On October 7 & 8 I had the pleasure of acting as a birding guide for my friend Jamie’s parents, who are keen birders visiting from England.
Typhoon Danas was heading up from the Nansei Shoto so we only had really good weather on the first morning. The first afternoon was very cloudy and got progressively very dark, although there was little rain. The forecast for the second day was quite bad, with Danas expected in the vicinity in the late afternoon. However the typhoon stayed offshore and although it was windy and rainy, the conditions were not too bad although birding was slow. Due to the forecast we decided to end the birding early on the second afternoon, around 2 o’clock.
We met up at Saga at 06:00 and proceeded to Daijyugarami. While driving we saw Common Magpie, Carrion Crow, White-cheeked Starling, White Wagtail, Grey Heron and Eurasian Tree Sparrow. In the fields around Daijyugarami were plenty of Eurasian Skylark, while overhead flew Asian House Martin and Sand Martin. On the mudflat there was a selection of the more common wader species, but also Broad-billed Sandpiper, Ruff, Ruddy Turnstone and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Unfortunately there were no dowitchers, nor did any Black-faced Spoonbill put in an appearance.
Leaving Daijyugarami around 10:30, we stopped briefly at a small lake in Kashima on the way to Isahaya reclaimed land area. There are four main reclaimed land areas at Isahaya – Oe, Chuo, Moriyama and Azuma. Our original plan was to tour these areas quickly and then spend some time on Mount Unzen, however the weather on the mountain was looking a bit stormy so we stayed on the coast.
At Oe we saw several species of waterbird and flushed a Eurasian Bittern. We also had glimpses of Zitting Cisticola.
At Chuo there was a nice surprise waiting – a juvenile Pied Harrier. We also observed Eastern Marsh and Hen Harrier, along with some waterbirds and passerines.
At Moriyama we toured the flooded rice fields with good results. One field had all four species of egret along with Grey Heron, while later we were able to find all three species of snipe that pass through these “wetlands” – Pin-tailed, Swinhoe’s and Common.
We visited Azuma briefly and saw a few duck species but a nice male Common Kingfisher was the highlight. With conditions becoming darker and darker, we called it a day at around 17:30.
Again, weather dictated a change in plans and we decided to skip a morning at Mount Hiyamizu and head directly to Kabashima. We arrived at around 08:00 and parked at the lighthouse. Things were pretty quiet apart from great view of a pair of Peregrine Falcon hunting the headland, but we heard from a Japanese bird photographer that a Pleske’s Grasshopper Warbler had been seen the morning before at the small pond here, so we set up on that and waited. After about an hour nothing had visited the pond so we went back to the lighthouse and then proceeded out to the observatory at the tip of the island. Here we were visited by a mixed flock of passerines, mainly Japanese White-eye and Long-tailed Tit, but also a female Japanese Paradise Flycatcher and Kamchatka Leaf Warbler. We also enjoyed watching several seabirds fly by, including a Short-tailed Shearwater (or perhaps a Sooty Shearwater), some Brown Booby, a few Black-tailed Gull and two Japanese Cormorant.
With the weather deteriorating we left Kabashima and stopped in at Kawahara Lake, where we could observe a flock of Mandarin Duck on the far shore under some low trees, along with more Black-tailed Gull which were sheltering in the lake instead of being out on the breakwater as usual.
It was getting winder and rainier, so after reading that the forecast said things would get worse we decided to end the tour a few hours early.
75 species sighted; 2 species heard:
ASIAN HOUSE MARTIN
FAR EASTERN CURLEW
LESSER SAND PLOVER
GREATER SAND PLOVER
EASTERN BLACK-TAILED GODWIT
ORIENTAL TURTLE DOVE
EASTERN SPOT-BILLED DUCK
EURASIAN TREE SPARROW
EASTERN MARSH HARRIER
JAPANESE PARADISE FLYCATCHER
EASTERN GREAT TIT
JAPANESE PYGMY WOODPECKER
KAMCHATKA LEAF WARBLER
BLUE ROCK THRUSH
JAPANESE BUSH WARBLER