I'm not Japanese, I've had a happy life here, and always hope visitors have a good time. And when I started birding here, I also found a lot of Temminck's (later revised), and a lot of other rareties (later revised). It's easy to see the birds you hope or expect to see in a location; though I'm wiser now, I still do it sometimes. It's disappointing when it turns out not to be correct. But on the bright side, it's always a reason to go again.
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Old Monday 16th October 2017, 11:08   #18
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Photo 1 in this post shows the location of the birds in photo 5 of my post #1. This is the kind of location you find Temminck's. It's a sea bird.

Photo 2 shows a broader view of the birds in photo 5 of post #1. You can see they are sharing the rock with Pelagic Cormorants (on the left of the photo) - not Great Cormorants.

Photo 3 shows a 'typical' Great Cormorant at a pond near my house well away from the sea. You can see what I meant in my earlier point about the yellow below the bill sometimes extending further back than the 'point' at the bill in Great Cormorant.

But photos 4 and 5 show Greats in or near breeding plumage. Photo 4 is at the same pond as photo 3. You can see the famous 'bronze' sheen which is said to be distinctive of Great (as you can in 3). Photo 5 is at the shore, but as you can see, not a rocky shore. So, it's not always easy, depending on season and age.

Of course, given my success on the Sparrowhawk, I'm psychologically prepared for someone to tell me my IDs of these photos is wrong. But I hope they help the discussion anyway.

And a final message to Arodris: I hope you enjoyed your visit to Japan. Although I'm not Japanese, I've had a happy life here, and always hope visitors have a good time. And when I started birding here, I also found a lot of Temminck's (later revised), and a lot of other rareties (later revised). It's easy to see the birds you hope or expect to see in a location; though I'm wiser now, I still do it sometimes. It's disappointing when it turns out not to be correct. But on the bright side, it's always a reason to go again.
You are getting me looking through my photos from my last trip now double checking my cormorants!

I found this one from Kamakura which I had down as containing both?

A = Great Cormorant due to that bronze sheen you mention and the big square yellow patch.

B = Japanese/Temminck's Cormorant - Greenish sheen and sharply tapering bill patch.
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Old Monday 16th October 2017, 11:57   #19
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You are getting me looking through my photos from my last trip now double checking my cormorants!

I found this one from Kamakura which I had down as containing both?

A = Great Cormorant due to that bronze sheen you mention and the big square yellow patch.

B = Japanese/Temminck's Cormorant - Greenish sheen and sharply tapering bill patch.
I don't think so. All Great in my opinion. You would need a much better photo to get a solid Temminck's ID out of those. And unless you get super photos in light you are sure of, I don't think (as I said above) that the sheen is all that helpful. I can't get a 'sheen' for either bird from your photo, and the green on my roosting bird in the previous post might be an artefact.

As I tried to say, there's quite a lot of variety anyway - Greats can have huge white heads - like the two I am attaching to this post from my local area - or they can (briefly I think, but I don't have the experience) very black heads with little yellow or white, like 4 and 5 in my post #2. I don't think that you will find Temminck's in the kind of location shown in your photo, or mixed in with a lot of Greats except accidentally (e.g. typhoon).

But in the the two posts I made here, I have reached the limits of my expertise. I hope someone with greater knowledge will join in. I always thought it wasn't easy to see Temminck's, but having reviewed my photos as I said, I have seen even fewer than I thought. I suspect that a very high percentage of Internet search Temminck's are in fact Great.
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Old Monday 16th October 2017, 15:42   #20
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I don't think so. All Great in my opinion. You would need a much better photo to get a solid Temminck's ID out of those. And unless you get super photos in light you are sure of, I don't think (as I said above) that the sheen is all that helpful.
I feel to be seeing plenty of Japanese Cormorants here.

In addition to the bronze sheen, Great Cormorants have broad black edges to scapulars and wing coverts, giving the upperparts a scaly look. I'm pretty sure I can see greenish sheens on several of these birds, but no black fringes, so no scaly look.

I think that #1 has too much yellow right up behind the eye for Great (as do one or two other individuals), and a strong green sheen to the upperparts.

I also think that #2 has yellow in the lower mandible, which would wrong for Great.

However, I might well be dealing with artefacts in this photo, my reasoning might be flawed, or both!

Steve
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Old Monday 16th October 2017, 15:56   #21
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I feel to be seeing plenty of Japanese Cormorants here.

In addition to the bronze sheen, Great Cormorants have broad black edges to scapulars and wing coverts, giving the upperparts a scaly look. I'm pretty sure I can see greenish sheens on several of these birds, but no black fringes, so no scaly look.

I think that #1 has too much yellow right up behind the eye for Great (as do one or two other individuals), and a strong green sheen to the upperparts.

I also think that #2 has yellow in the lower mandible, which would wrong for Great.

However, I might well be dealing with artefacts in this photo, my reasoning might be flawed, or both!
If you have such vast experience and such good eyesight that you can confidently assign them to the rarer species, then I bow to you. All of the birds 1,2, A, B look pretty clearly Great Cormorants. There are quite a few that you can't classify, but there's absolutely no reason to expect a Temminck's in this place, so why are you trying to force it. The 'sheen' is an intellectual artifact. In two of my photos, post#2 photos 3 and 4, this 'bronze sheen' can be seen. If your photo is not as close and detailed as this, then sheen is completely irrelevant because all you are seeing is a bit of reflected sunshine. And Greats can also have reduced yellow in breeding season, and so on and so on, as I have tried to illustrate. I admit I'm not an expert, so if you want to dispute what I say, then bring better photos than mine, not some out of focus picture of black birds against the sun with their head pointing in any direction and none.
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Old Monday 16th October 2017, 17:27   #22
Alexjh1
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If you have such vast experience and such good eyesight that you can confidently assign them to the rarer species, then I bow to you. All of the birds 1,2, A, B look pretty clearly Great Cormorants. There are quite a few that you can't classify, but there's absolutely no reason to expect a Temminck's in this place, so why are you trying to force it. The 'sheen' is an intellectual artifact. In two of my photos, post#2 photos 3 and 4, this 'bronze sheen' can be seen. If your photo is not as close and detailed as this, then sheen is completely irrelevant because all you are seeing is a bit of reflected sunshine. And Greats can also have reduced yellow in breeding season, and so on and so on, as I have tried to illustrate. I admit I'm not an expert, so if you want to dispute what I say, then bring better photos than mine, not some out of focus picture of black birds against the sun with their head pointing in any direction and none.
I'm not criticizing your experience here which is clearly much greater than mine, but what you are saying doesn't seem to sync up entirely with what I read/am reading in literature?

Firstly that while Temminck's certainly breeds purely on rocky outcrops, it is much more widely distributed in Winter from all accounts I can find, including apparently right up into the first few miles of the mouths of certain estuaries apparently. It also does seem to be found in association with human structures including harbours etc in small amounts. (context: the photo I added was from late November)

Secondly, the shape of the yellow face patch does seem to be a pretty definitive ID feature by anything I can make out? Certainly it's entirely consistent as an ID feature within all the photos you uploaded, and seems to be described as definitive by both my Japanese bird book and more detailed articles on the subject I've looked at online?

Also, while there are exceptions (including 2 out of the 3 of the Japanese cormorant photos on birdforum gallery), most of the birds that turn up if you google Japanese Cormorant are labelled correctly (often as great) if you click on the links even if they aren't actually Japanese cormorants.

I dunno, apart from what you are saying here, nothing else seems to be matching the idea that this is a particularly challenging ID to make as long as the face is visible and you understand what to look for?
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Old Monday 16th October 2017, 22:56   #23
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Hi Alex, I didn't intend to sound snippy, sorry; I was posting quickly just on the point of turning in for the night. I'm not an expert; I just tried to put what I know out there. In fact this thread gave me the chance to look at my old photos and realise that I'd seen this bird less than I thought I had, and then usually not so well. I live quite far from the sea, so I only get to look for these birds when on holiday trips.

I said earlier that the two posts on cormorants exhausted my knowledge and I should have left it there. I was hoping that someone else with more knowledge would add some more information.

It may be that the bird is more common than I suggest, for example on the Pacific east coast of Honshu (say Tokyo northwards, where I don't go). But the maps in Brazil's 'Birds of East Asia' suggest that it breeds in the northern island of Hokkaido, a few islands off the west (continental) coast of Honshu, and coastal areas of Russia and northern China. (Of course, there might be strays, and his maps may not always be absolutely accurate.) My photos, however, all fit with his seasonal locations. The OPs photos were around Tokyo in August, when Brazil suggests it shouldn't be there. You don't say when your photos were taken, but maybe the same applies?

If someone who knows more than me were to come along and strongly support your IDs, then I would be very happy for you. But I just think you can't see enough in the photos to identify Temminck's.

I don't have any specialist books about cormorants, but if anyone reading this does, it would be great if you could post any helpful information.

Apologies again for the brusque nature of my previous post, and best wishes.
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Old Tuesday 17th October 2017, 03:22   #24
SteveMM
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It also does seem to be found in association with human structures including harbours etc in small amounts.
Having never been there, I don't know Japan at all well, but I do know that Japanese Cormorant winters on the harbour walls at Choshi in its hundreds if not thousands - the place is famed for it!

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Old Wednesday 18th October 2017, 17:50   #25
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Hi again,

Thank you very much for all your helpful comments. I think that distinguising between these two species is highly difficult. According to MacNara information, then my last two pictures, taken in Odaiba island, Tokyo, in august, would be great cormorants. I have magnified the area containing the cormorants that can be distinguised, and now I see a big yellow area, and probably correspond to great cormorants. Here you have the pictures.

Regards,

Antonio
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