Tuesday 18 February 2014

Green-winged Teal, Nagoya and albus Great White Egret, Lake Biwa

I tried to plug a couple of prominent gaps on my Japan list last weekend. Firstly Solitary Snipe on Saturday afternoon after work, then a night drive to Nagoya for Green-winged Teal.

Who knows how many Snipe may winter on streams and rivers in the pathless hills, birders probably only find a small percentage. Nevertheless they are recorded far less frequently in Kansai than further north in the country. This bird had been found on a river in the hills just south of Kyoto mid-week but by the time I was able to get there heavy snow followed by rain had caused the water level to rise drowning the area. It may not have moved far but I couldn't find it along accessible stretches of the river. So, not a great start to gap-filling.

I've since heard that it is still around and sometimes comes back to the same spot.

After a couple of hours sleep that night I set off for target number two and arrived on the Yadagawa in Nagoya before dawn. As soon as it was light enough I began walking along the river bank and after only 300m there it was. I wouldn't like all new birds to be this easy but it was a relief to connect quickly after the disappointment of... well, just 14 hours earlier.

At this angle it bears a striking resemblance to Baikal Teal!  

Buoyed by this success I made my way to the expressway and was at Kohoku on northern Lake Biwa by 10:30. It was unusually windy which seemed to have an invigorating influence on the local Steller's Sea Eagle (after all these years it ought to be Georg's by now), which repeatedly inched its way into the wind along the hill on part folded wings only to flip and catching the wind rush back to its starting point. Quite a change to watching it in a pine tree doing its dead parrot impersonation. The wind wasn't so helpful on the lake though, it looked and sounded more like the ocean. The geese had a bit more spark about them too, about 30% weren't asleep! None of the White-fronts, nor the Swan, were there so quite a few more must have been out on the fields somewhere. There were relatively few waterbirds out on the lake but rivers, harbours and ponds had good numbers of sheltering birds.

Redhead Smew.

An interesting find was an albus Great White Egret. I was bumping along a rough track beside a pond and must have flushed it, even flying away it looked unusually large and definitely worth following up. When I scoped it the yellow tibia were outstanding way across the pond but it wouldn't let me get closer than about 150m and I wasn't able to get more than one semi-decent shot of it. The odd thing is I saw another presumed albus only 1km away two weeks earlier, unlike this bird it already had some full length plumes so clearly a different individual. There were about 20 modestus sheltering at the north west corner of the lake but none in this area for comparison.

Today's albus.

This presumed albus, on 2 February as light was failing, was just too far to be 100% sure about.

By late afternoon afternoon I'd made my way to Lake Sainoko to wait for Eastern Marsh Harriers coming to roost. Numbers were surprising low but I wasn't complaining. It had been a pretty good day afterall, another gap on the list plugged.

Hen Harrier above and Eastern Marsh below.

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