Tuesday 5 January 2016

A couple of days at Isahaya Bay (Long-eared Owl)

After a 12-hour drive (including an hour sleep and a couple of coffee breaks) I arrived at Isahaya at 10:30 on a dark and gloomy morning two days ago. Little did I know that fog the following morning would make 10:30 seem like an early start but at the time I thought I was in for a mad dash to make the most of my planned single day in the area.

I'd seen a Ural Owl glide across the road on the way down so despite the late start I'd already had a pretty good bird. I don't see many owls in Japan; in fact, apart from in the Ryukyu Islands where Scops throw themselves at you, chance encounters with owls are surprisingly infrequent here. All the more surprising then that my first day ended with this cracking Long-eared.

I watched this bird from finding it at about 5pm till it dived into the grass never to be seen again at dusk. So the day ended well, as it had begun with that early-promise Ural. What about the bit in the middle though? Well, by Kansai standards it was excellent but I couldn't help feeling a little disappointed with the overall result. There's just no pleasing some people.

I saw about 60 Common Starlings. Quite smart birds actually and as I've only ever found one in Kyoto, it's rare too. Rare in Kyoto yes, but something of a stocking filler in Kyushu (if a Christmas reference isn't too late), it lacks the wow factor. The fact that there were 60+ speaks volumes.

The best bird of the day was this hatch year taivana Eastern Yellow Wagtail. Hardly a mega, I saw three or four Eastern Yellows last time I was down, and with none of the flamboyance of a breeding adult. Nevertheless it's an interesting bird. Most autumn / winter birds aren't easy to put a name to and this one looks a pretty obvious taivana to my eyes, so, a piece in the puzzle then... maybe. It certainly increases my interest in some birds I've seen in the past that don't look anything like this bird. Asymmetric moult too judging by the median coverts, possibly tertials too. I'll have to look more closely when I get home.

Surely I can't possibly grumble about White-naped Crane. They're positively spectacular! Plus I've never seen one outside Kyushu... where they're hard to miss.

Rooks! I didn't come all this way to see a few Rooks, did I?

Grumble over. It must be lack of sleep.

There were quite a few harriers about, I saw three Hen and four Eastern Marsh.

These two Eastern Marsh Harriers flushed an Eastern Water Rail for me. 

The closest fly past made by any Hen.

Juvenile male Hen. 

The same male on the left with a much bigger female ahead of him.


  1. I've yet to see a LE Owl here. One of the people I teach took a photo of one on here cellphone perched on a window ledge of her office though!

    1. Cracking birds, aren't they? I did once see one near Nemuro which seems pretty close to you from down here but, yeah I know.