Tuesday, January 19, 2010

River Side Birdwatching

So this entry is gonna be talking about birds at Oita River other than the ducks. I arrived there a little earlier than usual, about 8am. This time I tried using bus from Beppu to Oita Eki and it took about 30 minutes, about 15 minutes slower than the local train. There at the river side, lots of Eurasian Skylarks (Alauda arvensis) flushed up from short dry grass as I walked. They were difficult to get good pics since they always tended to hide in the grass and hardly let me get close. Some of them were already started singing both on the ground and circling up in the sky.
A skulking Eurasian Skylark

A non-breeding Buff-bellied Pipit (A. rubescens japonicus)

A singing male Meadow Bunting

And some more shots of both male and female

There were a group of about 20 Eurasian Wigeons feeding near the bank and lots of White-cheeked Starlings flying around as usual. I walked across the bridge to the other side of the river and found many Meadow Buntings feeding along the bushes next to the footpath. Most of them were in pairs and some males even started singing their sweet songs giving a sense of spring in the air. Along the reeds, the much shyer Black-faced Buntings(Emberiza spodocephala) were also seen in a good number and even the Reed Buntings(Emberiza schoeniclus) were also presented perching on a dead tree with the Grey-capped Greenfinches.

A Black-eared Kite sitting still warming itself up with warm morning light

I was puzzled with this 2cy gull which came circling around the place where I photographed the ducks for several times. It looked very snowy like a first-year Mongolian Gull but too many features didn't seem to fit in very well. It's a second-year bird judging from its adult grey mantle feathers, but other parts of it still seemed to be those of the first-year. Its black tail-band was too broad with no sign of double tail-band like typical Mongolian and the streaking on the head kinda look like a Vega. I'm still wondering what could this one be, a pale Vega? Hope someone can help me with this puzzling gull...

*Edited: Thanks to Mr.Ujihara from the Japanese Gull Site for identifying this gull and it's a second year Common Gull (L. canus). I didn't think of the species at all at first because I felt that the size of this bird was equally big like one of those herring gulls. He also pointed out the simple upperwing coverts pattern of the bird which indicates that it's not one of the herring gull group.

Some more photos of the same juvenile gull

A surprise of the day was a single non-breeding adult Long-billed Plover (Charadrius placidus) which was standing at the place where I photographed the ducks. Though it is classified as common resident, this was the first time for me to see the species in Japan. Maybe it's only scarce in Oita and Beppu...just like every species elese. It's actually a rare winter visitor to northern Thailand and I've been to Mekong River in Chiang Saen to twitch it once. That time I only saw a juvenile, but I've also seen several adults at Arunachal Pradesh in India. Surprisingly the bird was very wary and I had difficulty trying to get closer to it. It didn't seem to be hungry at all, or was it just too afraid of my presence that it didn't change its posture at all so my excitement completely disappeared after 5 minutes of watching it. What it did was just standing still at the river bank watching me and all the ducks that were feeding in the river, but everytime I tried getting closer to it, it would immediately fly away and come back in a minute or two.

This was the best I could get from the Long-billed Plover

Lots of female Bull-headed Shrikes were seen along the bushes with only 1 male bird, as well as the female Daurian Redstarts. It was strange I didn't find any single male redstart which is usually more common during winter. In the river was a good number of Great Cormorants as usual with few birds in their full breeding plumage. A pair of Common Kingfisher also presented along with another cute pair of Little Grebe in the same small pond. Ospreys were common and a Peregrine Falcon was also seen briefly chasing some small birds.

This female Black-faced Bunting came down to the river in front of me while I was photographing the ducks. Shame the male bird was feeding in another area where I couldn't take any photos of.

I have no idea why this White Wagtail isn't white as its name.

Few more shots of the female bunting

And an Osprey

I was so surprised at the size of its prey. I later felt so sorry for this Osprey because it was chased by a flock of crows and a Grey Heron and dropped the fish down to the river. What a waste of effort. Thieves like these should be taught a lesson.

This Great Cormorant was already in its breeding plumage.

A female Meadow Bunting

And the biggest surprise of the day was this beautiful male Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) which flew across the river and landed briefly on the sandbar before walking into the thick reedbed. It's the subspecies P.c.versicolor which can sometimes be called Green Pheasant and is the nominate race in Japan, a life bird for me as well. Though I couldn't get any decent pic but at least I know they exist here in Oita and I know where to look for the next time I come here.


Phil said...

Great selection and series of pictures. Love the pipits and buntings.

Russell Jenkins said...

A wonderful collection. Can't help you with the gull but I had a close look at that Osprey and wow, that is a huge fish it caught. It should have been able to keep that catch. The cormorants are in their breeding outfits in Niigata too!

Unravel said...

Thanks for the comments, Phil and Russell.
Russell - So you're in Niigata now? Can't wait to see more photos of the birds there. No swan down here, I really want to see at least one of them.

CE Webster said...

Great pictures. Sorry I can't help with the gull. Thanks for the post.

S.C.E. said...

Wow, singing birds? Breeding plumage? Can't believe we're in the same country!