Over the past few weeks I’ve visited the reclaimed land areas at Isahaya to keep my finger on the migration pulse and, especially, to wait for the Amur Falcon to show up. Whilst I saw one juvenile female Amur Falcon last week while driving, it seems the main group of migrants is yet to arrive. Siberian Stonechat have been in the fields for a few weeks, while Brown-eared Bulbul are migrating south and west. The wintering ducks have started arriving, with plenty of Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Wigeon, Eurasian Teal, Northern Pintail, Mallard, Gadwall and Eastern Spot-billed Duck in the rivers and lakes. Most of the ducks are still in eclipse, however, so most are looking a dirty shade of brown! The ports around the Ariake Sea have lots of wintering gulls, the highlight of which was a Mongolian Gull at Futsu. Apart from the juvenile Pied Harrier that dropped in, there are quite a few Eastern Marsh Harrier and a lesser number of Hen Harrier haunting the reeds – birds that will stay here all winter. Other than that, just the usual raptors – Peregrine, Eurasian Kestrel, Black-eared Kite, Osprey and Northern Goshawk. This morning the raptors were having a hard time, being mobbed by all kinds of birds – from wagtails to crows!
Yesterday morning I was lucky to be able to join a team from Nagasaki University’s Dept of Ornithology who were banding birds at Isahaya. The conditions were perfect – no wind and a thick fog covering the wetlands. The team set up two sets of nets at different locations, which were then checked every 40 minutes. As you would expect, most birds were caught in the mist nets within the first few hours after sunrise, however the team continued working until midday. We were very lucky with our first check of the morning – one of the first birds we found tangled in the net was a first winter female Bluethroat! Quite a rare bird for Japan and the first time one has been banded at Isahaya, although they have been recorded here in the past. Other species banded included Daurian Redstart, Brambling, Zitting Cisticola, Japanese Bush Warbler, Chestnut-eared Bunting, Oriental Greenfinch (C. s. minor & C. s. kawarahiba), Siberian Rubythroat, and Siskin. However most birds were Common Reed Bunting.