On New Year’s Day, 2016, I didn’t get outdoors until after 11:30, so I stayed near home along Yasugawa. The weather forecast said it would be cloudy, but the sky was blue. I was lucky to see several species of birds in the middle of the day.

Long-billed Plover (イカルチドリ)

I don’t see plovers often in winter. This one was alone on the riverbank in Moriyama just upstream from the parking lot near the basketball court.

Long-billed Plover (イカルチドリ)

Meadow bunting (ホオジロ) male

Meadow buntings are common now, but I always enjoy the challenge of trying to photograph one of these tiny birds. Often they perch on high branches, but this one was close to eye level and not too far away.

Meadow bunting (ホオジロ) male

White wagtail (ハクセキレイ)

White wagtails are not as common as Japanese wagtails. It’s always a pleasure to see them, especially on short grass in good light.

White wagtail (ハクセキレイ)

White wagtail (ハクセキレイ)

Japanese black kites (トビ)

A Japanese black kite was eating a fish when a crow came along and drove the kite away. As the crow was eating the fish, the kite flew over to the river and landed near another kite that was perched on a brush pile. After a few minutes both kites returned to the fish, and the crow fled as the kites swooped in. Then one kite stood and watched the other kite eat the fish. After a while both kites left and began to soar together.

I’ve seen crows steal fish from kites quite a few times, but usually the kites are alone. They give up after a few feeble attempts to compete with several crows. I’ve never seen a kite go away and the return with another kite. That was amazing! Crows often bully kites and steal their prey, so it was great to see the kites fight back and win.

Japanese black kite (トビ)

Japanese black kites (トビ) with dead fish

Daurian redstart (ジョウビタキ) female

This shy little bird was in trees along the Ritto City Ground Golf course in Deba. I saw her in the morning as I was preparing my camera and then again in the afternoon on my way home. This could be the same bird that I saw one in the same location last winter. Last year it took a long time to identify her species, but this time I recognized her instantly. Males often perch on signs and other open places, but I’ve seen females only in trees and bushes, nearly always in shade.

Daurian redstart female

Daurian redstart female (ジョウビタキ)

Daurian redstart female (ジョウビタキ)

Daurian redstart female (ジョウビタキ)

Daurian redstart female (ジョウビタキ)

On New Year’s Day I was pleasantly surprised to see all of these beautiful birds, especially to see kites cooperate to drive away a crow. No matter how many times I visit the same locations, I never know what to expect. Sometimes I don’t see much, but there is always a pretty good chance that an interesting creature will appear, and sometimes dramatic scenes unfold as I watch.

In any case, I’m getting off a good start in 2016. I know a lot more about birds and wildlife photography than I knew a year ago. I’ve been learning where to find birds, how to spot them more quickly, and how to get into position to take better photos. I hope to continue to learn in 2016 and the years that follow.

Published by Greg Peterson

Professor Emeritus, Kyoto Notre Dame University (1977-2020). Since 1980 I have lived in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, where I enjoy outdoor activities, especially photography, hiking, and cycling.

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