How far can too far go?

It is often said that the best winter birding in the world is to be had in Japan – but obviously there’s only one way to find out…

So three weeks later, after the highs of an albatross rich pelagic in a force 7 storm 250km out into the Pacific, clouds of Steller’s Sea Eagles circling us on a frozen lake in -17 (plus plenty of mean windchill), harbours full of stunning wildfowl and gulls, dancing cranes, the biggest fattest owl in the business, and surprises including Naumann’s Thrush and candidate Baer’s Pochard, I’m back with a full notebook and SIM card bursting with pics and videos.

With the wonderful company of Paul Thomason, Antony Owen and the enigmatic Mrs Montgomery Burns (who identifies as a “he” folks, but likes to keep a low profile), we endured lost luggage, Russian roulette eating and a fascinating culture new and exciting.

A great trip from driving in a Tokyo, home to 39 million people and more concrete, motorways, tunnels, and over and underpasses than I have ever seen, to the beauty of Owston’s Tit, Daurian Redstart, Rock Sandpiper and silence of the snow-clad Japanese countryside.

Endemics, specialities, pheasants, buntings and quality galore, Humpback Whales, Sea Otters and pool ball pinching macaques – an amazing country.

You can’t have too many eagles or albatrosses – but apart from the Izu pelagics and the glories of Hokkaido, we also managed to work Kyushu, Tokyo and Kuruisawa…

Japan Birdblog on the way…

Much about?

Apologies for the low intensity blogging in recent months, hopefully things will improve in the coming weeks – spring is on the way after all.

If you have seen anything while I’ve been absent without leave, please let me know using the comments thingy below, it’s always fun to learn what other folk have been encountering local and further afield.

Anyways, good birding all, hope to see you in the field again soon.

Two sides

Two drake Pochards on Sands Lake at Ainsdale recently; at least one has been on site since November with the Tufted Duck flock.

Numbers of the latter have been quite low this winter, perhaps it was too mild (apart from the odd fast cold snap that froze the water anyway), and Gadwall, Shoveler and Mallard are still onsite, with opportunistic gulls and the Mute Swan family.

One of the Pochards is a tad mangy, so when it comes to snappage, you need to wait to get his best side (or you could walk around the lake I suppose….)!

One wintering Chiffchaff remains, Goldcrest and the usual finches in the surrounding scrub.


The Rookery opposite the Morris Dancers at Scarisbrick was in fine voice this week, fizzing with life and fun.

It’s always hard to gauge how many are in there, but I saw at least 60 birds today (I know someone who may be able to give me a more accurate count…. Mike?), bowing, fanning their tails and flapping their jet black wings.

A few more birds were prospecting tall trees elsewhere around the edge of the Scarisbrick Hall estate too.

There can be few things as joyous as a rookery in early spring, and the Scarisbrick one has been steadily growing over the years, so that now post breeding dispersal regularly sees flocks of over 100 birds flapping west to feed on Plex Moss later in the summer.

I assume these birds are from the Morris Dancers anyway, although there are other, smaller rookeries not too far away.

A change in the air

The first ice cream van chimes on the estate, Common Frogs getting seriously frisky in next door’s overgrown pond (get some pants on, this is suburbia) and a perceptible improvement in the light, even given the total cloud cover, were all encouraging today.

It’s been so long since I’ve been birding I’ve forgotten which end of my binolikars to look through, but I gave Plex Moss a bash anyway, and while the old place was hardly jumping, I’ve had considerably worse sessions out there over the years.

Lesser Celandines blooming along sheltered ditch sides and just shy of 300 Lapwings roosting on a tilled field – it won’t be long before they start tumbling (Anyone had any Avocets yet? Anyday now).

At least three Yellowhammers in their usual territories, but they were still keeping a low winter profile, hugging the stunted hawthorn hedgerows as bird scarers coughed in the surrounding rapidly greening crops and Saturday guns rang out.

Corn Bunts were a no-show, although a few Skylarks were chirrupping about – they’ve been singing over the dunes at Ainsdale for the last week at least.

Up to 100 Fieldfares in two large flocks still out there, with a handful of Redwings and commoner finches being dragged along as they foraged and chacked between Barton and Plex Moss Lane.

A day-flying Barn Owl quartering the ditches was heartening to see, and further west, a male Grey Partridge edged out onto the edge of a track to feed, affording me prolonged, if distant views of this often unobtrusive resident.

Despite the early spring vibe, it was still a bit dark to video its near constant tail-flicking as it fed, but that never stops me, and a few seconds of truly crappy YouTube video kinda captures it here.