Ruff, Ibaragi-ken, 22.8.10
Yesterday I had one of the best single days of birdwatching since I arrived in Japan. Once again, it was out birding with Kaz and his group, this time in search of waders.
The day started out slowly at Yatsu-higata, with wader numbers low. We did manage to rack up Terek Sandpiper (actually a new bird for me, both here in Japan and in Australia), Little Ringed Plover (again new, rather embarrassing seeing how common they are), a few Red-necked Stints, Lesser Sand Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Grey-tailed Tattler, Great Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit and Common Greenshank. Just before we were leaving, Kaz found an unusual egret which he reckoned was probably a Chinese Egret (very rare visitor). I got some crappy photos, but they didn't really prove anything, and it was a rather borderline bird if anything. Hard to tell from Little Egrets in winter plumage.
Then it was off to Ibaragi-ken to find some freshwater waders. And boy, was that amazing! We stopped on the way to pick up Japanese Reed Bunting and Japanese Grassbird, before heading to our first set of rice paddies. Here, on 3 rectangular, water-filled paddies, we picked waders such as this Ruff (again, a first, uncommon here), Pacific Golden Plover, Marsh Sandpiper (supposedly uncommon, but quite a few), Wood Sandpiper (again, a first in both Oz and here), Oriental Pratincole, Greater Painted Snipe (again, a tick, hard to find and uncommon), one Grey-headed Lapwing (again, a tick and rare in this part of Japan).
Then it was off to the second paddy, where things just got better. Cattle Egrets were a first, but birds like Long-toed Stint (again, a first, uncommon), Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (common in Australia, but uncommon here) were amongst the many many Little Ringed Plovers. We even managed to get onto a very skulking and extremely hard to locate Temminck's Sint in adult plumage, a very distinctive bird. And at the end of the day, just as the sun was setting, we were having a debate about the ID of 3 snipe hiding in the grasses in one of the paddies. We agreed that they didn't look like either Common or Latham's so they will go down as probably Swinhoe's Snipe. But it is almost impossible to get a positive ID on them unless you get great views of their tail feathers.
In all, an amazing day. It was fairly hot, continuing in the trend of recent weeks, but it just went to show that if you know where to go, the birds will be there. I think I got something like 12+ new birds for Japan in there, quite amazing given that I have already seen around 210 prior to yesterday. Amazing.