13 January 2012

Not one but TWO lifers......

A male Pine Bunting and a first winter (?) Rough Legged Buzzard, 2 new birds for both my Japan and life lists.

Actually I don't really keep a life list (too many vague sightings and hazy memories) but I recently counted up my Japan list which is now on 267 (and all but half a dozen of those have been in Hokkaido and most in the area where I live).

The day started off in Onuma which was very wintry.

There were some Whooper Swans dozing on the ice..........

I went to a small pond which is kept ice free in the winter (I think it must be near a hot spring or something). Usually there is a Great Egret there and sometimes a Kingfisher. Neither species was there but I was pleased to see this drake Smew...............

It flew off before I could get closer.

The weather then closed in, the Ural Owl was cosy in its hole.

We took the scenic route on the coast down to Esan. Lots of Brent goose and common seaducks and winter gulls as well as a White Tailed Eagle but no bird photos from here, it was too dark and cold. The area is famous for its frozen waterfalls in winter.........

This was below the hanging ice, it looks a little phallic.........

We ended up in Esan around lunchtime to look for the Buntings and Buzzards. I saw several common Buzzards and was ready to give up on the Rough Legged thinking I was jinxed. I looked for the Pine Buntings and found them immediately, 7 of them I think.

A few minutes later I saw my first Rough Legged Buzzard, there were 3 distant BIF sightings, I don't know if it was the same bird or several different individuals (6 were seen here last weekend). I fired off some record shots which I won't bother posting.

We headed back to Hakodate seeing lots more Common Buzzards...........as you can see they are pretty pale..............

................but not as pale as this Rough Legged Buzzard on the outskirts of Hakodate.

I've probably seen and overlooked this species before but today's birds were my first firm ID.

Shame it was against a grey sky late in the afternoon........

So a successful day, thanks once again to Osamu Kimura for finding the Buntings and Buzzards and kindly pointing out where to look for them. The Rough Legged Buzzard in these photos was my own find at least, there seems to be a bit of an influx at the moment.

Thanks for clicking this link......



  1. The drake smew is fine looking fellow.

  2. Lucky you! Beautiful bunting and love the rough-leg pics. The lighting suits them perfectly. We had a rough-leg influx in Niigata a few years ago and I still remember them as being one of my fav birds for Japan. They're tastefully dressed for the icy conditions. I hope you get to see one hover - very light and different to the commons. I want to see them again and hopefully if you've got them there this year they might wander down here. Also love the swans sleeping on the ice. i took stacks of sleeping swan pics last week but they were mostly of individuals. I was saving my pics for a special post but your two shots kill all mine.

  3. Thanks for the comments.

    Wilma, yes the Smew is a very nice looking duck, a shame it is so shy..........

    Russell-there has been an influx of RL Buzzards into south Hokkaido, I'm sure some will end up down your way.........

  4. Pine Bunting - great little birds (ultra rare here as I'm sure you know - one on Shetland last year). I don't know about you but until you see a bird for yourself you check an awful lot of "possibles"? Common Buzzard here can be Plain chocolate to very RL like.
    Anyway, well done on the new birds.

    P.S. Drake Smew - very nice.

  5. Two great "lifers" there and the frozen waterfalls are spectacular !

  6. Fantastic images as always Stu and congrats on the Rough-legged. The wintery scene with the solitary tree is brilliant.


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