Monday 2 May 2016

A morning in the woods

I drove up into the forest north of Kyoto city at about midnight last night, my first nocturnal drive this spring. In the end it was a little disappointing, a single Japanese Marten and 26 Sika Deer were the only mammals I saw and a handful of Japanese (Collared) Scops Owls heard were the only birds I recorded. No night displaying cuckoos, no Ural Owls, not even any Grey Nightjars yet, and definitely no Japanese Night Herons.

Things picked up at dawn, first a Blue and White Flycatcher broke the absolute stillness as the outline of the hills began to appear, others soon chimed. The faint sound of an unseen plane floating down pulled me up short, not because the sound itself was intrusive but more because it brought home to me how rarely I experience such silence in Kansai. Not even the snarliest or whiniest motorbike engine can penetrate that far into the hills.

Soon I heard the first of several Oriental Cuckoos higher up the slopes, a Northern Hawk Cuckoo flew over singing and Narcissus Flycatchers were obviously fairly common in the guess at understory. Normally Grey Nightjars and Ruddy Kingfishers would be early voices but they can't have arrived yet.

Finally daylight caught up with the early risers.

A future split... Japanese Jay?

Almost everything else was collecting nesting material or singing!

A Narcissus Flycatcher taking a leaf out of the Blue and White song book? Or maybe it was a North American leaf warbler in a past life?

Would this make a good mystery photograph I wonder? It's surprisingly pigeon-like in the second shot. In fact it's a Northern Hawk Cuckoo displaying, something often heard through the night but usually only seen first thing in the morning.

Long-tailed Tit gathering wispy stuff.

Coal Tit gathering less wispy stuff.

This where I berate myself with a "You call yourself a birder?!". It's only now I see the Coal Tit is pulling material from a pellet which I wish I'd noticed at the time. And it doesn't get any better with the next shots of Asian House Martins collecting mud. Looking at these shots is the first time I've noticed the streaks on the rump, uppertail coverts and vent. No doubt contributing to the greyer appearance compared to Northern House Martin.

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