Thursday 19 December 2013

minivets to Paradise Flycatcher

Ashy Minivet seems to be declining in numbers while Ryukyu is possibly expanding in range. In Kyoto city Ashy is a migrant and parties can sometimes be seen on the surrounding hills but it's much easier to find in the forested hills to the north or in the mountains of Nara and Wakayama. It is frequently heard and seen flying overhead and I'd be slightly surprised not to see them (or at least hear them) if I were spending a day in Ashyu Forest or the spine of the Kii Peninsular. However it's more difficult to get good perched views, a matter of being in the right place at the right time with such a mobile species. You can't go rushing off the trail in persuit on the steep-sided hills but on the other hand these steep slopes make it possible to get eye-level views of this canopy species. Ryukyu Minivet seems to be expanding into Kyushu but as far as I'm aware there has never been a record this far north. It's common in the Nansei Island forests and its habits are much like Ashy, it's more often seen flying overhead than perched, however I have seen them away from woodland in coastal scrub.

Female on Mishima, Yamaguchi 4 May 2008. Birds are reasonably common on the island and good views are a more regular event with good of access to the wooded hills. 

Female Mishima, Yamaguchi 3 May 2009. 

Male Ashy Minivet on the Noto Peninsular May 2014.

Male Ryukyu Minivet, one of a party a couple of kilometres from the nearest forest. Iriomote, 4 April 2013.

Bull-headed Shrike is very common in the region and in Kyoto it will be seen on any walk near  scrubby riparian habitat or arable land. They are early breeders and though quieter at this time they still perch prominently and are hard to miss. Outside the breeding season and their harsh calls are very much a feature of birding along the city's rivers.

Bull-headed is the only shrike that can be expected in the region, though several others turn up from time to time. A Great Grey wintered near Kyoto 2012/2013 and a Brown in Osaka the previous winter. Chinese Grey is a rare and irregular winter visitor to the Japan Sea side of the region. Other species are even less likely, Long-tailed is a rare winter visitor and Tiger, though a breeding species in Japan, is probably the most difficult species to see unless you happen to know a breeding site.

A breeding male, looking very bull-headed, along the Uji/Yodo River in Kyoto city, 10 April.

A breeding female along the Uji/Yodo River in Kyoto city, 15 April.

An immature on the Yamatogawa in Osaka, December.

A wintering male lucionensis Brown Shrike at Arasaki, Kyushu. Birds are more often seen as migrant in spring and autumn on the Japan Sea islands.

Brown Shrikes winter in the southern Nansei Islands, this one of several in heavy moult on Yonaguni in early April 2013. 

Japan's first Red-backed Shrike wintered in Shikoku (3 March 2007).

Isabelline Shrike on Hegurajima May 2014.

A wintering Great Grey Shrike in Kyushu, 2014/15.

A wintering Chinese Grey Shrike in Kyushu.

Black-naped Oriole is mainly seen as a spring migrant on the Japan Sea islands. Despite their bright colouration their habits make them very difficult to see, hence they're more often heard than seen on the larger forested islands. A pair may have bred at a site east of Kansai in 2013 but even there it was very difficult to see a bird. On smaller islands such as Hegurajima getting a decent views is far more likely.

A video grab of a bird on Hegura.

Drongos are rare in the region, Black and Ashy have both been recorded in recent years. Black is possibly increasing as a rare migrant in western Japan, I found three on Tsushima in 2012 and I heard of 3-4 others during that week.

A bird at the northern end of Tsushima 29 April 2012.

Two of a threesome at the southern end of the island on the same date.

Ashy Drongo, Hegurajima October 2014.

Japanese Paradise Flycatcher breeds in broadleaf forests in the region but is nowhere common. I see more migrants on the islands than in the region.

If I'd had a camera rather than digiscoping I'd have got some great shots of this obliging cliff-top spring migrant on Mishima.

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