Saturday 28 October 2017

81 species on Hegurajima

81 species might not seem like a large total for five days birding but there are two mitigating facts: firstly five days sounds like far more than the just over 30 hours in the field that it boils down to and secondly as October progresses there isn't really the variety there was earlier in the season. It really can't compare to spring when you might be lucky enough to get that many in a day. So all told I was quite pleased with the birding, the absence of a tick being the only bugbear... after all the Siberian Accentor I still need isn't so much to ask for on Hegura at this time of year, is it?

The surprises big or small:-
   Zero Tristram's Buntings - I've never struck-out in October before, this is the 'island specialty' that isn't even so difficult to get on the mainland.

   The first trip (Oct 11-13) produced a small number of spodocephala Black-faced Buntings but no personata whereas on the two day trips (Oct 20 and 21) personata were very common and there were no spodocephala.

   Just a single Dusky Warbler but five Radde's. I don't think Radde's is nearly as rare as some people think but this tipped the scales further from general expectation as well as my own previous experience. There was also one unidentified Dusky/Radde's.

   A relatively large and growing flock of Temminck's Cormorants on rocks in the bay behind Wajima harbour, there were 26 birds when I left with more seen flying in later. There were two Great Cormorants in the harbour. I've never had this number of Temminck's along the coast here so perhaps this was a pre-typhoon gathering... the fishing boats were doing much the same the following day.

The only Radde's Warbler that stayed in the open long enough to get a couple of shots off. It seemed like I was the only person connecting with Radde's which was becoming a bit embarrassing, I don't want to get a reputation for stringing Radde's and I'm tempted to keep quite in future. I got on to all five birds (and the lone Dusky) because of the call, I was 25-30 metres past this one when I heard it. Don't other people hear them? Some birders might be too busy chatting and perhaps the photography specialist don't know the calls which could give the impression that they're a rarity.

And with a flash of undertail coverts, it was gone. Back into the depths of the undergrowth.

Black-faced Bunting E.s.spodocephala

I'd say it has to be an adult male with these underlying markings.

A nice shot of the nominate tail pattern.

Staying with buntings...




Yellow wagtails are a favourite of mine, any taxon will do... which is just as well at this time of year.

Like Dusky Thrush, Naumann's tends to perch in the open so it's much easier to assess numbers compared the other thrushes. Naumann's is definitely a very scarce bird, personally I've never seen more than one per autumn.

This first winter male spent a day hanging round the harbour.

The following birds are definitely not scarce...

There were huge numbers of Eurasian Siskin earlier in the month, slightly fewer later, and they occupied all habitats from the shoreline to woodland. Their small size in short coastal vegetation could be quite a distraction when looking for skulkers.

Eurasian Siskin

Bramblings were equally common, equally catholic in their choice of habitat and equally tame. Fortunately their larger size made them more obvious and less of a distraction... other than them being great looking birds.

Olive-backed Pipits are ever-present.

Finally some of those early morning Temminck's Cormorants congregating on inshore rocks in Wajima...

As a footnote, there's quite a lot of infrastructure work taking place on the island, it's strange to have dumper-trucks running round all over the place and to see this barge ferrying materials to the island.

The final load coming across before the typhoon was due to arrive the following day. This was the calmest I'd seen the sea all month.

And a very subjective and unscientific approach to listing all species during the sum of the observation periods:-
Japanese Quail   1
Greater White-fronted Goose   2
Mandarin Duck
Eurasian Wigeon
Eurasian Teal
Tufted Duck
Streaked Shearwater
Grey Heron
Great White Egret   1
Temminck's Cormorant
Peregrine   3
Black Kite
Japanese Sparrowhawk   1
Eurasian Sparrowhawk   at least two, it's never easy to estimate numbers for such a mobile species but I saw two together circling with the Goshawk early one morning.
Northern Goshawk   1
Common Coot   3
Pacific Golden Plover   2
Grey-tailed Tattler   1
Common Snipe   7
'Swintail' Snipe   1
Black-tailed Gull
Vega Gull
Slaty-backed Gull
Black Woodpigeon
Oriental Turtle Dove
(one racing pigeon with full bling)
Ashy Drongo   1
Bull-headed Shrike   4
Rook   12
Large-billed Crow
Coal Tit
Brown-eared Bulbul
Japanese Bush Warbler
Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler   1
locostella sp   1
Black-browed Reed Warbler   1
locustella/acro sp   1
Radde's Warbler   5
Dusky Warbler   1
Kamchatka Leaf Warbler   in large numbers mid-month, small numbers later
Yellow-browed Warbler   3 all heard only
Japanese White-eye   common later in the month
Goldcrest  1 mid-month became one of the commonest birds later
Eurasian Wren   1
White-cheeked Starling   2
Siberian Thrush   1
White's Thrush   2
Japanese Thrush   2
Eyebrowed Thrush
Pale Thrush
Naumann's Thrush   1
Dusky Thrush
Stejneger's Stonechat
Blue Rock Thrush
Red-flanked Bluetail
Daurian Redstart
Grey-streaked Flycatcher
Brown Flycatcher
Narcissus Flycatcher   1
Mugimaki Flycatcher   2
Taiga Flycatcher   1 heard
Taiga/Red-breasted Flycatcher   1 (possibly the same bird as above)
Yellow Wagtail   2
Grey Wagtail
White Wagtail
Olive-backed Pipit
Red-throated Pipit
Buff-bellied Pipit   2
Pechora Pipit   1
Eurasian Siskin
Oriental Greenfinch
Japanese Grosbeak
Pine Bunting   2
Meadow Bunting   2 on the 11th
Chestnut-eared Bunting   2
Little Bunting
Yellow-browed Bunting   1
Rustic Bunting
Elegant Bunting  
Black-faced Bunting
Grey Bunting   1


  1. Well you saw 10 birds not on my Japanese list (yet)!

  2. Well, the rarest bird I saw for Hegura was probably Common Coot so if you've got that then you're doing okay;)

  3. Neil - your Radde's looks rather slim, fine-billed and thin-legged in these shots. The plumage tones also look rather uniform for Raddes (no wing panel or mealy cheeks) - all creating an impression to me that recalls Dusky rather than Radde's. Is it possible one called and the other popped up?

    1. Mike, thanks for the comment. I agree the bill does look way to fine for Radde's. I wouldn't rely too much on a rear view of the legs as they always tend to look slimmer at that angle. Wing panel, hmm, again good point, there are pale fringes to the primaries but these don't extend across the secondaries. On balance it does look better for Dusky.