6 Jun 2024

Sunshine at Mai Po's boardwalk hides - 17th May 2024


By mid-may, most of the migration excitement is over, but there are still a variety of "gettable" waders and terns at Mai Po Nature Reserve, when conditions are right.

5 Jun 2024

3rd May 2024 - an Ashy Woodswallow "Twitch"

A report by John Allcock - and a well-dropped location "pin" - of HK's fourth Ashy Woodswallow - brightened a dull morning.

Unlike HK's three previous Ashy Woodswallows, this one stayed for a couple of days, to the delight of many, including us.

 Ashy Woodswallow (Artamus fuscus) -     Lam Tsuen Valley, Hong Kong.       3rd May 2024

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.