Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Shorebird Watch at Ariake Sea III

It's the last day for me here in Saga, and I decided to enjoy the hotel's breakfast at 7 instead of hurrying to the mudflat. It was very dark and grey outside and it seemed like it's going to rain. I got off from Saga Eki around 8.15 and arrived around 8.45. Today I was able to borrow a bicycle from an old bicycle shop near the Sumiyoshi bus stop in 500 yen so did not have to suffer a 6 km walk anymore. With a bicycle, I was able to arrive the mudflat in no more than 30 minutes, while it took me like hour and a half on foot. The tide was extremely low, just like the morning before, and there were not so many birds around so I rode to the other side of the land. I crossed a bridge to the other side of main river than leads to the sea and found 2 large flocks of Rook (Corvus frugilegus pastinator) feeding in the fields along with a huge flock of Eurasian Tree Sparrows.
A large flock of eastern Rook

Nothing much around actually, 2 Hen Harriers, a female and a juvenile, flushed up from a reed bed and Siberian Meadow Buntings and other common stuffs. I went back to the mudflat and decided to sit somewhere and wait for the waders to come closer since the tide was starting to rise. About half an hour later, I got so many Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) and Dunlin shots. The plovers became surprisingly tame and came walking around all over the place. I was a bit surprised too to see so many Grey Plovers together like this. I've never seen them gathering in large flock before. But what attracted my attention most was the Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata), which seemed to be much more wary than the plovers. It didn't came any closer than 20 or 30 meters. There were many of them feeding around along with the plover. I tried to see if there's Eastern Curlew mixing in the flock or not but didn't find any.

A female Common Shelduck

The molt of the Grey Plovers are actually very interesting. I noticed that there were no, at least very few, adult bird. Most of the birds are either first-winter bird or juvenile. The first-winter birds are interesting to look at. Their worn rusty juvenile feathers are mixed with clean, clear-cut, new adult feathers, like the bird above. The new whitish feathers somehow make the bird looks cuter, kind of snowy.

A brownish juvenile bird

I wonder what were they eating?

The best I could get from the Eurasian Curlew. The bird below should be a juvenile judging from its distinctly shorter bill.

Then I spotted a small group of spoonbill resting far at the water edge. I sat and wait, constantly checked if the birds have moved or not, and finally the birds began to walk closer to the mudflat. I suddenly moved to the other corner of the walkway and sat there waiting for them to come closer but they just stopped there and began to sleep again. I finally found that there were 5 Black-faced Spoonbills and surprisingly 1 Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia). The bird was a non-breeding adult. It looks slightly larger than the Black-faced. I guess that's why Black-faced Spoonbill's scientific name is P.minor.

The Eurasian Spoonbill(left) is slightly larger than the Black-faced Spoonbill(right)

There were thousands of Northern Pintail

I like it when the ducks slowly floating by the flock of spoonbills.

The Eurasian Spoonbill has distinct yellow bill tip.

It slowly wandered around the area, but never came close.

The Northern Pintails mainly stayed away from where I was sitting

Also few waders around including these 2 Common Greenshank

And the abundant Dunlin

This juvenile Black-tailed Godwit was quite tame also.

So I had to leave to place because the rain was falling so hard and ended up soaking wet when I finally arrived at the bus stop just in time when the bus came. It was a nice trip and experience but I think I need another revisit in spring to get a better shot of the spoonbills which were all so far this time and to see the waders in full breeding plumage. I'm really looking forward to spring now.

Together they make a nice couple!

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