Thursday, 29 December 2016

Saunder's Gulls and Common Starlings

I arrived in Kyushu this morning for what seems to be becoming an annual winter visit, this is three in a row. I set off from Kyoto at about 01:40 and got to Daijugarami at around 11:30 after a nap along the way.

Looking over the vast mudflats I couldn't help thinking it's a bit like one of the areas I visit in Mie, only much more so, more of everything. More Eurasian Curlews, more Common Greenshanks, definitely more Redshanks and way, way more Common Shelduck. And then there are Saunder's Gulls. It isn't difficult to get good views of them in Mie if you are patient but here you have to push through the constant loop of birds patrolling the edge of the mud to find a Black-headed Gull somewhere out there. There were even two or three flying back and forth over Saga airport airfield.

To me this is a really attractive gull and though I'm anyway keen on gulls surely all but the most hardened lariphobe couldn't help but like this species.

Another aspect of the mudflats that differs to Mie is the scale, this unfortunately means that many birds are too distant to identify let alone get a good look at. Oh and if there are any sea ducks here there you can forget any hope of seeing them as mud stretches as far as the eye can see (into the sun) at low tide. Today was low tide from my arrival until nightfall... quite a feat.

If the mudflats had a familiar, if epic, feel the fields behind them had a different flavour. Rooks, hundreds of them, replaced Carrion Crows and quite a few Daurian Jackdaws added spice. I've seen two Common Starlings in both Mie and Shiga recently as well as a singleton on Hegurajima but today I ran into my largest ever flock in Japan, a good 150 birds. 2016 has become the year of the Common Starling for me.

Jackdaws were easy to find here but views were never close as the Rook flocks were nervous and would carry the Jackdaws off with them whenever a vehicle approached.

How many Common Starlings here?

White-cheeked were less common than Common! But there were a few...

And so ended my first day in Kyushu; a view across the bay.

Species seen:-
Common Shelduck   100s
Mallard   c200
Northern Shovler   1
Northern Pintail   c50
Eurasian Teal   c100
Black-faced Spoonbill   12
Grey Heron   5
Little Egret   4
Great Cormorant   14
Eurasian Kestrel   1
Osprey   1
Black Kite   4
Hen Harrier   1
Eurasian Sparrowhawk   1
Ruddy-breasted Crake   1 possible glimpsed in flight
Common Moorhen   2
Common Coot   4
Northern Lapwing   c45
Grey Plover   c150
Kentish Plover   7
Common Snipe   1
Eurasian Curlew   c8 with maybe 20 other curlews too distant to identify
Common Redshank   3-6
Common Greenshank   13
Common Sandpiper   1
Dunlin   200+
Vega Gull   8
Black-headed Gull   c25
Saunder's Gull   60+
Oriental Turtle Dove   c7-8
Bull-headed Shrike   5-10
Common Magpie   2
Daurian Jackdaw   12 was the largest party within the Rook flocks but total number was difficult to estimate
Rook   300-400
Carrion Crow   c20
Large-billed Crow   1
Asian House Martin   2 near Saga city
Japanese Skylark   c100 was the only flock, singles or twos and threes elsewhere
Brown-eared Bulbul   several
Japanese Bush Warbler   1 heard
White-cheeked Starling   c40
Common Starling   150+
Pale Thrush   1
Dusky Thrush   common on fields near cover
Daurian Redstart   4
Eurasian Tree Sparrow   several flocks but no huge numbers
White Wagtail   common here and there across the fields
Buff-bellied Pipit   c10
Meadow Bunting   c10
Common Reed Bunting   4


  1. Well I saw both these species in Hokkaido this year but in far fewer numbers.......

    Hope you have a great 2017.

  2. Thanks Stuart, you too, have a great 2017.
    Oh and Liverpool too! With the Toon taking a sabatical I can afford to wish someone else all the best;)

  3. Hi Neil - I have followed your blog for a couple of years, as I come to Japan several times/year and am a lifelong birdwatcher. I spent this afternoon on the Kizugawa river trying to tackle the buntings, and it was tough. I recalled that you posted a very good photographic analysis of confusing buntings some time ago, but I cannot find it in your blog list. would you plese remind me where I can access those photos to try to beter learn winter bunting IDs? Many thanks, Larry Field, Kaikoura NZ.

  4. Hi Larry, I've posted on buntings so many times, was this it;postID=3191919605455985605;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=0;src=link
    If not I suggest you click on buntings in the species list and check the species you're interested in. If you're on the Kizugawa near Kyoto then you should see Reed, Meadow, Rustic, Black-faced and if lucky Chestnut-eared.
    Ps. I loved my visit to Kaikura.
    Pps. Are you staying in Kyoto?