Sunday, December 22, 2013

São Jacinto ducks: a Lesser Scaup and more… (December 19 – 21)

Back from three days of duck related work at the São Jacinto reserve (Portugal). Ducks were abundant and our catches were very reasonable and diverse; enough to keep us very busy. Most remarkable catch was this Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis, a North American species, certainly not very common in Portugal.  

Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis male

Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula female

Male Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis. More photos will appear on the pt-duck website in the near future (

Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula female

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis; we always catch at least one.

Remember this bird? It’s an adult Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus with poorly developed primaries in its wings. We caught this particular individual earlier on November 26, 2012, while it was still in its first year (  It appears that flying is not a necessity for a Moorhen...

The ponds were packed with ducks.

Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita were extremely abundant during our stay. It's a common wintering bird in Portugal.

During observations there’s always this panic moment, usually involving a Goshawk...

After a failed attempt to grab a Wigeon this Goshawk decided to join me in the observations for a while.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Island hopping in the Seto Inland Sea (December 8, 2013)

One day of sightseeing in the Seto Inland Sea, to the northwest of Matsuyama. With visits to Nobutsuna and Nakajima Island. 

Ferry departure from Takahama Port.

Fishing activity near Muzuki Island.

A dark morph Pacific Reef Egret Egretta sacra, near Muzuki Island.

Nobutsuna Island.

Arrival at Nobutsuna Island.

Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistisagus in the Nobutsuna harbour.

Finally, a presentable example of an adult Temminck’s Cormorant Phalacrocorax capillatus? Note the extensive white facial disk. I can assume now that the cormorant from the previous post is a Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo(?).

Black-eared Kite Milvus lineatus, eating a fish in the Nobutsuna harbour. A few minutes earlier another kite pirated a fish there from a Slaty-backed Gull.

Ceramic Octopus traps in the Nobutsuna harbour, more environmental friendly than the plastic ones we find washed up on Portuguese beaches by the thousands.

There were a lot of flowers on Nobutsuna, even though we’re well into December.

Persimmons, or kaki in Japanese, one of my favourite fruits back in Portugal.  It originates from this part of the world.

Many of the houses and fields we saw were abandoned. Later generations don’t see the point in making a living on these remote islands. Inhabitants are abandoning the smaller islands on a large scale and move to the larger cities. We tried to follow a trail in order to make a walk around the island, though it had not been maintained for a while and had been taken over by the jungle again.

Most of the Mikan or Citrus unshiu fields are still maintained and their plantations cover large surfaces of the islands. These islands are known to produce some of the finest Japanese Mikan, a sort of mix between a mandarin and an orange.

Meadow bunting Embrezia cioides. In some locations we noticed that the Mikan plantations were full with passerines. Most fled and remained unidentified.

Unidentified Mantis on the sea wall.

A representative of the Shinto religion.

Arrival at Nakajima Island.

On Nakajima the most precious Mikan trees were protected from birds with netting. The Mikans on the trees on the right all carry a ‘sock’ to protect them from insects. Elsewhere on the island birds are expelled from plantations with explosive devises.

Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus, a common bird of the forested parts of the islands.

Nakajima Island is the only island that has an extensive road system, which includes this tunnel. We were quite surprised to find one on such a small and remote island. The Japanese love their tunnels.

We were hoping to be able to comb at least some length of beaches on this trip, in the hopes of finding a glass float. Unfortunately, most of the islands coast lines were marked by heavy concrete walls or other types of protection, leaving no space for a tide line. On the few locations where sandy beaches and tide lines do occur the amount of waste was incredible, but these all got regularly cleaned by the islands inhabitants, who obviously had the first picking.

Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, the only shorebird we observed.

The artificial sea walls attract different types of birds. On these Japanese Wagtails Motacilla grandis and Blue Rock Thrush’s Monticola solitariusare common.

The only tea plantation we noticed, on Nakajima Island.

Just before our arrival back in Nakajimaoura harbour… We underestimated the over 12 kilometer long hike around half of the island, but we made it just in time to catch the last ferry to Matsuyama.