Thursday 1 January 2015

The final day in Kyushu

December 31st was my final day in Kyushu, I'd stayed at Tamana as there was plenty do there on the birding front. The weather was changing according to the forecast with rain from about 9am. As it turned out the rain didn't arrive till early afternoon but when it did it came in style with a howling wind and lightning flashing all around. Not too good for birding in open fields.

Apart from trying for the Shrike first thing I had look at the estuary in the morning then focused on the fields with pipits a particular target. Kyushu has a good track record with rare pipits in winter and there were very impressive numbers of them as well as wagtails and larks everywhere.

While waiting for the Shrike in the very early morning, before the sun had risen above the mountains I spotted a Peregrine coming across the fields towards me. That may not be unusual but I wasn't expecting it to land on the post directly above my head! After getting a few shots up its nostrils I had to walk back to try to get a more typical angle but the bird wasn't having any of that and off it went again.

It's been good for birds of prey but as yet I'd only had two accipiters. Both had been rapid flybys and neither identified for sure, though I suspected one of each. This powerful juvenile Northern Goshawk left no room for doubt.

A very pleasant surprise was finding Daurian Jackdaws, three birds, among the Rooks. There have been so many Rooks I've been puzzled by the lack of Jackdaws so it was great to connect at last. Crane numbers were down today, only 10 White-naped and no Hooded. I wasn't so worried about numbers, when they look this good a flock is almost too much. This bird was one of a party of five and in this shot it wouldn't look out of place replacing a Peacock on some stately lawn.

And the Lapwings looked even better in the morning sun...

With a little sun the Northern Lapwings looked even more stunning the previous evening.

As I mentioned, sifting through the pipits was one of my aims for the day. I'd already had a Richard's and heard a couple of Red-throated two days earlier but I was hoping to find something really spectacular, Rosy or Water. Why not aim high? There were Buff-bellied Pipits everywhere, you could stop at any field and there'd be birds creeping around. I'd seen flocks of over 100 birds rise two or three times when spooked by a raptor. In the first field I tried there were 5-8 Red-throated fairly close to the road and there could easily have been more further out. The second spot I stopped at had two more. No megas I'm afraid but if I said I only scratched the surface that would be laughable - I did far less. I could spend days on end happily going through these birds and it really puts my 20-30 Buff-bellied a day around Kyoto into perspective. No wonder there are more rare pipits found in Kyushu.

A Buff-bellied on a pile of what looked like wood-chip but was probably waste from clearing maize fields. This mainly attracted White Wagtails but there were always a few pipits there. In this early morning shot there is still a lingering covering of frost. 

Below are shots of some of the Red-throated Pipits. It's interest how different the birds look, some pale brown and finely marked appear similar to breeding plumage while others are more black and white, strongly marked and definitely winter plumage birds. First a series of the former type, simply because it came closest.

Next a colder black and white bird with bold breast and flank markings.

Finally another dark winter bird followed by another pale brown breeding type.

The terrible weather that struck suddenly in the afternoon was bringing an early dusk and effectively brought my time in Kyushu to a dramatic close. And now back in Kyoto there is deeper snow in the city than I've ever seen, only 15-20cm but a shock nevertheless, and according to the Met Office there's 1.5 metres at the north of Lake Biwa so between that and other commitments it looks like New Year birding is over.

Species seen at Tamana over the 30th and 31st:-
Green Pheasant
Common Shelduck
Eurasian Wigeon
Eastern Spot-billed Duck
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Eurasian Teal
Common Pochard
Tufted Duck
Red-breasted Merganser
Little Grebe
Black-necked Grebe
Black-faced Spoonbill
Grey Heron
Great White Egret
Intermediate Egret
Little Egret
Great Cormorant
Eurasian Kestrel
Black Kite
Hen Harrier
Northern Goshawk
Eastern Buzzard
Common Moorhen
Common Coot
White-naped Crane
Hooded Crane
Northern Lapwing
Grey-headed Lapwing
Grey Plover
Kentish Plover
Common Snipe
Common Greenshank
Green Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Vega Gull
Black-headed Gull
Saunder's Gull
Feral Rock Dove
Oriental Turtle Dove
Common Kingfisher
Bull-headed Shrike
Great Grey Shrike
Daurian Jackdaw
Carrion Crow
Large-billed Crow
Japanese Skylark
Zitting Cisticola
Brown-eared Bulbul
Japanese Bush Warbler
Japanese White-eye
White-cheeked Starling
Common Starling
Pale Thrush
Dusky Thrush
Daurian Redstart
Blue Rock Thrush
Russet Sparrow
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
White Wagtail
Japanese Wagtail
Richard's Pipit
Red-throated Pipit
Buff-bellied Pipit
Oriental Greenfinch
Meadow Bunting
Chestnut-eared Bunting
Rustic Bunting
Black-faced Bunting
Reed Bunting

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