Tuesday 17 November 2015

3 Tundra Bean Geese with the middendorffii flock

I needed a change of scene this week and travelled up to the north end of Lake Biwa rather than go to Mie which has been my destination of choice recently. It turned out to be a good decision.

The day started on the hills to the north of the lake and almost the first bird I saw was a female Copper Pheasant on the track. It was still well before sunrise and even if I'd had my camera unpacked it's unlikely I'd have been able to get a decent shot even though it only slowly moved off frequently stopping to look back at me. A very good start.

I was at the top of the hill for sunrise and bird activity had me thinking it was great to be back in a woodland environment after so much time at the coast of late. There were five species of both tit and bunting many White-bellied Green Pigeons flying around and their amazing song still echoed around the hillsides. Finches were very much in evidence too, big numbers of Siskins, Japanese Grosbeaks were frequently calling overhead or singing from tree tops, Oriental Greenfinches were here and there but strangely no Brambling.

By far the biggest surprise was a phylloscops warbler! An Arctic complex bird but I've no idea which even though it did call once before I saw the bird. Normally my brain reflex is to think Arctic Warbler whenever I hear a bird before remembering the split. It's a bit odd this call didn't register at all, perhaps because it's so unseasonal. It was only when I got onto the bird I realised what I'd heard but I couldn't recall the exact sound. It was very white below without any trace of yellowish as far as I could see but that doesn't really mean much.

By this time it was 08:30 and the lake was calling me so I made my way down to the shore and by about 10:00 I was at Kohokucho to check-out the geese. It seems new islands have been created over the summer which is great, much easier to see the loafing geese and even a few Dunlin, usually way way out on concrete blocks, were closer at hand.

The three Tundra Beans stood out like saw thumbs on the new flat islands, they were so small compared to the middendorffii, this was never so obvious on the old sloped and vegetated island. They seemed to be a family party, one adult clearly larger than the other was presumably the gander and the 1CY bird the smallest of the trio. I suspect the young bird is small even by Tundra standards, not so much bulkier than a Mallard in fact. These birds were inseparable on the island then flew together as the flock moved onto the water where they stayed together as a tight group.

Three Tundra Bean in the foreground. Not only are they very small but the necks are short when extended, the stance is frequently more upright and the stopped forehead and short bill were always easy to see. 

The young bird in the centre and the two adults sitting on the right. Note how conspicuous the white forehead is even in a distant digiscoped view like this. 

Once on their feet and side by side the adults are not only distinctly larger than the young bird but show a clear difference between each other. Presumably the bird at the back is a male.

Almost in silhouette the head and bill shape are easy to see here.

Tundra left and Taiga right, a huge difference in girth. 

The young bird almost trampled under foot, these are the massive proportions and long bill and neck anyone would be hoping for with an out-of-range middendorffii. They don't all look that clear-cut.

Perhaps no more than coincidence but both the adult Tundra have traces of white above the bill (and one of them at the side) which I only very occasionally see with the middendorffii.

Out on the lake the birds still stuck together. 

That's an amazing size / structure comparison. 

Four swan-necked middendorffii sandwiching the Tundra family.

Species recorded:-
Copper Pheasant   1
Green Pheasant   1
Taiga Bean Goose   c100
Tundra Bean Goose   3
Tundra Swan   c45
Gadwall   common in some locations
Falcated Duck   c50
Eurasian Wigeon   1000s
Mallard   common
Eastern Spot-billed Duck   common
Northern Shoveler   c30
Northern Pintail   c20
Eurasian Teal   common
Common Pochard   100s
Tufted Duck   100s
Greater Scaup   15-20
Goosander   c200
Smew   1
Little Grebe   common
Great Crested Grebe   common
Black-necked Grebe   1
Grey Heron   c20
Great White Egret   5 including one albus
Little Egret   2
Great Cormorant   common
Black Kite   common
Eastern Marsh Harrier   1
Eurasian Sparrowhawk   1
Northern Goshawk   1
Eastern Buzzard   1
Eastern Water Rail   2-3 heard
Common Coot   1000s
Common Greenshank   1
Green Sandpiper   1
Dunlin   c100
Common Gull   c30 it has been very surprising that I haven't seen any in Mie.
Black-headed Gull   40-50
Oriental Turtle Dove   several
White-bellied Green Pigeon   15 plus others heard
Common Kingfisher   3 heard
Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker   common
dendrocopus woodpecker   3 heard
Japanese Woodpecker   1
Bull-headed Shrike   4
Jay   3 heard
Carrion Crow   common
Large-billed Crow   common
Great Tit   common
Coal Tit   common
Varied Tit   common
Willow Tit   3-4
Long-tailed Tit   common
Skylark   5
Brown-eared Bulbul   several
Japanese Bush Warbler   3-4 heard
phylloscopus (Arctic complex) warbler   1
Wren   2-3 heard
White-cheeked Starling   common
Pale Thrush   several
Dusky Thrush   2-3
Red-flanked Blutail   6-7 (only one seen)
Daurian Redstart   c10
Eurasian Tree Sparrow   common
White Wagtail   c10
Japanese Wagtail   c25
Buff-bellied Pipit   5
Oriental Greenfinch   several
Eurasian Siskin   4 large flocks
Long-tailed Rosefinch   1 heard
Eurasian Bullfinch   5 parties heard
Japanese Grosbeaks   frequently overhead
Meadow Bunting   common
Rustic Bunting   c15 (one flock)
Elegant Bunting   fairly common
Black-faced Bunting   1
Grey Bunting   1
Common Reed Bunting   common

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