On my first excursion since arriving back in Japan, I wanted to finally get good views of one species that has been on my wish list – the Chinese Goshawk. Also known as Chinese Sparrowhawk and Horsfield’s Sparrowhawk, these birds migrate from as far north as the Russia Far East to as far south as the Philippines in early autumn. It is only relatively recently that they were noticed migrating in large numbers in western Japan, but now most of their routes are known. Birds that arrive in Japan usually migrate through the Korean Peninsula, across to Tsushima, then arrive on the northwestern coast of Nagasaki (Mt Hiyamizu is a popular spot to watch them), then head along the Nagasaki coastline. Depending on the wind direction, they can come inland as far as Mt Gokahara in Isahaya, but normally they skim the coastline or bypass it altogether by using the Goto Islands prior to heading further south.
I heard from a Japanese birder friend that around 8000 birds had left Tsushima yesterday, and so I thought that the northwesterly winds would push them across to the Nagasaki coast. Therefore early this afternoon I went to Mount Kinugasa, a peak on the western section of Mount Unzen to see if a few had taken this route. It seems the Chinese Goshawks use the peak as a navigation marker for one of their main routes south, with the next stop being the Amakusa Islands. I had tried previously to observe migrating birds at Mt Hiyamizu and Mt Gokahara, but always missed them. So this time I started trying for them earlier in the season, and this afternoon seemed like a good chance.
I arrived at Mt Kinugasa at 12:45, and within 5 minutes I observed 32 Chinese Goshawk migrating along the east flank of the mountain south towards the Amakusa Islands. Over the next hour, a total of 54 birds were seen and then at around 13:45 the wind changed to a southwesterly and no further birds were observed. But I was ecstatic! I had gotten some great views of the birds as they flew either low right over my head or flew past almost at eye level. I managed a few photos, and as far as I could tell there were about equal numbers of adults and juveniles.