I have to admit to having a soft spot for seabirds and I was in my element today, a wonderful morning spent boating around two offshore islands (Yururi and Moyururi) with Koji Niija. This is a special area for breeding seabirds, several of which are at the southernmost part of their distribution and this is the only place in Japan you are likely to see them. Most of them can also be seen in November, when passage and wintering birds add further interest.
Koji has run seabird cruises for a few years now and operates in partnership with local fishermen who host the tours in addition to their normal fishing. This is unusual, but has the benefit of connecting the fishermen with their local wildlife much more than would otherwise be the case. It was great to see their enthusiasm for the birds and hopefully this will help ensure their long term conservation. The project has won awards, and deservedly so. The slight downside is that the boats are not designed for tourists and you have to adapt and find a suitable perch! Fortunately there was only three of us, plus the two boatmen, so we had plenty of space.
Leaving our mooring early in the morning, a single drake long-tailed duck was pretty much the only bird inside the harbour and soon we were heading out into surprisingly choppy waters. Getting any photos of the birds looked like being a real challenge!
I was soon watching my first ancient murrelets, they were quite common, small rafts of birds bobbing around on the waves but very hard to focus on.
|raft of short-tailed shearwaters|
|fast reactions were required to capture the "larger auk" in flight! - horned puffin|
|horned puffin No.1|
|horned puffin No. 2|
|immature white-tailed sea eagle and ancient murrelets - little and large|
|giant octopus being unloaded back at the harbour|