Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Crane Watching at Izumi II

The next morning I woke up at 6am. It was still very dark outside, and, what I didn't expect, showering. I went down to the lobby and checked the weather forecast for today through the internet. It said that today at Izumi will be cloudy and rain at 9 o'clock. That's even worse. I almost decided not to go to the Crane Observation Center, since the taxi charge was quite expensive. Fortunately I didn't do that. I walked out from the hotel through the showering rain to buy some food for breakfast and came back to get all the gears. I took a taxi a bit later than yesterday, but the sky was still quite dark even though it's already 7:30. But when I arrived at the Observation Center, there was no rain! and all the birds were still there like yesterday morning. Moreover, the atmosphere was even better! It was fresh, cool, calm, and clean. A kind of morning I love!
Small flocks of Hooded Cranes scattered around the area.
Since the condition was so lovely, instead of walking to the east reclaimed land, I wandered around the Observation Center like yesterday taking photos of Hooded Cranes and other common species. I found a flock of cranes in the rice field near the Center which included 3 different types of cranes. They were Hooded and White-naped Crane, and another one was the same Hybrid Crane that I saw yesterday. Taking time photographing them gave me so much pleasure, but suddenly I recognized that I should move to the east reclaimed land because it was already 9:30 and I have to get back on the train to Beppu at 1pm, so I quickly walked pass the Observation Center heading to the river. Wait! It's already 9:30? I questioned myself, so that means there was no rain like the weather forecast said. What else could be better?

A White-naped Crane proudly presents his elegant display.

An adult Hooded Crane stretching

The Hybrid Crane, a mixture of Hooded and Common

Along the way from Crane Observation Center to the river, I found a large flock of starlings perching together. Most of them were the common White-cheeked Starling, but luckily there were more than 6 Common Starlings mixing in the group. The Common Starlings were very vocal. They perched on the tree tops and started singing their high-pitched songs. Near a small canal I found a male Bull-headed Shrike, but he was too shy for me to get any good shots. Surprisingly, there were 5 Common Teals both male and female dabbling happily in the canal also. Even though the canal was right behind a house.

A non-breeding Common Starling singing on the tree top

Flock of Large-billed Crows feeding in the rice field

I found out that there was a place where Common Starlings gather together. It was a fruiting tree in front of a house next to the river. It was quite funny that I was too focusing on the birds and didn't notice that the house owner was staring at me, so I had to greet and apologize him for disturbing, but he was friendly enough to let me continue the fight with these unsually shy starlings. There were many of them, but all hiding in the tree. I had a hard time photographing them and finally gave up and headed for the Siberian Crane.

It really has a beautiful glossy plumage!

After being induced by many lovely species along the way, I finally managed myself to arrive at the bridge. Suddenly, there was a Northern Lapwing flushed up from the rice field below and flew away quickly. I would have been jumping with pleasure, if it was in Thailand. The bushes at the bridge also contained a dozen of buntings, which were too secretive, and the ones I saw were a female Black-faced Bunting, and a pair of Siberian Meadow Bunting. I didn't expect to see any meadow bunting here in lowland marshes, since I am familiar with the ones living on high mountains like in my campus. There was a huge flock of Eurasian Tree Sparrows sitting on the electronic wires also, but a bit shame to say that they are too common to stop and observe. Then I continued heading on to the east area.

From the bridge, I could see the vast fields of the east reclaimed land. They were dotted with flocks of cranes. I walked and walked, on and on, but saw nothing except the usual Hooded and White-naped Cranes. I was thinking that at least if I couldn't get any shot of the Siberian Crane, please let me see some Sandhill instead, and that my heart wouldn't break. Anyway, I got my most favorite shot of the Hooded Cranes here, in between the lovely colored field.

A pair of Hooded Crane calling while walking through the wheat field

An elegant adult White-naped Crane

The juvenile is duller with brownish head

There were few other birds along the road. The Grey Heron was standing still, waiting for fish on the river bank. Few Great and Little Egrets flew across the rice field. Common Teals were floating quietly in a pond near the other end of the bridge. I finally saw the observation blind. There were cranes around that area. I used my binocular searching for my target, and finally, thank God, he's still there! The only one with entirely white plumage, feeding with the group of Hooded Cranes. It was worth walking. Finally...finally...I could go back to Beppu without any regrets!

An adult Siberian Crane showing its prominent black wing tips

There were also many Japanese birders and photographers with professional gears, but less than yesterday, since today was Monday. The Siberian Crane was quite different from the others. Although he presented well and came into a good distance, but he was quite wary, and after a while, being surrounded with birders and huge lenses, he flew away to the other side of the river. I walked out and found a pleasant time photographing a Black-eared Kite sitting on the dike. It was quite surprised that this one allowed me to get closer than 10 meters. This is quite unusual for raptors, at least, in this country.

A Black-eared Kite sitting unaware on a dike

It was the time for me to return to the Observation Center. The taxi will pick me up at 12. Along the way, I came across with an adult Common Crane standing in a group of Hooded Cranes in a distance. Still, I couldn't find any Sandhill Cranes, even though 6 of them were reported this year. A flock of Rooks was seen again. This time they came close to the street. Like before, I had no luck of finding any Daurian Jackdaw. There were also Common Sandpiper, Oriental Turtle Dove, a female Bull-headed Shrike, Dusky Thrush, Brown-eared Bulbul, and a Japanese Wagtail along the way. Before leaving Arasaki, I found another Hybrid Crane at the Crane Observation Center. This one looked more like a Common Crane, with some black on throat, and pale plumage. Finally, I arrived back home in Beppu safely at 6pm. Slept all through the night. Wishing the cranes safe trip home also.

A Common Crane standing in the flock of Hooded

A flock of Rooks feeding in a field

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