A pretty quiet (carless) week. The weather feels more like late March than early February. Most of my birding has been done on the river near my apartment.A female Merlin chasing a flock of Japanese and Bohemian Waxwing was the most dramatic sighting. The Waxwings have stuck around for a couple of weeks now (if it's the same flock). Other birds I got were Brown Dipper, Japanese Wagtail, Sparrowhawk, Varied Tit, Bullfinch, Hawfinch, Pochard and other common Ducks, lots of Dusky Thrush, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Daurian Redstart plus the usual stuff present in winter. I was looking for Common Crossbill and Yellow Throated Bunting which are sometimes present at this time of year but I couldn't find any.
I walked down to Cape Tachi-Machi on Wednesday. This is a windswept Cape jutting out into the Tsugaru Straits and pretty much the southernmost point in Hokkaido (actually it isn't but anyway...). Here's a pic to give you an idea.
You can't really make it out on this pic but there are lots of Cormorants on those rocks (Temincks and Pelagic Cormorants) and many were coming into summer plumage. Not much else on the sea at all depite the fact it was calm and clear. Brent Goose, Red Breasted Merganser, Goldeneye and Glaucous Winged Gull were in the nearby harbour. The Cape is at the foot of Mt Hakodate. The forest that covers this modest hill is great for birds (especially in spring and autumn) but it's usually snow and ice-bound in winter. Not so this year. I walked around the foot of the mountain and although the forest was a little quiet I got Siskin, Nuthatch, Japanese Pygmy and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest and Willow Tit.
Apologies if the following doesn't make much sense. The photos are crappy. No digiscoping-just taken with the point and shoot compact and heavily cropped and zoomed.
One confusing thing from the week was Gulls on the local river about 20 minutes walk from my apartment. This one is a Thayers Gull. Larger white-headed Gulls have been split into many many subspecies over the last dozen or so years and the whole situation is very confusing. Note the thin bill, blackish eye and "dainty" appearance. In flight its wingtips show very little black. It's basically a small "Herring" type Gull from the north Pacific that is rather scarce in Japan in winter. The actual normal "Herring" Gulls here are reckoned by some to be a separate species in their own right and go by the name of Vega Gull and are common winter visitors. There were several Vega Gulls around among the resident Slaty Backed Gulls and the thing that struck me when I was watching them is that they are so variable anyway. One had very similar size/shape to the Thayers Gull but had the "fierce" yellow eye and black wingtips in flight of the Vega (or Herring) Gull.
This one I'm not sure about. I put it on birdforum and kantori to get some expert opinion. I suggested it may be a Heuglins Gull (another Asian Gull that used to be considered a subspecies of something else-Herring again perhaps or was it Lesser Black Backed or Yellow Legged Gull? God knows). The consensus seemed to be it was a taimyrensis type. That means it may be a race of Heuglins Gull (which may or may not be a separate species) or it may be a hybrid of Vega/Heuglins or...........anyway it has yellow legs so it's probably not one of the regular Vega (Herring) Gulls.
I wrote the above partially to make sense of it to myself but I'm just as confused as ever.
I watched "Children of Men" and "V for Vendetta" last week. I like these depressing dystopian movies (and books). It makes the real world seem not so bad after all. Children of Men was the better movie. Those scenes in London of the shabby people, crappy cars, garbage strewn streets, non English speaking refugees, morons chucking bricks at public transport and the general feeling of hopelessness took me back to my early 20's. I was a Social Worker in Hackney in the early 90's and all the elements I just mentioned were present every time I beat the streets.
Around Feb 11th down the years:
1983 (Feb 13th). Marshside. Short Eared Owl, Merlin, Hen Harrier and "lots of Geese and Ducks".
1986 (Feb 12th) I walked down to Longton Marsh on the Ribble Estuary. The weather in my notebook was "bloody cold". Not much. 20 Whooper Swan, 114 Golden Plover.
1987 (Feb 12th). A LAUGHING GULL at Newcastle. I went to the University for an open day before my A-levels and picked this (at the time) great rarity up behind the Hospital. I recall thinking what a dump the area was (Fenham). I actually ended up living there 18 months later.
1995 (Feb ?) On Feb 11th I was on Ko Phan Ngan recovering from Dengue Fever. I'm, sure this was retribution for all the dope I'd been smoking. Can't remember any birds....a kind of Bee-eater perhaps. The 90's were a bit of a black hole in my life. I had been on a hike the previous week and I'm sure that's where the little bast#*d mosquito got me). This is a pic from that very same hike.
1999 (Feb 12th) A walk down the Ribble at Penwortham. Moorhen, Wigeon, Grey Partridge, Redshank, Curlew.
2004 (Feb 11th). Hakodate. Black Scoter, Peregrine, Buzzard, Brent Goose, Hawfinch and Long Tailed Rosefinch.
I didn't do much birding/take notes for various periods especially from my University/London years and my later travelling years. I could have got a huge list from all the exotic places I went to but most of the time I didn't even have binoculars let alone a field guide or I was stoned lying on the beach or in some fleapit "hotel".