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.

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