Conditions had improved considerably overnight and Christmas Eve was a vast improvement on the previous day's wind and rain. Our first port of call were the houses near Arasaki crane centre, where we could see a flock of Eastern Rooks were gathered. We were extremely fortunate to find that one of the closest birds was a Daurian Jackdaw - the only individual we saw all day, despite searching the Rook flocks repeatedly.
Pleased with this early fluke, we headed around the extensive reedbed on the west side of Arasaki. This is a regular spot for Chinese Penduline Tit and so it proved - at least six gave reasonable views and were best located by call. Reed Buntings and Japanese Bush Warblers were common while other buntings included several each of Chestnut-eared, Black-faced and Meadow. A juvenile Hen Harrier flying past proved the only one of our trip.
Japanese Bush Warblers were readily heard but extremely difficult to see well
Chinese Penduline Tit - unobtrusive and well camouflaged
Thousands of Hooded and White-naped Cranes being fed at Arasaki
White-naped Cranes were also numerous although due to their size I found profile shots difficult with my 400mm, so I made do with close ups.
Once again several Sandhill and the two Common Cranes were seen as well as an even greater number of what were presumably hybrids - several of the latter were seen and photographed although admittedly I'm not sure on the parentage of some of them.
Anyone got any ideas? Common x Hooded, Sandhill x Hooded, or just pale Hooded?
After this it was back to Akune Harbour for another quick photo session with the Black-tailed and Vega Gulls. The gulls were decent enough but it was once again the Black-eared Kites that stole the show, putting in entertaining performances as they came in and picked morsels of popcorn and bread from the water. Our first truly confiding Dusky Thrush gave great views in a nearby park, although unfortunately was flushed by a Bull-headed Shrike all too quickly.
Finally - a showy Dusky Thrush in Akune
Black-eared Kite lacking a tail
A multitude of kites fixated on the floating popcorn 'slick'
With an hour or so to spare we decided to give Satsuma another go. Retracing our steps from yesterday we again drew a blank on Scaly-sided Merganser but had four Mandarins from the Route 397 bridge and Japanese Wagtail again from the main bridge in Satsuma.
With that it was back to Kagoshima airport for our flight back to Tokyo. As ever with the Japanese internal flights, everything went extremely smoothly and we were in our hotel, near Haneda airport, by 21:30 and were feeling pumped for what would hopefully be an exciting Christmas Day.