Saturday, 2 March 2013

Japan 2013 - Gulls, gulls, gulls

10 February 2013

Choshi



Today was always on the schedule as a back-up in case the ferry to Hachijojima did not run the first time round. In the event it did sail and therefore we had the option to go out to Choshi on the train from Tokyo. Choshi has become famous among birders as THE place to see large numbers of Pacific Gulls, sometimes as many as 20,000, and often at close range. Consequently the area has attracted a number of rarities over the years and usually holds the odd vagrant. Of course the best days for gulls coincide with the return of the fishing fleet. 

After a fairly arduous train journey we eventually arrived in Choshi, grabbed some lunch and then walked out to the harbour. It was a weekend, not just a normal weekend but an extended public holiday. The fishing boats were all tied up and there was no fishing activity. There were very few gulls. We spotted a roost on the breakwater and walked in the direction. The breakwater also hosted a huge flock of roosting Cormorant - many thousands lined the wall. Most were Great Cormorant, but with careful scrutiny we started to identify a few Temminck's Cormorant in among them. A couple of Pelagic Cormorant were in the harbour as were a few Black-necked Grebe.

Black-necked Grebe
Temminck's Cormorant
Temminck's (left) and Great Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
We eventually made our way to the gull roosts. Not the thousands we hoped for but at least a mixed flock and the chance to study a few interesting species and plumages. Over the next couple of hours we watched and photographed the gulls. In total we saw:

200 Vega Gull, 50 Slaty-backed Gull, 4 Glaucous-winged Gull, 1 Glaucous Gull, 1 adult Mongolian Gull (a rarity here), 7 Kamchatka Gull, 5 Common Gull (heinei), 100 Black-headed Gull, 1,000 Black-tailed Gull (though most were out near the river mouth), and a single Black-legged Kittiwake. Around the harbour we also found 1 Blue Rock Thrush, 20 Black-eared Kite, 2 Oriental Turtle Dove, 1 Dusky Thrush, and 5 White Wagtail. Out across the river with the aid of the telescope we noted 50 Eurasian Wigeon, 10 Eurasian Teal, 25 Gadwall, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 10 Harlequin Duck, 15 Black-necked Grebe, 15 Pochard, 10 Tufted Duck, 2 Grey Heron, 5 Little and 2 Great-white Egret.

Black-tailed Gull
1st winter Black-tailed Gull
Adult Black-tailed Gull
Black-tailed Gull
Black-tailed Gull

Glaucous-winged Gull
1st winter Glaucous-winged Gull
1st winter Glaucous-winged Gull
1st winter Glaucous-winged Gull

Kamchatka Gull
1st winter Kamchatka Gull 

Adult Kamchatka Gull
Adult Kamchatka Gull 
Kamchatka Gull
Kamchatka Gull and Common Gull (heinei)
Adult Kamchatka Gull
Adult Kamchatka Gull
Adult Kamchatka Gull
Adult Kamchatka Gull

Slaty-backed Gull

Adult Slaty-backed Gull
1st winter Slaty-backed Gull
1st winter Slaty-backed Gull

1st winter Slaty-backed Gull

2nd winter Slaty-backed Gull 

2nd winter Slaty-backed Gull

3rd winter Slaty-backed Gull 
3rd winter Slaty-backed Gull


3rd winter Slaty-backed Gull 
Adult Slaty-backed Gull
Adult Slaty-backed Gull

Slaty-backed Gull

Adult Slaty-backed Gull

Adult Slaty-backed Gull

Vega Gull

Adult Vega Gull
1st winter Vega Gull
Adult Vega Gull
Adult Vega Gull
Adult Vega Gull
Adult Vega Gull

With no more gulls to check we walked back to the station. Our bad luck continued as we had just missed a train and had to wait 45 minutes for another. We took a train to Omigawa. As it was now getting late and time limited we grabbed a taxi, explained with the aid of a map where we wanted to go and headed off. The journey should have taken less than 10 minutes but we encountered a frustrating traffic jam that cost still more time. We managed to get dropped off on the wrong side of the bridge and asked to be picked up an hour later. We birded from the bank with the sun behind us checking every bunting carefully and looking for any warblers. Despite seeing and scoping well over 50 Reed Bunting, 6 Meadow Bunting, 2 Chestnut-eared Bunting and 2 Black-faced Bunting we just couldn't find a Japanese Reed Bunting before the light faded and everything went to roost. We also failed to see the Grassbirds (Japanese Marsh Warbler) that can be found here. Fortunately all was not wasted though as a smart male Brown-headed Thrush came into roost with a flock of 15 Dusky Thrush and gave good views. 3 Daurian Redstart and 40 Buff-bellied Pipit showed the potential of the site and an Eastern Water Rail laughed from within the reedbed.

Fortunately our pointing and gesticulation worked and our taxi returned. We then began the long journey back to Tokyo. Over 6 hours on the train were not ideal today and in the end it was not particularly productive, but at least the sun was shining. We met Chris again in the evening for a nice Chinese meal, bid him farewell and got some sleep, ahead of an early start to fly to Kushiro on Hokkaido first thing...

1 comment:

  1. Now get back to more mundane birding, like flushing Woodcock in your back garden...

    ReplyDelete