Saturday 14 December 2013

Grey Nightjar to Hoopoe

Grey Nightjar is a common breeding bird in mixed forests in the hills of northern Kyoto and Nara/Wakayama. They start singing just before dark and in favourite spots there's a reasonably good chance of seeing them flying round before dark and even on moonlit nights or after first light. They also have a habit of checking roads for roadkill insects not long after dark which can produce some good views. I've never seen one in Kyoto city but they must be widespread migrants through the area so there's always a chance.

A migrant in Osaka Castle Park, 26 April 2013.

Japan's three breeding swifts are all irregular in Kyoto. The two long distant migrants, Pacific and White-throated Needletail, must normally pass over unseen as they can suddenly appear during heavy showers only to disappear again just as quickly. They're as likely to be seen over the centre of Kyoto as anywhere else but sightings unrelated to sudden changes in weather are less common. House Swift isn't a regular breeder in this area but it certainly breeds much closer than the other two so it's perhaps surprising that it's by far the least likely of the trio to be met with here.

All the straight lines and sharp angles look as though they could have inspired stealth technology. Fitting for a bird that usually passes over unnoticed.

October migrant Pacific Swift in Ishikawa.

A single Dollarbird sighting is all I have to show for over 20 years birding in Kyoto. They breed to the west and are even common very locally, and they can be found further north too. I most often see them as spring migrants on islands off western Honshu, but even then they're anything but common.

Ruddy Kingfisher is common in mixed forests in the hills of Kansai many birds can be heard from daybreak and later in the day if misty or when raining but, unlike the far more obliging bangsi in the Nansei Islands, major is almost impossibly difficult to get good views of unless you know a nest site. A fly past is normally the best that can be hoped for.
Common Kingfisher on the other hand is remarkably common and I'm at a loss to know where they all breed! Growing up in the north east of England this was a near mythical species and even though I see them so often now, the novelty hasn't worn off. They can be seen on all Kyoto's rivers and even non-birders sometimes mention seeing one flying along the Kamogawa in the city centre.
Crested Kingfisher is widespread but a low density breeder along wooded rivers in the region, usually on more secluded stretches but they can move lower into the outskirts of towns in winter.

Poster girl for the concrete industry? This bird loved the random blocks in the river rather than the abundance of natural perches. Katsura River,  Kyoto city 25 October 2010.

There are invariably one or two birds in the botanical gardens where they are a favourite with photographers, this bird 15 March 2012. The fish was almost as long as the bird!

A male catching freshwater shrimp at Takaragaiike, 14 September 2012, its serrated tongue clearly visible. I love the raindrop uppertail coverts. 

I've only bumped into one Hoopoe in Kyoto and seen one or two others in Osaka. They are scarce, usually early spring migrants, though I can recall one wintering bird in Osaka, and they can turn up almost anywhere. Though scarce in this region they are more regular on southern islands in spring.

Quite regular on some islands such as Tsushima or in this case Mishima 30 April 2010. With the Hoopoe in focus, there's no way this shot was taken in Europe.

Reasonably common in the Yaeyama Islands, this a roadside bird while driving by. Iriomote 3 April 2013.

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