End of Year Birds 2010

 Peregrine Falcon

Had a nice outing with Michael Atzeni this morning. The highlight was the above Peregrine attacking a kestrel at Gowrie Junction. It happened very quickly as they appeared and scooted up and down and around before disappearing. I only got one shot. It would have been good to get both birds in the frame but I was too slow.

Australian Kestrel

We found plenty of kestrels around Oakey.

(Above and below) Plum-headed Finch near Jondaryan.

Zebra Finch

Swans and an Eagle.

Whooper Swan.

Visited Sakata, Niigata, on December 11 and again on the 19th. On both occassions I found numbers of Whooper Swans and encountered a single adult White-tailed Sea-eagle.

The Whooper Swans are spread over the Sakata wetlands but move out to the ricefields by mid-morning. The main viewing platform of the reserve is a good place to watch them fly towards you and head over to the rice fields.

White-tailed Sea-Eagle.

I got the above photo on December 11th. It was a lucky shot as I just picked up on the eagle fleeting alongside a ridge of trees on the northern side of the wetlands. I got this single shot just as it went through an open gap in the trees. Bad light though.

These photos were in the same area on the 19th. Light was better and I watched as it flew over farm lands and landed in a tree. Eagles are not common in Niigata so this is a highlight for any birder. Usually it is impossible to see them this close. All taken with a 300mm lens.

In the Hearts of the Bean Geese.

Fukushimagata, (Niigata) is a wetland reserve about half an hour’s drive north-east of central Niigata city. I learned a bit about its history when I arrived in Niigata some years ago but unfortunately I’ve forgotten a lot of details. I have Japanese brochures from the visitor’s centre but the best information I can currently find in English is: here.

From about the end of September to April, it is a hive of activity for migratory birds. Throughout these months, tour groups from other prefectures steadily arrive with field-scopes and cameras in hand.

Rare species for the region can be seen here. I’ve seen a Canadian Goose, gotten a photo of a Black-faced Spoonbill, recorded Amur Falcons (though no one else did..?), and heard of the excitement about a feast of others. I enjoy its potential for raptor encounters such as Eastern Marsh Harriers, Northern Goshawks and Peregrine Falcons but White-tailed Sea-eagles, Rough-legged Buzzards, and even a possible Steller’s Sea-eagle are all possible. Not guaranteed but all worth keeping an eye out for.

Many of the birds however are abundant. Ducks such as teal and widgeons; swans, mostly Whooper but with sprinkling of Tundra and various geese, all working together in the thousands to make the reserve a dramatic place to visit. The most noted species for these wetlands however, is the Bean Goose; the symbol of Fukushimagata. Fukushimagata boasts the biggest gathering of this species in Japan. All literature and souvenirs at the visitors centre are marked with its image. From the start of November they arrive like waves on the shore. Hundreds at a time. Their noise, like an approaching storm.

(Photographed at Fukushimatagata at the end of November, 2010)

Woodpecker Pecking.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Sakata, Niigata, April 3 2010).

I was excited about this encounter when it happened but as with busi-ness and all it all but left my mind. I haven't had too many encounters with woodpeckers in my life. I love watching them squinting and closing their eyes when they're pecking. They're delightful and busy birds.