10 Feb 2024

Izumi City, Kyushu, Japan - a Crane spectacle

Japan has two well-known "Wintering Crane" spectacles - the Red-crowned Cranes in Hokkaido in the northeast of the country and the Hooded Cranes on the island of Kyushu in the southwest.

Hokkaido has more snow, but Kyushu has more cranes, - many MANY more cranes. In fact over 12,000 in recent winters.

I was reminded of this recently when thumbing through Mark Brazil's "JAPAN - The natural history of an Asian Archipelago".  

Kagoshima is a modestly-priced three hour direct flight (HK Express UO846) from Hong Kong, and is only 80km from the cranes. 

Visitor Centre at Arasaki

View from the visitor Centre

All the roadside crane shots were taken out of the hire car window. In fact staying in the car so as not to disturb the cranes is a local rule.  Temperatures dipped to below 10 deg Celsius, so staying in the vehicle wasn't a problem.

The birds are scattered across several square kilometres  of fallow rice paddies, feeding among the cut stalks.

Hooded Cranes (Grus monarcha) make up about 80% of the cranes on view, and White-naped Cranes (Grus vipio) nearly all of the rest.

It was nice to see a few dozen Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)...

And "abundant" is absolutely the word for Spot-billed Duck (Anas zonoryncha) in Kyushu in winter.

One of the crane centre volunteers kindly led us to two of the area rarer cranes, which were to the east of the Visitor Centre at Arasaki.  

Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis)

And a single Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus)

Thanks to the friendliness of the locals, and also to Google Translate, we found that things went smoothly.

I used a Canon 1DX II and 400mm lens, sometimes with a 1.4x converter. 

All these photos were taken in three days between 31 Jan and 2 February 2024.  

25 Dec 2023

Pallas's Gulls at the Mai Po boardwalk hides

 On 26th November 2023 I was in the boardwalk hide at Mai Po and had a record (I think) total of seven Pallas's Gulls (Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus)

I couldn't get all seven in one shot, but anyway...

......looking at "The King of Gulls" beats trying to identify those difficult large white-headed ones !

12 Dec 2023

End of a sultry Autumn.....

Apologies for a paucity of posts in recent weeks, I had technical issues uploading images to "Blogger".

After manfully fiddling with the settings, things appear to be working again... here's a selection of what you've been missing....


Toodle Pip !

2 Oct 2023

Autumn ? Really ?

The hottest mid-autumn festival ever - they say, but there's no HK Observatory announcement yet.  

The mudskippers at Mai Po are vying with crabs for space on Mai Po's mudflats....

and there are a few birds around

Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike

White-shouldered Starlings

Whiskered Terns are passing through HK, both year birds and adults losing their breeding plumage...

23 Jun 2023

"Dragon Boat" races, breeding terns, Hong Kong - 22 June

 Feels like high summer now.....

"Tuen Ng Jit" and breeding terns, seen from the Tap Mun Ferry

Black-naped Tern - Sterna sumatrana 

Roseate Tern - Sterna dougallii

Roseate Tern - Sterna dougallii

Black-naped Tern - Sterna sumatrana

Viewed from Sai Kung Pier