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
Great Cormorant
Japanese Cormorant
Far Eastern Curlew
Curlew Sandpiper
Terek Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Common Snipe
Common Greenshank
Bar-tailed Godwit
Eurasian Teal
Eurasian Wigeon
Eastern Spot-billed Duck
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
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

Eurasian Sparrowhawk | Accipiter nisus nisosimilis

Eurasian Sparrowhawk


The Eurasian Sparrowhawk is a common northern latitude raptor, ranging from western Europe all the way across to Japan. In winter, birds in my area are ones that have migrated south from Hokkaido and further north. Indeed, many birds pass through my region in the autumn migration period to wintering grounds in southern China. Often, like many species of raptor, it is the juveniles that tend to pass through Isahaya; staying for a few weeks or even months to prey on small wintering passerines such as Brambling, Oriental Greenfinch and Siskin. This morning I observed and photographed this young hawk as it hunted fast among the reed banks between the Central and Moriyama reclaimed land areas.

A Unique Opportunity!

Recently I received an email from friend and author, Dr. Mark Brazil regarding a new book he has written. Many of my readers will recognize that Dr. Brazil is the author of ‘A Field Guide to the Birds of East Asia’, the premier English guide to the birds of this region.

Over the last few years Mark has been preparing a collection of essays about the natural history of Japan, writing, editing and shaping them to weave a seasonal and cultural tapestry. The work, The Nature of Japan: From Dancing Cranes to Flying Fish, is now complete.

Mark has commissioned Hisashi Masuda, a budding Hokkaido-based artist-naturalist, to produce the illustrations and earlier this year he delivered a very fine set of extremely attractive line drawings to complement the text. Conservation biologist Ian Redmond OBE kindly wrote the foreword for the book. The laborious preparatory process, including scanning of the artwork, is now complete. The book’s layout has been designed, the cover has been completed (a draft of the cover and several sample pages are below). The book runs to over 300 pages and contains 75 illustrations; it will have a cover price of ¥2,800 plus tax in Japan. All that remains now is to print it and distribute it, but that of course is expensive.

In the time-honoured fashion of 18th and 19th century artists, musicians, playwrights, and authors, Dr. Brazil is inviting subscriptions to help this new work on its way.

By pooling one off subscriptions he hopes to be able to finance the production, printing and artwork for this work. The Nature of Japan is the first ever volume about the natural history of this amazing archipelago in English and the first book to be illustrated by Hisashi Masuda.

Anyone interested in natural history, in Japan, and in natural history literature, would be interested in this project and might consider supporting it by subscribing.

Subscribers who contribute from ¥6,000-12,000 will each receive a first edition of The Nature of Japan signed by both author and artist, numbered, and with a personalized dedication.

Supporters who contribute ¥25,000 or more will each receive a first edition of The Nature of Japan signed by both author and artist, numbered, and with a personalized dedication, along with a second signed and numbered copy suitable as a gift for a friend, and a 2014 calendar produced by Hisashi Masuda.

The goal is to raise at least half of the production costs by individual subscription to cover the costs of production within 2013. He is looking for corporate sponsorship for the remainder.