Monday 4 September 2017

Broad-billed Sandpipers and another Little Stint

I love wader passage season, there's always the chance of something really out of the ordinary turning up, it's on a par with a seabirding on the Pacific route ferries or an off-shore island stay. Except there's no need to invest as much time or money, it's so easily doable in a spare day.

Last Friday I did the rounds of the Matsusaka / Tsu wader spots, some of them at least. Driving across overnight I was in my usual state of expectation, running through the identification features to separate tricky specks miles out on the mudflats... Baird's and White-rumped, Semi-P and Western, Eskimo and Slender-billed. I know, I know, a tad over-optimistic when you consider Semi-P isn't even on the Japan list.

In the two weeks since my previous visit the place has changed almost beyond recognition, gone is the huge expanse of flooded rice fields, all is stubble now and bone dry. Birdwise there are pros and cons to the change, it suits Skylarks just fine but what about the Zitting Cisticolas, they were so common last time I was there and they've all but disappeared. Likewise I'm split, I miss the extensive greenery on one hand but on the other I feel it might be easier to find something unusual out in the open. Not that this makes any sense as previous years don't back it up the notion of better birds on the open fields, but anyway, a Dotterel would be nice!

Tides are really important of course and their timing dictates whether you'll have the light as a help or hinderance across this estuary of that tidal flat. But also water levels on ponds and on the fields are crucial and sometimes you can drive round all day without finding the sweet spot that's pulling in the birds. This visit was lucky in that regard and it was one of the standard must-visit sites that held a selection of twelve species. The highlights were the two Broad-billed Sandpipers and Little Stint of the title. The former is a scarce passage bird and I don't expect to see more than one or two per migration season and when numbers are that low it's possible to go a long time without a decent view. The latter I always regarded as a rarity in Japan but this is the fifth I've found here in about three years so I'm coming round to the idea that it's been long overlooked rather than rare.

The birds were at a nice distance for observation, unconcerned by my presence and near enough to see well, unfortunately just a little too far for photography with my kit so most of these images had to be cropped more heavily than I'd have wished.

Little Stint. This last shot was taken at midday, the bird was a little closer but the sun was less helpful. Interestingly the 20 something Red-necked Stints I saw were altogether on a different pond.

Like the Stint the two Broad-billed Sandpipers stuck to the same small section of mud throughout the day, other waders used the whole expanse of the pond, not that it was very large.

Other wader species included...

Black-tailed Godwit

Common Redshank, one of five, with Marsh Sandpiper.

Grey-tailed Tattler with Black-tailed Godwit.

Several Marsh Sandpipers showed a good range of plumage.

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