Wednesday 15 June 2016

Where next?

After disembarking from the Hegura ferry and back in Wajima once more I quickly returned to the headland that had been so foggy that morning. The foggy morning full of anticipation seemed distant even then, now far more so. And bathed in hot late afternoon sun it could have been another season. There was no sign of the morning's Reef Egret nor of the Japanese Woodpecker but Kamchatka Leaf Warblers were still singing, the single Narcissus too.

My plan was bird here till dusk then head south to a still undecided destination. And bird I did, though I failed to add anything new to the day list and eventually, with a couple of photographers setting up tripods to catch the sunset across the bay, I thought that was enough. I hadn't eaten since pre-dawn so it was time to sample the delights of a local convenience store.

Sometimes when I order coffee in a convenience store I think I detect a friendly but knowing look across the counter; of course a foreigner wants the large size. When I order three large coffees no one bats an eyelid. He must have a car-full outside - a bus even!

Feeling much better I was ready to go again and my mind was made up; Shiga. I'd head down to Shiga and try for owls tonight then in the early morning... early morning stuff. There was no great rush heading south and four hours later, at my first port of call, I picked up a wild boar in the headlights. It wasn't as spectacular as it might sound, in fact it was a spotty little piglet that looked way to young to be out on its own. This was followed by a racoon dog, another young animal that insisted on bounding along the narrow potted, crumbling asphalt in front of me rather than diving off to one side or the other. One side was steeply up, the other precipitously down, not so daft after all then. And there were also sika deer, several, including a handsome multi-pronged buck that blocked my path until I reached for the camera. I didn't hear even a single owl, none of the usual nocurnal singing cuckoos either, no Grey Nightjar. I confess I slept for at least half the three hours I was there but if an owl or anything else had started up I'd have woken. Certainly if it had been reasonably close at any rate, it was a dead still night. The moon had set early and the stars were fantastic from the hill top.

At about 2am I it was time to try somewhere else. So off I went, and the second choice proved a good one. On arrival was met by singing Grey Nightjar and both Lesser and Northern Hawk Cuckoos; still no owls but birdwise this was a massive improvement on the previous stop.

Once day proper got going birding was pretty good, Japanese Woodpecker and Narcissus Flycatcher were two of the commonest birds (okay, maybe there might have been more Brown-eared Bulbuls if I'd been counting), there were several Oriental Cuckoos higher up and I was able to locate White-bellied Green Pigeons sitting prominently in a couple of spots. Also there were a few Blue and White Flycatchers but only two Japanese Thrushes singing. I've had surprisingly few Great Spotted Woodpeckers lately, just a bad run I suppose, especially considering the way Japanese have been lining up for me. Then I heard the unmistakable drumming of one not far off, I followed the sound round the contour of the hill and it must have been sitting in a track-side tree as it immediately took flight across the valley as I appeared round the bend. This was my first compared to over 20 Japanese seen or heard over these two days, and my first for about a month. Even White-backed have been putting up more of a show than that.

One of about 20 Japanese seen. 
Narcissus were common but not always willing to sit in the open.
Another bird that was quite common but difficult to see well, sticking mainly to forest understorey. It's one I don't often come across on my usual travels; Red-billed Leiothrix.
Mammals had been performing quite well and I added Japanese macaque to the trip list here.

There were quite a few macaques around.
Photobombed by a sika deer.

It must have had a flea in its ear seeing me there... sorry.
Unsurprisingly the deer didn't hang around, the macaques lingered a little longer but they weren't comfortable with my intrusion.
And back at the car park, right next to the van, I heard another Great Spotted Woodpecker. That bad run must be at an end.

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