Bird Tour Report Oct 17

Pied Harrier (juvenile male)

Last weekend a US couple residing in Shanghai came over for a few days of birding in my region of Japan. They arrived late Friday afternoon, and we had just enough time to briefly check out Isahaya. We missed the juvenile male Pied Harrier that has been patrolling the area, but it was a nice introduction to the area for them. The next morning we visited Mount Unzen before heading out to Kabashima. Both locations were a bit quiet, but the weather was great and the scenery superb. Then on Sunday morning we had a very early start to be at Daijyugarami in time for daybreak and the high tide (08:30). Living up to its reputation, Daijyugarami had hundreds of shorebirds even though it was “out of season”. Finally we toured the Isahaya Reclaimed Land Areas and spent the last hour or so at our original Friday afternoon spot where we could finally get great views of the Pied Harrier catching and devouring a host of different kinds of prey! Overall, 78 species were confirmed in the field. Highlights included Narcissus Flycatcher, Pied Harrier, Black-faced Spoonbill, Varied Tit, Grey-streaked Flycatcher, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Japanese Bush Warbler, Streaked Shearwater, Eastern Marsh Harrier, Brown Shrike and Lesser Sand Plover. Below is the complete list:

Carrion Crow
Large-billed Crow
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Bull-headed Shrike
Great Cormorant
Osprey
Great Egret
Grey Heron
Little Egret
Common Snipe
Common Sandpiper
Eastern Spot-billed Duck
Common Moorhen
Rock Dove
Blue Rock Thrush
Black-eared Kite
White-cheeked Starling
Oriental Turtle Dove
Black-tailed Gull
Mongolian Gull
Streaked Shearwater
Brown Booby
Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker
Brown-eared Bulbul
Meadow Bunting
Red-billed Leiothrix
Varied Tit
Eastern Great Tit
Long-tailed Tit
Japanese Bush Warbler
Narcissus Flycatcher
Grey-streaked Flycatcher
Grey Wagtail
White Wagtail
Eurasian Teal
Little Grebe
Pacific Reef Egret
Japanese White-eye
Brown Shrike
Daurian Redstart
Eurasian Sparrowhawk
Eastern Buzzard
Oriental Greenfinch
Broad-billed Sandpiper
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Red-necked Stint
Greater Sand Plover
Lesser Sand Plover
Grey Plover
Dunlin
Common Greenshank
Great Knot
Terek Sandpiper
Whimbrel
Far Eastern Curlew
Eurasian Curlew
Kentish Plover
Bar-tailed Godwit
Black-tailed Godwit
Black-faced Spoonbill
Peregrine Falcon
Common Magpie
Eurasian Skylark
Eurasian Wigeon
Gadwall
Northern Shoveler
Common Pochard
Vega Gull
Black-headed Gull
Whiskered Tern
Common Coot
Eurasian Kestrel
Common Ringed Plover
Pied Harrier
Indian Cuckoo
Zitting Cisticola
Chinese Pond Heron
Eastern Marsh Harrier

Bird Tour Report

Black Stork at Isahaya

From Sunday midday until Wednesday afternoon I guided a visiting birder from Canada around places in Kumamoto, Nagasaki and Saga prefectures. Firstly we went to Yatsushiro and Hikawa Estuary, where we saw gulls and shorebirds, however the Black-faced Spoonbills that I had expected there were not to be found. The next morning we watched Streaked Shearwater and Brown Booby from Futsu Port, and then headed up Mount Unzen to Azamidani which was very quiet. In the afternoon we explored the Isahaya Reclaimed Land Areas, the highlights of which were Amur Falcon, Eastern Marsh Harrier and Black Stork. The next day we went out to Kabashima and although the weather was pretty bad we managed to see a few interesting birds such as Japanese Thrush, Blue-and-white Flycatcher and Asian Brown Flycatcher. We then headed to Daijyugarami in hopes of catching the Black-faced Spoonbills, but alas we didn’t spot them. Although there were a lot of shorebirds, the high tide was not so high and many species remained at the water’s edge – too far out for us to identify properly. However just as we were leaving we spotted a Bewick’s Swan flying over the canals – very surprising! On the final day we took the early ferry from Shimabara to Kumamoto, hoping for a closer look at Streaked Shearwater and perhaps Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel, but we only had good views of Brown Booby. As we headed over the bridge linking Kumamoto Port to the mainland, we joking quipped about the egrets on our left being Black-faced Spoonbill and then, when I glanced to my right, I spotted one right in close to the bridge! Of course, my guest didn’t quite believe me, but I turned the car around and we went back and had great views of several birds foraging on the shallow mudflat – the first time I had observed them at this location. We were thrilled with the discovery and then proceeded out to the Mount Aso area which is famous in summer for its Japanese Reed Buntings. I was expecting to find other buntings there, such as Chestnut-eared, Rustic, Common Reed, etc., but although there seemed to be many birds, only Meadow Bunting and Zitting Cisticola were positively identified. We also flushed a male Japanese Green Pheasant as we were leaving. Finally we tried Edu Lake, hoping for some new species but it was pretty quiet with only common birds, although we did get good views of a beautiful Common Kingfisher. Overall, I think the birding was poor in terms of density, however we did manage 87 species with a further 3 species glimpsed. Among those species were some quality birds such as Black-faced Spoonbill, Japanese Green Pheasant, Amur Falcon, Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Japanese Thrush, Eastern Marsh Harrier, Black Stork, Bewick’s Swan, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Mongolian Plover, Far Eastern Curlew, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Japanese Cormorant and Bull-headed Shrike. Below is the complete list:

Carrion Crow
Black-eared Kite
Large-billed Crow
Grey Heron
Little Egret
Eastern Great Egret
Black-crowned Night Heron
Vega Gull
Black-tailed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Osprey
Great Cormorant
Japanese Cormorant
Far Eastern Curlew
Curlew Sandpiper
Dunlin
Terek Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Common Snipe
Common Greenshank
Bar-tailed Godwit
Mallard
Eurasian Teal
Eurasian Wigeon
Eastern Spot-billed Duck
Gadwall
Eurasian Siskin
Oriental Greenfinch
Meadow Bunting
Daurian Redstart
Oriental Turtle Dove
Rock Dove
Blue Rock Thrush
White-cheeked Starling
Bull-headed Shrike
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Japanese Wagtail
Brown Booby
Streaked Shearwater
Varied Tit
Eastern Great Tit
Brambling
Greater Scaup
Northern Pintail
Common Pochard
Northern Shoveler
Whiskered Tern
Hen Harrier
Eastern Marsh Harrier
Eurasian Kestrel
Amur Falcon
Intermediate Egret
Common Coot
Common Moorhen
Siberian Stonechat
Zitting Cisticola
Black Stork
Grey Wagtail
White Wagtail (nominate plus 3 subspecies – lumens, lugens, ocularis)
Common Starling
Little Grebe
Sand Martin
Barn Swallow
Japanese Thrush
Blue-and-white Flycatcher
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker
Brown-eared Bulbul
Arctic Warbler
Peregrine Falcon
Eastern Buzzard
Eurasian Skylark
Common Magpie
Bewick’s Swan
Japanese White-eye
Eastern Yellow Wagtail
Black-tailed Godwit
Eurasian Curlew
Greater Sand Plover
Mongolian Plover
Red-necked Stint
Grey Plover
Kentish Plover
Pacific Golden Plover
Black-faced Spoonbill
Japanese Green Pheasant
Common Kingfisher

October 7 & 8 Birding Tour Report

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.

CONDITIONS:

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.

DAY ONE

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.

DAY TWO

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.

RESULT:

75 species sighted; 2 species heard:

COMMON MAPGIE
WHITE-CHEEKED STARLING
CARRION CROW
WHITE WAGTAIL
EURASIAN SKYLARK
GREY HERON
ORIENTAL GREENFINCH
ASIAN HOUSE MARTIN
SAND MARTIN
OSPREY
DUNLIN
RED-NECKED STINT
EURASIAN CURLEW
FAR EASTERN CURLEW
LESSER SAND PLOVER
GREATER SAND PLOVER
GREY PLOVER
KENTISH PLOVER
COMMON GREENSHANK
GREAT KNOT
RED KNOT
RUFF
GREAT EGRET
SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER
CURLEW SANDPIPER
MARSH SANDPIPER
RUDDY TURNSTONE
BROAD-BILLED SANDPIPER
EASTERN BLACK-TAILED GODWIT
BAR-TAILED GODWIT
ORIENTAL TURTLE DOVE
GADWALL
LARGE-BILLED CROW
BULL-HEADED SHRIKE
EURASIAN KESTREL
GREAT CORMORANT
EASTERN SPOT-BILLED DUCK
BLACK-EARED KITE
EURASIAN TREE SPARROW
ZITTING CISTICOLA
MEADOW BUNTING
EURASIAN COOT
COMMON MOORHEN
EURASIAN BITTERN
INTERMEDIATE EGRET
LITTLE EGRET
CATTLE EGRET
HEN HARRIER
PIED HARRIER
EASTERN MARSH HARRIER
EURASIAN TEAL
COMMON KINGFISHER
BARN SWALLOW
EASTERN BUZZARD
SWINHOE’S SNIPE
PIN-TAILED SNIPE
COMMON SNIPE
MALLARD
EURASIAN WIGEON
BLACK-TAILED GULL
PEREGRINE FALCON
BROWN BOOBY
SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATER
JAPANESE WHITE-EYE
JAPANESE PARADISE FLYCATCHER
EASTERN GREAT TIT
JAPANESE PYGMY WOODPECKER
KAMCHATKA LEAF WARBLER
JAPANESE CORMORANT
GREY WAGTAIL
DARK-SIDED FLYCATCHER
LONG-TAILED TIT
BLUE ROCK THRUSH
MANDARIN DUCK
COMMON ROSEFINCH

HEARD ONLY:

JAPANESE BUSH WARBLER
BROWN-EARED BULBUL