Monday, 19 October 2020

September Common Terns (minussensis) and Garganey

Between my September trips to Ogasawara and Hokkaido I squeezed in a single visit to Mie. Ordinarily I'd be getting anxious about what I was missing there if I didn't get across as much as possible during peak wader passage so it didn't help that a Buff-breasted Sandpiper had been reported in the area, even though I didn't know exactly where it was. I've already posted about the Latham's and Pintail Snipe I saw that day but there were a few other interesting birds too.

There's usually the odd Garganey to be found during spring and autumn passage, singles or twos and threes usually mixed in with the arriving Eurasian Teal but flocks of over 20 on a couple of occasions kept to themselves. I only found one bird mixed in with a party of Eurasian Teal on this visit, though there may have been one or two more in with them, it was hard to say for sure as the Teal spent most of their time hidden on pools in the reeds.

Another good sighting for me was Common Tern. They aren't rare by any means but they aren't easy to get decent views of in this area either, tending to be distant fly-bys or way out on exposed sand bars at low tide, so it was good to have to have a couple on a coastal lagoon. According to Brazil (East Asian Field Guide), minussensis is less common in Japan than the more eastern longipennis. I'm uncertain how much less common it should be but these birds, like many I see appear to be minussensis with extensive red in the lower mandible and bright red legs.     

Garganey (and Eurasian Teal) with very rusty breast just visible above the water line. 

Presumably the same bird later in the day.

Common Tern, subspecies minussensis

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Typhoon-blown Leaches & Fork-tailed Petrels

The typhoon not only pushed the amazing Red-legged Kittiwakes into harbours but also large numbers of  Fork-tailed and Leaches Petrels as well as flocks of skuas; Richard Carden also estimated 400 skuas per hour past Cape Nosappu. This was a truly great birding experience and one that's impossible to plan in advance, requiring the kind of flexibility work doesn't normally allow or the luck of being in the right place at the right time.

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Red-legged Kittiwakes

I often wondered whether I's pick out a Red-legged Kittiwake on a northern ferry route, how difficult would they be to pick out? Not so difficult after all it seems. At least the first of many typhoon driven birds I saw in harbours around eastern Hokkaido last week stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. Did I overlook any adults? All the birds I saw were either 1CY or 2CY (I think) suggesting either the adults aren't this far south, they can ride out the storm without seeking shelter in harbours or I missed them all completely. I hope not the latter but I don't think so.

We made our first typhoon-check stop of the day at Kiritappu. The other half of the 'we', by the way, being the same Richard Carden I visited Tsushima, Hokkaido (the first time), Tateyama and Ogasawara with this year. The expansive bite of the bay lay directly in the path of the wind and funneled the scooped-up birds straight into the harbour. The first Red-leg I got onto was dropping-in to join a small flock of Black-legged sitting on the water well into the harbour, right by the main road bridge into the port village. It didn't give a great view before landing and I was shocked just how easy it was to identify, it really does suggest a Sabine's Gull rather than a Kittiwake. Once on the water I thought it would be more difficult, but no. The only difficulty was trying to keep on the bobbing gulls due to the rough conditions.

First winter Red-legged and Black-legged, not even remotely similar. The familiar immature Black-legged with a Sabine's wannabe.

The underwing is no less distinctive; I might have hoped for a wedge-tailed appearance here!

Looking over the outer breakwater there's a lot more weather going on. There were large numbers of skuas and petrels out there.

Stuart Price arrived while Richard and I were watching the Gulls (and petrels) and it was he who located a group of nine Red-legs further round in the harbour. If anything these birds were too close for photography because of the constraints imposed by the car (the angle to avoid getting flooded by the horizontal rain and airborne seawater) and the impossibility of getting out and being able to point the camera in the right direction, let alone hold it steady. I know because I did try a couple of times.

Juvenile/1st winter.

This is what I believe is a 2CY bird because of the paler areas developing in the bill, a much cleaner head and neck as well as less black showing on the leading edge of the folded wing. There isn't a vast amount of information on moult timing but September is surely far too early for a 1CY to have this appearance even though I might have imagined more yellow on the bill of a 2CY at this time of year. 

The presumed 2CY is the bird on the right in this group shot.

We crossed the peninsula and stopped off at two north facing harbours, Onneto and Horomoshiri, before reaching Nemuro city, plus one more beyond the city. They all held more Red-legged Kittiwakes! Just threes and fours rather than the 12 at Kiritappu but how many Red-legs must there be off Hokkaido at this time of year? Or at least how many immatures. These birds must have already been at this latitude because the north moving typhoon, though massive locally, didn't yet extend its influence into the waters north of Japan where I'd have expected these birds to be.