Thursday 24 December 2015

Cranes galore at Arasaki

White-naped and Hooded Cranes Arasaki, Japan 24th December 2015
The last couple of days have been spent on Kyushu, around the famous Crane Centre at Arasaki. This place is world known for the thousands of Hooded and White-naped Cranes that winter there each year along with loads of other waterfowl and passerines. Plenty to keep you busy for at least a couple of decent days... so here are just a few shots for now.

White-naped Cranes Arasaki, Japan 24th December 2015
Hooded Crane Arasaki, Japan 24th December 2015
And as always, if you have huge flocks of birds, there is certainly going to be the odd vagrant or two. We were unlucky this winter as there are no Siberian White Cranes (the odd juvenile appears every other year or so) but there were at least eight Sandhill Cranes as well as a Common Crane and an eclectic mixed party of Common Cranes and Hooded x Common offspring (presumably of a couple of generations).
Sandhill Crane Arasaki, Japan 23rd December 2015
 adult Common Crane (right) with two presumed hybrid Hooded x Common young (centre) and further hybrid (left) Japan 23rd December 2015
There were also a heck of a lot of other birds to be seen. The most perplexing of these being a Savannah Sparrow, a species we didn't actually realise occurred in Japan! Fodder species included japonicus Buff-bellied Pipits, lugens White Wagtails, Dusky Thrushes and Oriental Turtle Doves - all quality in themselves but pretty common here at Arasaki. We also saw the odd Chestnut-eared Bunting among the commoner Meadow and Black-faced Buntings, while Chinese Penduline Tit and Daurian Jackdaw were both successfully targeted. Careful searching through the wildfowl gave up a quality drake Baikal Teal as well as perhaps a dozen Falcated Ducks and a couple of suspect Wigeon with a bit of yank lineage.
drake Baikal Teal Arasaki, Japan 23rd December 2015
Savannah Sparrow Arasaki,  Japan 24th December 2015
We also took time out from the cranes and visited the River Sendai at Satsuma where there didn't appear to be any Scaly-sided Mergansers this winter so far, despite searching on both days. Crested Kingfisher and Cat A Mandarins were seen at Kagowa Dam while we couldn't help but visit a nearby fish port for an hour or so and pap a load of its offering, namely Black-tailed, Vega and Slaty-backed Gulls (as well as a showy Dusky Thrush).
Dusky Thrush Akune, Japan 24th December 2015
1st-winter Black-tailed Gull Akune, Japan 24th December 2015
Now back in Tokyo and onwards and upwards to Hokkaido in the morning. Happy Christmas to all!

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