Tuesday 5 April 2016

Spring is really here

Yesterday I went up into the Shiga prefecture forest then down to Lake Biwa just to see how the season is changing; and it is.

My first frogs were singing in both forest and fields, Barn Swallows have even reached northern Shiga and evening bats are out in force. On the down side, Lake Biwa is looking relatively birdless and big finch flocks have all but disappeared from the forest.

I didn't arrive until after daybreak and unsurprisingly I was too late for the pre-dawn scops owl chorus so I was amazed to hear one briefly at 08:05. Equally unexpected I didn't hear my first displaying Copper Pheasant until 08:25. I had already seen a female by then but a bird flushed unseen against the low sun through thick vegetation was my only other encounter.

Another very close Japanese serow was impossible to photograph as it bolted down hill (how do they do that?) and a White's Thrush also managed to thwart my best efforts to get a single shot of it. White's is a species I come across from time to time around Lake Biwa in winter but this is the first I can recall finding in the hills in spring. This Varied Tit on the other hand was far more confiding...



Once down from the hills another thrush was the first bird of interest, a female Dusky x Naumann's intergrade. This was an obvious intergrade and the first I've seen for some time, years in fact, so it was unfortunate that a farmer chose that moment to drive up behind me on a single track road and by the time I got back to the spot the bird had gone. Another good bird with no photographic evidence!

The narrow valley between the hills did provide a few good opportunities though. Two flocks of Rooks were grubbing around on the fields and an Eastern Buzzards was reasonably approachable.





Unlike in Kyoto where it's often necessary to stake out your cherry blossom picknick spot from first thing in the morning this family had it all to themselves. My Copper Pheasant hills are in the background and the fields in the foreground were full of buntings, Common Snipe and popular with fly-over Eastern Marsh Harriers and another Eastern Buzzard. There were also a couple of Green Pheasants - it's always nice to see both species in a day.

Common Snipe: I'm cheating here, I got this shot a few days ago in Mie.



Rustic Buntings.

I spent a lot of time looking at Reed Buntings here, the variation intrigued me when I came to Japan many years ago and it was good to see a number of birds feeding in the open. But more of that another time. Further south along the lake I spotted a tractor ploughing a field. This is usually a good chance to sift through wagtails and pipits but on this occasion the field was full of Black Kites.

Black Kites following the plough.





Before heading home, or rather before joining an endless queue of traffic heading for Kyoto, I couldn't resist this Little Grebe bathing in the late afternoon sunshine.

List of species recorded:-
Copper Pheasant   1 female, a male heard and another bird flushed
Green Pheasant   1 plus 1 heard
Eurasian Wigeon   100s
Mallard   widespread in low numbers
Eastern Spot-billed Duck   common
Northern Shoveler   30-40
Eurasian Teal   c20
Tufted Duck   20-30
Little Grebe   2-3
Great Crested Grebe   several displaying pairs
Grey Heron   common
Great White Egret   c20
Little Egret   3
Great Cormorant   c10
Black Kite   common
Eastern Marsh Harrier   3
Hen Harrier   1
Eastern Buzzard   2
Common Coot   1000s
Grey-headed Lapwing   4
Common Snipe   c25
Common Gull   7
Black-headed Gull   c15
Rock Dove   several
Oriental Turtle Dove   widespread
Japanese Scops Owl   1 heard
Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker   2 heard
dendrocopos sp   2-3 heard
Japanese Woodpecker   1 plus 2 drumming and 2 calling
Jay   c10
Rook   2 flocks totalling c80
Carrion Crow   common
Large-billed Crow   common
Great Tit   fairly common in the forest
Coal Tit   several, numbers way down compared to previous trip
Varied Tit   common in the forest
Willow Tit   surprisingly none!
Barn Swallow   several
Long-tailed Tit   common
Skylark   common
Brown-eared Bulbul   common
Japanese Bush Warbler   several singing
Japanese White-eye   common in the forest whereas it has been scarce recently, the reverse of Coal and Willow Tits.
Wren   3 heard
White-cheeked Starling   several
White's Thrush   1
Pale Thrush   8
Dusky Thrush   common
Dusky x Naumann's intergrade   1
Red-flanked Bluetail   1
Daurian Redstart   1 heard
Eurasian Tree Sparrow   common
White Wagtail   several
Japanese Wagtail   1 heard
Buff-bellied Pipit   1 heard
Oriental Greenfinch   common
Eurasian Siskin   2 flocks heard
Eurasian Bullfinch   2-3 heard
Japanese Grosbeak   c150 plus smaller numbers here and there overhead
Meadow Bunting   common
Rustic Bunting   c10
Reed Bunting   common

Japanese serow   1
sika deer   1 plus c8 heard

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