Photos of a female Narcissus Flycatcher (Ficedula narcissina) taken yesterday morning on Mt Unzen.
Yesterday morning I tried again at the pond at Azamidani on Mount Unzen. The day before yesterday was quite hot and sunny, so I was hoping that all the excess moisture had dried up and there would be more activity at the pond. I was at the gate to the toll road that leads up to Nita-toge at 07:50, but as usual they had opened the road a little earlier than the advertised 08:00. I threw my 100 yen into the box and proceeded onwards and upwards.
I spotted a few Meadow Bunting and a flock of Oriental Greenfinch along the road, and then parked the car at Nita-toge and started hiking. A few more Meadow Bunting were in the, uh, meadow between the carpark and the cable car station, and then I was onto the trail. No Eastern Crowned Warbler this morning, but lots of tits and a few Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker along the trail to the pond. I arrived and was set up before 08:20 and immediately I could hear lots of Narcissus Flycatchers calling. Usually there is only one pair and their fledglings at the pond in the summer, but now there were at least four females and one male. The females (adults and immatures) were very vocal and also very confiding, approaching the pond and bathing on several occasions. The male was still fairly cautious, but at least this time he bathed a few times. Red-billed Leiothrix were their usual selves and a Japanese Bush Warbler came a few times. The male Japanese Thrush approached the pond but soon I could see the reason why the birds were a little skittish recently – a Eurasian Sparrowhawk swooped into the pond area from the back! It didn’t seem to catch anything, but was hidden behind heavy foliage. It then flew across the pond and landed just a few meters away, but as soon as I moved it saw me and flew to another perch off to my right. I could see enough of the bird to identify it as a male, but soon it flew off down the valley.
After the hawk had left, the passerines returned again but there wasn’t as much action as there had been beforehand. The thrush never showed again, although I started hearing its call again shortly before I left at 12:30. Also at around midday an Asian Stubtail made a brief appearance….I managed some video footage of it but it bathed in one spot that was concealed from my position.
I returned to my car, spotting a Winter Wren and a few Grey-streaked Warbler on the way back. Then, as I drove down the toll road I almost ran over an immature male Copper Pheasant! I stopped and observed him for a while and then continued back home. All in all, an interesting morning’s birding even if I wasn’t able to capture that much on film/video.
Oriental Turtle Dove
Eastern Great Tit
Japanese Bush Warbler
Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker
This morning I visited the pond at Azamidani, Mount Unzen. Recently the pond has been very dry, but yesterday plenty of rain fell on the mountain so I hoped birds would respond by visiting it more frequently. The day started off fine. I parked the car at Nita-toge and hiked the 3 km to the pond, spotting an Eastern Crowned Warbler on the way. When I arrived at the pond, I could hear a Japanese Thrush calling so I quickly set up and waited. Although the thrush was very vocal, it didn’t approach the pond…. Actually the weather report said that it would be cloudy then clearing, however it was cloudy, got cloudier and then started raining! It was very dark at the pond and the few birds that came to drink and bathe were very timid. The Red-billed Leiothrix that normally are very active were absent apart from their calls, and there were only a few visits by the resident Eastern Great and Varied Tit. However a female Narcissus Flycatcher came, drank and bathed, and later a male came to the vicinity of the pond but didn’t actually bathe. I managed video footage of them both:
Between September 16 and 19 I led a couple from Canada around birding spots in Kumamoto, Nagasaki, Saga, Fukuoka and Oita prefectures. Before the tour started, I took the ferry across to Kumamoto from Shimabara, spotting a large flock of Streaked Shearwater just out from Shimabara Port, and then Brown Booby as the ferry neared Kumamoto Port. I stopped for a while at Edu Lake, where the most interesting bird was a juvenile Whiskered Tern. I then headed out to Aso-Kumamoto Airport to pick up my guests, who were lucky to be only slightly delayed by Typhoon Man-yi. Indeed the typhoon had cleared out many birds, and delayed the arrival of more migrants, so the birding was a bit slow and good views of species difficult to obtain. We saw 82 species overall, and over three days visited the Aso highlands, Edu Lake, Mt Unzen, Mt Hiyamizu, Kabashima, Daijyugarami and Mt Hiko.
Yesterday I heard that about 11,000 Chinese Goshawk had left Tsushima, so I thought it would be a good time to check Mount Kinugasa this morning. I arrived a bit late (08:45) but soon saw one “hawk tornado” of about 20 birds to the north. They spiraled up into the clouds and disappeared. Things were quiet until 09:30 when a group of 30 birds appeared on the western side of the mountain. This group was much closer so I could get some good photos of them as they flew past. Shortly afterwards, a second group of about the same size appeared, but they didn’t approach quite as closely as the first – they gained altitude quickly before flying on past me towards the Amakusa islands. I waited until 10:00 but not much else was happening, apart from a single White-throated Needletail that buzzed the mountain top. Most of the Chinese Goshawks seemed to be juveniles, with only a few adults among them.
Late this afternoon I decided to hike up Mt Kinugasa and see if there was any migration action. I arrived at the summit at about 16:30 and stayed until 18:00. During that time I saw a lone Chinese Goshawk, but it was quite far and on the sunward side of me, so I didn’t bother to try to photograph it. Also, a juvenile Grey-faced Buzzard appeared not too far away and perched in a tree. It flew away but returned to one of three perches, so I managed some decent photos. A pair of Grey-streaked Flycatchers were also quite active just before sunset, while I could hear Eurasian Jay, Red-billed Leiothrix, Eastern Great Tit, Brown-eared Bulbul and Large-billed Crow. A small band of Wild Boar were also active, but kept well hidden in the undergrowth – later when I hiked back down to my car I could see where they had been, as they had dug up the side of the trail in some areas near the summit.
Yesterday morning I visited Daijyugarami again, after hearing that a juvenile Nordmann’s Greenshank had been sighted the day before. High tide was around 10, so I got there at 08:00. Other birders had got the word as well, so there were a few other birders and bird photographers waiting when I got there. We couldn’t find the Nordmann’s, but there was another juvenile Asian Dowitcher, along with a Garganey and Broad-billed Sandpiper. After scoping for the Nordmann’s from the parking lot, I went down and found the Asian Dowitcher and walked to the fence almost directly in front of it. It was still quite far, but it was slowly making its way toward me. I got some good shots of it as it approach and thought I would get even better ones, however the neighbourhood Peregrine showed up and flushed everything! At least the Peregrine caught something this time (a Nordmann’s Greenshank???) and flew off over the seawall, but the damage was done – at this close to high tide most of the birds didn’t bother returning to feed and so that was that….. Afterwards I joined the birders back up at the carpark and we moved along the wall to where some shorebirds were resting to see what was around and turned up the above-mentioned Broad-billed Sandpiper in non-breeding plumage, as well as having nice views of everything else.
Recently I was invited to write a guest post for the Yadorigi blog about summer wildlife in Japan. Yadorigi is a small village in Kanagawa prefecture about which a short documentary film was created. This documentary was internationally acclaimed and there are plans by its producer/director, Eiji Iwakawa, to make a full-length documentary. I encourage you to visit the blog and watch the short documentary (and read my guest post, of course!):
I visited Daijyugarami, Saga prefecture, last Friday to see what birds had started migrating through…..the highlights were a solitary juvenile Asian Dowitcher, a Long-billed Dowitcher in breeding plumage, a Red Knot also in breeding plumage, a Broad-billed Sandpiper, a Long-toed Stint, four Black-faced Spoonbill, one Saunders’s Gull, a few Black-tailed Godwit and plenty of Great Knot. Here is the complete list, while some photos are below:
Far Eastern Curlew
Greater Sand Plover
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
My trip to Thailand has been spent mostly with the family, which together with adverse rainy-season weather has left little time for photography. However I did get the family together for a quick day trip to Doi Inthanon, and the weather cooperated nicely. I had a quick look at Checkpoint 2, where a group of Thai bird photographers from Bangkok had set up, and had nice views of Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Short-billed Minivet and Large Niltava. Then, after visiting the King and Queen chedis with the family, I took a quick circuit of the high altitude montane cloud forest boardwalk at the summit where I could photograph White-browed Shortwing, Silver-eared Laughingthrush, Ashy-throated Warbler, Snowy-browed Flycatcher and Chestnut-tailed Minla. I observed the iconic subspecies of Green-tailed Sunbird high up in the canopy but didn’t bother to try to photograph them at that distance in poor lighting conditions. Otherwise the summit was fairly quiet; I usually visit in the very early morning when some of the shyer Doi Inthanon resident specialities take the opportunity to forage before tourists arrive. While driving I spotted two large raptors but they were very shy and took off as soon as I slowed down, so I didn’t have an opportunity to positively identify them. But a nice surprise was waiting for me further down the mountain near the park headquarters, where I came across what seemed to be a juvenile male Black-throated Sunbird, or perhaps a male in eclipse. It was feeding on flowers in a shrub, but was moving around very quickly and usually sticking to the centre of the thick foliage, making it extremely challenging to get a clear photograph. But after persevering for about 90 minutes (and much to the relief of my waiting family!) I was able to come away with some nice shots. The flowers were also visited by a flock of Oriental White-eye, while Pied Bushchat, Asian Emerald Cuckoo and several species of bulbul were active in the trees.