Friday 9 January 2015

First 2015 trip to Mie

I'm having a wonderfully slow start to the year at work and was free the 7th and 8th, so off I went to Mie. I'd thought about northern Lake Biwa but the forecast for more snow up there didn't look to promising, though in the event the weather wasn't that great in Mie either.

As usual I waited on the seawall for dawn. The scene looked so serene with the full moon shining down on the exposed tidal flats but the buffeting the van was getting from wind told a different story. And it was cold.

By the time dawn was approaching the flats had already been drowned but the silhouettes of hundreds of ducks, thousands even, were beginning to emerge where there had previously only been disembodied voices. Uninhibited whooping whistles from the Wigeon on the sea and just the occasional subdued equivalent from the raft of Pochard on the landward side of the wall - stubborn silence hadn't given away about 600 Pintail.

On the same pool there were five Long-billed Dowitchers in exactly the same spot as two months ago, though the number of Stilts was down.

As I usually start birding in the same spot I'm never going to get better shots of the Dowitchers than these early poor light shots.

It was very much a digiscoping day, waders and ducks at long range and the quality of images isn't anything to write home about. 13 species of wader wasn't bad for the time of year but whatever time of year there's always one or two species that can't be missed, that are. The ones that inexplicably aren't to be found. And on the day it was the turn of Ruddy Turnstone and Grey-headed Lapwing to go missing. The hundreds of Dunlin and Sanderling weren't a surprise but slightly better were three Northern Greenshank and four Green Sandpiper. I think the best find must have been a couple of Lesser Sand Plovers, a bird not normally found here in winter.

Dunlin were very common and would allow great photo opportunities but as usual there's always something better somewhere, if I could only find it, and the common birds can wait. Even so, I love these long-billed birds.

An unexpected find, Lesser (Mongolian) Sand Plover.

The first really interesting bird of the day was a Slavonian Grebe, a bird I hardly ever see in Kansai. In fact I can only recall three off the top of my head. And another surprise was an eared owl, probably Long-eared going by the habitat and the fact that they do winter here whereas the once common Short-eared has all but disappeared as a wintering species. Having said that there is a wintering bird on the Yodo river just south of Kyoto this year. All I got of it was a glimpse as it weaved between some trees and was gone.

If the Slav Grebe was distant, Little and Black-necked were common and there would always be some closer birds. For Little that usually meant in a ditch rather than on a pond and for Black-necked in a harbour rather than on the open sea or pond.

I really didn't see many passerines but the following two were both in a small park behind the sea wall. There were also three or four Hawfinches but not surprisingly they weren't going to sit up for the camera.

Female Daurian Redstart. 

There are always a number of Olive-backed Pipits in a small park behind the sea wall.

Coming to ducks, I'm always checking harbours hoping to find some interesting sea ducks but the vast majority are Common Pochard.

Greater Scaup tagging along with Pochards.

Towards evening I came across a group of Stejneger's Scoters not too far off-shore, this is only the second time I've found this species in Kansai and definitely qualifies as bird of the day.

Stejneger's Scoters just too far out for decent digiscoping.

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