Sunday 17 January 2016

Japan day three: Hyuga and Kadogawa

21 December 2015

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.

Cape Hyuga

We gradually made our way back towards Hyuga town, stopping off at a small temple on an island joined to the coast by an isthmus. No murrelets, but some nice Black-faced Buntings and very pleasant scenery.

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

By this point the sun had come out and, naturally, we decided to indulge in a spot of gull photography. Mick's tried and tested British formula of popcorn and bread once again proved an inspirational move - within minutes we had good numbers of both Black-tailed and Vega Gulls coming in to the scraps thrown off the harbour wall, but were soon confronted by an alien problem - Black-eared Kites! The kites, seemingly rather hungry, would continually swoop down and pluck the popcorn from the water's surface, at the same time deterring the gulls from feeding. Nevertheless we finished the session with pleasing images of adult Black-tailed Gulls in particular.

 Adult Vega Gull

After a spot of food we returned to Cape Hyuga for another shot at the murrelets - again no sign, and still no pigeons either! Further searching around the coast brought no reward and, by mid-afternoon, we decided another gull session was in order. Thankfully the gulls in Kadogawa harbour now included a few first-winter Black-tailed, which duly became the focus of our efforts.

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!