Sunday, 28 November 2010

28th November 2010 The Burgh and West Dean Woods

Buzzard c.8
Red Kite 3 West Dean
Kestrel c.6
Grey Partridge c.40
Red-legged Partridge c.8
Fieldfare c.50
Redwing 3
Song Thrush 10
Marsh Tit 2
Raven 3
Reed Bunting 2
Yellowhammer 5
Corn Bunting 1
Red Kite at West Dean

Saturday, 27 November 2010

27th November 2010 Pett Level & Castle Water

Great Crested Grebe c.75 off Pett
Bittern 1 fvo Castle Water
Brent Goose 1
Pintail 5 (including a leucistic drake at Castle Water)
Teal c.400
Shoveler c.150
Gadwall c.100
Mallard c.200
Goldeneye 1 redhead
Velvet Scoter 20 off Pett
Marsh Harrier 5 (2 males)
Water Rail 1
Black-tailed Godwit 1

Snowing at Pett Level

Barry, John, Mike & Tony at Castle Water

Leucistic drake Pintail at Castle Water

Water Rail at Castle Water

Saturday, 20 November 2010

20th November 2010 Beachy Head NE2 Overcast

Fulmar 1
Sparrowhawk 2
Kestrel 1
Golden Plover 1E
Mediteranean Gull 1 adult winter
Black-headed Gull 200
Common Gull 50
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Skylark 30
Chiffchaff 2
Goldcrest 2
Long-tailed Tit 5
Starling c.400
Brambling 2
Siskin 2
Redpoll 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker in Belle Tout Wood

Sunday, 14 November 2010

13th November 2010 Beachy Head W2 and Overcast

Little Egret 3 Birling
Sparrowhawk 1
Peregrine 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Rock Pipit 1
Stonechat 2
Dartford Warbler 2 ex.
Goldcrest 4
Firecrest 1
Long-tailed Tit 5
Brambling 2 + 1h
Goldfinch 150 (40W)
Siskin 4
Linnet 20W
Lesser Redpoll 3W

Two mini-tornados off Birling Gap

Rock Pipit at Birling Gap

Long-tailed Tit at Belle Tout Wood

Male Dartford Warbler at Birling

Female Dartford Warbler at Birling

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

9/11/10 Wajima Harbour

9/11/10: Gale force westerly winds with heavy rain and high seas. We walked to the harbour to check for anything sheltering there and found a 2w Mongolian Gull amongst the melee at the nearby fish factory. We caught the shared taxi from the hotel at 2.10pm and departed Noto Airport for Haneda catching the Friendly Limousine Bus to Narita and checked in to the Holiday Inn.
Juvenile Kamchatka Gull L.(c.) kamtschatchensis at Wajima Harbour

Kamchatka Gull typically retains its juvenile plumage longer than Common Gull L.c. canus/heinei. Note the first renewed grey first-winter upper scapulars are just visible on this individual. This taxa appears longer-billed than Common Gull L.c. canus.

Second-winter Slaty-backed Gull L. schistisagus in Wajima Harbour

An advanced second-winter individual complete with pale iris and a predominently slaty-grey saddle.

Juvenile Vega Gull L. vegae in Wajima Harbour

In contrast to UK Herring Gulls L. argenteus, dark-centred tertials with broad pale tips and narrow edges seemed the norm for the majority of juvenile Vega Gulls encountered on both Hegura-jima and Wajima.

Possible juvenile Mongolian Gull L.(c.) mongolicus

Pushing the boundaries but this juvenile Gull appeared rather coarsely-marked in appearance alongside accompanying Vega Gulls due to its scaly retained juvenile mantle and scapulars, evenly pale- and dark-barred greater coverts and its oak-leafed-centred and irregularly pale tipped and edged tertials. Looking, perhaps incorrectly, for an alternative identification Mongolian Gull would appear a close match. If so, both its paler hindneck and visible dark-spotted undertail-coverts would appear to lend support. For photographs of juvenile Mongolian Gulls in Japan see:

Second-winter Mongolian Gull L.(c.) mongolicus at Wajima Harbour

Being the rarest and most poorly-documented of the cachinnans complex the finding of this obliging Mongolian Gull proved the highlight of searching through the Wajima Harbour Gulls. Note that it has yet to replace its outer two primaries. To see an image of another second-winter Mongolian Gull in Japan:

Species noted:

Cormorant 20
Grey Heron 3
Black-eared Kite 35
Peregrine 1
Mongolian Gull 1
Black-headed Gull 25
Black-tailed Gull 200
Kamchatka Gull 5
Vega Gull 25
Slaty-backed Gull 25
Skylark 1
Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit 2
Black-backed Wagtail 3
Japanese Wagtail 1
Brown-eared Bulbul 2
Daurian Redstart 1
Blue Rock Thrush 3
Dusky Thrush 50
Carrion Crow 5
Large-billed Crow 10
Tree Sparrow 25
Oriental Greenfinch 5
Mealy Redpoll 10
Snow Bunting 1

10/11/10: Lovely calm warm conditions so walked the car park area and surrounding plots though saw little. Caught the free shuttle bus to Narita for our 11.35am ANA flight to London Heathrow.

Species noted:

Rufous Turtle Dove 1
White-cheeked Starling 6

Tree Sparrow 2

Monday, 8 November 2010

8/11/10 Wajima, Japan

8/11/10: We awoke to calm conditions and high cloud so no sign of the forecast wet and windy weather. Saw 3 Dusky Thrushes, the Snow Bunting and a few Mealy Redpolls before breakfast. On our way to the nearby hills torrential showers commenced so we changed plan and headed for the harbour to photograph the Gulls present. We saw a few large flocks of Brown-eared Bulbuls totalling c.100 birds.

Mealy Redpolls at Wajima

Male Siberian Snow Bunting P.n. vlasowae at Wajima

Brazil (1991) only lists the form vlasowae for Japan and this fresh male's appearance with its cream-white fringes of its upperparts, much white showing through on the rump, restricted pale rusty breast-sides, no black on its lower back, rump and all but its longest uppertail-coverts, all conforms to the description of vlasowae included in BWP (1994). Whilst the RIACT Report (2006) acknowledges this form has occasionally been suspected in Britain it states that diagnosis is extremely problematic, owing to variations within other taxa. Indeed, BWP warns of part of the population of nivalis breeding in Canada, north-east Greenland, and Spitsbergen being similar to vlasowae and likely accounting for vlasowae-like birds recorded in Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, and perhaps Britain. That said, an alternative explanation is that vlasowae could be occuring as a vagrant alongside isulae and the more-similar nivalis during winter in Britain (and elsewhere in Europe) and among the British Museum's collection is a male BM (NH) obtained in Berkshire in November 1874 considered probably of this form (Banks et al 1991).

Hegura-jima ferry entering Wajima Harbour

First-winter Black-eared Kites at Wajima Harbour

First-winter Black-tailed Gull at Wajima Harbour

Adult winter Black-tailed Gulls at Wajima Harbour

Juvenile Kamchatka Gulls L.(c.) kamtschatschensis at Wajima Harbour

A selection of mainly rather smooth-looking ashy-headed juveniles. Note the variation in bill colour. Some show strongly bicoloured bills whereas others are much darker. Most retain virtually their entire juvenile scapulars. Also note the sometimes rather coarsely barred rump.

Juvenile Kamchatka Gulls L.(c.) kamtschatschensis at Wajima Harbour

A selection of the beautifully white-headed juveniles that always seem to combine their white heads with strongly bicoloured bills and darker and more heavily-blotched (and therefore less smooth-looking) underparts and strikingly-patterned underwings.

First-winter Kamchatka Gulls at Wajima Harbour

A few far more advanced first-winter plumaged individuals were present sporting their virtually completely renewed blue-grey scapular and mantle feathers. Note the broad dark barring to the undertail-coverts.

Juvenile/first-winter Vega Gulls L. vegae at Wajima Harbour

A selection of typical-looking juvenile/first-winter Vega Gulls.

Juvenile Vega Gull in Wajima Harbour

A far more coarsely-marked and darker individual - perhaps a fresher juvenile?

First-winter Gull sp. at Wajima Harbour

Structurally this individual appeared close to Vega Gull but is it too pale? Can even an advanced Thayer's Gull be safely eliminated? That said, its plumage would appear far too advanced as Thayer's typically retains its juvenile plumage well into winter and its wavy tail pattern is very disconcerting all of which probably points to a hybrid. For an advanced (March) Thayer's Gull in Japan see:

Juvenile Slaty-backed Gulls L. schistisagus at Wajima Harbour

A nice and straightforward selection of 'Bonxie-like' juvenile Slaty-backed Gulls.

Juvenile/First-winter Slaty-backed Gull L. schistisagus at Wajima Harbour

There are also plenty of seemingly pale juvenile/first-winter Slaty-backed Gulls also present. Note the primaries and tail band appear far too dark for Glaucous-winged Gull to be considered a possibility. See:

First-winter Slaty-backed Gulls L. schistisagus at Wajima Harbour

A selection of first-winter Slaty-backed Gulls showing the variation in between the darkest and palest present.

Second-winter Slaty-backed Gulls L. schistisagus at Wajima Harbour

Adult winter Slaty-backed Gulls L. schistisagus at Wajima Harbour

First-winter presumed hybrid Gull sp. at Wajima Harbour
Whilst closely resembling a first-winter Glaucous-winged Gull L. glaucescens, and as there seems so much to learn perhaps it is one, it's perhaps slightly weak-billed, its tail feathers are clearly not wholly dark and its rump appears too strongly patterned, probably rendering it a hybrid.

First-winter presumed hybrid Gull sp. at Wajima Harbour
This would appear a much more clear-cut hybrid. Its headshape certainly reminds me of a Glaucous-winged Gull L. glaucescens, so whilst I've not seen it documented, Vega x Glaucous-winged Gull would be my guess.

Probable juvenile Vega Gull L. vegae
Whilst its primary pattern might suggest Thayer's Gull L. thayeri its structure, tertials and scapulars all suggest it's a very pale juvenile Vega Gull albeit with very weakly patterned greater coverts.

Juvenile / first-winter presumed hybrid Gull sp. at Wajima Harbour
Even more reminiscent of Thayer's Gull L. thayeri, and possibly it is one, buts the patterning of its scapulars looks at odds with a 'safe' identification and the majority of its greater coverts too plain.

Juvenile / first-winter presumed hybrid Gull sp. at Wajima Harbour
Another Gull resembling a Thayer's Gull L. thayeri but showing a strikingly contrasting white ground-colour to its rump, a curiously patterned tail and appearing rather strong-billed so all less than perfect features.
Juvenile / first-winter presumed hybrid Gull sp. at Wajima Harbour
Another Gull not immediately possible to pigeonhole with any certaintly - at least, not by me! This one perhaps looks a little closer to Thayer's Gull L. thayeri with regard to its scapulars, coverts and rump but its tail pattern is again clearly not reassuringly wholly dark! Perhaps being geographically close to the west coast of the US it's no surprise that Japan's Gulls appear to comprise a similar 'melting pot' of hybrid combinations.
Species noted:

Cormorant 20
Grey Heron 3
Mallard 6
Spot-billed Duck 5
Pintail 2
Scaup 5
Black-eared Kite 50
Black-headed Gull 10
Black-tailed Gull 250
Kamchatka Gull 5
Vega Gull 25
Slaty-backed Gull 20
Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit 4
Black-backed Wagtail 3
Japanese Wagtail 3
Brown-eared Bulbul 100
Daurian Redstart 1
Blue Rock Thrush 3
Dusky Thrush 3
Carrion Crow 5
Large-billed Crow 10
Oriental Greenfinch 20
Mealy Redpoll 15
Snow Bunting 1