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Warbler? Hegura Japan September (2015) (1 Viewer)

MacNara

Well-known member
Japan
Without being able to go abroad, and not much inside Japan, I have looked at some old photos.

This photo - I include a blown-up version, a smaller version, and the original view - was taken on Hegura Island off the coast of Ishikawa Prefecture Japan on 24 September 2015.

Hegura is a tiny island (you can walk around the edge of the island in an hour) which is famous for rareties (quite a few birds on the Japan list have only ever been seen on this island).

This bird stood out because of the strong yellow tones even at a distance and that's why I took photos of it in its hiding spot. I thought when I first saw the photos on a larger screen that it might be a Tickell's Warbler, but no-one I showed it to was willing to commit to anything at all.

On reflection, the eye pattern (brow and eye-ring) don't seem to fit anything clearly (to me, anyway).

I wonder if anyone here has any feeling about what this could be.


150924052 Hegura.JPG 150924054 Hegura.JPG 150924054A Hegura.jpg
 

andyb39

Well-known member
Are these the only images? It's not possible to assign it to a species from these images and I don't think it's easy even to assign it to a group or complex. I'm pretty sure it's not Tickell's Leaf, which has yellow ear-coverts, among other things.

If I had to take a stab, I'd say a member of either the Arctic or Greenish complex. The supercilious is long but rather narrow. The eyestripe seems to flare a little after the eye and there's a prominent white lower eye-ring. Given what you said about the yellow tones to the underparts, would Japanese Leaf be feasible - is this be the kind of time they'd be migrating south?
 

MacNara

Well-known member
Japan
Are these the only images? It's not possible to assign it to a species from these images and I don't think it's easy even to assign it to a group or complex. I'm pretty sure it's not Tickell's Leaf, which has yellow ear-coverts, among other things.

If I had to take a stab, I'd say a member of either the Arctic or Greenish complex. The supercilious is long but rather narrow. The eyestripe seems to flare a little after the eye and there's a prominent white lower eye-ring. Given what you said about the yellow tones to the underparts, would Japanese Leaf be feasible - is this be the kind of time they'd be migrating south?
Thanks, Andy. Partly the reason I posted this was to do with the current/nearby thread on a leaf warbler in Korea which reminded me that I had never managed to fix this (my) bird. For the same reason as given by yourself and others on that thread (i.e the bird would be migrating east or northeast in order to go south) I don't think JLW is very likely for that bird or my bird. There were zillions of Arctic complex birds, presumed KLW (though two weeks earlier than they come through my spot on the same latitude), on the island that day (sample photos attached - for some reason yellow feet and darker legs, like a little egret, were common), but all in trees or bushes, often with friends, not hiding alone and isolated in the rock of a wall like this bird.

I thought that the face pattern and overall covering are distinctive enough for an ID by someone with a better eye than me. But as I said, the people I asked at the time also declined to commit to an ID, so I guess it will end up as 'just one of those things'. From the widest photo, taken with a 300mm lens (previous post), you can see that it was quite far away, but the yellow of the bird leapt out so much that I saw it, despite the fact that it was drizzling, and thought it was worth photographing (despite, as I said, the zillions of other AW complex birds around). And as I tried to get closer, of course it flew off and couldn't be found again.

(Each photo shows a different individual bird)


150924042 Hegura.JPG 150924133 Hegura.JPG 150924156 Hegura.JPG 150924221 Hegura.JPG 150924253 Hegura.JPG
 

MacNara

Well-known member
Japan
Hi Andy, thank you for replying. If you and others don't recognise it from the face pattern and colouring, then I have realised (come to think) that it can't be a warbler after all.

Backstory 1: My 60th birthday was on a Saturday. That year by chance Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were national holidays. My wife took Thursday and Friday as holidays and arranged a long trip in Japan for my birthday going to a few places we had never been including the famous Monkey Hot Spring. A day trip to Hegura (ferry arrives about 1030, leaves about 1530) was to be the final full day and a highlight. It started well, but the drizzle began half-way to the island. There are a couple of hostels on the island but no café or similar. So we trudged around in the drizzle for five hours with nothing showing except the above presumed KLWs (which might be borealis, or something else even, but none of them, none of them called - I had my voice recorder ready). Out of the blue, this yellow ball of sunshine appeared in this black drystone wall. For some reason, I assumed it was a warbler. But also, I suppose, I wanted to find something 'new' to make my wife feel itwas worth her while to arrange the trip.

Backstory 2: This was my second trip to Hegura. On my first trip in 2010, one night, I saw Grey-necked Bunting and Booted Warbler both of which were among the earliest records for Japan, so I was primed to see 'rare' things. (I went there one other time, but the ferry was cancelled, as it often is, because of winds and waves, which may be mild at the port but much stronger offshore.)

Anyway since no-one recognises a warbler for this bird, I think it is probably female Grey Bunting hiding from the rain as we would also have liked to do. We saw a male fifteen minutes later.

And I did find one new bird that day - Yellow-browed Warbler.

And weirdly, very weirdly, while I was typing this I have received a mail after two or three years from the British friend (a non-birder; it was a mistake to take him there) who went with me on that first trip to Hegura (my oldest friend, since I was ten).

Anyway: Hegura is an island which is only occupied for about eight months of the year. The main industry is seaweed harvesting which is done by women divers (and you have to wonder how long this will last, as I can't imagine it's a popular career choice for young women of today). The other industry is birdwatchers for whom there are two hostels on the island. There are no shops; there is a lighthouse (which may not be used in these days of radar) and a weather station.

So: a couple of seaweed photos as illustrations.

101002048 Hegura.JPG 101002049 Hegura.JPG
 

johnallcock

Well-known member
I'm pretty sure it is a warbler, like you first thought, rather than a bunting.
The yellow tones and pale pinkish legs put me in mind somewhat of a Radde's Warbler. But I don't think it's identifiable from these photos I'm afraid.
 

MacNara

Well-known member
Japan
Thank you John. It' embarrassing to have got so fixated on this.

We are allowed to travel in Japan, though it was discouraged for quite a while. And we effectively can't go abroad - weirdly the government has negotiated with various other countries so that we can enter without quarantine using a Japanese vaccine passport but we would still have to quarantine for two weeks on returning to Japan!

So in the absence of new stuff to process, I've been going through old stuff and coming up with things like this bird.

I hope you're safe and well there in HK.
 

Brian J Small

Well-known member
IMHO this is a juvenile Willow Warbler.

Juvenile yakutensis can be much yellower below than expected - just as yellow as acredula.

The exaggeratedly pale rear super is a trick of the light; the pale area on the ear coverts below the eye is typical of WW.

Brian
 

MacNara

Well-known member
Japan
IMHO this is a juvenile Willow Warbler.

Juvenile yakutensis can be much yellower below than expected - just as yellow as acredula.

The exaggeratedly pale rear super is a trick of the light; the pale area on the ear coverts below the eye is typical of WW.

Brian
Thank you Brian. 'Birds of East Asia' says Willow Warbler is a 'rare, probably annual migrant (Sep-Nov) offshore Japan'. Offshore Japan usually means this island of Hegura, or one of a handful of other islands. It would certainly be on the right route for the easternmost (yakutensis) birds on migration, and the season is right also (24th September).
 

MacNara

Well-known member
Japan
IMHO this is a juvenile Willow Warbler.

Juvenile yakutensis can be much yellower below than expected - just as yellow as acredula.

The exaggeratedly pale rear super is a trick of the light; the pale area on the ear coverts below the eye is typical of WW.

Brian
Dear Brian,

Willow Warbler was not a species I had considered because only having seen them in books, I thought they were much paler. I looked around on the internet a bit after receiving your post. And then I thought to check out the blog of my British friend in Kyoto who is also a member here as neilcd.

(Although we live only 20km or so apart, and have corresponded by e-mail quite a few times, we have never met - although we once dipped on each other by fifteen minutes when going for a Ring-billed Duck on a local pond.)

I should specify that he is a vastly more experienced birder than me (I've only been doing it as a hobby for ten years or so) and has a Japan list which is probably twice mine and getting close to the possible Japan maximum.

Anyway, lo-and-behold when I checked his blog, the one entry that he has under 'Willow Warbler' was a bird on Hegura in 2015 - my bird (if it was WW) was 24 September, and his was 14 October, so unlikely to be the same bird, I suppose, but still. He also mentions the strong yellow colouration.

Maybe that was a special year for Willow Warbler migration?

Anyway, I have linked to his blogpost, and if anyone has any other comments that would be ineresting. He says in the blog that he once saw four WW on Hegura on the same day in 2006 - he has been birding in Japan for decades (but the blog started when he got a camera, I think) and is a regular visitor to Hegura (sometimes three or four times in one autumn or spring) whereas I have only been two times (with a failed third try - boat didn't sail).

PS: Edit to post #5 (it's too late to edit directly). The other new / rare bird I found was Yellow-browed Bunting (not Yellow-browed Warbler, which has over-wintered in Osaka where I saw it in 2011).
 
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MacNara

Well-known member
Japan
It is WW

B
Thank you very much Brian.

By-the-by, we fell in love with Africa after our first visit ('once-in-a-lifetime' ha-ha) in 2008 and have been annually ever since until the lurgy hit, even though we can, for social reasons(Japanese work practices), only go for an absolute maximum of twelve days at a time including travel, so the per-day cost is high and our pension fund gets smaller every year (pun not intended, but we've been to Kenya three times). But my wife is retiring in 18 months, and a long trip to Africa will be my retirement present to her.

In the meantime, I am getting my fix with looking at some of my trip photos, but also looking through the new edition of 'Birds of East Africa', with your wonderful illustrations, for an hour or two at a time - I don't know if it's modern technology, or my eyes are getting older, but it seems that the printers have done a great job on the new edition (when it first arrived, I thought they had printed it too dark, but looking at it, the detail is more vivid - the sooner I can use it in the field, the happier I will be).

And by chance, Suffolk is one of the next places on my list - I have spent many happy holidays over forty years with friends there in Bury St Edmunds and various villages around.

Anyway, thank you again for being kind enough to reply here. And stay well and safe.
 
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MacNara

Well-known member
Japan
And just to make this thread clearer, even though it's not strictly necessary after Brian Small's posts - in post #5 when I said 'Grey Bunting' I meant 'Grey Wagtail' a male of which species we saw fifteen minutes later (because of the yellow, it was all I could think of as an alternative).
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia

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