Monday 12 October 2015

Hegurajima October 7

Heading out to Hegura, even for just a day trip when the weather is far from perfect in birding terms, is always exciting. Whatever the weather something could turn up or a earlier arrival still be lingering. Of course a day trip means getting there at 10:30 and catching the 3pm boat back. It doesn't allow enough time to even cover the whole island, small as it is, let alone spend sufficient time in each area to find the more secretive species. So it proved this time but even some of the easily found birds were pretty good.

When I'm staying on the island I always make a beeline for the accommodation, get rid of my bag and into the field as quickly as possible. Whereas on day trips my first port of call is no further than the scrap of scrub in the harbour. This tiny area never seems to disappoint and I wonder how many good birds I've missed over the years hurrying by on the way to dump my stuff. To call this 30m x 30m nugget of knee-high vegetation even a scrap of scrub seems rather grand, it may be a universe to an arch-skulker but to most birds, even with the small seamless blob of central bushes (probably no more than three or four), there aren't many places to hide!

On this occasion I glimpsed the distinctive tail pattern of a Taiga/Red-breasted Flycatcher dive into the clump of bushes. I managed to get a brief view as it perched in the penumbra before vanishing stubbornly into the interior. But as I was leaving the island there it was again, this time perched right out in the open on the wooden fence charged with holding back this mini-jungle. Thus it provided an excellent introduction and conclusion to this all-to-short visit - even though I wasn't left with enough time to try to get any half decent shots of it.

With more time and a few mealworms that the photographers usually come armed with, I'm sure this bird would have proved very cooperative.

100 metres further on, in the less often cut strip of grass and weeds along the edge of what used to be the school playing field (it still is I suppose, it's just no longer a school with any pupils) a Middendorff's Warbler popped up and whirred the slow-motion locustella whir into the hedge. How do they migrate thousands of kilometres when reaching the nearest cover looks as much as they can manage? Then a couple of minutes later I was looking at a Yellow-browed Bunting. Yellow-browed is a more frequent spring migrant and as I usually visit other islands in spring this was both a Hegura and autumn tick for me. And very nice too!

Kamchatka Leaf Warblers were common on the island but the only other phylloscs I had were three Yellow-browed Warblers and one Sakhalin Leaf Warbler heard only.

I don't think I've ever been to Hegura in October without seeing Pine Bunting. Sometimes small flocks of them, yet I've never seen one anywhere else in Japan except once for a rather dashing wintering male in Hokkaido. It's not as though they're either skulking or difficult to identify and I find it odd that I don't see more given they're so regular here.

Pine Bunting in the harbour, a farewell bonus before jumping on the ferry.

The "midday shift" allowed by the ferry schedule isn't necessarily the most productive and considering I had a two-hour lull during which I found very little I had no complaints about the trip. This is the list of species recorded:-

Mandarin Duck   8
Streaked Shearwater   common from the ferry
Grey Heron   1
Black Kite   1
Black-tailed Gull   common
Slaty-backed Gull   c10 in Wajima harbour
Black Woodpigeon   2
Oriental Turtle Dove   several
Great Tit   2-3
Coal Tit   1
Barn Swallow   1 the only Barn during the four-day trip to Ishikawa
Skylark   5
Brown-eared Bulbul   a few
Japanese Bush Warbler   c12 heard
Asian Stubtail   1
Middendorff's Warbler   1
Yellow-browed Warbler   3
Kamchatka Leaf Warbler   common
Sakhalin Leaf Warbler   1 heard
Japanese White-eye   fairly common
Dusky Thrush   2
thrush sp   2-3
Blue Rock Thrush   2-3
Asian Brown Flycatcher   1
Taiga Flycatcher   1
White Wagtail   2
Red-throated Pipit   1
Brambling   c20
Oriental Greenfinch   several
Pine Bunting   1
Yellow-browed Bunting   1
Black-faced Bunting   several

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