Bird­ing in the for­est

Bird Watching (UK) - - Bird The World -

cul­ti­vated land. Dau­rian Red­starts flick­ered tails of fire in gar­dens. Meadow Bunt­ings flocked with Rus­tic and Black-faced bunt­ings. It was hard to leave. But depart we must. We had a date with Kyushu’s prin­ci­pal avian at­trac­tion: Arasaki’s huge flocks of cranes. We de­voted late af­ter­noon and the fol­low­ing morn­ing to bird­ing the area. With a more lax itin­er­ary, we might have de­voted triple that time to the site. Or, should I say, sight. En­tire fields were cov­ered with the leggy forms of nearly the en­tire world pop­u­la­tion of Hooded Crane: thou­sands upon thou­sands of them. In their co­pi­ous midst loped the odd Crane, one of which had ap­par­ently pro­cre­ated with a Hooded Crane, for it was ac­com­pa­nied by hy­brid off­spring. A few Sand­hill Crane slunk around, skanky in com­par­i­son. Above them all tow­ered the stately fig­ures of hun­dreds of White-naped Cranes – yet an­other glob­ally threat­ened bird. My ex­pe­ri­ences with Nor­folk’s skit­tish Cranes were in­ad­e­quate prepa­ra­tion for Arasaki. Cranes are revered in Ja­pan (see box): nu­mer­ous road signs, sculp­tures and mo­tifs tes­tify that Kyushu’s hu­man in­hab­i­tants wel­come the cranes’ ar­rival each win­ter, while lo­cal con­ser­va­tion­ists sup­ple­ment the birds’ nat­u­ral diet with grain. As a con­se­quence, the birds are (al­most) fear­less, tol­er­at­ing binoc­u­lar-tot­ing vis­i­tors to within 30 me­tres or so. Breath­tak­ing! Leav­ing Arasaki, we had a crack at two ducks on the bub­bling river run­ning through the won­der­fully named town of Sat­suma. Our luck was out with Scaly-sided Mer­ganser; a male had re­galed vis­it­ing bird­ers across sev­eral win­ters... but no more. We fared bet­ter with a glo­ri­ous male Man­darin in its na­tive do­main. Man­darin in Sat­suma; ‘cit­rus bird­ing’ at its best! Mov­ing on, we birded for­est sur­round­ing Lake Mi’ike. Trees ranged up­wards above a spar­tan, arid un­der­storey. A sheeny male Red-flanked Ev­ery­one wants to see Hokkaido’s fa­mous and spec­tac­u­lar Red-crowned Cranes or tan­chos Hokkaido’s gulls in­clude Glau­cous-winged Gull

TAN­CHOS NORTH­ERN GULLS Drake Har­lequin Ducks

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