Sunday 12 October 2014

Noto Peninsular 9th October

I almost enjoyed a fantastic sunset last night, I had to pull over at a rocky promontory to take it in. Maybe it makes living in the city worthwhile being able to appreciate scenes like this, all the locals were speeding by going about their business seemingly oblivious to it. To the west the sun had dipped below the horizon leaving a vivid red residue fading upwards through orange to green then pale blue darkening as it arched overhead. The sea in irregular strips of calm or shimmering fish-scale reflecting the colours. While to the east the hunter's moon was already glaring down onto an expansive sheet of silver. Unfortunately I had a stinking headache that had come out of nowhere and it was all rather wasted on me, at least I knew I would have otherwise enjoyed it. It's probably all this fresh air, I need to get back to the exhaust fumes. Either that or perhaps not getting enough sleep.

Blue Rock Thrush in the early morning light.

The day started off well enough with cracking views of a Blue Rock Thrush catching the early sun. Though the early sun isn't quite as early nowadays and I found myself waiting impatiently, going through the limited hot section of the vending machine inventory in the vain hope that one bore some approximation to the confident labelling. That convenience stores provide semi-decent coffee nowadays is of little help when the nearest shop is 16km away. Even I normally think a 32km round trip for a coffee would be a little excessive and at 3:45am I couldn't come up with plausible enough reason to persuade myself it was actually a reasonable and natural thing to do. At times I get the impression that 50% of roadside retail frontage is dominated by competing convenience companies and it comes as a shock to find there are still areas the convenience store wave has yet to reach. Another sure sign of having escaped the city is the coin-op machines to dehull or polish rice - wonderful! I use the term city in the sense of the large metropolitan area that most people would naturally imagine, rather than in the Japanese sense whereby if you can scrape together enough villages and hamlets to reach the population threshold you can boast "city" status. This used to be 50,000 inhabitants but under more recent government drive to allow more autonomy to the regions I believe you can get away with even fewer people now. I stand to be corrected but I think the new city of Nantan in central Kyoto prefecture managed to achieve city status by rounding up a paltry 35,000. Even though it had to incorporate an area almost double that of Nagoya city which is the fourth most populous city in Japan! I doubt they'll be entering the cut-throat race to build the next world's tallest building anytime soon.

For me, the coin-operated rice polishing machine is a sure sign of being in rural Japan.

Then up onto the headland to find lots of migrants.

I heard one Kamchatka Leaf Warbler call once and that was about it. There were a huge number of Brown-eared Bulbuls in the trees behind the lighthouse at the end of the point. There was movement everywhere but it was always a Bulbul and with all the screeching, they aren't the most quiet bird in the world, it's hardly surprising I didn't find anything else in the trees. But when I sat on the grass to check the White Wagtails I soon realised there was a constant coming and going. At first there were three White and five Japanese but after scoping the three I saw there were eight and only two Japanese, and so it went on, the number was constantly changing. How many may have been moving through I've no idea but one bird did catch my attention.

The dark band across the coverts suggested it could have been ocularis, which I'm used to seeing in spring when they are much easier to identify. Though immature lugens can have variable amounts of greyish in the coverts they don't approach the distinct, dark bar of this bird. Of course judging age using coverts is next to impossible in the field with birds that have largely uniform white coverts.

The eye-catching wagtail which at a distance had a distinct darkish bar across the centre of the wing coverts. The mainly grey forehead is something I can't recall ever having seen on lugens. The other interesting point is the dark lower rear corner of the ear coverts (below) which is invariably white in lugens but here links the upper black breast spur to the upperparts.

The largely grey forehead with just a yellowish oval in front of the eye, dull greyish fore supercillium contrasting with a conspicuous white rear supercillium is very different to the typical lugens (below) which has a uniformly white (or yellow) forehead/supercillium. 

One of the accompanying, and very typical, lugens with its white forehead (can be very yellow in 1CY) and clear unconnected upper black bib spur. This is really due to the pattern across the ear coverts, lugens doesn't have the normal squared coverts border, the bottom corner is always "missing" and an "unofficial" new border is drawn at 45 degrees across the coverts. Thus the hanging-in-air bib strap. This is presumably a 1stw with a subdued greyish wash across the wing coverts without actually having any distinct markings.

Later in the day I came across a couple of Greater White-fronted Geese. The odd early bird often drops into Hegura at this time of year so it's no surprise to see these two in mainland stubble-fields.

With a promising weather chart, a low moving through to the north and associated frontal system bringing a band of westerly wind and rain through the early hours of the morning, tomorrow's planned trip to Hegura is looking good.

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