With at least two Spoon-billed Sandpipers in Japan at the weekend plus another a week earlier at my usual wader spot in Mie, as well as Western Sand and Nordmann's Greenshank in Kyushu and Baird's Sand in Osaka, looking for waders might have seemed a safe bet.
I drove across on Saturday night to be ready for dawn and an early high tide and came back on Monday afternoon. The start wasn't all I'd hoped for, though high tide wasn't until 9am I could see the flats shrink rapidly in the moon light and sure enough by dawn there was nothing left. It was obvious from the outset that numbers of some species were well down since my previous visit a couple of weeks ago. Grey-tailed Tattler down from 1000+ to about 100 and Terek to 100 from several. Grey Plover had disappeared entirely and just a single Ruddy Turnstone was odd. On the other hand the number of Sanderling, an over-wintering species, was up but where had two Oystercatchers gone? There have been 10 Oystercatchers on each visit since mid-August but today only eight.
The most notable feature of the morning was the number of newly arrived ducks with about 400 Eurasian Teal leading the charge. There were four garganey and a party of eclipse Falcated Duck were nice to see.
This odd looking Garganey was glued to the party of Falacated Duck when I first came across it. The Falcated were maybe fresh in as they were far more nervous than anything else and I spent an age trying to get a half decent digiscoped shot of them, and the Garganey.
Three typical Garganey lurking in the reeds, with so many eclipse Eurasian Teal around it's getting more difficult, or at least time consuming, to find them.
The afternoon was disappointing and I was thinking of heading home when just as the light started to go I discovered a small block of good fields tucked away behind some houses, it would be great to have an aerial view to see exactly where the best fields are. This area held a lot of Common Snipe, several Little Ringed Plover and Wood Sandpipers, all field specialists I'd seen very little of today. There was even a flock of stints that flew up only to drop back out of sight into the next field. This was enough to convince me to stay over night and try again with good light.
From the seawall I had a great view of Jupiter and four of its moons before trying to sleep and later Saturn and its rings in the opposite direction... while still not sleeping. Even something as natural as the night sky is a treat for a city dweller.
After a quick check of the shoreline first thing, I went back to see what I could find on the fields and got the following shots of the common waders there.
Just as I was beginning to doubt the wisdom of staying over night, there wasn't anything more than I'd seen last night, a Grey-faced Buzzard came low over the field flushing a Ruff and three Pacific Golden Plover. Where had they been? The area of fields was small and the vegetation not high but they dropped back into it never to be seen again.
I decided to head home and as a last roll of the dice took a single track road across a block of nearby fields and I struck gold. A small field of mud with shallow pools and only a hint of vegetation, it was quite invisible from any of the roads surrounding the block and on it were about 30 stints. No sooner had I started sifting through them then I came across a possible Little Stint and as I was watching it another, a far more obvious bird, walked into my field of view. Bingo! After feeling the trip had been something of a let down I found my rare after all and not having seen any of the big rarities in Japan was much less painful than it had been just a few minutes earlier.
I got a lot of interesting shots of the stints, Red-necked ans Little and I'll save them for another post.
Below is a list of all species:-
Falcated Duck 5
Eurasian Wigeon 1
Eastern Spot-billed Duck commmon
Northern Shoveler 5
Eurasian Teal c400
Common Pochard 3 Little Grebe common
Black-necked Grebe 1
Night Heron 1 heard over head at night plus many at a regular roost site
Cattle Egret c10 Grey Heron common
Great White Egret well over 100 on each of the two main ponds plus common in fields and along rivers
Intermediate Egret c50 numbers are way down compared to two weeks ago (as with Cattle)
Little Egret quite common
Great Cormorant very common (1000s)
Black Kite <10
Grey-faced Buzzard 1
Moorhen 2 plus one heard
Eurasian Coot 2
(Eastern) Oystercatcher 8
Black-winged Stilt c25
Grey-headed Lapwing 10+
Pacific Golden Plover 3
Little Ringed Plover several at a small area of suitable fields otherwise only 1
Kentish Plover common
Lesser Sand Plover 15-20
Common Snipe common in the same fields as the LRPs but otherwise only 9
Eastern Black-tailed Godwit 2
Bar-tailed Godwit 11
Eurasian Curlew 3-5
Far Eastern Curlew 3
Marsh Sandpiper 7
Common Greenshank 13+
Wood Sandpiper several in the LRP fields
Grey Tailed Tattler <100 numbers way down compared to August visits
Terek Sandpiper c100
Common Sandpiper 5-10
Ruddy Turnstone 1
Great Knot 11
Red-necked Stint 40-50
Little Stint 2-3
Broad-billed Sandpiper 1
Black-tailed Gull very common
Slaty-backed Gull 3
Feral Rock Dove
Oriental Turtle Dove widespread
Common Kingfisher 1 heard
Bull-headed Shrike 2 heard
Jay 1 over the road on the drive home
Carrion Crow common
Large-billed Crow common
Sand Martin fairly common
Barn Swallow common
Japanese Skylark several
Zitting Cisticola several but as only one was heard singing numbers recorded were much lower
Brown-eared Bulbul a small number seemed to be on the move, it's still a bit early
White-cheeked Starling several, the huge flocks of juveniles have disappeared
Blue Rock Thrush 5
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Grey Wagtail 2
White Wagtail fairly common
Meadow Bunting 1 heard