Monday 16 May 2016

Copper Pheasant - cracking views!

This week I'm taking a visiting Aussie birder out for a few days, yesterday plus four more days from tomorrow. We started off on the Mie coast trying to catch up with breeding plumage waders, rather different to the range of greys and browns usually on offer down under. After that we made our way into the hills it see if we could find anything of interest. Most of our trips this week will be woodland trying to catch up with a few Japan specialities.

This paid off big time with a cracking Copper Pheasant, a displaying male we watched for about 20 minutes all told.

We were parked at a pretty good spot and were walking up and down a short stretch of road with Narcissus and Blue and White Flycatchers and three species of woodpecker as well as other bits and pieces when a Northern Hawk Cuckoo started singing not far below us. It sounded as though it could have been singing in flight but our view was obscured by trees so we decided to roll the van a little way down the hill to see if we could find a better vantage point. As we swung round the first bend I couldn't believe my eyes... there, just where we'd walked a few minutes earlier was a male Copper Pheasant displaying on the steep road verge. Right out in the open! We pulled up in about two metres and Jack had a fabulous photo opportunity with the bird just a few metres ahead. Unfortunately I had to make do with shots through the grubby windscreen.

It was slowly walking off the short-cropped stage here, wasn't able to get any shots of it displaying in the open.

It didn't walk far, just under the closest trees, then continued its display. I couldn't bear the through windscreen shots much longer and after Jack had rattled away a bit longer I got out. It wasn't until later I realised I hadn't altered my ISO settings since we were down on the sunny coast and my efforts were a waste of time. The Pheasant slowly made its way up the hill, regular bursts of  low-frequency wing beats marked its route.

Once under the trees it stopped and continued to display though my attempts to photograph this came to nought.

We were still congratulating each other on our good fortune when rustling above alerted us to the Pheasants reappearance. It was standing at the top of the embankment, and after a brief pause to stand to attention and beat its wings began to pick its way down the slope towards the road. Simply unbelievable.

Then it was just a leap across the gutter and onto the road...

Once over the road it stopped and began to display again by which time I was beginning to relax a little. Well, it was only a Copper Pheasant afterall! It was now I realised my camera settings weren't anywhere near suitable for the light conditions and I'd just missed out on an amazing opportunity. Without my glasses to see well enough to alter the settings I fumbled about as best I could and before the bird wandered off too far downhill I managed to get one last semi-reasonable shot of it before switching back to binoculars.

After it disappeared it wasn't long before the regular wing beating was clearly heading back uphill. Sure enough, before much longer Jack spotted it at the top of the slope about a metre in from the road. Eventually it wandered round the bend a little and we let it go, we couldn't possibly get better views of it than we'd already had. What a fantastic bird, I don't think I've seen one quite like that for about 20 years.

You know, I think the Aussies are a lucky bunch. Last time I took one out we had Copper Pheasant, Japanese Night Heron and Asiatic black bear before midday.

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