Monday, 17 February 2020

Chinese Grey Shrike

I think I've only ever seen Grey Shrikes, both Chinese and Great in Kyushu, so a Shiga bird isn't to be sniffed at.

News of this bird is being kept quiet, something I generally have mixed feelings about but in this case it seems appropriate as the bird is somewhat mobile around narrow farmland roads which could lead to an absolute circus if large numbers of people turned up. Which no doubt they would. There is actually ample parking nearby but while the bird is quite approachable by car the lack of restraint shown by a certain percentage of people, once on foot, would likely result in the bird being pushed from pillar to post.

A short row of about 12 or so low, roadside trees offers the best opportunity to view the bird well but getting an unobstructed view for even a lone birder (I was there for two hours and no one else came during that time) isn't easy so I can imagine people further down the line piling out of their vehicles and giving the bird no peace. I just don't see how this site could accommodate a large number of people yet give the bird the space it needs.

The Inadvertent Flycatcher

It almost sounds new to science, doesn't it? "I just got an Inadvertent Flycatcher!" Well, in a sense, it was new to me. I've seen tons of Red-breasted Flycatchers in Kansai but for some reason never a single one in Kyoto city. Until last week.

I was taking a short cut through the Imperial Palace Park, hurrying to catch a bus, when I my pace slowed. A side effect of my brain engaging. "Surely that was a Red-breasted Flycatcher calling about 150 metres ago?" Way to go brain. I hadn't conciously noticed it at the time but its actuality had bored its way up through subconcious layers to force me to miss my bus.

Of course at that moment I still wasn't certain, it may well have been something quite common that a  devious corner of my mind had exploited in order that I shouldn't catch said bus. Luckily, really luckily, it was still calling when I got back to the spot. If it hadn't been, I don't think I'd have given it any time and thus been on time for my appointment.

The views were terrible, even after I'd put on my glasses, but I could just make out the white flashes in the tail as it hopped and flitted in the under bushes gloom. The views were totally insufficient to separate it from Taiga but the vocals were beyond argument; Red-breasted it was.

The next morning I went back with binoculars and camera, and hey presto, there it was. No hanging about, in fact it was sitting right out in the open. "Typical" I thought, "by the time I unpack my gear it'll have disappeared into the undergrowth again". But no, it was still sitting there. So I got off a few quick shots, then a few steadier ones while leaning against a convenient tree... and it was still sitting there. Normally there'll be someone with a generous supply of mealworms and the particular flycatcher will be perching right in front of the massed lenses. In this case I knew I wasn't going to get any better views than this so I packed up to leave. And despite it looking perfectly healthy it was still sitting there. I think I've used up my ficedula luck for this year.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Ring-necked Duck in Osaka

If I couldn't be bothered to go for a couple of Baer's Pochards in Osaka last week, why did I make the effort for a Ring-necked Duck this week you may well ask. I certainly asked myself. I suppose it comes down to how many of each I've seen, and even though Baer's is a far greater rarity in global terms, this Ring-necked was only the third I've seen in Japan. One of those birds, though seen on two occasions a year apart, was viewed through blizzard conditions on each of those occasions. The other was a totally unexpected find as I was scanning a duck flock trying to re-locate two Baer's x Common Pochard hybrids I'd found on my previous visit to that stretch of the Yodogawa in Osaka. It didn't stick and I never heard of it being relocated anywhere else, a one day wonder Ring-necked Duck is a rarity in its own right.

So a Ring-necked Duck on a park lake had to be a piece of cake, right? A golden opportunity to get good views at last... and as things turned out it was one of those occasions when reality shamed expectation. I still haven't seen a male though; that's for another day.

I arrived at 8am and after a quick scan revealed no photographers, I thought the duck may have moved to a different pond. Shock: I'd have to look for the duck myself. Working my way along the lake shore I picked up a hybrid Eurasian x American Wigeon, a good start but no great surprise, then suddenly as I rounded a woody curve... success! There at the lake side were two photographers. What's more they were intent on something. I literally overlooked the Ring-necked when I fetched-up at the spot, it wasn't till my scan had drawn a blank that I noticed the camera lenses were angled downwards towards the closest duck on the lake. Unbelievable.

Of course the duck hadn't moved to a different pond! It was simply that the vast majority of photographers (being sensible folk) were enjoying an unhurried morning and leisurely breakfast before strolling along when the overcast morning had already brightened, as the forecast predicted.

No sooner had I unpacked my camera than the Ring-necked woke and, as if the light wasn't bad enough, swam off purposefully to and even duller, shadier part of the lake where it, and a few Common Pochards, dived for berries dropping from the overhanging trees.

The forcasters weren't wrong, morning did brighten and of course the photographers did arrive. I was delighted with my unsurpassable views of the Ring-necked Duck. I'd qualify that by saying I never saw it in direct sunlight, but sunlight was never going to reach the spot the bird was diving for berries and if it moved elsewhere it probably wouldn't have been nearly so close. So... unsurpassable views. I made my way towards the park exit as there was an obvious American Wigeon close to the shore in that direction. All done and dusted by shortly after 10am.

The close views...

The more helpful ID views (sometimes up close doesn't do it)...

And some nice reflections on the water (well why not?)...