Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Indian Cuckoo

I've felt as though I've been being punished for something of late, with unseasonably poor seawatches and a string (well, two) of dips (on Amur Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone incei last week, and on Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia yesterday). Thankfully, the rot was stopped today with the addition of a Siberian Blue Robin Larvivora cyane to my year list from my reserve woodlot. I've had a string of abysmal seawatches since the weekend, with Common Tern Sterna hirundo numbers especially way down on what they should be and still no semi-rarity or oddball to break the monotony of a largely empty sea. Tu Cheng continues to play host to two female Ruff Philomachus pugnax, and these have now been joined by a juvenile Asian Dowitcher Limnodromus semipalmatus and any number of snipe. Most of these are presumed Swinhoe's Snipe Gallinago megala, but the presumed Pin-tailed Snipe Gallinago stenura of the weekend (mostly due to very short-looking, rounded scapulars and tertials with deep rufous centres and narrow, contrastingly white (as opposed to buff or similarly-toned) fringes) was photographed in flight today and it is indeed a Pin-tailed. One or two individuals within this flock are currently calling with distinctly higher-pitched calls than the usual and now familiar deep, gruff 'gurk' of Swinhoe's, suggesting that Pin-tailed Snipe is indeed lurking somewhere in their midst.

With a mere 90 Common Terns in two and a half hours this morning, my seawatch was aborted early in favour of checking out the woodlots. My reserve woodlot held a Siberian Blue Robin, which scurried away deeper into the undergrowth upon seeing me, but 'tacking' and pumping/fanning its short tail in characteristic fashion as it went. There was no hope of ever photographing it in all the tangled underbrush, but it wasn't that much to look at anyway. Rather better to look at was a juvenile cuckoo which showed up just as I was about to leave. This had the white-splattered head and broad white fringes to everything above that I assume only Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus will show, and the very dark iris looked right for that species, too (juvenile 'Oriental' Cuckoos Cuculus saturatus sensu lato, at least those on OBC, show a slightly paler iris). An Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica also put in a brief appearance, indicating that an overnight arrival had certainly taken place. You wouldn't know this if you spent the day in Area A, though, where there was absolutely nothing and it really does look like this place is now finished.

It's slow progress, but progress nevertheless. If I can get my missing Sooty Tern Onychoprion fuscatus this weekend I'll be able to pack it in with sea altogether from now on, ... so where's my storm? Above photos taken in Tu Cheng and Qi Gu, Tainan County 30-31/8/16.

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