Monday 16 February 2015

Avocet in Mie

I've finally caught up with Avocet in Japan, a gaping gap on the list plugged at last! The last birds (I'm aware of) in Mie were a couple of winters ago. I heard about them while I was in Hokkaido but they didn't stick long enough for me to catch up with them. The most galling thing was my return ferry had to sail past where they were. No such  problems  yesterday though, this went smoothly, so smoothly it was beyond smooth and into the realm of the ridiculously easy. 

This was a twitch plain and simple. I hadn't bothered checking the weather forecast or tide tables, no point really, it was what it was. On arrival, at about 2:30am, I had a quick peek to see how wide the river was at the mouth in the reflected lights of the industrial area opposite. I'd been told the bird was usually rather distant on the far shore but that it sometimes came across to the near side. It was wide; it was also hide tide.

After going for a coffee then grabbing a little sleep light was creeping into the sky as I drove back to the concrete wall at the river mouth. The wind had been picking up and things weren't looking good for digiscoping a distant bird. But hey, seeing it was the important thing, anything else a bonus.

When it was light enough to make out the ducks mid-stream I scanned through and there was the Avocet swimming round with them. I couldn't believe it. By the time I'd put on layer after layer to keep out the wing and unpacked the rest of my gear the Avocet was nowhere to be seen. Then the second guessing began, could it have been a Black-headed Gull? ...slightly oiled?

I walked along the top of the retaining wall about 50 metres and scoped the far bank. The water was still very high but there were inlets across there, it could be lurking somewhere out of sight. Just as I was toying with the idea of going for coffee and coming back when the water was lower, there it was! Not distantly on the far shore but right in front of me at the water's edge. It was pure luck that the tide and water levels were just right pushing it in close at dawn. Pure luck that I'd stopped at that exact spot. The sun hadn't risen yet and the light wasn't great, the wind wasn't helping either so getting any decent images was next to impossible and as you might guess the few sharp ones were when its head was turned away. Flight shots weren't possible at all. That'll teach me for leaving the camera in the van while going on a recce.

I could have waited till the light improved to increase shutter speed but I expected the bird would never have been as close again so I decided to leave. It's great to get a Japan tick but I've seen plenty of Avocets before and the fields and estuaries further south were more enticing than trying to get a few better shots.

The following images are the best I could manage.

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