Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Some migrants on Yonaguni

I've already posted regarding the most important migrants from a personal perspective, the Himalayan Swiftlet and Citrine Wagtail, but here are a few other migrants, some more to be expected than others.

There was only this one pair of Garganey during my stay. Last time there were quite a few on a tank favoured by Common Teal. These birds were on the pond/lake at Kubura.  

Grey-faced Buzzards are a daily occurrence, perhaps they are wintering birds rather than migrants, and often easily photographable on utility poles. I've gone with this poor, distant shot because this was such a striking bird, beautifully sandy above and mainly white below. 

There were a lot of Chinese Pond Herons on the island, though six was the largest group I saw they could be seen singly or in twos in many places.

This Whiskered Tern only spend about five minutes over the flooded fields at Hikawa before purposefully heading north over the island never to be seen again.

The only Oriental Cuckoo I saw perched, and the only non-hepatic.

Brown Shrikes are common and found in gardens, field edges and open scrubby areas.

Chestnut-cheeked Starling is a common spring migrant throughout Japan.

Daurian Starling on the other hand is not. There were at least three in the above flock of Chestnut-cheeked and I'd only previously seen a single bird on Mishima (Yamaguchi Pref).

Phylloscopus warblers were disappointingly scarce, I heard one Yellow-browed and eventually saw this Dusky Warbler which was singing from dense cover.

Stejneger's Stonechat is another common migrant throughout Japan and there were several dotted around the island.

The only Richard's Pipit of the trip, briefly on the school playing field. I saw several last time.

Red-throated Pipit could be seen daily, there were usually a few around the margins of flooded fields. 

I was surprised to see a Brambling but I came across two more singles on subsequent days.

Little Bunting is a fairly common migrant on migration islands but this was the only one I saw on Yonaguni. Masked was common and there were a few Black-faced but buntings, like warblers, were disappointing.

Perhaps it was a little early for some migrants even this far south? Perhaps a little late for others as I didn't see any Oriental Plovers or Upland Buzzard though I suspected I might miss these two Yonaguni specials before going.

One of the Oriental Plovers from my previous visit to the island, It's such a great bird I don't need much of an excuse to dig up an old shot.

Monday, 29 April 2019

A few Yaeyama natives

I've already mentioned in a previous post that Iriomote offers a more enjoyable away-from-it-all experience than Ishigaki, the only downside being there aren't any convenience stores providing round the clock coffee. And on the bird front, breeding Black-shouldered Kites are the only birds that can't be found on Iriomote. 

There doesn't seem to be any competition between the Kites and the abundant local Large-billed Crows, they seem to ignore each other, but on this occasion a Crow trying to share a favourite tree of this Kite was pushing the envelope a little too far.

Ruddy Kingfishers of the race bangsi are more numerous and easier to see than the migratory major we get further north. Catching up with Ruddy Kingfisher in Honshu usually means a trip to well established forest but in Yaeyama the can be found in village gardens and relatively insubstantial belts of trees. Typically most vocal activity is at dawn (in particular) and dusk but bangsi does sing throughout even sunny days which I wouldn't expect of major.

To my ear bangsi sounds obviously different to major, akin to a distinct regional dialect. Major gives an explosive but harmonious descending trill, a single entity, whereas the song of bangsi is three or four rapid, descending individual notes, the last of which reverberates.

It came as a surprise then, while watching the Kites, that a very obvious major-type song chimed in with two bangsi that were singing from the dense scrub and low trees beside the airport. I can only suppose this was a northward bound migrant major. If bangsi can also sing in this way, it's the first time I've heard it.

Though Yonaguni is more important as place to see rare migrants than Yaeyama/Ryukyu endemics I do always find it easier to see Barred Buttonquail here than anywhere else in it's range. Just lucky, or are they more numerous here?

A female Barred Buttonquail crossing the road. Chance encounters are reasonably frequent on Yonaguni but I've never seen the species elsewhere despite patiently staring down row after row in cane fields.

The other bird of interest is the nagamichii race of Brown-eared Bulbul which has a toehold in Japan here.

What were these two birds up to? I might have thought anting if they were on the ground, it was very overcast but not raining so not bathing. Perhaps they'd been watching a documentary on birds of paradise?

Quite an attractive bird.

The other bulbul and Zitting Cisticola are probably the two most common birds on the island apart from ubiquitous Brown-eared.

Zitting Cisticola

Chinese Bulbul

Purple Herons are common of Ishigaki and Iriomote but this was my first on Yonaguni, I came across it in the afternoon and it was gone next day.

Purple Heron

I saw three Emerald Doves on Yonaguni this trip and got this photo tick. Previously I've only ever seen one on Iriomote and, as with this trip, heard them on Ishigaki. I managed to creep up on this bird but unfortunately it was about 08:30, less somnambulant hour, and one of that particular road's 4-5 cars per hour came past and flushed it.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

All four stints in one field on Yonaguni

On my only previous visit to Yonaguni, six years ago, I spent five nights on the island from April 5-9, this time I stayed from April 10-17. I didn't plan a contiguous time span but I was aware of the later timing wondering how this might affect the range of species I'd find. Of course with such a fine margin the weather can have a more significant influence, however the weather was basically the same on both occasions. Mild, largely overcast with frequent showers and with calm interludes between lengthy bouts of strong northerly winds. Not exactly what I might have expected.

I saw a slight increase in the number of wader species in 2019, perhaps not surprising give more field time, but missed out on two rarer birds Pec Sand (one 2013) and, the regions speciality, Oriental Plover (several 2013). Little Stint (two) was the only interesting species I picked up this time round that I'd missed on the previous visit.

On both occasions the same two areas were best for waders, flooded fields on the eastern outskirts of Sonai and at Hikawa. I wasn't too thrilled to see large scale development taking place at Hikawa and wonder whether those excellent fields may not be there much longer.

All the stints in this post were photographed at Hikawa where birds tend to be closer.

Little Stint...


There were two Gulf of Thailand flagged birds.


And Long-toed...

This bird gets the award for the drabbest Long-toed Stint I've seen.

And this one, with a Temminck's, wins the least obvious prize (no pun intended).

I was puzzled when I first saw this dumpy stint and I made a point of driving closer to get better shots, it took a few minutes for the penny to drop. Long-toed Stints invariably remind me of a long-sighted person struggling with a newspaper because of their upright gait on stretched legs and elongated neck, as if unable to focus on the mud when too close. To my shame I didn't even consider Least Sand until later in the day; oh that sinking feeling! Insert expletives of choice. I slammed on the brakes and stopped dead in the middle of the road (there isn't much traffic except between Sonai and Kubura, you'll see more military personnel jogging than cars), grabbed my camera and by pure luck I'd managed the middle toe money shot. Otherwise the whole trip could have been under a cloud because I never saw the bird again. The really stupid thing is that it's not unusual when I come across a Long-toed for me to wonder whether I'd totally overlook a Least if I ever saw one, and here I was totally deaf to any bell that might have rung.

Long-toed and Temminck's closer now and with a couple of Red-necked teaming-up.

Almost perfect line-up. The non-breeding Red-necked needs to work on its timing a little I think. And WHERE is the Little!!! The long middle toe is clearly visible here, no need to stress about the minutiae.