More Japanese Reed Buntings



I had planned a longer photography trip this weekend, specifically to look for Pleske’s Grasshopper Warbler, however the typhoon that was supposed to pass across from the Japan Sea to the Pacific Ocean promptly decided to turn itself into a depression and sit just off the western coast of Kyushu!

After a bit of procrastination, I decided to take a risk and drive overnight back to the Japanese Reed Bunting location near Mount Aso in Kumamoto prefecture.

Specifically I wanted to capture both video and audio of this species singing and/or calling, as well as try to get a photo of a male in flight.

When I arrived at dawn, things looked pretty bleak…..a thick fog had settled all over the highland area, and rain was intermittently falling. The only positive was that there was not much wind. And I had a Canon EOS 1D-X!

Firstly I set up at a meadow with lots of flowering milk thistle, but the birds were not coming close enough in the conditions to either photograph or video. A pair of Red Fox did suddenly appear in a clearing just 10 metres away, but they took off when I tried to turn the camera on them! Afterwards a Japanese Weasel came to the same clearing but skulked away when it heard me. Eurasian and Lesser Cuckoo were calling all around, and Japanese Green Pheasant were also quite active although invisible in the grassland. Black-browed Reed Warbler, Japanese Bush Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Eurasian Skylark, Meadow Bunting and Chestnut-eared Bunting made the morning chorus special, as it always is in this great location.

I decided to leave the flowering meadow and check out what was happening further along the track, as conditions were not improving and actually deteriorating somewhat. But not long down the track I spotted a nice male Japanese Reed Bunting in a meadow on the right. I had not explored this meadow before, and I soon found that this male and his mate had set up their breeding territory on it. The male didn’t seem to mind my presence at all….I slowly approached and positioned myself in the centre of the meadow, and he seemed quite happy to flitter around me, calling, feeding and chasing off other males. Many times he flew right toward me and perched quite close. As long as I didn’t make any sudden movements or sounds, he and his mate seemed not to be threatened by this human with a tripod pointing a huge lens in their direction (note that if they had seemed wary of me, I would have left the meadow immediately)

So I spent about 90 minutes just standing, watching, photographing and videoing – a very special experience and worth every bit of the effort it took to reach the location and cope with the adverse conditions. It just goes to show that weather is really no obstacle to getting out and enjoying nature, as long as you are careful and prepared. Of course, if I had only had the EOS 7D, I would not have been able to capture what I did – this is where a camera like the EOS 1D-X comes into its own. The images below have had no NR or sharpening applied, just some tweaks to levels.

Japanese Reed Bunting

John Wright

John Wright

John Wright is an Australian wildlife photographer and bird guide based in Kyushu, Japan. John became seriously engaged in nature photography while living in Japan and then Thailand. He returned to Japan in 2008 and has since concentrated on wildlife photography, especially birds. John visits Southeast Asia and Australia regularly, but usually travels within the Japanese archipelago, where he also guides visiting birders and wildlife photography enthusiasts.

John Wright

John Wright

John Wright is an Australian wildlife photographer and bird guide based in Kyushu, Japan. John became seriously engaged in nature photography while living in Japan and then Thailand. He returned to Japan in 2008 and has since concentrated on wildlife photography, especially birds. John visits Southeast Asia and Australia regularly, but usually travels within the Japanese archipelago, where he also guides visiting birders and wildlife photography enthusiasts.

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