Sunday, 4 September 2016

The first arrival!

Hopefully this weekend was a bit of a 'primer', as birds certainly started moving on Sunday in a way that they hadn't been doing up to that point. Friday saw heavy rain for most of the day and, despite going out in it, the day produced nothing. Saturday in Qi Gu was similarly disappointing, with nothing to report from the woodlots and a further 'minimalist' seawatch. Tu Cheng held the familiar variety of stints, though, including at least three Little Stints Calidris minuta which were perhaps the three that I had recorded earlier in the autumn but which had left Tu Cheng once the area began to dry out (though now it is anything but dry). The most interesting and delightful of these three was an incredibly 'leggy' individual, which I was able to get properly to grips with on Sunday when it would approach to well within ten metres.
Other stints proved similarly confiding on Sunday, including various Red-necked Stints Calidris ruficollis (with one sporting a large amount of 'bling'), the by now very familiar Temmincks's Stints Calidris temminckii, and the odd Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta.

I got more shots of snipe in the afternoon, too, with the Pin-tailed Snipe Gallinago stenura of previous visits still hanging around the same spot in the west of Tu Cheng, and a Swinhoe's Snipe Gallinago megala (which would prove to be the first this autumn to give me good shots of the tail) in the same area. Although there is much overlap in the plumages of these two species, I am convinced now that narrow white fringes to rounded and rufous-centred tertials and scapulars (creating a cold-toned bird) are a good indicator of Pin-tailed Snipe. This bird flew away giving a decidedly high-pitched call, not the one typical of Swinhoe's Snipe, and on recent visits a single obviously smaller snipe has been leaving with the Swinhoe's Snipe when flushed giving such a call. The Swinhoe's Snipe that pass through Tainan (by far the majority as far as these two are concerned) are invariably warm-toned, and always have buff-fringed feathers above with few areas of contrast. As the flight photo illustrates, flushed birds also show toes which project well beyond the tail, meaning that this field characteristic too is of little use in separating these two.

Before heading to Tu Cheng I had visited my woodlots, with my reserve (now primary) woodlot holding a single Gray's Grasshopper Warbler Locustella fasciolata, a Sakhalin Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus borealoides (identified by call, recorded and found to be approx. 4700 Hz (Pale-legged Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus tenellipes calls around/above 5500 Hz), three newly-arrived Arctic Warblers Phylloscopus borealis (also identified by sonogram), and an Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica. Area B also held a few Arctic Warblers and an Asian Brown Flycatcher, and the bird of the day was picked up en route to Tu Cheng, a female-type Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus which was flying adjacent to the embankment and landed close to San Gu temple (but which I was unable to relocate once I had fished my camera out of its bag).

Although I came away tick-less from the last three days, the movement on Sunday was very encouraging, and it looks like it's just a matter of time before I'm able to add something else to my year list. Above photos taken in Qi Gu and Tu Cheng, Tainan County 4/9/16.

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