Sunday 22 November 2015

Hooded Cranes in Mie

There have been a few Hooded Cranes in Mie the past couple of weeks, they do turn up occasionally in Kansai at this time of year. One even over-wintered at Lake Biwa a few years ago. I'd hoped to run into them on this visit (November 20) but I hadn't the previous time so wasn't optimistic. There was no sign of them on the fields I normally cover, there are plenty I don't, so I'd all but written off any chance of connecting when I came across this bird way out in the middle of a river mouth. I presume it had gone there to bathe but it was a really odd sight, a crane belly deep in a wide estuary.

After a while it took flight and came down on a scrap of arable land tucked away in a group of houses.

Things are getting slow on the wader front, Greenshank do winter here so seeing them wasn't a surprise. There were no Grey-tailed Tattlers and just a single Terek Sandpiper even though both had been very common a short time ago. Red-necked Stints have disappeared too but winter waders such as Dunlin, Sanderling and Oystercatcher are building in numbers.

Common Greenshank.

Terek Sandpiper.

Little Grebe is common but rarely close enough to photograph.

There were big numbers of gulls on distant sandbars off-shore but unfortunately only a few more accessible birds loafing on the beach north of Tsu. Vega numbers are building rapidly now but there were only three Taimyr still present.

A very typical Vega at this time; p8 is in and only a handful have retained outer primaries. The bird below is the exception that proves the rule I suppose. This was a real surprise a Vega outer primaries but only new p6 in place. 

Juvenile Vega.

Juvenile Slaty-backed.

The following bird is another juvenile Slaty-backed though I thought it was going to be a Taimyr when I first saw it and it's a great example of how variable they can be. The smaller size, initially less Slaty-backed head shape and much blacker looking primaries had me fooled at first. Looking more closely the Slaty-backed head shape became more apparent, the primaries may have been blacker than expected but the blade was very broad and the underside distinctly pale. Slaty-backed it is then...

The very black primary projection is odd for Slaty-backed but it's very deep and the pale underside of the far wing are the first give-aways that this is a Slaty-backed. 

The head shape is getting more like a Slaty-backed here. That's a more typical Slaty-backed behind it. 

Suddenly it couldn't possibly be anything else!

Other birds of interest were the first Goldeneye and Red-breasted Mergansers of winter but Common Shelduck doesn't seem to have arrived yet. The first Black Brant has also turned up though I didn't see it. There were several Dusky Thrush even though there were only a couple further north in the mountains earlier in the week and the following day there were even quite a few at work just south of Kyoto city.

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