Monday, December 31, 2007

A New Year

I have neglected this blog since may of this year and indeed been traitorous enough to take my less than frequent ramblings across to Birdforum.

However, as it is nearly 2008 I feel obliged to post something here and now about the past year birding and otherwise.

The first two months of the year saw me in the UK, enjoying the winter gloom and a quick week-long side trip in the winter suntrying to reconnect with my family after so many years in Japan and fight a serious bout of depression. I did little in the way of birding, but did build bridges in the family and recover my mental faculties, more important for me in the long term!

However, despte the serious nature of mission I did manage to catch up with one new bird for the UK , a drake American Wigeon at Strumpshaw Fen. my family indulged me with some nice trips to old favoured haunts such as Landguard, Holland Haven, Tollesbury Wick and Abberton. I was fortunate to see some nice birds such as Purple Sandpiper, Marsh Harrier, Great Northern Diver, Stonechat, Bittern, Corn Bunting, Smew and Slavonian Grebe. It was also interesting to see how much the avifuna is changing with Little Egret and Avocet, as well as Mediterranean Gull no longer the rarities they once were.

I also made trips to Derbyshire and Spain, againwith family, and had a wonderful time with all, and still managed to fit in some birds. The Slender-billled Gulls, Greater Flamingoes and a huge flock of Black-necked Grebe stick in my mind, as do the wintering Crag Martins there, or the Bonelli's Eagle soaring high over an impressive cliff behind Benidorm. The little birds in the countryside surrounding my relatives beautiful home were also wonderful- Serin, Sardinian Warbler, Black Redstart, Crested Lark, Southern grey Shrike, Spotless Starling, Chiffchaffs aplenty and the resident Barn Owl on a neighbourng barn.

In mid-February it was back to Hiroshima, where a part-time work schedule gave me time to bird locally a little. Most of the time was spent at Hiroshima Catle or the local Otagawa gull roost. I was fortunate enough to see Yellow-browed Warbler and Korean Bush Warbler on my local patch of Hiroshima Castle, both first records for the Prefecture and an equally rare for there Great Spotted Woodpecker. Among the gulls it was good to tussle and lose with the ID of many birds, but also satisfying to start to recognize the various forms we have in the region.

March and April saw me make a few local trips to my favorite haunt of Minami-Iwakuni and the Yahata River and a return to full-time work. Some good birds passed through, such as Red-throated Pipit, Temminck's Stint, Black-winged Stilt, Far Eastern Curlew, Ruddy Crake, Water Rail and many more. The pick of the bunch were a Short-billed Dowitcher seen all too briefly and a huge flock (for these parts) of 27 Garganey! A Hoopoe 5 minutes from my house, in the same park where I found Japanese Waxwing feeding on ivy berries above a group of elderly japanese busy enjoying their 'Hanami' Cherry Bloosom party. A Wryneck, Japanese Waxwing and Japanese Thrush also put in appearances at Hiroshima Castle, as did Narcissus and Blue and White Flycatcher.

May saw me make my now almost annual spring pilgrimage to Mishima Island in the Sea of Japan. Neil Davidson and I had an amazing week with over 135 species beween us. The highlights are just too numerous to mention, but include surprising a Japanese Night Heron on a quiet shady track, only my 2nd ever, no less than 5 Chinese Pond Herons, finally catching up with two rare starlings- a White-shouldered and a Daurian, a huge fall of Buntings and Warblers including a magnificent male Chestnut Bunting and Yellow-browed Buntings and Yellow-browed Warbler in the 10's! My only disappointment was Neil jamming Japanese Quail, a bird I have yet to see in Japan and by virtue of being on the toilet missing a first for Japan in the shape of a Song Sparrow only 10 meters from where Mark Carmody and I identified another first for Japan a Blunt-winged Warbler the previous year!

After May, things quietened down birdingwise, with only a brief visit to Mt Garyuzan producing anything of note, in the shape of a Ruddy Kingfisher, and a good supporting cast of the summer birds there- Siberian Blue Robin and Brown Flycatcher being the pick of the rest. I also managed to seea splendid male Japanese Paradise Flycatcher at Hiroshima Castle. In June I settled in for the long hot summer, an increasingly busy schedule and a more lively social life, partaking of the amber nectar a little too much and not winnning Yahtzee as much as I'd like or for that matter scrabble on Facebook! See what an exciting life I lead.

As autumn approached I began to be more active in my birding. Hiroshima Castle had a good showing from the begging of September to the end of October, but nothing like the previous year - Woodcock, Blue Rock Thrush, Gray's Grasshopper Warbler, Middendorf's Grasshopper Warbler, 5 Siberian Rubythroat, Wryneck, 2 Black-browed Reed Warbler, as well as numerous Short-tailed Bush Warbler and the 5 'regular' flycatchers kept things interesting. Unfortunately, a Lanceolated Warbler, still a 'dream bird' for me, put in an appreance one rainy October morning but managed to avoid my gaze.

I made several trips outside the Prefecture and caught up with two lifers, 4 amazing Spoon-billed Sandpipers in Fukuoka, along with a supporint cast of 27 species of waders, the pick being 50+ Broad-billed Sandpiper, 2 Ringed Plover, 1 Little Stint, along with a couple of Eastern Yellow Wagtails and the amzing site of 3 Peregrines trying to pick off lunch among 800 waders.

However, the best find of the autumn was 3 Amur Falcons, a long wanted to see species, which I would not have found had the Baillon's Crake that had been reported in the same location (my 2nd dip of the autumn) appeared, it was such a oy to see them hawking for insects above the long grass of a small airoprt and then settling on wires to feed on grasshoppers, especially adfter the disappointment of dipping the same species the week before.

The strangest find of the autumn was a Chinese Bulbul well out of range in SW Kyushu, at the same site where I missed Amur Falcon, though I did manage to see some good birds tat day, such as Merlin, Red-throated Pipit, Eastern Marsh Harriers galore and amammalian highlight a Racoon Dog.

The final few moths saw me busy with Halloween, Xmas parties and fighting off coughs, cold and flu, but stiill the last two months held a few surprises, the first Japane Crane for 100 years in Yamaguchi, with a supporting cast of Black-faced Spoonbill, Grey-cheeked Bunting, White-fronted Goose, Woocock, Saunder's Gull, Merlin, and 70 Baikal Teal. Locally Baikal Teal, at Hiroshima Castle and a lone Goshawk by the Otagawa River were a nice Xmas Present on a Xmas Day bike ride.

The last few days of the year were touched by sadness by the passing of my friends beautufl baby boy Asuto. On this the last day of the year my thoughts go with him and his mother, in the hope he will find happiness in his new life and to all my other family, friends, co-workers and even blog-readers, wishing the new year brings health, joy and prosperity in the coming year.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mishima - Spring 2007

Well without any hitches Neil Davidson and I met up on Sunday afternoon, April 29th, ready for his first visit to Mishima and my 6th, the 5th in spring.

Once we had done some last minute shopping, as there are not too many shops on the island and we were planning to camp, we made it acorss to the island by 5.20 and arrived at the campsite just before 6.

The crossing was relatively quiet, with only a few Streaked Shearwaters breaking the monotony.

Once we reached the far port of Uzu, where the campsite is, we managed to just dump our stuff and squeeze in an hours birding before it got too dark. We were lucky enough to bump into a couple of nice birds in the shape of 2 Chinese Pond Herons(AKAGASHIRASAGI), one in fine summer plumage, which remained throughout. Other birds on show were three very noisy Black-winged Stilts (SEITAKASHIGI), and a less showy Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (UZURASHIGI) and some quietly feeding Common Snipe (TASHIGI). Walking close to the small marsh near the village, we also flushed up a Brown Thrush (AKAHARA) which would turn out to be a very common bird on the island throughout.

Chinese Pond heron

We bumped into Imai-san, a good young birder who had co-found the Blunt-winged Warbler on the island and a few other birders who told us what else had been seen on the island on preceding days and it was quite a mouthwatering list - Silky Starling (GINMUKUDORI), Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (MAMIJIROKIBITAKI), Yellow-browed Bunting (KIMAYUHOIJIRO), Grey-backed Thrush (KARAAKAHARA) and Short-toed Lark (HIMEKOTENSHI), as well as Radde's Warbler(KARAFUTOMUJISEKKA) and Temminck's Stint (OJIROTONEN). At least two of these were lifers for Neil and two others Japanese ticks.

So, as the sun started to go down, we set up camp and chowed down on some delightful curry pot noodles, which apart from a blow-out last night feast were to be our staple food for the week. Just before nodding off I could hear an Oriental Scops Owl (KONOHAZUKU) calling of several heard over the week but as usual not seen. This would have been a prefect lullaby to get me to sleep, but the less dulcit sounds of a few drunken scuba-divers staying in the beach house nearby, put paid to that!

Monday April 30th
The next morning, after a resonably uncomfortable nights sleep (Neil with his ancient sleeping bag faring better than me as it later turned out I had slept on neil's camera half the night, which was stuffed inside his coat pocket), we loaded up on tea and weetabix and set off for our first tour of the island.

I decided to show Neil the route up to Otoge, the mountain on the top of the island, passing en route one of my favorite 'secret' spots, where Mark and I had seen a few good birds the year before.

We checked out the stilts again, with the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper having been replaces by a Greenshank (AOASHISHIGI) and a Wood Sanpiper (TAKABUSHIGI).

We started off slowly not really adding much to the totals of birds seen on the previous day, though we did see or hear plenty of Siskins, a few Eastern-crowned Warblers (SENDAIMUSHIKUI), the constant Daurian Redstart-like call of Sakhalin Leaf Warbler (EZOMUSHIKUI) and the odd chuuit of a Yellow-browed Warbler (KIMAYUMUSHIKUI). We also encountered a very confiding Narcissus Flycatcher (KIBITAKI) that posed for the camera, living up to it's English name.

1cy male Narcissu Flycatcher

Other birds seen or heard on the way up, were Blue and White Flycatcher (ORURI) and Swinhoe's Robin (SHIMAGOMA) and the resident raptors, Osprey (MISAGO), Black Kite (TOBI), and Peregrine (HAYABUSA) with the first sightings of Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Japanese Sparrowhawk(HAITAKA and TSUMI). Finally we veered off on a small track through some more mature forest, skirting the edge of the mountain.

Only some 100 meters or so down the track we suddenly saw a small dark heron feeding quietly on the side of the track, but beofre we could stop and admire it, the Japanese Night heron (MIZOGOI) took off and flew into cover, giving excellent if short views, story of my life with this species!

We reached the top of the mountain without much further incident and found there were few birds of note, with only the odd Japanese Woodpigeon (KARASUBATO) flushed up and more of the same birds from the morning, though a singing Brown Flycatcher (KOSAMEBITAKI) and the only Red-flaned Bluetail (RURIBITAKI) were new. This island does not have resident Japanese Pymy Woodpecker, Great Tit or Varied Tit (KOGERA, YAMAGARA & SHIJUKARA), like other similar size offshore islands and indeed we failed to see these three species the whole week.

After a brief rest we made our way down to the large expanse of rice fields and dry reedbed and marshy areas called Hachihata, near the larger village of Honmura in the south of the island. En route we passed through various tangles of scrub and fields, before reaching the new dam above the fields. The dam only had a few egrets and a pait of Little grebe (KAITSUBURI), so once again after briefly stopping to recharge we headed on down to the fields, the first surprise being two Swinhoe's Snipe (CHUUJISHIGI) flushed from the edge of a small marshy area. We continued on to an area that is usually good for buntings and pipts, and we were not disappoited as we encountered our first Yellow-browed Buntings (KIMAYUHOJIRO) of the trip, quickly followed by several Yellow Bunting (NOJIKO), 'spodcephala' race Black-faced Bunting (SIBERIAAOJI) and a Chestnut-eared Bunting (HOAKA).

Japanese Yellow Bunting

A search by the sea failed to reveal the reported Short-toed Lark (HIMEKOTENSHI), but there were two races of White Wagtail and a lone Whimbrel. A brief look at the area around the old JOmon period graves, gave us close views of 3 species of Hirundine - Eurasian Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow and Asian House Martin (TSUBAME, KOSHIAKATSUBAME & ) and 2 swift species - Little and Pacific (HIMEMATSUBAME, AMATSUBAME) with the ntoicieable absence of Sand Martin (SHODOTSUBAME) and White-rumped Needletail (HARIOAMATSUBAME). A walk around the rest of the fields revealed a few Red-throated Pipit (MUNEAKATAHIBARI) and Yellow Wagtail (TSUMENAGASEKIREI) calling and 4 species of white Egret (AMASAGI, KOSAGI, DAISAGI, CHUUSAGI), as well as the odd Wood Sandpiper.

Late afternooon we started to make our way back across the island, but apart from a mystery bush warbler that Neil spotted we saw little else of note. Lat we decided to check out the far corner of the UZU harbour and were rewarded with good views of a pair of dark phase Eastern Reef Herons(KUROSAGI) hunting the shoreline. A final search of the pines by the shrine on the hillside above the campsite revealed just a few more species, the pick being a few more Yellow-browed Bunting and Tristram's Bunting (SHIROHARAHOJIRO). While Neil's stakeout of the reported White-shouldered Starling(KARAMUKUDORI) possible roost site failed to produce anything.

Yellow-Borwed Bunting (Neil Davidson)

As we sat down to curry pot noodles for tea, the first spots of ran began to fall, bringing with it the prospect of new birds, but also a rough night as the wind began to pick up from the south. Around 11pm the wind and rain really began to pick up, ripping the top of our fragile accomodation, the most sheltered spots already being taken. Abandoning ship, we hastily gathered up our gear and decided to bed down in the disabled toilet, struggling out of wet things. It seemed a good temporary fix to our situation, with running water, electric light a clean floor and toilet nearby. it would end up being our digs for the remainder of the trip.

home sweet home (Neil Davidson)

Tuesday May 1st

After shocking the hell out of one of the scuba-girls when she cam to make her morning deposit, we got up to a dull, overcast morning with rain still in the air, and so it remained until the afternoon.

Siberian Stonechat

Amazingly, unlike our tent, which was now a paddling pool, the Stilts had not been blown away in the night. Once again we did a tour of the nearby headland and were not able to add much to the previous days list except a nice, but rather washed out male Siberian Stonechat (NOBITAKI). So we deceided to make our way to the lighthouse in the north of the island, with Imai-san. in the hopes of finding something blown inby the wind. We were for the most part sadly dispappointed, with the only bird of note being a female Grey-backed Thrush (KARAAKAHARA) on the way back , which unfortunatley Neil failed to get on to, thanks to my rather crap directions before it disappeared into the scrub. We did however, manage a few of the commoner migrant warblers and flycatchers.

Blue and White Flycatcher

Neil decided to stake out the thrush, as it was a lifer for him, while I returned to basecamp. I decided to walk along by the beach and the rain provided me plenty of opportunity to photograph commoner species such as Common Sandpiper (ISOSHIGI), Grey-tailed Tatler (KIASHISHIGI(), Great Egret (DAISAGI)and Blue Rock Thrush (ISOHIYODORI). I was also able to find some new birds for the trip, with Pelagic Cormorant (HIMEU) fishing a little offshore, and two divers, one Pacific (SHIROERIOHAMU) and one Black-throated (OHAMU) unusually fishing side by side, as well as an Oriental Honey Buzzard (HACHIKUMA) coming in low off the sea from the east..a rahter unusual direction.

The beach
Blue Rock Thrush
Pacific Diver
Black-throated Diver
Oriental Honey Buzzard (Chikako Miyazawa)

Neil and I met up finally mid-morning, and though he said he hadn't had much, it soon transpired that he had seen and photographed a Daurian Starling (SIBERIAMUKUDORI). Despite searching for it, we could not relocate it and I had to be content with the hope that it might come to roost that evening. We slowly made our way up the mountain, stopping off to see a couple of White's Thrushes (TORATSUGUMI) in the old Kindergarten garden, rustling among the leaves alongside Brown Thrush and Pale Thrush (SHIROHARA).

White's Thrush

We finally made it to the top of the mountain, again without any new birds of note and 1 more White's Thrush along with the commoner Pale and Brown Thrushes near the top.

The rest of the day, passed in a blur, as despite the wind and rain, no other birds of note were seen, though we did have a Grey-faced Buzzard (SASHIBA) perhced halfway up the valley.

Despite extensive searching neither the Daurian or Grey-backed Starling could be found. We retired to bed at a resonable hour, hoping that the brighter weather the following day would give us a chance to seeif the birds we thought might have come in, but had been hampered by the wind and rain were still around. We were not to be disappointed.

Wednesday 2nd May

Up again early, with brighter, less windy conditions. it soon became apparent that a lot of birds had been brought in. We soon had Black-naped oriole (KORAIUGUISU) singing, and lots of other migrants singing from cover, mainly Siberian Rubythroats (NOGOMA) and Siberian Blue Robins (KORURI). Two species we heard on subsequent days, along with Swinhoe's Robin, but were unable to see..except Rubythroat. Neil decided to make is way to the lighthouse hoping to find something good. He was able to find Grey Thrush (KUROTSUGUMI) the first of several over the next few days. Imai-san and I searched for the oriole without success, but among the larger numbers of Tristram's, Little (KOHOAKA) Yellow-browed and Black-faced Buntings, Imai-san and I were lucky enough to find a fine male Chestnut Bunting (SHIMANOJIKO). There were also plenty of Yellow-browed Warblers fresh in, along with Eastern-crowned and Sakhalin Leaf Warblers. I also had brief views of a Middendorf's Grasshopper Warbler (SHIMASENNYU) and heard Dusky Warbler (MUJISEKKA), one of several seen or heard on the island and Manchurian Bush Warbler (CHOSENUGUISU), with a song not dissimilar to the commoner Japanese Bush Warbler (UGUISU) but more melodius in quality.

Luckily, we were all finally able to catch up with the White-shouldered Starling (KARAMUKUDORI), which finally decided to show off in the overgrown allotments.

White-shouldered Starling

Japanese Thrush (Neil Davidson)

Neil and I independently made our way up to the mountain mid-morning, with Neil and I both hearing the song of Pale-legged Warbler (USUIMUSHIKUI) along the 'secret' path, and bumping into several Yellow-throated Buntings (MIYAMAHOJIRO). Neil also heard and saw 8 Crossbill (ISUKA) en-route. While I rested at the top, Neil came and told me he had also seen and photographed a Wryneck (ARISUI) at the Sefl-defence Force barbecue area, where a Hoopoe had been seen the day before. He was lucky enough to also see the only Japanese Paradise Flycatcher (SANKOUCHO) flitting through the tops of some pine trees. I relocated the Wryneck, but the flycatcher seemed to disappear into thin air.

Neil and I parted ways once again, as headed back down the moutain to Uzu, while I made my way on a different route to the ricefields of hachihata. Neil was lucky enough to finally find a Grey-backed Thrush (KARAAKAHARA) and later got nice photos of a Dollarbird (BUPPOSO) perched on wires above the 'mystery' track, after a telling off from the local defence force for stepping too close to their fence!

Dollarbird (Neil Davidson)
Wryneck (Neil Davidson)

As I walked down towards the ricefields, I was able to see a few more warblers and flycatchers. At the bottom of the dam I met Imai-san, who told me he had found a Daurian Starling (SIBERIAMUKUDORI) with 15 Red-cheeked Starlings (KOMUKUDORI). We quickly relocated the Daurian Starling among the Red-cheekeds feeding in long grass at the side of the dam, but it was soon flushed and moved to trees, by the side of the Dam. Flushed again, it was briefly seen in flight, to never be relocated. Around the side of the dam were several Brown and Grey-Streaked Flycatchers (EZOBITAKI), as well as plenty of Brown and Pale Thrushes.

We continued on down to the ricefields, and were able to see more Tristram's and Yellow-browed Buntings, as well as a few Yellow and Black-faced Buntings. We deceided to have a look for the Short-toed lark (HIMEKOTENSHI) by Honmaru Port, and were lucky enough to find him, alongside 2 Richard's Pipits (MAMIJIROTAHINBARI), as well as more Red-throated Pipit and Buff-bellied Pipits on the rice paddies.

Short-toed Lark

A report of a male Yellow-breasted Bunting (SHIMAAOJI) and I took Imai-san in vain for a tour around the jomon tombs, before heading back over to the ricefields for a last look, before heading back to Uzu. As we were trying to work out the varous races of Yellow Wagtail, Imai-san suddenly noticed a small bunting feeding quietly on the deck. We soon both realized it was a male Palla's Reed Bunting (SHIBERIAJURIN). We managed to get good close views as he fed just 15 meters away, but proved difficult to photograph.

Palla's Reed Bunting

The walk back to Uzu, once again proved uneventful, but a final look up on the hillside above the campsite, produced a Sooty Flycatcher (SAMEBITAKI), among the commoner warblers, flycatchers and buntings. A final look at the ricefields nearby also had us face to face with a Japanese Snipe (OJISHIGI), despite Neil and my best efforts to dismiss it at first as a Common Snipe!
The camera however, doesn't lie..well not always.

Japanese Snipe

Thursday May 3rd to Saturday May 6th

The last 3 days of the trip were to prove not as productive as the Wednesday, with far lesser numbers of birds, but new species, though mostly not rare being added.

Thursday saw Imai-san and I do the lighthouse and then me walk down the west side of the island in the morning. This produced a few new birds, a Korean race Meadow Bunting, stunning views of Japanese Woodpigeon, a Black-browed Reed Warbler ( KOYOSHIKIRI - another had been been briefly heard the day before), a Little Bunting and singing Japanese Robin (the only one of the trip).

Once again Neil and I split up, but our seperate paths eventually took us to the other side of the island, with Hobby (CHIGOHAYABUSA) and Russet Sparrow (NYUNAESUZUME) being the only bird of note for me. Neil finally managed to catch up with the Short-toed lark, but not much else. up to 3 Palla'S Reed Bunting were in the field we had seen the male the day before. A Red-necked Stint (TONEN) had joined them, and there was 1 of two new Chinese Pond Herons closeby, as well as 3 of the previous days 7 Yellow Wagtails. Two more Red-necked Stints and a White Wagtail had also taken up residence on the beach.

Red-necked Stint
White Wagtail

On the Friday a few more common birds were added to the list, a Daurian Redstart (JOUBITAKI) in off the sea, a Brambling (ATORI), a Bull-headed Shrike (MOZU). I had brief views of another Japanese Night Heron (MIZOGOI). There were still quite a few buntings, Little now taking over from Yellow-browed as the commonest and warblers with a single Arctic (MEBOSOMUSHIKUI) the only bird of note and a few flycatchers on the island, as well as Red-cheeked Starlings (KOMUKUDORI). Neil had the best birds of the day, a Quail (UZURA) flushed on an area I usually checked out in the center of the island, a lifer for him, which we couldn't find despite searching nearly every blade of grass, and another Richard's Pipit (MAMIJIROTAHIBARI)..again avoiding mine and Imai-san's eyes.

Little Bunting
Red-cheeked Starling

The Saturday morning, was a starling day and also the day of the one that got away. Little Bunting were it seemed everywhere still, with at least 11 near the campsite, and as well as erroneous reports of the Daurian or a another Daurian Starling, there were plenty of Red-cheeked and a few grey Starling (MUKUDORI). While I was on the loo, Neil phoned me with news of a mystery bird, only 50 meters away from where Mark and I had found the Blunt-winged Warbler the year before. it was photographed and videoed before disappearing never to be seen again, as an old man deceided to chop wood right where it had last been seen to fly into. Further inspecition of the photos and video revealed to me that it was a Song Sparrow (UTASUZUME), probably from the Aleutuains or NW Alaska. Despite going back later in the day, the bird never materialized. Had I known it responded to pishing at the time I would have pished away.

Just as Neil and I were getting ready to leave the island sure nothing else would turn up, I got a phonecall from Imai-san telling me that a Black-capped Kingfisher (YAMASHOBIN) had been found. We legged it up the hillside and Neil got brief, if good views through bins before legging it back and just making the 10 o'clock ferry.

Encouraged by this bird, the presence of the Song Sparrow and the weather slowly turning to misty conditions, I decided to saty on until the 4 o'clock ferry. So Imai-san and I set off up the mountain road, with little on the way. However, once at the top, a few birds gave themselves up, first a female Siberian Thrush (MAMIJIRO), next a small flock of Hawfinch(SHIME) feeding on cherries, and then 4-5 Grey-faced Buzzard (SASHIBA) and no less than7 Japanee Sparrowhawk(TSUMI) circling overhead. On the way back down the mountain brief tantalizing views of two Broad-billed Roller (BUPPOSO) were had as they flew into cover. later on we watched one bird distantly hawking and another flying to the north of the island and into the mist.

As the mist rolled in, I had a last look in vain for te Song Sparrow and a green Heron that had been reported by Imai-san on two previous occassions, but could only turn up a Grey-tailed tatler and a 3rd race of White Wagtail.

Even with the mist, the ferry journey back proved more eventful than the one 6 days before. Among the larger numbers of Streaked Shearwaters (OMIZUNAGIDORI) were a couple of darker shearwaters, most likely Sooty . There were also a few Red-necked Phalarope (AKAERIHIREASHISHIGI), three auklets, one close enough to see it was a Japanese Murrelet (KANMURIUMISUZUME) for which a big cheer went up from all the birders on the boat. Finally 4 terns diving distantly were too far way to ID for sure, but were most likely Common Terns.

All told Neil and I managed to see or here 135 species in and around the island. Will I be back next year, you betcha.

Grey-tailed Tatler
Black-winged Stilt
Yellow Wagtail

Imai-san and several other birders stayed on until the Monday, but few other birds of note were found despite the ensuing wind and rain. the best being Common Rosefinch (AKAMASHIKO), Yellow-breasted bunting (SHIMAAOJI), Chestnut Bunting(SHIMANOJIKO), Silky Starling (GINMUKUDORI) and Tree Pipit (YORROPPABINZUI).

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mishima - here I come!


So my favorite time of year has arrived in Jappers...with my annual pilgrimage to an offshore island only days away, my lips are slavering with the excitement of it all.

As in the previous three of the last five years, I'll be heading out to Mishima island. A 6km by 2km wide piece of rock, in the middle of the Sea of Japan, 1 hour and 20 minutes by ferry from quiet little Hagi on the Japan sea coast of Yamaguchi.

This year I am gonna rough it for the second time and camp, after an attempt last autumn, was curtailed after a few days, because out of the kindness of their hearts the people running the campsite let us stay, but refused to turn on the water for showers etc, as it wasn't peak season.

So what might we expect..well if todays little lunchtime jaunt around Hiroshima Castle is anything to go by, quite a lot. Today at the castle there were 3 male Japanese Thrush, 1 Wryneck and 1 male Siberian Rubythroat. The latter skulking and not playing ball, while the thrushes sung and fought over territory and the Wryneck showed well for a minute before being put up by someone.

Also the Hiroshima WBSJ group just returned from a weekend trip there, where the highlights were Japanese Yellow Bunting, Japanese Murrelet, Siberian Rubythroat, Silky Starling, Little Bunting and Siberian Blue Robin among others.

Last autumn I vsited at the end of September for 2 days and managed to find quite a few goodies, including 3 Japanese rarities - Northern Wheatear ( around 20 records in Japan) ,Common Swift (not officially on Japanese list yet) and Blyth's Pipit, as well as some other scarce species - Middendorf's Grasshopper Warbler, Richard's Pipit, Long-toed Stint, Red-cheeked Starling, White's Thrush, Little Bunting and the one that got away..a swiftlet sp. There were also many Hobby and Kestrel on the island, and the commonest migrants seemed to be Grey Wagtail and Stonechat.

Northern Wheatear

Sooty Flycatcher
Northern Shoveler

The previous spring saw Mark Carmody and I having what can only be described the best spring birding I have had in Japan, even outstripping my trip to Hegura in 2002. Major rarities included Black Drongo (2), Two-barred Greenish Warbler ( 3rd or 4th Japanese record- only me)Blunt-winged Warbler (first Japanese record) and Plain Martin (4th or 5th Japanese record - latter two only Mark, myself and 1 other birder) as well as a huge list of scarcities -Chinese Pond Heron, Silky Starling, Yellow-browed Warbler, Mugimaki Flycatcher, Swinhoe's Robin, Styan's Grasshopper Warbler, Jungle Nightjar, Richard's Pipit, Grey-backed Thrush, Japanese Night Heron (Mark only - I was looking the wrong direction as usual), Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Siberian Blue Robin, Siberian Rubythroat, Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo (heard only), Dusky Warbler (heard only), Japanese Robin (heard only), Black-faced Spoonbill (first island record), Little Bunting, Tristram's Bunting, Pintail Snipe, Dollarbird, Oriental Scops Owl (heard only) - the one that got away Lanceolated Warbler. In all we saw 120 species. A new best spring total for me.

Black Drongo

Grey-backed Thrush
Pintail Snipe

Several spring trips before that have produced some pretty nice birds too - Black-naped Oriole (1), Black-capped Kingfisher (1), Chestnut Bunting (1), Yellow-browed Bunting (6+), Purple Heron (1), Chinese Pond Heron (2), Japanese Night Heron (1),
Swinhoe's Egret (1), Short-toed Lark (1), Brown Shrike (2), Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (1), Mugimaki Flycatcher (5+).

Black-capped Kingfisher

Swinhoe's Egret and Little Egret

Purple Heron

Chinese Pond Heron

In total I have seen about 155 species on the island since my first visit in 2000.

Unfortunately past years have seen me miss many of the rarer visitors to the island - Golden Eagle, Spotted Eagle, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Thick-billed Warbler, Palla's Grasshopper Warbler, Little Whimbrel, Hooded Crane, Indian Cuckoo, Pied Wheatear, Ferruginous Flycatcher among others.

This island easily rivals Heguara for variety and numbers of birds, but is far more difficult to cover, as at its highest point it is over 200m, and much of the island is still largely impenetrable scrub! There have been well over 250 species recorded on the island, and it is defintely underwatched, with very few visitors going before or after Golden Week and virtually no-one visiting in the autumn, due to the Japanese holiday system.

Still it is a great place to kick back and relax for a few days and hopefully find some good birds into the bargain.