Wednesday 24 April 2019

awash with wagtails

Citrine Wagtail was a Japan tick for me on the Yonaguni trip and it almost didn't seem a surprise because there were simply so many 'exotic' wagtails on arable land and playing fields. In fact I saw a rather remarkable eight taxa. Arguably, the rarest taxon of all was lugens White Wagtail. I only saw a single individual of this, the default taxon in Kansai. I didn't see any Japanese Wagtails, the second most frequently encountered taxon here, only Grey Wagtail seemed in similar numbers to Kansai expectations.

I had frustratingly come across a possible Citrine earlier in the week. It had been mixed in with a flock of Eastern Yellow Wagtails on the rocks below the towering cliffs of the eastern headland but unfortunately the flock flew round the headland, impossible to follow without a boat (or wings). I went back over the next two days and though there were always about 30 Eastern Yellow Wagtails present I never again saw the possible Citrine.

A possible Citrine Wagtail, I got several equally bad record shots but the following image is the only clear shot I managed before the bird dropped out of view amongst the rocks. 

I've never seen a taivana with yellow cheeks like this and a pre-breeding Citrine seemed more plausible at the time. It's a pity I never saw the bird again.

The Kubura school playing fields are extensive and attract a lot of migrants, my only Greater Sand Plover, Dusky Thrush , Richard's Pipit and lugens White Wagtail were all here. The problem is birds tend to be distant but by some miracle the Citrine was not only the closest bird on this occasion but the closest any bird ever came.

A couple of minutes after leaving the school I stopped at the pond and no sooner had I done so than the Citrine followed me down. It was there for no more than three or four minutes then flew back towards the school. At the time I was unsure whether it was the same bird but after looking at the images, it clearly is. 

Taivana and tschutschensis were both very common, probably in equal numbers, more or less, with well over 100 birds seen each day if I went to two or three favoured spots. It wasn't until the seventh day (same as the Citrine) that I found my first thunbergi/plexa Western/Eastern Yellow, two of them in fact. Perhaps it was never likely to be a Western Yellow, but it was nice to dream for a while. The following morning I was able to catch up with one of them again and heard a typical Eastern Yellow flight call.

The vast majority of taivana weren't close to full breeding appearance yet but this one wasn't far away.

This individual wasn't too bad, most looked even more untidy than this.

My feeling was tsuchtschensis were more advanced, a small majority looked very smart whereas the same could be said of only a very small minority of taivana. 

These two plexa never came any closer than this but even at this range their appearance was striking because of the black mask and fine post ocular supercillium. 

The following morning one of them had made it to the road. There is limited white before the eye, which I hadn't been able to see yesterday, but the lores are largely black.

Neither Grey Wagtails (too common) nor the lugens White Wagtail (too distant) make it into this post. The other two White wagtail taxa were leucopsis and ocularis, the former was surprisingly scarce with only eight seen during the week while the latter was very numerous with well over 100 per day.



Typically distant ocularis on the school playing fields.

Black on the chin doesn't reach the bill on this bird, presumably it will soon. 

The huge numbers of wagtails that I infrequently to rarely see were a delight,they were widespread on the island, and but colourful and approachable. Collectively they were one of the highlights of the trip.

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