Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Crested Ibis and Oriental White Stork

After the good Hegura trip of the previous post, I woke early and mostly freewheeled back to the base of the headland. Basically the area is going to get the same birds as Hegura but they'll be able to disperse further more quickly and many will be harder to find. As there wasn't a large number of migrants on the island yesterday, I wasn't expecting the trees and bushes to be dripping with them here. How right I was.

By 8:30 I'd covered a fair amount of ground and the only migrants to show for tramping up and down the hills under the already hot sun was a small group of turdus thrushes clucking as they melted away. One at least was Japanese. And down in the village there was a large flock of mainly Red-rumped Swallows but with a few Barn, at least one Sand Martin and three Pacific Swifts.

It was then my phone pinged and a text on Sunday can only be for a bird. Sure enough someone I emailed while waiting for dawn got back to say a Crested Ibis was watched just 16km away at Suzu yesterday. He didn't have more details, where exactly other than in fields, or how long it might have been there. But only 16km for a Crested Ibis was too good to miss.

To be honest I thought the Ibis was nailed-on. Coastal villages have squeezed into every fingernail of flat space the hills neglected and their small associated areas of paddies cling to the slopes or shoehorn into narrow valley bottoms - this Ibis is going to be easy. Just a 16km dash. I'd never been to the western side of the peninsular, or southern which would be more appropriate up here at the crook, so eagerly cut across the peninsular with the bird already half ticked, totally oblivious to the awaiting reality.

Suzu is a moderately-sized rural city set on a coastal plain, around it an ocean of paddies with an archipelago of low hills creating inlets, straits and any number of secluded coves. My heart sank. There were Intermediate Egrets and grey Herons dotted singly or in small groups but no Ibis. Even on the extensive open areas there were so many ditches to lurk in and overgrown bunds to hide behind this wasn't going to be as straight forward as I'd imagined and ultimately ended in failure.

This is the second Crested Ibis I've chased in Ishikawa which seemed and I suppose still seems an easier bet than going to Sado Island. If the birds are successful on Sado, it must only be a matter of time before they re-colonise this former stronghold.

Because there hadn't been many migrants at the point and the weather certainly wasn't conducive to new arrivals I decided to drift homewards and with my mind already shifted to introductions it was only natural that the Oriental White Storks in Shiga presented themselves as an acceptable alternative. I'd never been to look for these birds but had pretty good directions and knew the general area quite well.

After trawling round the fields and seeing big numbers of egrets and Grey herons I was getting a familiar sinking feeling and stopped to gather my thoughts. No sooner had I switched off the engine when a Stork came gliding over the village through the nearside window. Then another, and another. Success! These birds come with no ethical listing ambiguity, I'd seen two in Japan before the re-introduction programme began, I could just enjoy them for the spectacular birds they are.

And yes, that egret is Great White.

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