High tide was early so at dawn, if the little light filtering through the streaming rain could be called dawn, I began to drive slowly round the endless fields. Things actually started very well. The rain eased a bit and revealed a bedraggled Merlin in one of the first fields I edged by. I suppose there wouldn't be much prey activity in the conditions so sitting waiting for the promised better weather on the way was the best option. Weather promised by the forecasters isn't always forthcoming but maybe the Merlin had a better understanding of things and, dare I say it, for once the forecasters got it right.
A week ago I watched a pair of Merlins displaying high over a huge area of fields here, even executing a food pass way out over the bay. What a difference decent weather makes.
Not much further I found a goose in the fields. A few Brents turn up on the flats each winter but I've never seen any grey geese in this area, I've never seen them anywhere on the Pacific side of the region. The nearest wintering grey geese are Taiga (Middendorff's) Bean at the north end of Lake Biwa but they left weeks ago, at least I didn't see any there March 9 or at Katano Kamo-ike in Kanazawa the previous day. I tried getting some record shots in the half light but when I checked later in the day the slow shutter speed only allowed grey blurs except for this one shot below.
As soon as I saw the image I realised it was Tundra not Taiga. The Jykell and Hyde nature of the camera again. I'd never have picked up its true identity without the single clear image, but then without the camera I'd have got the scope out, rain or no rain, and taken a more careful look in the first place!
Tundra Bean Goose; a Mie tick for me.
After the great start to the morning birds dried up on the fields (washed away more like), there were none of the usual Chestnut-eared Buntings, very very few Skylarks and no sign of Buff-bellied Pipits. Since last week quite a few fields have been flooded in preparation for rice planting. These can pull in a wide range of passage waders but over the next couple of hours I failed to find any. Even the usual Grey-headed Lapwings and the Little Ringed Plovers that started arriving a couple of weeks ago were absent.
A male lugens White Wagtail, one of very few birds in the open on the fields.
The only new migrant wader out on the flats was Great Knot. It seems there's one guest species in addition to the usual birds each visit. Last week it was eight Lesser Sand Plover, the week before a single Wood Sandpipier and before that a couple of Ruff. This time five Great Knot. It could be a very slow spring. On the bright side the Spotted Redshanks that have been around for a while were a bit more cooperative and I could get some better shots of two of them. The five Long-billed Dowitchers which have been here all winter suddenly flew in, or almost. They did one very quick circuit of the pond, just long enough to flash some reddish underparts, and disappeared again.
It would be great if these birds hang around long enough to complete their moult into breeding plumage.
In the afternoon the weather did actually improve, still overcast but lighter and with no rain. Good enough to encourage me to sit on the beach and check out the gulls.
Three shots of 2CY Slaty-backed.
Massive Vega with small Taimyr.
Taimyr adult, sub-adult and 2CY with a 3CY Vega in the background.