February 9th, 2020 Last week I was walking around a small lake called Yamagami, when I met a group of very small birds called Gold Crest, Kiku-itadaki. They are the smallest birds in Japan, weighing in at only 5 grams, (the weight of a nickel, or five 1 yen coins). The call of the Gold Crest is also quite high and tiny, and some older ears are unable to hear it.
courtesy of Xeno Canto / Lars Erlenius
This tiny bird, along with two other species in this post, the Long-tailed Rose Finch and the Red-flanked Bluetail, are migratory species that were passing through. I am not sure whether they were headed north or south, as global warming is altering the migratory movements of many species as their flora/fauna food source ranges are changing.
The Gold Crest feeds almost exclusively on small insects, usually on the outer fringes of conifers and other trees, but will come down to the ground on occasion as in the photo above. When exhausted during migration, they are less wary of their surroundings and sometimes alight upon people while foraging to replace body fat reserves. During migration, these miniature dynamos are able to fly in excess of 600 kilometers nonstop as they cross bodies of open water. Not all of them make it across, and large numbers have on occasion, been found in the stomachs of sharks.
Both the Long-tailed Rose Finch and the Red-flanked Bluetail migrate from Eastern Eurasia and Hokkaido south to Honshu and southeast Asia respectively. On the way, they pass through all of Japan, so every year I check out Yamagami Dam where they always seem to stop for a break. The Rose Finch eats the seeds off of grass stems, and the Bluetail, being a member of the flycatcher family, seems to find enough insects even in February hidden under and within the bark and twigs. I have also noticed them catching small flying insects when the sun is out warming them enough to make them active. Long-tailed Rose Finch
courtesy of Xeno Canto/Frank Lambert
Red-flanked Bluetail courtesy of Xeno Canto/Peter Boesman
This location has become quite popular to local birders and photographers. Just in the past 5 years, I have noticed a 50% increase in their numbers here and in many other places. What do you get if you combine fascinating birds, the great outdoors, digital cameras, the internet, and friends? Why, one of the fastest growing past times throughout the world; bird photography.
A group of White-eyes were also interspersed among the other species in this popular patch of weeds and bushes. Watching their varied techniques as they foraged was interesting. See how they use their beaks to pry open seed pods. Thanks for visiting!