Friday, 18 March 2016

Iceland in March: Iceland Gulls galore

A short trip to Iceland last weekend was not focussed on birding but presented me with some great opportunities to catch up with Iceland Gulls at Keflavik.  Hundreds were feeding around the harbour area, many close-up, foraging with Eiders and Fulmars.
Iceland Gulls breed in nearby Greenland and are a common winter visitor to Iceland.  Very elegant gulls with beautiful grey and white plumage.  I could have spend much longer watching them but it was bitterly cold and breakfast was calling...
Other birds seen included a pair of Barrow's Goldeneye, several groups of Whooper Swans, a flock of Snow Buntings and lots of Ravens.  The Northern Lights also showed well for us on our first evening.
Adult Iceland Gull - winter plumage
Iceland Gulls of various ages with a couple of Herring Gulls
First winter Iceland Gull
Adult Iceland Gull - breeding plumage
two adult Iceland Gulls
First winter Iceland Gull
Adult Glaucous Gull (rear left) and adult Herring Gull 

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall - the sun shone briefly!
Skogafoss Waterfall - in strong winds
Troll Stacks near Vik, in very strong winds!
Kittiwakes (and huge numbers of Fulmars) were back on their nesting ledges
Awesome seascape at Black Sand Beach
Iceland was just emerging from the grip of winter: the scenery was awesome but the weather was a bit challenging  - snow, wind, rain, mist. 

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Japan in November (No. 10)...and final: Kyoto & Arasaki

Daurian Redstart, Arasaki crane reserve.  A "bird on a stick" photo but a rather nice one...
Kyoto in late autumn is the best time for autumn colours, and so the city was quite busy with tourists.  There are plenty of parks, temples and a river that flows through the centre.  The hills are not far away and there are high speed trains that can get you a long way in a short space of time.
Japanese Maple
Japanese Grosbeak, Imperial Palace Gardens - large flocks were busy feeding on the small fruits in these trees
Japanese Maple
Pale Thrush, Imperial Palace Gardens
Varied Tit, Imperial Palace Gardens
Ginko Tree
Dusky Thrush, Imperial Palace Gardens
White-cheeked Starlings, Imperial Palace Gardens
Japanese Maple
crane flock wheeling above Arasaki reserve.  We took a high speed train from Kyoto to Izumi then taxi to the crane reserve.  About four hours journey each way, but well worth it.
Hooded Cranes at Arasaki - about 10,000 winter in an area of about 300 hectares - a good chunk of the world population

White-naped Crane, Arasaki reserve - we also saw a couple of Eurasian Cranes.
Bullfinch, Honshu race (the male is quite pale compared to ours in the UK), hillside above the International Convention Centre
Daurian Redstart, male, Kyoto International Convention Centre
Mandarin Ducks on the lake next to the International Convention Centre
I could have written more about Japan but have run out of time.  My thanks to Tommy Onita at Japan Birdwatching for his excellent help in making arrangements for visiting Hokkaido.