Tuesday 22 April 2014

Japanese Night Heron, Copper Pheasant and Mountain Hawk Eagle... a good day out!

I never get into the hills north of Kyoto at this time of year, preferring to go for waders, but this rare weekend with two days free allowed me to give it a shot and still have time for waders. I really hadn't expected many summer visitors to be in but I was in for a pleasant surprise, though generally numbers and range of species were still low there was enough variety to make going well worthwhile.

I left home late Friday night and was in one of my mammal/bird areas by 01:00 but where were the mammals? A few Sika Deer, a Japanese Marten and that was it. I was thinking the drive up was a total waste of time until things began to get going at about 04:45. The first good bird was a calling Japanese Night Heron, too far off-road to have any chance of reaching it, with a supporting cast of several Japanese Scops Owls. As night gave way Japanese Thrush and Blue and White Flycatcher song was everywhere, these were two birds I hadn't anticipated. Other summer visitors during the day included a single Common/Oriental Cuckoo fly-past, a couple of Narcissus Flycatchers and an Eastern Crowned Warbler. Oddly, I hadn't heard a warbler all day then the Eastern Crowned popped up in a tree below me as I was waiting for nightfall on Saturday evening. A lot of winter birds must have moved on, there were still a lot of Grey Buntings around and a small group of thrushes included at least one Pale but very few finches which are normally common in the hills in winter.

One of many Blue and White Flycatchers, thanks to the steep slopes it was perched below me rather than way above in the tree tops as they usually are.

The best of many terrible shots of Grey Bunting, at least this was a male.

I spent the whole day on one relatively small hill, the amount of good habitat is extensive in the prefecture and I've explored little of it as the birds seem widespread and potentially encountered anywhere. The other two top quality birds in the title were along a track in a deep valley low on the hill. I flushed the Copper Pheasant off the track, a bit frustrating as if I hadn't been trying to see the small party of thrushes I mentioned earlier, I'd have seen it on the ground. This is made worse because I've twice flush Japanese Night Heron off the same track in similar fashion. I have to learn to look where I'm going! Just a few minutes later the Mountain Hawk Eagle floated overhead. A 3-4 metre stretch of the track has been washed during winter leaving a gaping hole that even the hunters 4x4s won't get across so perhaps the track will be a little quieter this summer. A patch of snow I crossed had only one set of old footprints other than the ones I left.

Such a distinctive bird, there's nothing in Japan to confuse Mountain Hawk Eagle with. 

Mountain Hawk Eagle gliding along the hillside. Apart from the cedars most trees are drab and leafless but the flowering Kobushi Magnolia put on a great display.

Other good birds during the day included all four breeding woodpeckers and two parties of Red-billed Leiothrix, the first I've seen in these mountains. After nightfall three owl species were calling, Ural, Japanese Scops and Brown Hawk. The latter was another summer visitor I hadn't expected to come across yet.

After about 20 hours on the hill I'd had enough, coffee was beckoning, and made my way to the nearest convenience store. Then after an hour of sleep in the car park I began the drive to Mie and a Sunday with waders...

List of species
Copper Pheasant   1 female
Japanese Night Heron   1 heard
Black-crowned Night Heron   1 heard on the drive up
Black Kite   several
Mountain Hawk Eagle   1
Grey-headed Lapwing   2-3 heard on the drive up
Oriental Turtle Dove   fairly common
White-bellied Green Pigeon   5-6 heard
Common/Oriental Cuckoo   1
Japanese Scops Owl   several heard
Ural Owl   1 heard
Brown Hawk Owl   2 heard
Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker   common
White-backed Woodpecker   3 plus several drumming
Great Spotted Woodpecker   2 plus several drumming
dendrocopos sp   several heard
Japanese Woodpecker   1 plus several heard
Jay   common
Carrion Crow   several
Large-billed Crow   common
Eastern Great Tit   common
Coal Tit   common
Varied Tit   fairly common
Willow Tit   fairly common
Asian House Martin   common around breeding sites
Long-tailed Tit   common
Brown-eared Bulbul   common
Asian Stubtail   1 heard
Japanese Bush Warbler   several
Eastern Crowned Warbler   1
Red-billed Leiothrix   6+
Japanese White-eye   fairly common
Wren   common
Japanese Thrush   fairly common
Pale Thrush   1
turdus sp   several heard at one location
Narcissus Flycatcher   2
Blue and White Flycatcher   common
Brown Dipper   1 heard, it's usually easily seen here
Grey Wagtail   several
Japanese Wagtail   1
Oriental Greenfinch   several
Eurasian Siskin   6-8
Japanese Grosbeak   1
Meadow Bunting   several
Grey Bunting   fairly common

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