Friday, January 6, 2012


So Russell and John did a great job on guessing what a white bird in my earlier post was. However, it's actually not a Black-faced Spoonbill, no matter how much I wanted it to be. Indeed, it's the closely related Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) and it is not my lifer. I've seen both species of spoonbills already when I visited Ariake Sea in 2009. The lifer was actually a much smaller Smew (Mergellus albellus). My main target for the trip was actually the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill, one of birds that I want to photograph the most, and I didn't fail to see it though. Indeed, I saw many of them roosting in the middle of a huge river called Imazu (今津) where they can be seen regularly every winter. There were about 20 something Black-faced Spoonbills and only a few Eurasian Spoonbills resting on a small island in the river.
However, they were much too far away for my lens. After 2 days of searching, I finally found their feeding sites. They were a medium-sized lotus pond filled with all kinds of ducks and a small fishing pond nearby. These sites were about 800m away from their roosting site. I don't know if I was lucky or unlucky, but the spoonbills that I found feeding at the feeding sites were all Eurasians. There were more than 20 Black-faced Spoonbills in the river with only a few Eurasians (like 2 or 3), but there was no Black-faced Spoonbill at the feeding sites at all! Even though I waited until the sun set, still no Black-faced came to the feeding site. It was quite a crazy moment when I didn't know whether I can be happy or not. However, I've already made up my mind to go there again either in February or March. Hopefully, I'll get the Black-faced Spoonbill up close just like the one that I got this time.

Adult non-breeding Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
I was quite surprised to find that this adult Eurasian Spoonbill was quite obliging. It looked a bit wary at first when it was sandwiched by another birder and me. But after that birder left and I sat very still behind the reeds, it became much more relaxed and started feeding. I slowly approached while it was enjoying feeding among the aquatic vegetation. It has a cute way of swaying its head left to right searching for food just like any other species of spoonbills. I saw it catching lots of preys but couldn't really tell what were they. After a while, it seemed to accept me as part of the scenery and didn't mind me going as close as approximately 15m even without a photographic hide! It was a really nice experience to be able to observe a spoonbill feeding at close range without being in a hide. There were a few other birds feeding close to the spoonbill as well. One immature female Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) was swimming near by and a beautiful Eastern Great Egret (Casmerodius modestus) was standing motionlessly throughout the time that I was taking photos of the spoonbill.
Adult non-breeding Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)

I just love all of the birds with spoon-shaped bills like these spoonbills and the tiny Spoon-billed Sandpiper. I read that the spoon-shaped bills of the spoonbills help the birds to sense and grab food items as they pass between the flattened tips of the mandibles (David Sibley, 2010). Not only that these flattened bills help the birds to catch more food items, they also make the birds look unmistakably stunning. I hope that when I return to the place again in February or March, some of them will begin to moult into their breeding plumage which is even more elegant and beautiful. I still haven't seen the Black-faced Spoonbills in their breeding plumage before, but I've seen plenty of the Eurasian Spoonbills in breeding plumage during my first visit to Bharatpur in India in 2005.

A video of the same Eurasian Spoonbill resting and yawning (?)

Adult non-breeding Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
The same bird looking at the ducks flying over its head
A recently split Eastern Great Egret (Casmerodius modestus)


Chris said...

Well I would be delighted to get that species like you did. These pictures are all more beautiful than the other. Wow that's an incredibly beautiful collection you did! Congrats and thanks for our eyes!

John said...

Ah - ha ! Now we know..... very nice series !

Russell said...

Ooh, I was wrong! Eurasian was my second choice. No prizes? Absolutely brilliant photographs of a rare find in Japan anyhow. Congrats!

So Smew is new for you..? I saw a family of smew this morning and tried to get some shots but they were so shy. I got so-so ones. Beautiful birds, so congratulations on that find too.

Choy Wai Mun said...

A great series. Well done. Spoonbills are such beautiful water birds but sadly, they don't winter here in Malaysia - not yet anyway.

Friend of HK said...

The Eurasian Spoonbill looks similar to the Black-faced Spoonbill seen in Hong Kong in the winter. They look so beautiful. A lovely series of photos.
Happy New Year!

Ayuwat Jearwattanakanok said...

Thank you all! I really do envy you guys in Hong Kong where you can see the BFS so easily and in great numbers. Wish I can visit there someday!

martesorex said...

Wow, great photo of Spoonbill!!

Charounette said...

This bird has such a funny look. What are the colour of the eyes, crimson? I like the photo before the last. I could never guess what that was lol.

Charounette said...

Love the photo before the last. I could never guess what it was lol.