Saturday 5 October 2013

Mukaijima to Yawata

There's a rapid transtion from hardly worth going out in summer to being spoilt for choice from September onwards. I tossed a mental coin last night and it came up river rather than woodland, the fact that I patch ticked a couple of Whiskered Terns there at this time last year had almost nothing to do with it.

The early morning train schedule wasn't drawn up with birding in mind and the connections aren't as slick as when normal folk are abroad. So despite setting off on the first train, it isn't possible to get to the start of the walk until almost 7am. The walk from Mukaijima to Yawata is about 12km sticking to the river, which is what I did on this occasion rather than taking in the arable land as well.

The volume of water must have been spectacular a couple of weeks ago when a typhoon passed through. At the broadest point the embankments are about 1km apart and judging by the tideline debris the 30m wide river had filled that catchment area to a depth of about 12-15m above normal, scarily close to the top of the levee. There must have been an amazing displacement of wildlife with the reedbeds entirely submerged.

Migrant Siberian Stonechats are expected at this time of year but they were particularly common today, I saw 23 on my side of the river, I imagine there must have been a huge number passing through the area as a whole.

More unexpected was a Wryneck. The scrubby edge of a reedbed was a typical enough location but I don't think I've seen one this early. Presumably this was a migrant passing through, I'm used to them as a scarce but regular winter visitor around the city.

There's a 1km stretch along the riverside where all the trees were felled this year, this appears to be an ongoing project to return the area to the habitat it was when I first arrived in Kyoto. And I'd just been getting used to the improved habitat for migrant passerines. They'd further slashed back a 10m wide swath of vegetation that had shot up this summer and thanks to the recent floods there were wet and muddy patches that held a surprising number of waders; a couple of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and a Long-toed Stint were the pick of the bunch. There were a few Common Snipe and this bird caught my eye, initially because it looked remarkably dark above.

The outer row of upper scapulars are missing thus it lacks the pale line normally bordering that feather tract and the 1CY narrow, even-edged outer webs of the lower scapulars add to the effect. Once I had my eye on it I thought it looked very short-tailed and dumpy and wondered if it could be Pin-tailed. I was so intent on it that I didn't even notice the bird crouching to its left.

When I did, its larger size seemed to support the possibility of the original bird being Pin-tailed. Fortunately however, the larger bird began feeding and revealed itself to be Swinhoe's. Even on this poor view above the long tail projection showing the orange tail patch is visible.

As it moved its large size became obvious, as did the general uniformity and lack of "colour", the coverts panel is pale but doesn't contrast with either the scaps or breast sides. This I've is perhaps just apparent in this heavily cropped shot.

All in all a pretty good morning's work. The only worry is, what did I miss on the woodland side of the coin.

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