Tuesday 10 March 2015

Ishikawa trip last weekend

While the Hoopoe I wrote about a couple of days ago was the highlight of the trip to Ishikawa last weekend, the aim was to see the Scaly-sided Merganser on the Saigawa in Kanazawa. And just like last winter I failed miserably.

I started on the Saigawa at the usual (?) spot and though there were 11 Goosanders on the river at first light there was no sign of the Merganser. Here we go again I thought, but hey, there was plenty of river still to check, still plenty of optimism... still plenty of misplaced optimism as it turned out. The Goosanders were expected here but a Bohemian Waxwing wasn't. A splendid adult hanging on the fringe a group of about 20 Hawfinches, not quiet sure if it should join those seed eaters. I suppose if you're a Waxwing being on your own is an odd experience.

I gave up on the spot far more quickly than last winter, no more walking up and down, and drove up river stopping everywhere the road touched the river, at every vantage point giving a view along an unreachable stretch. There were no more Goosanders, nothing to keep my hopes up, where does it go? Or maybe it had gone, it is March after all.

I saw no more sawbills up river, but a couple of Crested Kingfishers in riverside trees and a Brown Dipper were reward enough. Or at least that's what I told myself, I could maybe have seen them without the four-hour drive. Returning for a quick look back at the starting point where there were now only four Goosanders convinced me to give up and trawl the fields to the north of the city for anyhting else of interest.

Two of the Goosanders just after dawn. 

The lonely Bohemian Waxwing, a cracking adult.

It seemed a day for disappearing birds so it was somehow appropriate that I could hear invisible Tundra Swans calling on the fields. They didn't sound too far away but I couldn't find them, they weren't overhead either. Fail to find a Scaly-sided Merganser on a long and difficult river is one thing but audible Tundra Swans on open fields is an entirely different matter. The fields weren't a total bust though, I did find three Daurian Jackdaws in one of the Rook flocks, all dark birds though one had ghosted white underparts. I have a soft spot for Daurians and these were really were worth the trip as there haven't been any close to home this winter. Or none that I've seen anyway. Unfortunately, unlike many I've seen, I couldn't get creep up on them as the flock wasn't settled enough. The muddy fields they were feeding in resulted in many of the Carrion Crows having whiter-based bills than I'd expect from Rooks in Europe let alone the less white-based eastern birds.

White-billed Carrion Crow. 

The real deal, an obvious Rook.

The Daurians weren't the only good crows in the area. This is Azure-winged Magpie country, a fairly common species along the coast near Kanazawa but one I can't see in Kansai. The first ones I came across were in a tiny scrubby area in the docks and for a change I was able to get a couple of shots off before they managed melt away into what little undergrowth there was. Another disappearing bird.

Two of half a dozen Azure-winged Magpies.

I intended to go down to Katano Kamo-ike and almost didn't drop into Kenmin Kaihin Park before heading south. Fortunately I did and hence ran into the Hoopoe, suddenly things were really looking up and Merg or no Merg coming to Kanazawa now seemed a smart choice.

Baikal Teal and Taiga Bean Geese always leave early and I wasn't surprised there were none at Katano Kamo-ike. Nevertheless it was worth dropping in to connect with the only Falcated Ducks of the day. Then it was just a short trip to the coast in the hope of seeing a few divers and auks. There weren't any auks but three species of diver were excellent and on rocks off Kasano Misaki were Temminck's and Pelagic Cormorants.

A breeding Great Cormorant in the harbour.

Nearby, in the harbour were hundreds of gulls. Sadly the light was going and and most gulls were out on the breakwater. I was torn; stay here overnight and check the gulls in the morning or keep heading south and start Sunday at Biwako. A small harbour on a Sunday? I doubted there'd be much gull action in the morning so down to Biwako it was. It was on the dive south I paused in a convenience store car park I posted the Hoopoe shots.


  1. Ironically for a while I was convinced the Rooks near us where all Carrion Crows with snowy/muddy bills.........................until I saw them together with Daurian Jackdaws and real Carrion Crows.

    1. Before I came to Japan in the '80s I was under the impression Rooks were a Kyushu speciality, perhaps they were once. First winters are very like Carrion Crows at first glance.