As usual the forecasters got it wrong…..rain during the night clearing by dawn with sunny skies from noon…….alas, rain, rain and more rain. In fact, it’s still raining now at 19:45! Anyway, I left home at 03:30 in order to catch the dawn and see if any migrants were around at Kabashima. The conditions meant I could have left at 07:00 and had plenty of time to catch the morning’s action but it’s nice to know I didn’t miss anything by arriving late. There were many birds calling, but all were skulking until mid-morning when a few began to show. Of interest were Siberian Blue Robin (glimpsed in the undergrowth), Blue-and-white Flycatcher and Tristram’s Bunting. I decided to also check some of the fields around Nomo town (the main township in the area) and turned up a small flock of Chestnut-cheeked Starling as well as a Little Bunting (rare in Japan). A nice Red-throated Pipit in breeding plumage was active in the fields but very flighty. Finally, as I was about to leave the area, a male Red-bellied Rock Thrush appeared beside my car with a centipede! It quickly disarmed the centipede by plying off its stingers before toying with it a bit more prior to flying off.
This morning I had a little bit of time and the weather was great, so I went to nearby Hyotanike lake to see what was happening. This lake has very nice scenery but is usually a bit low on bird life other than the resident Mallard and some introduced ducks. But the Barn Swallows love drinking and bathing in the lake, so this is another good place to try to photograph them in flight. A female Common Kingfisher was also briefly present.
Yesterday afternoon was very wet and while photographing Grey-headed Lapwing at Koga, Fukuoka, we observed dozens of Barn Swallow flying among the flowering clover and other seeding grasses. At first I was mystified by this behaviour, but photographs confirmed our suspicions that the birds were feeding on insects. The heavy rain must have prevented insects from flying around and thus be taken in mid-air as per usual Barn Swallow hunting techniques, so the birds had to adapt to snatching prey from the tops of vegetation. It was a great spectacle to watch, and I managed a nice sequence of shots with the 1D-X in the dull conditions.
Yesterday and today I ran a birding tour in the Fukuoka area for two guests from the UK. Conditions were quite challenging, however we saw a total of 66 species and heard an additional 5. Highlights included Black-faced Spoonbill, Far Eastern Curlew, Great Knot, Japanese Cormorant, Grey-headed Lapwing, Asian Stubtail, Narcissus Flycatcher, Japanese Thrush, Red-flanked Bluetail, Daurian Redstart, Grey Bunting, Chestnut-eared Bunting, and Rustic Bunting. We also enjoyed watching dozens of Barn Swallow feeding among clover flowers and seeding vegetation in the pouring rain – the subject of a separate post. Below is the complete species list together with a few photos.
Asian Spot-billed Duck
Eastern Cattle Egret
Little Ringed Plover
Far Eastern Curlew
Oriental Turtle Dove
Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker
Eastern Great Tit
Japanese Bush Warbler
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Eastern Crowned Warbler
Late this afternoon I stopped in at what is reputedly the smallest and newest lake in Japan, Lake Shirachi in Shimabara. Actually more of a large pond than a lake, it is surrounded by streets but usually has herons and egrets as well as a few resident “soup” ducks. However it is also a good place to attempt to photograph Barn Swallows in flight as they feed and drink in and around the small lake. This afternoon there weren’t too many other birds around, just a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron, although earlier I had paused at the forest and photographed a female Brambling as well as a nice flowering Chinese Fringetree branch! The Barn Swallows cooperated nicely…an interesting shot has two birds trying to snatch a feather in mid-air, while another shot has a bird that plucked something from the water’s surface – probably a bug of some sort.
This morning I tried Azamidani to see if any migrants were passing through…. Seems a bit early still, as the Grey-bellied Bullfinch and Red-flanked Bluetail were still there, however all the wintering thrushes had gone. It seems likely that migrant warblers should be passing through any day now. Among the Grey-bellied Bullfinch was one male that seemed very red on its chest and belly…almost like a Eurasian Bullfinch…..however they should all be Pyrrhula pyrrhula rosacea……. Red-billed Leiothrix were also active.
This morning’s weather was terrible, but I thought I would go to Isahaya and try to see the immature Steller’s Sea Eagle that arrived last Thursday. I’d seen heaps of these raptors in Hokkaido so it wasn’t a big deal for me personally (hence waiting this long to go and try spotting it!), but it would have been interesting to watch one in an area where they haven’t been recorded in almost 30 years. However I wasn’t able to locate it and it probably headed north yesterday afternoon before the bad weather moved in. So after patrolling the river between 06:00 and 08:00, I spent the mid-morning touring the reclaimed land areas and observing a nice male Merlin along with the remainder of the wintering ducks such as Falcated Teal, Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Wigeon, etc.. Summer breeders are already starting to arrive, such as this adorable Little Ringed Plover.
This morning I thought I would check out a few places for spring migrants. Firstly I went to Kabashima and later to Karako, both in Nagasaki prefecture. Although there were a lot of birds calling at Kabashima, very few were showing well – most were either skulking or very flighty. That said, there seemed to be quite a few interesting species starting to arrive. I heard one unusual warbler song that I have yet to identify, and also a call from a crake that I didn’t know. But I used the video function on the 1D-X so hopefully I have them recorded for future identification. A nice male Siberian Rubythroat was there, but it flew off just as I was locking focus on it! Same for a solitary Hoopoe… Karako was better for photography, and I found a pair of Little Ringed Plover that might be preparing to breed there. Other interesting birds at Karako were Chinese Penduline Tit, Japanese Pheasant, and Black-backed Wagtail. Eastern Great Tit were active among the cherry blossoms as well!