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just a little blog where I waffle on about my birding experiences here in Western Japan...
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Winter is upon us

Posted Thursday 13th December 2007 at 03:59 by lostinjapan
After the autumn migration died down in early November I concentrated on searching through the incresing number of gulls at their daytime washing site with limited results so far - 7 species in total- Vegae, Black-tailed, Kamchatka (Common), Black-headed, Slaty-backed, Mongolian and Heuglin's. No sign of any white-winged gulls, but some interesting hybrids and odd-plumaged birds. It was interestig to see the species status change over the past two months, as in October Black-tailed initially were the commonest, but were gradually replaced by Vegae as commonest, until eventually only 1 or 2 Black-taileds usually come in to drink and bathe by December.

Hiroshima Castle has been quiet, with just the usual winter species, and the occasional sighting of Peregrine or Sparrowhawk to liven things up. I missed the two best birds, a Great Egret and a Goshawk there.

Near the gull site, the best birds have been Long-billed Plover, Scaup and Peregrine, not bad for a city site I guess.

Finally at the end of November I succumbed to the lure of better birds further afield.

A Japanese Crane had been reported in neighbouring Yamaguchi Prefecture, and as I hadn't seen one outside of Hokkaido I decided to give it a go.

So a cold Sunday morning found me watching an area of fields cordoned off just for the bird, as it fed on grain put out for it. it was a young bird, not having attained the maginificent adult plumage yet, but was very confiding and didn't really seem to be threatened by humans.

After spending about an hour quiety watching him feed, with a nice male Green Pheasant and some Hawfinch putting in camoe appearances I decided to walk the river to the Kirara Nature Reserve, a 15k walk, but well worth it.

Along the river I found 4 Black-faced Spoonbills feeding vigourously, sweeping bills from side to side as the tide came in. Among the commoner wildfowl were 2 White-fronted Geese trying to blend in unsuccessfully, while Red-breasted Mergansers fished out in the open river, and Common Greenshank and a small party of Dunlin fed along the shoreline.

I could pick out a Heuglin's Gull among the commoner Vegae Gulls, nd across the fileds were a few small flocks of Rook feedng, and Kestrel hunting from perches as Black-eared Kite loafed around atop the telphone poles.

A Chestnut-eared Bunting popped up from a field edge as I continued on my way as Reed Buntings and Chinese Penduline Tit called from riverside reedbeds.

As I neared Kirara I found a few more waders, a couple of Snipe, a lone Long-billed Plover and a lone Eurasian Curlew out on the remaining mudflats.

A lonely Bewick's Swan was hauled out on a scraggly bit of saltmarsh, reutrning for the umpteenth winter without its partner.

At Kirara the wide open grasslands held good nymbers of raptors, two Merlin, a Kestrel, a Buzzard, 1-2 Eastern Marsh Harrier and a female Hen Harrier and many Osprey chompng on fish or plunge-diving into the nearby river.

As the sun went down around 10 Saunder's Gull flew up frm their roost and made their way out to the estuary to dip-feed, and among several hundred Scaup and 20 or so Goldeneye, about 70 Baikal Teal tried to blend in without success.

Finally as I walked back to the nearby station a Woodcock flew low over my head and disappered into a neighbouring rice field as Night Herons croaked overhead.

All in all a good day with some 80 species, a rare feat in Japan in spring, let alone winter!

Finally a trip into the mountains via the Yahata River, produced some interesting birds, such as Saunder's Gull, Crested Kingfisher, Mandarin and a lone Red-flanked Bluetail.

Some upcoming winter trips at the end of the year and into January should hopefully have me seeing some good birds- hoped for goodies include Baer's Pochard, Rough-legged Buzzard, Savannah Sparrow, Sandhill Crane, Great-black headed Gull, Spotted Eagle and Forest Wagtail. Fingers crossed!
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Total Comments 3


HokkaidoStu's Avatar
You've recently seen 4 species not on my Japan list yet Sean............
Posted Thursday 13th December 2007 at 15:30 by HokkaidoStu HokkaidoStu is offline
lostinjapan's Avatar
Hey Stu

What species would they be pray tell?
Posted Thursday 13th December 2007 at 23:49 by lostinjapan lostinjapan is offline
HokkaidoStu's Avatar
Hi Sean. Missing from my tiny J-list are Saunders Gull, Black Faced Spoonbill, Chinese Penduline Tit and Mongolian Gull............although I've seen so many odd looking Gulls in Japan I may have inadvertently seen one. Actually looking back on your post I don't have a firm ID on a Heuglins (though I've seen those odd tamireynsis (sp?) types) and Common Snipe and Eurasian Curlew. So make that 7. Actually my J-list is only 229 but 177 of those have been in Hakodate...........
Posted Friday 14th December 2007 at 12:40 by HokkaidoStu HokkaidoStu is offline
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