Friday 5 June 2020

this spring's snipes and woodcocks

I haven't done any dedicated sniping this spring so I'm a bit low on my usual haul, however a spring Solitary (May 4!) is a first.

I was told that the Asamo Valley (Tsushima) used to be a regular site for Solitary in February and March but that there hasn't been a record for three years.

There had been torential rain overnight, the Met Office high resolution nowcasts normally show quite limited areas being hit by the very heaviest rain, but that night extensive sheets of red covered the map from parts of ROK, through Tsushima and well into Kyushu. The whole region had thunder storm alerts and they rolled in and out in a dazzling, and sometimes very loud, display. The upshot was some lanes more resembled streams than anything else the following morning, It seemed the Snipe agreed, and if it hadn't been for the extreme weather I don't doubt we would never have seen this great bird.

By the time we spotted the bird and stopped we were almost on top of it. Being a passenger I had to squirm my whole upper torso out the window and twist round to manage this shot of the bird on the drivers side. I'm quite pleased with the result. 

Fortunately it came across onto my side of the lane and waded up through the flowing water.

If the road hadn't resembled a stream, we'd never have connected with this bird.

This Swintail's features ticked all the boxes on the Swinhoe's side of the line, bar seeing the outer tail feathers this is as close as you can be to a certain identification of a bird on the ground. This is a very dark-winged bird, even the freshest looking (inner) coverts are quite worn.

You have to be cautious with the Swintail, of course. I had this one pegged as a relatively short-billed Swinhoe's in April of last year... Again, boxes ticked.

But what a differnce a change of posture can make, could it be a Pintail after all?

As you were; outer tail feathers to the rescue.

This snipe was on an raised paddy and the views were very brief but I'd put it down as Latham's on what I did see. Latham's in Hokkaido a week or two later were easily identified of course... whatever did they do before the advent of utility poles?

A noteable feature of this spring was that I was able to get multiple close views of both Japan's woodcock species, Eurasian in Hokkaido and Amami... quite. The Eurasian put on a good display, roding each early evening while the light was still quite good. Usually a single bird but occasionally a second bird would join in close formation. They could generally be heard into the early night and again pre-dawn.

Amami above, Eurasian below, they really don't look alike.

Neither snipe nor woodcock, but it is brown. I saw four Little Whimbrels when last I visited Tsushima, only the one this time. Nevertheless it would appear the island is as good a spot as any in Japan to catch up with this elegant wader.

Views were better last time too.

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