Thursday 7 January 2016

Yatsushiro and Arasaki

Yatsushiro is probably most famous for its wintering Great Black-headed Gulls. Though it might be more accurate to say formerly wintering? I didn't see any last winter when I dropped in and was told none have been seen this winter (either?). It's rather sad if this small and dwindling wintering population has finally become locally extinct. I wonder where they came from and whether there will ever be another chance to see this charismatic species in Japan. I suppose the Saunder's Gull population is more significant in global terms but from a personal perspective they're easy enough to see in Kansai and the Great Black-headed will be a big miss.

Adult Saunder's Gull, one of about 20 cruising back and forth over the mudflats.

I arrived before dawn (as I usually do where ever I go) and waited for first light. As good luck would have it the tide was just dropping as the light rose and gulls and waders weren't far off as yet. A growing group of loafing gulls was occupying a sandbar 150m off the seawall and I got down to scanning through them as soon as it was light enough. As I'd been warned, no Great Black-headed!

After a short while I spotted a large tern heading in towards the sandbar; Great Crested I assumed, a nice trip tick. However when it landed and turned side-on it had a huge carrot of a bill - Caspian! The light still wasn't great and I hadn't unpacked my digiscoping gear, I scrambled back into the untidy car interior hunting for the bag I needed cursing the disorder I normally prefer. By the time I'd found my pre-historic digi-gear and fumbled it onto the end of my scope the Tern had gone. Totally, as if it had never been there at all. What... ? Where... ? How... ? After a lifetime birding how can things like this still happen? There was no doubt about the identification but it would have been nice to at least get a record shot of my first Japan tick of the year.

A few minutes later I walked a couple of hundred metres to look around the curve of the seawall and was flabbergasted to thousands of birds! Waders, gulls, ducks, spoonbills, herons, the works. The tide was receding rapidly and tideline birds were ever more distant but right out in the distance was a Tern, the Tern as the scope quickly revealed. The record shot was back on.

Japan tick; a tide line Caspian Tern... brilliant!

Before long I realised there was a second bird with a whiter forehead - two Caspian Terns at Yatsushiro. I received an email later in the day telling me they've been around for at least a month but not knowing that in advance allowed me the thrill of a self-find.

The second Caspian!

I got on sifting through the gulls and waders then noticed one of the Terns was fishing off-shore and took a couple of distant shots without any hope of a decent result and watched the bird disappear out of the estuary and sight. When I looked back at the tideline "my" Caspians were still sitting there... THREE Caspians!

A third Caspian briefly, here carrying a fish.

This is something I love about visiting Kyushu, it's always possible to find something surprising.

After all that excitement I headed south to Arasaki. I hadn't been here for 7-8 years so I was really looking forward to another visit to this fantastic place. The weather wasn't great, heavily overcast and occasional showers so by the time I got to Izumi mid-afternoon the light was already poor. But one of the first birds I saw was this Ruddy-breasted Crake.

After that I made a quick dash into the hills for Crested Kingfisher and Brown Dipper before the light failed completely then after three nights in the car I had the luxury of a hotel for the night.

No comments:

Post a Comment