Monday, 17 September 2018

Long-toed Stint with the Phalaropes

Though the Red-necked Phalaropes were the undoubted stars of a post-typhoon post a couple of weeks ago, I was repeatedly drawn to this Long-toed Stint which was amazingly loyal to the one corner of the field. One reason I was pleased to get good views being a week earlier I'd had a Long-toed and Broad-billed Sand on a small, distant pond in Mie prefecture that had been impossible to approach.

Long-toed may not always look as though they're teetering on the edge of a face-first into the mud disaster but you don't have to watch one for long to get that impression.

How can this not topple face first into the mud...?

This would appear to be the answer, it's basically a foot with a small bird on top. It's not called Long-toed for nothing, that middle toe looks as long as the tibia!

A pale base to the lower mandible is one of the features separating Long-toed from Least Sandpiper, it's a good thing it isn't the only feature because even with these excellent views the yellowish base is really hard to detect.

This final image is lightened removing much of the colour from the plumage but the bill base colouration becomes a little more obvious.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

A few more Nordmann's shots this weekend

The Nordmann's was about 20km further north this weekend. Twenty kilometres as the car drives that is, far less in a direct line across the bay. Unlike last week when I had the bird to myself, there's always a crowd of people at the mouth of the Komozu so the bird had a good audience. The supporting cast of Great and Red Knot was much appreciated too.

Of course if you can't find a high tide roost it's always best to catch the bird just as the tide is beginning to drop and the birds are on the beach before the flats are exposed.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Nordmann's Greenshank

Well, this was a pleasant surprise.

I first saw Nordmann's in Thailand about 25 years ago; Nordmann's and Crab Plover used to winter on a small island, the name of which escapes me right now. I've no idea what it's like there now, even then I learnt there were plans for a hotel etc, but in those days there was no tourist infrastructure at all. By chance I bumped into the chemist when I arrived at the island jetty and he invited me to sleep on the drugstore floor which was a great start.

I don't think anyone else on the island spoke a lick of English, typical of places tourist never reach really. Well, not a word of English isn't strictly true. Thanks to the trickle of birders who made it out there, whenever you stopped off for food or drink the people would smile broadly and greet you with "Nordmann's Greenshank!" How could this not crack you up. So of course you'd respond with an even bigger grin "Yayyy... Nordmann's Greenshank... Crab Plover"

I lucked-in too, my first night on the island was entertainment night. A big sheet was strung up between some trees, a noisy generator brought out and a video of some movie or other was shown. Great stuff, even Thailand was an adventure in those days.

Since then I've seen half a dozen or so Nordmann's in Kyushu but this was my first close to home. I just heard this is a known bird (to how many I don't know) but for me it will still go down as a self-find as I had no idea it was there.

A better underwing shot would have been nice but this will do.

It's got the legs and feet.

That tail's good enough for me.

It's not a Red Knot...

It's not a Great Knot...

The bill looks good... I think we'll call it done and dusted.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Typhoon visitors in Kyoto

Tuesday's typhoon was the strongest to pass through this area in over 50 years. All four old houses in my row sustained roof damage but fortunately nothing more serious. It was strange to feel the kitchen floor pushing up against my feet, less so was the upstairs walls bowing inwards almost two inches.

When I made a quick early morning visit to Ogura yesterday, I was a little surprised to find the rice fields looking as if nothing had happened. The rice is getting close to harvest in this area and the crop was looking great, upright and ready for cutting. The same couldn't be said of some of the farmers' structures dotted across the fields. Metal frameworks covered with plastic sheeting don't stand up to typhoons quite as well as the rice it seems. This one looks more like an art installation.

This shot also hints at some of the development that has taken place over the years. When I first arrived in Kyoto there was a huge uninterrupted area of excellent birding habitats just south of the city. Alas, no more.

I haven't had time to do so much birding recently and heading down to Ogura early in the morning is one way to keep my had in. I was down a few days before the typhoon and saw these two regulars. Kestrels used to be a winter visitor in this area but now it's a reasonably common feature of summer birding too. Greater Painted Snipe breed here but being Painted Snipe you're unlikely to know that they breed here; they aren't exactly cooperative as a rule. That particular day I saw a female dash for cover then this less shy male.

I'm not sure where the local pair of Kestrels nest, perhaps on the elevated roads that criss-cross the fields.

If you're really lucky, you can find some quite large post-breeding gatherings on the fields. The key is finding a suitable field that will attract the birds, unfortunately there might not be such a field every year.

The main reason for heading down yesterday morning was to look for Red-necked Phalarope. It's a scarce, very scarce, visitor to Kyoto which first off requires a suitably flooded field to bring a passing bird down, that's rare enough in itself but there is one at the moment. The second requirement is a large dose of luck...  or a typhoon.

Better still is a typhoon and luck, and my luck was in for once. After first checking the Painted Snipe field pre-dawn without success, I watched the early morning arrival of migrant Eastern cattle and Intermediate Egrets from their roost sites then made my way to the river embankment and along to the flooded field. I could already see three large waders while driving bumpily along the embankment and stopping to check showed them to be Stilts with, much more interestingly, some small stuff. Black-winged Stilts aren't by any means rare in Kansai, nevertheless it isn't a species I ever expect to see at Ogura. It all comes back to the problem of an absence of suitably inundated fields at just the right times of year. Even more encouraging than the small waders, those two parked cars across another field weren't early morning farmers as I had assumed... there were two photographers already sitting right by the flooded field!

There were nine Red-necked Phalaropes on the field. A flock! And a personal best for Kyoto. Apart from the Stilts there was also a fairly confiding Long-toed Stint on the field and I heard flyover Common Greenshank and Common Snipe while I was there.

The three Stilts flew off at about 06:45 proving that the early birder catches the goodies.

I'd planned to add Stint shots but they'll have to wait. Though today is supposed to be a day off I still have to go in, otherwise I'd have been birding. At least it gives me the chance to get an infrequent blog post done.