Tuesday 10 January 2017

Barn Swallow yes, Japanese Murrelets... no

After a final morning around Arasaki I drove inland to Satsuma for yet another pointless crawl along the river, checking every view point for miles looking for the mythical Scaly-sided Mergansers. I've lost count of how many times I've done this but, finally, with darkness fallen and duty done I was free to continue across the island to my next port of call; Kadogawa harbour for Japanese Murrelet.

The best views I usually get of Japanese Murrelet are on the return leg of the Hagi-Mishima ferry but my hope in Kyushu was to find an easily photographable bird in the harbour. Perhaps a long-shot on a calm morning but worth a try. I was positioned on the end of the harbour wall before sun-up and was disappointed, though hardly surprised, to find the harbour empty of Murrelets. Pretty much empty of anything in fact. There were plenty of birds on the sea side of the wall Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes, some quite close. Two species of cormorant, the usual gulls of course and way out towards the reddening horizon a tiny speck which the scope revealed to be a small alcid. This tiny silhouette against the rising sun can only realistically have been Japanese Murrelet but being unable to even get a certain identification is a far cry from the aim of getting a decent photograph of a bird in the harbour, so this visit will have to go down as another missed bird.

By the time I got back to the car the sun was brighter and early morning dog-walkers were up and about. So too was my first flock of Barn Swallows for the trip. I was a bit surprised not to have run into any thus far but today was to make up for lost time; in addition to the 16 birds on the wires next to the harbour there was another flock of about 20 in Kadogawa town as well as numerous birds, singles or parties, as I travelled south once again along the coast in the direction of Miyazaki city.

Barn Swallows in the early sun.

The next stop was Greater Spotted Eagle, another bird I'd seen before so there was no pressure, no fear of dipping. Just as well. What was it about this trip? Black Storks, Scaly-sided Mergansers and Greater Spotted Eagle, a total failure with the returning rarities this time. I don't know whether there was Forest Wagtail at Miike this winter but on this form I'm pleased I gave the place a miss.

Though I failed with the Eagle, I did get pretty good views of a female Eastern Marsh Harrier. It's a puzzle to me why the vast majority I see in Kansai, certainly at Biwako, are juvenile/first winter birds while there are plenty of adults (as you might expect really) elsewhere. This trip has been adults 4 - juveniles 0, a convincing result.

Female Eastern Marsh Harrier.

Despite missing the returning rares I really enjoyed my time in Kyushu, there are so many birds I hardly ever see in Kansai, if at all. I saw five Eastern Yellow Wagtails which I've never seen in Kansai, there were parties of Chinese Penduline Tits which I used to see regularly near Kyoto but no longer (that way simply be down to habitat loss at the site I visit), I mustn't forget masses of cranes and also Caspian Tern at the same place for the second winter in a row... that was a Japan tick for me at this time last year! Big flocks of Common Starlings and a Brown Booby and even unusually good views of Daurian Jackdaws add both to the sense of the exotic and the feeling that a major rarity could be waiting to be found somewhere, anywhere, in this exciting part of Japan.

And is it possible to see these returning rarities? Well yes, I've seen them in the past...

Forest Wagtail

Black Stork

The original Black Stork post is here

Greater Spotted Eagle

The original Greater Spotted Eagle post is here

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