Friday, 10 August 2018

Ruddy Kingfisher... the invisible voice of summer

A couple of weeks ago I took visiting ABA Young Birder of the Year Adam Dhalla (and his dad) out to find some local forest specialities. As the locally famous breeding Fairy Pitta has been a no show this year Copper Pheasant and Ruddy Kingfisher were the main targets.

Dad's primary role was encouragement, support and most importantly... carrying the tripod. Rent-a-Dad could be the next big thing in birding.  

Well that wasn't too difficult, was it? Plus it came with a bonus pair of Japanese Paradise Flycatcher in the same group of trees.

Ruddy Kingfishers are quite common in the forests here, they're singing everywhere first thing in the morning, throughout the day in fact if the weather is wet and miserable, but they are notoriously difficult to see well. Make that to see at all. I never seem to have any problems with the resident bangsi in the far south of Japan but this race, major, seems a different matter altogether.

Copper Pheasant was less cooperative but it's rare if not impossible to see all the forest birds in a single visit. I did actually glimpse a female slip off the roadside and disappear down the steep slope on a recce a few days prior to our visit (I needed to check whether the narrow mountain road was passable after recent heavy rain) and then subsequently heard a frustratingly close displaying male.

My three recent visits to this area were all brief for one reason or another but nevertheless produced some good birds such as White-backed Woodpecker which doesn't occur in Kyoto city and Japanese Woodpecker which does but is far more common in the hills. In addition to the birds I also saw Japanese hare (twice), red fox, boar, sika deer, masked palm civet, Japanese marten and Japanese serow.

As this post is otherwise brief it seems an opportune moment to post some old images from the same site which never made it into previous posts. Both Eurasian Nuthatch and Eurasian Treecreeper are widespread in the hills to the north and west of Kyoto city but can be difficult to see. Also Varied Tit which is common everywhere and Willow Tit which is common in the hills but only winter visitor to immediate surrounds of the city.

Eurasian Treecreeper

Eurasian Nuthatch

Willow Tit

Varied Tit

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Common Ringed Plover and Red-necked Stints

I've only been out a handful of times during the last two or three months, mostly in Kyoto and Shiga forests but with a couple of trips to Mie recently now that the potential for good shorebirds is on the rise.

Yesterday's undoubted highlight was a Common Ringed Plover before the rising tide finally covered the last feeding areas for most wader species and they flew off to roost somewhere. I suppose Ringed Plover isn't rare enough to make a fuss of but I'm still way down in single digit sightings in Japan after all these years. So it's not to be sneezed at either. It was well worth getting sandblasted on the beach to get the shots as a new-sprung wind was being pulled ever more urgently to the south by yet another approaching typhoon.

I'd been at the same spot for the falling tide in the morning as the sun edged above the horizon, hoping to catch some waders in the softer morning light. It's surprising how infrequently optimal tides coincide with both my free time and, crucially of course, any birds actually being present at any suitable location; too many of the good wader spots will have you looking directly into a rising sun. Unfortunately this Terek Sand was the only bird that came close enough to allow any decent shots.

It was already quite hot so sitting on the wet sand didn't bother me in the least, the only problem was a small flock of Red-necked Stints were the only other birds using this area. There was a flock of Oystercatchers just behind me but they were barely recognisable even as birds against the glare of the horizon.

All the Stints were adults, juveniles haven't arrived yet, and getting reasonable shots of them was quite difficult for me (you'd think I'd be used to the camera by now) with half the bird in bright light, the other in deep shade.

This was by far the most advanced bird in terms of moult.

That's quite a stout bill on this one. A few feathers dropped but nothing new as yet, the only visible grey is from exposed feather bases rather than seasonal replacements. 

It should be obligatory for all stints/peeps to turn and show their feet like this...

...this one is a fail.

Same Stints, different beach. Not being a mad dog I could sit in the car here rather than go out in the midday sun. Quite prominent but not exceptional braces on this bird.

When Sanderling is mistaken for Red-necked it must always be when there are zero other waders around for comparison. The three Sanderling on the beach looked absolutely huge compared to the Stints.

After spending my time birding a few kilometres to the south I returned to the original estuary before the next high tide and immediately picked out my star-of-the-day Ringed Plover about 150m off the seawall. As I mentioned earlier the wind was really blowing now and many waders were sheltering below a steep sand ridge. while I, in search of cover, had to make do with the windward side of the ridge.

There were only about 20 Red-necked Stints here but no matter what I tried to photograph the Stints always contrived to get in the picture. I have Sand Plovers with Stints, Tattlers with Stints, Grey Plovers... Ruddy Turnstones... and here, bird-of-the-day, Common Ringed Plover.

The wing-bar just about shows through here.

The Ruddy Turnstones really loved this wash-up tree stump and were still probing into all those small bore holes when I left.

Just to tag on a few extra shots from a week earlier. These are of Grey Plovers on a beach about 20km to the south and again taken as the sun was just coming up.

Grey Plovers are quite common at the moment but they tend to stay way out on sand bars. I was able to catch these birds at high tide when most off-shore areas are under water.

And the sun is up!

This looks a very standard sort of GP to my eyes; hefty, deep-bodied, big-billed... dumpy but huge with it. It may not be as ungainly as a Greater Sand Plover but there's something a tad off about it. Were it a horse I dare say it would be more at home between the shafts of an old cart (rag'n'bone) than on the track. That said, take a look at the next bird on a different beach...

I think this bird has species issues; it probably feels it should have been hatched a Pacific Goldie (or American).