Monday 1 June 2020

A good spring for Yellow-browed Buntings

Yellow-browed Bunting

I normally find the two scarce 'island' specialty buntings, Yellow-browed and Tristrams, to be more or less equal in number in spring. Tristram's probably has the edge and it is also the only one I regularly see on the mainland. So events this spring seemed exceptional. Not only was Yellow-browed the more common of the two but the sheer number involved was staggering. It's no exageration to say it was not only the most numerous bunting species but that it outnumbered the sum total of all the others.

The evening we arrived on Tsushima we had a suggestion of the amazing number present with 80+ birds in two tiny neighbouring fields. The following day we covered the whole of the small Naiin valley, not aiming to count Yellow-brows of course, and I settled on, what I now think, a very conservative estimate of 200 when I wrote-up my notes that evening.

There were a few Little Buntings mixed in, perhaps 10, and a smaller number of Japanese Yellow Buntings. Little is reasonably common in both spring and autumn on the islands and, though I see fewer, Japanese Yellow is a bird I can find passing through Kyoto. Rustic Bunting unexpectedly proved to be the rarity amongst the migrant buntings.

Chestnut Bunting was the aim when checking bunting flocks. It's usually a spring bunting but in much lower numbers than Yellow-brow or Tristram's, so much so that I'd call it rare in Japan rather than scarce. We found one and though I hoped for more, if only to get a better shot, this was still a great prize as far as I was concerned. This was just my second encounter with Chestnut in Japan after a flock of about seven on Hegurajima some 15 years ago.

Chestnut Bunting

Unlike Yellow-browed, Tristram's seemed no more common than usual so I was pleased to get shots of this breeding male.

Tristram's Bunting

I might have wondered whether the huge number of Yellow-browed present was because the passage was later than usual, and/or because of the positioning of Tsushima. However, even if the peak movement is before the saturation coverage Golden Week brings, and I suspect it is, I'm sure I'd be aware that I was just missing this spectacle each year. My preceding visit to Tsushima netted a meagre two so I'd rule out location, especially as my usual spring island (Mishima) isn't so far to the east of here.

Normally the commonest of the scare buntings is spodocephala Black-faced. Actually it can be the outright commonest bunting on any migration island; finding a personata is more surprising. It was in its usual numbers this year but for once it couldn't compete with the tsunami of Yellow-brows.

This post has been all about smart looking males, so this spod redresses the balance slightly.

Males do look better though.

One last bunting word; what about the island breeders? The ever present Meadow, which tends to fall victim to dismisal at an subconcious level due to its distinctive shape became more noticeable perched-up singing once the majority of migrants had moved-on over the first couple of days of May. Of Tsushima's specialist breeders, I saw no more than a handful of Yellow-throated (Elegant) and not a single Grey. Not without trying I might add.

Tsushima trip list
Chinese Bamboo Partridge
Ring-necked Pheasant
Tundra Bean Goose
Mandarin Duck
Falcated Duck
Eurasian Wigeon
Eastern Spot-billed Duck
Eurasian Teal
Pacific Diver
Streaked Shearwater
Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Striated Heron
Chinese Pond Heron
Eastern Cattle Egret
Grey Heron
Great White Egret
Intermediate Egret
Little Egret
Great Cormorant
Temminck's Cormorant
Oriental Honey Buzzard
Black Kite
Japanese Sparrowhawk
Eurasian Sparrowhawk
Grey-faced Buzzard
White-breasted Waterhen
Common Moorhen
Common Coot
Black-winged Stilt
Pacific Golden PLover
Little Ringed Plover
Solitary Snipe
Latham's Snipe
swintail Snipe (almost certainly Swinhoe's on combination of features)
Little Whimbrel
Far Eastern Curlew
Common Greenshank
Wood Sandpiper
Grey-tailed Tattler
Terek Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
calidris sp (a small species in flight)
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Oriental Pratincole
Black-tailed Gull
large white-headed sp (probably Taimyr)
Aleutian Tern
murrelet sp (very probably Japanese)
Feral Rock Pigeon
Oriental Turtle Dove
Northern Hawk Cuckoo
Oriental Cuckoo
Northern Boobook
Pacific Swift
Common Kingfisher
Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker
Ashy Minivet
Brown Shrike
Black-naped Oriole
Eurasian Jay
Daurian Jackdaw
Carrion Crow
Large-billed Crow
Japanese Waxwing
Eastern Great Tit
Varied Tit
Chinese Penduline Tit
Sand Martin
Barn Swallow
Asian House Martin
Red-rumped Swallow
Zitting Cisticola
Light-vented Bulbul
Brown-eared Bulbul
Asian Stubtail
Japanese Bush Warbler
Korean Bush Warbler
Oriental Reed Warbler
Yellow-browed Warbler
Japanese/Kamchatka Leaf Warbler
Pale-legged Leaf Warbler
Sakhalin Leaf Warbler
Eastern Crowned Warbler
Warbling White-eye
Eurasian Wren
Chestnut-cheeked Starling
White-cheeked Starling
Siberian Thrush
White's Thrush
Grey-backed Thrush
Japanese Thrush
Pale Thrush
Brown-headed Thrush
Dusky Thrush
Japanese Robin
Siberian Blue Robin
Red-flanked Bluetail
Swinhoe's Robin
Stejneger's Stonechat
Blue Rock Thrush
Grey-streaked Flycatcher
Dark-sided Flycatcher
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher
Narcissus Flycatcher
Mugimaki Flycatcher
Blue and White Flycatcher
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Eastern Yellow Wagtail
Citrine Wagtail
Grey Wagtail
White Wagtail
Japanese Wagtail
Richard's Pipit
Olive-backed Pipit
Red-throated Pipit
Buff-bellied Pipit
Oriental Greenfinch
Eurasian Siskin
Japanese grosbeak
Meadow Bunting
Tristram's Bunting
Little Bunting
Yellow-browed Bunting
Rustic Bunting
Yellow-throated Bunting
Chestnut Bunting
Japanese Yellow Bunting
Black-faced Bunting
139 species in 11 days

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