This is the final posting relating to a summer trip to Japan with Nick Preston. We had started in Hokkaido, visited several sites in range of Tokyo and were now flying to Amami in the northern Ryukyu Islands where our flight departure board warned of possibly having to divert or return due to strong winds.
07 July (continued). We landed on Amami, after a fashion, 15 minutes late and skidding in heavy rain and the forecast strong winds. We picked up the car, another Nissan Note but with a less easy Sat-Nav, programmed our hotel and set off south to Naze. Our hotel, the Port Tower, was easy to find and we dropped off our bags before driving up to the Kinsakabaru Virgin Forest. It was still raining heavily and really too wet to leave the car so we waited until dark in the hope that the weather would improve. It didn’t so soon after dark we drove slowly back down seeing a superb Amani Woodcock on the road. Back in Naze the full force of the gale was evident, no more so than from our seventh floor room which faced it. It was a noisy night although that was partly due to the air-con ...
|Amami Woodcock, in headlights but through the windscreen|
|forest at Kinsakabaru. The lower central character looks like an ironing board. an unlikely location one might think but we had encountered an extreme ironer at Cape Nosappu on Hokkaido so it is not impossible.|
|Amami Thrush feeding on the main trail|
|we slowly followed it for about 200m|
09 July. We were up at 01:00 and drove to the Kinsakabaru Virgin Forest sign in light rain seeing nothing. On arrival the rain increased making a night walk (or drive) pointless and we dozed in the car hoping it would improve. It didn’t. We were up at 05:00 just as it was starting to get light but nothing was calling. The rain eased off a bit and we walked to the red sign and back seeing the endemic Amami race of White-backed Woodpecker, a male of the Ryukyu race of Narcissus Flycatcher and a superb male komadori Ryukyu Robin (Amami Robin if treated as separate species). We saw no thrushes and wondered if the previous poor weather had helped us there although we only covered the area where one of our four had been seen. We left at 09:00 arriving back at the hotel at 09:50, just ahead of 10:00 check out. We drove north to the airport and with some time in hand stopped at Ose Beach just north of the airport. Here the sun was shining and we saw some herons, waders (Lesser Sand and Kentish Plovers and Grey-tailed Tattlers), a spoonbill (unfortunately not Black-faced) and an unexpected Ryukyu Minivet. We dropped off the car and checked in for our Ryukyu Air Commuter flight to Okinawa. It left on time, arriving in Okinawa in the rain. Car hire at Naha Airport was less efficient/more time consuming than elsewhere in Japan and we were slow getting away. Traffic in Naha was dreadful but once clear of town and heading north on the expressway we made good progress although the rain became progressively heavier. We arrived at Indigo, a very pleasant rustic guest house in Oku at 19:30 where we were welcomed by the guest house’s owners, Non and Ken. They immediately set about preparing a good meal for us. The dining area was a bar adjoined to their kitchen where, much to our amusement, what looked like a blow-torch appeared to be standard equipment. Turning it onto some Tofu was, in my opinion, about the only way to make it even close to being edible. A welcome end to what had been a long day. It was still raining but Non and Ken were confident it would improve.
|still raining, Nick checking what we'd seen|
|at this stage we had not seen the woodpecker|
|Ryukyu Narcissus Flycatcher, considered to be a different species by some, not that the main differences (dark olive rather than jet black upperparts) are evident from this image|
|Ryukyu Green Pigeon|
|Spoonbill on the beach at Ose|
|with Great White Egret|
|Oriental Turtle Dove|
|Nick leaving Amami|
|over the small island of Izena|
|namiyei Ryukyu Robin, presumably a young male due to dark throat. Sometimes considered a separate species Okinawa Robin, it has greyish underparts whereas those of the Amami Robin are white with black flank streaks.|
|our first good view of an Okinawa Rail, just five minutes down the main road from Indigo|
|and through the front windscreen|
|the first of five seen during our afternoon drive, I saw a sixth briefly by the beach at Indigo on our return|
|Juvenile Ryukyu Flycatcher, one of two seen close together although no adults were seen with them|
|another Okinawa Rail|
|and another and no windscreen issues this time|
|Grey-tailed Tattler at Indigo|
|namiyei Ryukyu Robin|
|a stunning bird|
|male namiyei Ryukyu Robin|
|Black-naped Tern on the coast north of Ada|
|looking south from Cape Hebo|
|Indigo is halfway along the far coast|
|me at Cape Hebo|
|the bay at Cape Hebo, a giant Okinawa Rail is just visible on the left hand hillside|
|Non and Ken at Indigo|
|Ryukyu Scops Owl near Ada|
12 July. Our last morning, we were up at 04:00, packed the car and returned to the area where we had heard Japanese Scops Owl but only heard a distant Ryukyu Scops there and at one or two other places as it got light. A circuit of Terukubu-rindo and the wind turbines produced good views of 4 Okinawa Rails (most unfortunately through the windscreen) and for me 19 Ryukyu/Okinawa Robins (Nick saw more). We drove to the West Coast, seeing our best Okinawa Rail and an Okinawa Woodpecker, and south calling in at the bridge to Kouri Island. Here we had reasonable views of Roseate and Black-naped Terns before heading towards Naha and the expressway. A brief stop at the estuary by the Manco Wildfowl Centre produced another Spoonbill (unfortunately not Black-faced) and Osprey but little else. We dropped the car back at ABC, caught their shuttle bus to the airport and hung around for several hours there and then at Haneda before our comfortable flight to Paris. There after varying degrees of hanging around I flew to Heathrow and Nick to Newcastle.
|Osprey by the Manco Wildfowl Centre|
|juvenile Blue Rock Thrush on the Manco Wildfowl Centre lawn|
|Okinawa airport, note large ferry on the horizon|
|civilian and military use|
An enjoyable if rather tiring trip. Travel arrangements went much smoother than I had anticipated, thanks to Nigel Moorhouse’s expertise and a bit of internet preparation checking train timetables etc. Most signs having an English translation helped immensely as did English options on ticket machines. Birding was harder than anticipated, not helped by what felt like more than our share of adverse weather - without it we felt we might have found Grey Bunting and done better for owls but perhaps we wouldn’t have been so fortunate with Amami Thrush? Thanks to Dave Cooper and Nick Gardner for valuable pre-trip info, Nick for the usual excellent companionship and Takeyoshi (Take) and Mesako Matsuo at Lodge Furen, Mitsuo, Hiroka and Diasuke (Dice) at Edohara Pension and Non and Ken at Indigo for making us so welcome.