Tuesday 30 December 2014

Greater Spotted Eagle in Kyushu

I started the 29th at Yatsushiro where I've seen Great Black-headed Gull in the past. The estuary was teamimg with birds but all were at such a great distance it wasn't possible to identify most waders and there didn't seem to be any Great Black-headed Gulls in the large flocks gathered on different mud banks dotted off-shore.

The fields were a better option as far as viewing conditions were concerned and flocks of Saunder's Gulls were doing their best marsh tern impersonations over flooded fields, their high pitched k'yip calls quite un-gull like.

The wet fields provided my only Little Ringed Plover of the trip too. In the dry areas a flock of 200+ Russet Sparrows was good and regular sightings of Chestnut-eared Bunting, rather scarce around Kyoto, only went to emphasise how odd it was not to see any Rustic Buntings anywhere.

Chestnut-eared Bunting is quite easy to find.

Two of many Russet Sparrows in a huge flock.

My wife is worried about the car problem and forecast snow for the area and is pushing me to come home for New Year; and her January 1st birthday would have nothing to do with that I'm sure. So rather than head down to Izumi to see the the great clouds of cranes filling the morning sky I decided to cut across the island to Sadowara on the Miyazaki coast instead. Fantastic a spectacle as the morning crane flight is I can see that again another time, the Greater Spotted Eagle I'm not so sure about. Even though the last one in nearby Kagoshima Prefecture came back every winter year after year. Thought it was a pity to lose birding time driving across, I much prefer to do my driving at night, I didn't think I had much choice if I wanted to see the Eagle.

I arrived on the outskirts of Sadowara, dropping down from the mountains, mid-afternoon and a few hirundines caught my eye. Usually they'd be Asian House Martins in winter of course but these looked like Barn Swallows and sure enough when I was able to stop the only bird still in view was a Barn. An excellent introduction to the area but as time was pressing I didn't make the effort to check if they might have been tytleri. I've been told winter Barn Swallows can be this race.

The next good bird was also a subspecies, an albus Great White Egret. As I was approaching the Eagle site I noticed two egrets standing next to each other at the side of a ditch and was struck by the very obvious size difference. Again I didn't stop to check wanting to hurry on but as it turned out my first stop at the Eagle site was only 100 metres further on and soon after parking the Egret appeared. It was clearly much bigger than the several modestus present and extensive yellow in the legs and feet were also indicators. I'm not sure what the problem was but both feet were deformed.

Great White Egret E.a.albus, there's something unpleasant happening to its.


Unfortunately I was never able to get a shot of them next to each other for direct size comparison, but this is the usual modestus. With very nice feet.

...and continuing with the white theme, there were half a dozen Black-faced Spoonbills present too.

By far the best bird I didn't get a shot of was a Baikal Teal. Unlike the birds I usually see it was really close, unfortunately the battery for my camera wasn't anywhere near close. I'd forgotten to take it off the charger when I arrived and when I'd retreived it the duck had slunk back into the reeds where it spent most (I'm tempted to say all) of its time. It never did come back into the open after that brief lapse of skulk mastery.

The Greater Spotted Eagle had been sitting motionless in a bush all this time but it finally got airborne. If I see an eagle in Kansai it's more often than not a Steller's Sea Eagle and by comparison there really isn't anything 'great' about this Eagle other than its spots, it's strikingly small.

It really lacked the wow factor you get with Steller's. Nevertheless it was a very attractive bird and the aquila eagles look rather classy even if they don't have such impressive size.

The rest of the shots (apart from the first) are more heavily cropped despite eventually getting closer views from a better vantage point.

List of species seen at Yatsushiro(Y) and Sadowara(S):-
Common Shelduck   c10(Y), c20(S)
Gadwall   c15(Y)
Eurasian Wigeon   common(Y), c30(S)
Mallard   common (Y/S)
Eastern Spot-billed Duck   common(Y/S)
Northern Shoveler   c25(S)
Northern Pintail   several(Y/S)
Baikal Teal   1(S)
Eurasian Teal   c10(Y), common(S)
Common Pochard   c40(S)
Tufted Duck   c20(S)
Red-breasted Merganser   2(Y)
Little Grebe   1(Y), 2(S)
Great Crested Grebe   4(Y)
Black-necked Grebe   1(Y)
Black-faced Spoonbill   5(Y), 6(S)
Black-crowned Night Heron   5(S)
Grey Heron   common(Y), several(S)
Great White Egret   4-6 modestus and 1 albus (S)
Little Egret   1(Y), 2-3(S)
Pacific Reef Egret   1(S)
Great Cormorant   several(Y/S)
Eurasian Kestrel   1(S)
Merlin   1 (S)
Osprey   3(Y), fairly common(S)
Black Kite   fairly common(Y/S)
Greater Spotted Eagle   1 juv(S)
Common Coot   common(Y), several(S)
Northern Lapwing   5(Y), 1(S)
Grey Plover   5(Y)
Little Ringed Plover   1(Y)
Kentish Plover   fairly common(Y)
Common Greenshank   6(Y)
Green Sandpiper   1(Y)
Common Sandpiper   4(Y)
Dunlin   100+(Y), c30(S)
Common Gull   c300(Y)
Vega Gull   250+(Y), c20(S)
Slaty-backed Gull   1(Y)
Taimyr Gull   4-5(Y)
Black-headed Gull   several(Y)
Saunder's Gull   50+(Y)
Rock Dove
Oriental Turtle Dove   fairly common(Y/S)
Common Kingfisher   1 heard(S)
Bull-headed Shrike   2-3(Y)
Carrion Crow   several(Y)
Large-billed Crow   several(S)
Varied Tit   1 heard coming through the mountains
Barn Swallow   6-7(S)
Japanese Skylark   several(S)
Brown-eared Bulbul   common(Y/S)
Japanese White-eye   several(Y/S)
White-cheeked Starling   common(Y)
Pale Thrush   1(Y), common in the mountains
Dusky Thrush   fairly common(Y)
Daurian Redstart   fairly common(Y), several(S)
Russet Sparrow   c300(Y)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow   fairly common(Y/S)
White Wagtail   fairly common(Y/S)
Buff-bellied Pipit   fairly common(Y)
Oriental Greenfinch   common(Y)
Meadow Bunting   common(Y)
Chestnut-eared Bunting   3(Y)
Reed Bunting   fairly common(Y/S)

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