The Search For A Metallic Pheasant Japan 27 January 2020

Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker just one the woodpecker species we enjoyed.

We were up before dawn and on the road to a nearby forested area of hills to look for another really special bird, Copper Pheasant, notoriously hard to find. Driving the twisting road through the wooded hills our eyes were out on stalks scanning the roadside and the leaf litter covered slopes either side, not a bird. We parked and continued our search on foot, a couple of Eurasian Jays showed, very different looking beasts to the ones back in the UK, two Eastern Buzzards soared over and a flock of Siskins landed above us where Goldcrests fed too. But not a sniff of anything pheasant shaped. We kept scanning and I spotted a movement high on a slope above us, what was it? First thought that popped into my head was wolf? No wolves in Japan! Charley soon got onto the mystery beast and pronounced that is was a Japanese serow, a large grey wild goat. An amazing creature with shaggy coat and headed slowly up the hill still looking rather wolf like to me!

Can you spot the bird on the hillside? It was not easy!

We were getting hungry and decided to admit defeat on the pheasant and started to trudge back to the minibus. Never like to be beaten by a bird so I kept scanning the forest floor even as we walked back. There! Up there near the skyline a pheasant! We all struggled to get a clear view, so many branches in the way and the light was against us. But it was a pheasant all right and then it stepped into clearer view and became a Copper Pheasant! We were all elated at this last gasp sighting, fantastic! The Copper Pheasant moved slowly along just below the ridge amongst the fallen beech leaves, copper coloured leaves, perfect camouflage for this rare bird. Views with the scope were good but photos tricky into the light. Glenn managed to get a really good photo somehow but then managed to delete it! But we all had good views of this hard to see bird and breakfast tasted so much better for it.

Copper Pheasant a lifer! Poor photo but rubbish light and up a hill!

After breakfast we birded in the woodland areas near the hotel, deciduous trees bare for winter and pretty much devoid of birds, we had to work hard for our sightings. For me the most exciting birds here were a flock of beautiful Japanese Waxwings. Similar to our more familiar Bohemian Waxwings these local ones were decked out in pink not yellow and were just stunning. The birds were coming down to drink at a woodland stream but again poor light and just that bit to distant prevented anything other than “record shots” but we all loved seeing them.

Japanese Waxwing, I know another shocker of a photo, they get better later honest!

The same stream held a pair of Brown Dippers, just as you imagine them to be, but they soon shot off and vanished. With a lot of neck-breaking scanning of the tall trees on the steep slopes around us we eventually tracked down a good haul of woodpeckers. We had a number of sightings of the tiny Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker very reminiscent of our Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Japanese Green Woodpecker, yes you guessed it very similar to our Green Woodpecker but with streaked flanks, Great Spotted Woodpecker same as ours and brief views of a White-backed Woodpecker as we see in Scandinavia on our tours there. All this may sound great but there were very long spells with no birds at all, such is woodland birding in mid-winter. We also added a new mammal – Japanese giant flying squirrel looking sleepily out of a nest-box a lovely animal.

An unexpected lifer, Japanese giant flying squirrel so cute!

After lunch, at a Seven-Eleven store, that was an experience, here they have a wide range of stuff for sale not all of it identifiable! But we managed to find enough to eat all be it not the healthiest diet. As always the staff were ever so polite and patient with us, we were already loving the Japanese people. We then visited a reservoir, not to big, so the views of the birds were good. A drake Smew was probably the highlight here amongst lots of Eastern Spot-billed Ducks, Eurasian Wigeon and Teal. Black-eared Kites wheeled above the water seemed strange to see these birds in a winter landscape we are used to seeing Black Kites in the Mediterranean.

Plenty of Black-eared Kites over the reservoir and adjacent river.

The river bed that ran alongside the reservoir was a possible site for the rare Long-billed Plover. We all scanned the shingle and mud banks but not a wader to be seen. We were just on the point of giving up when I noticed a plover, a very long way away, through the scope we could see it was indeed a Long-billed Plover but poor viewing. Charley thought we could drive closer to the spot, so we did, and enjoyed much closer views. Some Masked Buntings, also known as Black-faced Buntings were here too, Japanese Wagtail and the local race of White Wagtail also fed along the river.

Back to our hotel to pack for our departure in the morning for snow monkeys.

Purple Sandpiper 1

Purple Sandpipers will be on the rocks around the North Wales coast in March.

We have two spaces, due to a cancellation, on our five day Best of North Wales tour 21 -25 March 2020 based at a lovely hotel in Trefriw, Conwy Valley. Lots of birds, superb scenery, great food and lots of fun await you. Come and join us! March is perhaps the best month to look for some of North Wales's special birds such as Black Grouse, Goshawk and Hawfinch. All the winter birds and resident birds will be here to enjoy and the first migrants which could well include Ring Ouzels and Wheatears. Expect to see over 120 species of bird on the five day tour!

Iceland Gull Pensarn March 16 3

March is a great time for rare gulls, and we do find rare birds on our tours, Iceland Gull.

We would love you to join us on our Birdwatching Trips, please see our tours pages and if you have any questions at all please fire away here….

We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds in beautiful places with you soon!

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