Monday, January 12, 2009

Beppu-koen's Newbie

My last visit to Beppu-koen(Japanese means Beppu Park) was around early December, when the leaves were still brightly colored. Yesterday I went down for birding at the place again. The weather was very cloudy, and there was no sunlight until, I think, around noon. From the city, I could see that it was heavily snowing on the mountains, and finally around 10, the snow started showering. It was a nice day for birding, but not a good day for photographing at all. However, I finally managed to get some nice photos with supreme struggle. It was extremely dark morning, and I had to turned the ISO to 800, since I don't like using flash. There were few people today, no doubt that it was because of the weather. The first bird I saw was a male Pale Thrush, which was perching on a decorated tree for Christmas. There were few Dusky Thrushes hopping around, and Carrion Crows as usual. In the firs area, there were 2 Hawfinches, male and female, perching together, calling their soft, high-pitched voice. I walked to the main area, that I usually do birding. There was a flock of Brown-eared Bulbuls coming down to the pool's edge to drink water, along with 1 male Hawfinch. Then I found a bird-wave, comprising Great, Varied and Long-tailed Tits, Japanese White-eyes, and the park's newbie, 2 Ryukyu Minivets!

A male Ryukyu Minivet

And a female Ryukyu Minivet

At first, I thought that they were Ashy Minivets(Pericrocotus divaricatus), but those P. divaricatus are summer visitors to Japan. Ryukyu Minivet(P. tegimae) is a resident bird in Ryukyu Islands and some parts of Kyushu, and an endemic to Japan. The first Japanese endemic I've got so far! The birds tended to follow the wave wherever it went. At first, they stayed on tree tops, the way minivets that I'm familiar with in northern Thailand do, but when the tits, and white-eyes came lower to the bushes, they also came down with them, so I could finally got some nice photos.

The best shot I've got so far for this cute Varied Tit

This Great Tit was even dropped to the ground just in front of me.

And the cutest of all, the Long-tailed Tit

I also found out how Varied Tits find their foods. It was not very difficult, actually. There were these chubby, yellowish worms that buried themselves in the trees' barks everywhere. These worms covered themselves with some kind of soil-like substances, which, unfortunately, made them easier to spot. All that Varied Tits had to do was just hopping around, looking for these signs of igloo-shaped soily lumps, then they could get foods easily. Look at these three photos, and you'll understand.

First, looks like there's nothing

kncok, knock...see something?


Then I found a flock of White-cheeked Starlings walking on the playground. One of the birds were different from the others. It had white hood. I followed the bird, trying to take photos of it as much as possible, but these starlings were too shy, and this is the best shot of it. May be it was some kind of partial-albino bird.

A partial-albino White-cheeked Starling

I walked around in the park for many hours. No new species was found, since the 2 Ryukyu Minivets. Pale and Dusky Thrushes seemed to be every 10 meters. I found that the number of Pale Thrush was quite larger than the Dusky, which is different to the situation in spring, when Dusky Thrushes are all around, and you'll get tired of their appearance. Hawfinches were still floating around in the park, and consistently kept a horribly distance. The male Daurian Redstart was still presenting as well. This individual came to the park since August, and still stayed at the same territory. Also, another 2 females were at their same places. One of the two is very easy to remember, because she has orange from her tail up to half of her belly, unlike another female, which has typical amount of orange.

A male Daurian Redstart

And a female with orange belly

Finally, I found a birder in Beppu! She came and talked to me, Japanese, about the mysterious piles of pigeon's feathers. She then brought me to see them. I have never seen any raptors in Beppu-koen before, and this was the evidence of their existence. She also showed me pictures from her digital camera. There was a picture of a female Mallard, which she said its wing was broken, and then a picture of a dead Carrion Crow in the fir forest, and many photos of these piles of feathers and wing bones. I think she might be an expert in finding injured birds or something similar.

It was quite a surprise when I found that two or three Chinese plums were already flowering. It's quite earlier than I thought, so I should prepare for the plum blossom! Another good thing was I finally got some good shots of the super cute Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker. There was a pair of them, male and female. They were so tame today, and I had to step back in order to focus them. I also got a shot that shows the male's little red spots on his nape, that are usually being covered by the greyish crown feathers. Later I found that both of them were building a nest. It was a small hole in a pine branch just about 3 meters above the ground, so I decided to stop bothering them. Moreover, I could finally get few sharp shots of another cutie, the Long-tailed Tit, also.

A female Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker

And her husband, see the red spots? So cute...

The snow flakes started to shower heavier, and the birds seemed to be silent. The crows were gathering in groups on dried trees, giving the real sense of a cold, bleak, mid winter. However, some small birds were still quite energetic. May be if they stopped moving, they might loose their warmth easily. The Ryukyu Minivets appeared again in the same bird-wave, and I got some shots of them with snowflakes, very unusual indeed. The rest are some other photos I took that day, so enjoy!

A female Ryukyu Minivet

A male Pale Thrush

A close up of a Rock Pigeon

A super cute Long-tailed Tit

A Varied Tit in a strange position

This Japanese White-eye sure knows how to make itself looks better.

A non-breeding male Dusky Thrush

Since the next day is going to be the Seijin Shiki day, I saw many Japanese girls wearing kimonos walking on the streets. Kinda past in the present?

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