Sunday, January 27, 2008

The month that was...(1)

It has been a roller-coaster of a month, starting off on a high and ending confused and dazed. In this post, I will concentrate on the trip to Kyushu with Neil and Sean, one that will stick in my mind as a highlight of my time in Japan. So readers, be warned, for what follows is birding...and superb birding at that.











(Black-faced Spoonbills sleeping)

Neil and I took an overnight sleeper train from Osaka to Kumomoto, situated west of central Kyushu, arriving surprisingly 40 minutes late at 8am. During the sleepless night I had, I witnessed the manic and startling behavior of Japan's trainspotters, whose totally obsession with all things rail astounds me. As I nonchalantly dragged on a ciggie at 4am as we stopped at Fukuoka, I was alarmed at the sound of what I thought was an Olympian 100m sprinter coming up the platform. As I casually turned around, there was a possessed Japanese man running with such intent up towards the top of the train that I first thought I was in for a beating by one of the Nationalist Party. What was foremost in his mind was getting video footage of the particular engine being attached to the front of our train...and they say birders are mad.
(Hooded Cranes landing)

As much as I'd like to bore you all with the details and little quirks of our birding tour of Kyushu, I shall just divulge the highlights here. Day one saw us twitch Chinese Gray Shrike successfully, while I nabbed my first tick of the trip when we say a flock of Eurasian Magpies from the train. Getting to the the Minshiku at Arasaki after nightfall, following the magnificent sight of 12 Black-faced Spoonbills and approx. 250 Saunder's Gulls (both species on the Red Data List of globally threatened species) nearby, the sound of 11,000 cranes started to echo off the courtyard of what would be our base for the following 3 nights. Rising before dawn to the sound of the cranes was incredible. To watch them take to the skies in a cloud of loud noise was awe-inspiring. I will never forget the sight nor sound of the cranes at Arasaki. It is certainly one of the most spectacular natural events I have observed in Japan and recommend it to all, regardless of your interest or otherwise in birds. It is truly a marvel.
(feeding time at Arasaki)

The remainder of our trip saw us notch up some incredible species in Forest Wagtail (Mi-ike Lake, Miyazaki), Ryuku Minivet, a self-found Willow Warbler (a rare bird for Japan, especially on the main islands), Great Spotted Eagle, Hen Harrier, Eurasian Starling, Brown Shrike, Chinese Penduline Tit, Dusky Warbler, Ruddy Crake, Sandhill, White-naped, Hooded, and Common Cranes, including Common x Hooded Crane hybrids, Rooks, Daurian Jackdaw, Black-faced and Eurasian Spoonbill together, Saunder's Gulls, Pallas's Gull, Oystercatcher, Eurasian Curlew, and Eastern Reef Egret. In all, I notched up 8 lifers and an additional 4 Japanese ticks, bringing me to 352, a tally I never thought possible in under 3 years in Japan. An unforgettable trip.
(Forest Wagtail)(



While we were in Kyushu, word reached us of an unprecedented invasion of Rough-legged Buzzards (left) into western Japan. Usually a couple of records are noted from Hokkaido each winter. However, with up to 30 birds present from Osaka to the western edge of Honshu, we were hoping that the Osaka/Kyoto birds would linger for a week or so. As luck would have it, I managed to connect with the last remaining of 3 birds at Ogura (Kyoto) the following weekend. A stunning bird which performed well and seemed unfazed by the presence of humans. It landed within 30 meters of about 50 photographers and continued to stare at us for 30 minutes before taking off and flying over our heads and away off over the paddy fields. It was certainly worth the 3 hour wait in snow flurries and a biting northerly wind sweeping over the flat and exposed landscape of Ogura.



Carmo's Diet: That week, I had mostly been eating fish, miso soup, rice, and pickled cucumber

Carmo's Birds: CHINESE GRAY SHRIKE; WHITE-NAPED CRANE; SANDHILL CRANE; COMMON CRANE; GREAT SPOTTED EAGLE; RYUKU MINIVET; FOREST WAGTAIL; PALLAS'S GULL; ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD; Oystercatcher*; Willow Warbler*; Eurasian Staling*; Eurasian Magpie* (353 for Japan)

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: whatever you can get

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19 Comments:

Blogger S.C.E. said...

Welcome back.

Wow. You mentioned a grand total of 19 species missing from my J-list. I'd already seen your photos on flikr, they're great.

You want to be careful of those trainspotters. They may be social misfits who still live with their mums but I bet some of them are real Grade A psychos.

If you want to add Black Woodpecker to your J-list you know where to find me!

January 27, 2008 9:07 PM  
Anonymous col said...

nice wan fella - broke de 350 barrier eh? tart! any news fella?

January 28, 2008 7:14 PM  
Anonymous Pee Wee said...

Yesterday : Santiago,34°c and sunny Today: Zurich,1°c and snowing.Shock doesnt hold a candle to how I feel.Horror comes closer.It never fails to amaze though how your birding posts inspire white noise in my mind.I'm sure I can use them for something,meditation perhaps ?? Ha ha ha,big love Doc,talk soon.

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