Monday 21 September 2015

The first field trip in ages!

Tuesday last week (Sept 15th) I had no work, this was only the second birding opportunity since early May! I don't think I've ever not been birding for so long and though I didn't see anything earth-shattering it was great to get into the field. It was almost as enjoyable just to have a slow overnight drive stopping for the odd coffee along the way, letting the anticipation build.

Birdwise, the day was disappointing compared to the same date a year earlier. On the 15th last year I found two Little Stints, a Japan tick for me, and other locally scarce waders included Broad-billed Sandpiper and Ruff. On this trip the only scarce migrant wader I saw was a fairly distant Greater Sand Plover on estuary sandflats with eight Lesser Sand Plovers.

My usual winter routine in this area is first to check-out a large, deeper coastal lagoon with the early light behind me but on spring and autumn wader trips the shallower pools are obviously more productive. This so often means either a distant view with the rising sun on my back or a much closer view against the light. Tuesday dawned with a screen of clouds along the horizon. Things appeared to be going my way, this was the perfect opportunity to pull right up alongside a usually productive pool without the light problem. But as is sometimes the case, appearances can be deceptive and in this case too much water meant no waders! Undeterred I headed out onto the fields looking for suitably wet or flooded fields that might hold parties of waders while the tide was still high. I tried two extensive tracts of fields a few kilometres apart but neither had any fields which to my human eye looked attractive to waders, they apparently thought likewise.

Egrets pass through the area in big numbers and if wader numbers where down on this visit, there were far more Cattle and Intermediate compared to this time last year.

A Cattle Egret trying to pass itself off as an Intermediate with that prominent black bill tip. Presumably this is a juvenile, the black tip being a remnant of the short-lived black bill phase of very young birds.

By 3pm I'd seen 23 wader species (compared to 27 on the same date last year), not great but nevertheless not bad for a first-in-ages field trip; good enough to get the juices following again. Most weren't at a photographable range, which was also disappointing, and the following were the best shots I could get.

Grey-tailed Tattler. 

Eurasian Curlew; there were 3-4 Far Eastern but the sole Eurasian was the only curlew to come within camera range. 

Common Greenshank was one of the few species in usual numbers, these showing a range of leg colour from dull greyish-green to bright yellow. 

Common Greenshank. 

Marsh Sandpiper behind Common Greenshank. 

Marsh Sandpiper. 

There were a large number of Sand Martins passing through, this a scaly juvenile. 

Spot the Garganey. I had a high count of about 15 last year but could only find three sifting through the Common Teal on the water this time round. They were much easier to pick out in flight!

Now that my busy work schedule has eased and after moving house this week, I'll hopefully have more time to get out and find some birds!

Mallard   3
Eastern Spot-billed Duck   common
Northern Shoveler   7
Northern Pintail   9
Garganey   3
Eurasian Teal   c180
Common Pochard   5
Tufted Duck   1
Streaked Shearwater   common off-shore
Little Grebe   common
Black-crowned Night Heron   1
Cattle Egret   c120
Grey Heron   fairly common
Great White Egret   200+
Intermediate Egret   300+
Little Egret   15-20
Great Cormorant   very common
Osprey   5-6
Black Kite   several
Moorhen   2
Common Coot   2
Oystercatcher   12
Black-winged Stilt   14
Grey-headed Lapwing   1 plus 3 heard
Little Ringed Plover   2 plus 1 heard
Kentish Plover   common
Lesser Sand Plover   c10
Greater Sand Plover   1
Common Snipe   2
Bar-tailed Godwit   2
Whimbrel   1 plus 1 heard
Eurasian Curlew   1
Far Eastern Curlew   3
Marsh Sandpiper   4
Common Greenshank   18
Green Sandpiper   1
Wood Sandpiper   2
Grey-tailed Tattler   c20
Terek Sandpiper   c12
Common Sandpiper   c8
Great Knot   1
Red Knot   1
Sanderling   c130
Red-necked Stint   5
Dunlin   4-5
Black-tailed Gull   1000+
Slaty-backed Gull   1-2
Black-headed Gull   sevreal
Common Tern   c140
Rock Dove   2-3 parties
Oriental Turtle Dove   several
Common Kingfisher   2
Bull-headed Shrike   3 plus several heard
Carrion Crow
Large-billed Crow
Sand Martin   common throughout the day
Barn Swallow   as above
Red-rumped Swallow   2
Japanese Skylark   several
Zitting Cisticola   several (mainly heard)
Brown-eared Bulbul   only 1 heard. Where were they?
Oriental Reed Warbler   1
White-cheeked Starling   fairly common but no large flocks
Blue Rock Thrush   8-10
Eurasian Tree Sparrow   common
White Wagtail   fairly common
Japanese Wagtail   2
Meadow Bunting   3 heard

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