After arriving in Hyuga, on the east coast of Kyushu, late the previous evening, we headed for the nearby headland - Cape Hyuga - for sunrise, taking in our first Black-tailed and Vega Gulls in the harbour en route. The weather was calm and overcast with a few spots of drizzle in the air, though it was very mild.
Alas a couple of hours of searching the bays and inlets as well as scanning well offshore failed to produce any Japanese Murrelets, while our other target species - Japanese Woodpigeon - also decided against making an appearance. Nevertheless a selection of the commoner species was welcome, including excellent views of Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker as well as Varied Tits, Red-flanked Bluetail, Daurian Redstarts and parties of introduced Red-billed Leiothrix. Offshore our first Slaty-backed Gulls and Japanese Cormorants were noted while both Peregrine and Ospreys passed overhead.
Our optimism that the next site, Kadogawa harbour, would produce murrelets proved unfounded - no sign there either, but at least 15 Black-necked Grebes in the bay, a couple of Olive-backed Pipits and Oriental Greenfinches favouring scrub at the start of the southern breakwater and the usual mix of coastal species including our first male Blue Rock Thrush.
Blue Rock Thrush
Adult Vega Gull
With the gulls once again being pushed off by the Black-eared Kites, we spent half an hour focussing on them instead, the golden late afternoon light giving the birds' plumage a real warmth and making for great photo opportunities.
The final hour was of the day was spent traversing Cape Hyuga once more but the day disappointingly finished murrelet-less, albeit with nice views of the coastline and a confiding female Daurian Redstart as some consolation.
The drive back south was fairly slow until we rejoined the expressway. A brief stop for food was our only interruption and we arrived at Gokuraku Takaharu-cho mid-evening. A fantastic traditional Japanese lodging, this is a characterful place that is beautifully decorated. I soon had my first onsen experience, although both Rich and Mick didn't fancy the communal aspect and decided against joining!