29 August 2007

Wader season continues

The wader passage continues. It seems to be a rather good one this year too. At Yakumo I went to a small brackish tidal lagoon to check for waders. There were 3 Terek Sandpiper (see pic above), 3 or 4 Common Greenshank, 2 Black Tailed Godwit and 1 Green Sandpiper (a Japanese first for me). Best of all was a Broad Billed Sandpiper which took me a while to ID (it was a lifer). Fishing Common Kingfisher and Osprey, migrating Sand Martin, a hunting Peregrine and the common passerines such as Black Browed Reed Warbler(now very skulking) kept me entertained whilst I waited for the Broadbilled to come near enough for a decent shot (it never did).

At the river mouth was a flock of Dunlin and Red Necked Stint, a few Common Sandpiper, 2 Whimbrel and 2 Eastern Curlew. Strangest of all were 2 Spotted Nutcracker. I've seen these high up in the Bavarian Alps and in the mountains of central Hokkaido but here they were at sea level at a river mouth. Here's a lousy record shot.

And here are 2 very poor record shots of the Broadbilled Sandpiper. They at least show the head pattern.

Flocks of Japanese Green Pigeon flying down to the coast to drink were the highlight of the drive home. Not a vintage day for photos so we ended up back at Kamiso. Still a few Red Necked Stints about.

The juvenile Night Heron flew off before I could talk a picture, the main bird of any interest was the first lone Eurasian Wigeon of the autumn.

28 August 2007

Err.............more Stints.

This is getting a little repetitive.

The Red Necked Stints were still around at Kamiso. 20-30 today along with a Dunlin and Terek Sandpiper. Better pics than yesterday.

Like the Nuthatches in winter an easy photo chance isn't to be spurned.

Nowt else going on.

I had hundreds of shots of Stints to sift through and now I have a headache. So I've cracked open a cold beer.

Around August 28 down the years:

1982 (August 28). My first ever birding jaunt down the Ribble in Penwortham. Wow. Green Sandpiper, Curlew, Dunlin , Ringed Plover, Wheatear and Rock Pipit..........all these great birds within walking distance from my house. I was only 13.

1983 (end August). The grand total of 120 Ringed Plover on the Ribble at Penwortham.

1985 (August 28). Ribble again. 15 (!) Wheatear, 1 Little Owl, 1 Egyptian Goose, various waders including Greenshank, Stock Dove..........

1986 (August 23) Marshside. Wood Sandpiper, Hobby plus Marsh Harrier at Martinmere.

1988 (August 29) Seaforth/Frodsham. Little Gull, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint.......

1990 (August 23) Walney/Leighton Moss. Greenshank, Eider, Little Stint.......

1994 (August 28). In the space of one week I went from this

to this

I quit my job as social worker in Hackney and went to North Queensland for a while. I stayed with 2 of my uncles at first. It was a strange week. The journey was epic. I left Preston on a Friday afternoon and took the train down to London where I called in on a friend for a joint and then got a taxi to Heathrow. I had a few beers at the airport bar and lots of gin and tonics on the plane and arrived at the old Hong Kong airport on Saturday night local time. I hit the bar (I had a 5 hour wait) and ended up talking to an Englishman who was going to Australia to marry his niece. More beers on the Hong Kong to Cairns flight followed and I arrived in Australia at 7am on a Sunday morning blind drunk. The first thing that struck me was that the immigration officers were wearing shorts.

The first birds I remember seeing were a group of Caspian Terns in the centre of a roundabout in Cairns. At my uncle's house there were all sorts of amazing birds in the garden........honeyeaters, lorikeets...........my uncle (rest in peace) then took me out to get really drunk at the local pub. Australians are supposed to be so so macho but why do they drink such tiny glasses of beer? My uncle (who was born English) declined to answer.

The first week was fantastic. I recall sitting in a chair on a balcony getting drunk and stoned and counting 8 species of raptor in the skies. Then I had a jacuzzi. I also visited the Daintree river and got all the Herons and stuff you would expect although my main memory of the day was the Australian Bee-eaters. And the huge buffet in Cairns afterwards.

1996 (August 30). Another big change in my life. I moved to Munich. Little photographic evidence survives of my time there. Here's proof I was in fact resident there when I visited immigration a couple of weeks later. I don't look like this anymore.

Birds? The first 2 weeks I was boarding with a family in Deisenhofen, a quaint satellite town of Munich about 40 minutes way by train. Lots of nice Bavarian houses but the town was dull as ditchwater. Lots of Black Redstarts though.

2002 (Aug 25). Visited an old friend in Devon/Cornwall. Stonechat, Fulmar Peregrine, lots of Little Egret and Cettis Warbler...........

2006 (Aug 25) Black Throated Diver at Kamiso. A few days later there was a Great Knot on the nearby beach.

27 August 2007

Stints. Lots of them.

We went down to the beach at Kamiso this afternoon. A cloudy humid Monday meant no jetskiers thank god. There were about a dozen or so Red Necked Stint. My wife and I took turns taking pictures (they were quite tame) and I'm sorry to say my wife's pictures were better than mine. Of course where she was taking pictures had better lighting and she was closer blah blah blah.

Not much else around. A couple of Night Heron and a Peregrine yesterday. 4 Goosander and a family of Chestnut Eared Bunting today. Although waders are passing through already the main migration time is generally October. Still, the Stints are pretty cute at least.

Man Utd were pretty lucky last night. Liverpool looking good. I'm dreading the England Euro qualifying games coming up. Just can't see them winning both games (which they have to of course). I mean.............just where are the decent strikers and goalkeeper? I hope they can convert Micah Richards to an all action centre forward to save us from the inevitable recall of Emile Heskey.

The Stints appear every autumn near Hakodate in small groups on little tucked away corners on the coast. they're the 'default' small wader here rather like Dunlin is in the UK.

In amongst the Red Necked Stints was a lone Sanderling.

I remember the first one of these I saw of these. 1981 perhaps. Blackpool beach near North Pier. I went back to my great aunt's house (I would have been 12 at the time) and consulted her Hamlyn Guide and got a firm ID. Seen loads of them since of course but they're not so common in Hokkaido.

24 August 2007

Waders, Foxes and Bugs.

This will be a long post. You have been warned.

A Red Necked Stint at Mukawa on Wednesday. I just got back bfrom a 2 night camping trip in Hidaka in central Hokkaido. We started off on Wednesday morning at Kamiso. 2 Bar Tailed Godwit, 2 Red Necked Stint and a Kingfisher were present. Heading northeast we stopped at Shiraoi for a break. Osprey, Eastern Marsh Harrier and lots of hirundines/Pacific Swifts were on the move. We also saw a Magpie near Tomakomai on the way back.

Anyone who has driven (or been driven) in this part of the world will remember this huge bear and crab atop a seafood etc souvenir emporium. And inside you can get bearmeat curry.

Don't fancy that? How about a seal curry? Mmmmmmmmm. Taste that spicy blubber.

And so on to Mukawa. We stopped off here both ways. The freshwater pools have almost all been drained leaving only a few puddles. It was very hot and bright both days and it was hard work finding any waders but there were some about. 10 or so Red Necked Stint, 5 or 6 Wood Sandpiper, 2 Whimbrel, 2 Eastern Curlew, 1 Grey Tailed Tattler, 1 Curlew Sandpiper, 1 Pacific Golden Plover, 1 unidentified snipe species (probably Lathams) and 2 Little Ringed (?) Plovers. There was another Harrier here and an immature Goshawk. The birds were pretty skittish and I got some lousy flight shots only.

We camped near Hidaka. Hawfinch, Eurasian Jay and Japanese Grosbeak were the most interesting birds around. There were however lots of bugs.

We spent a day up at Furano and Biei. These are very popular spots for Japanese tourist to, basically, come and look at trees in fields. There are sometimes flowers or lone trees standing in the middle of said fields. Coachloads of J-folk come and gawk. Souvenir stands blasting piped muzak pollute the ambience even more. The famous trees in question feature in Japanese tobacco advertising. Trees in fields. Great.

Furano is also famous for melons and lavender (and flowers generally). The lavender had gone but there were still lots of flowers which attracted lots of butterflies. Dunno what this one was (Blue Swallowtail?) but it wouldn't stay still.

And here's a other kind of Swallowtail.

A decent macro lens is on the list (about #6) of things to get. I didn't need a macro lens for this Red Fox which was hanging out on the road in the mountains.

The most numerous wildlife on the trip was this king of dragonfly. They were everywhere. We went over a mountain pass that was over 3000 feet up and they were abundant there too. There must be literally millions of them.

Listened to the ipod a lot in the car. Frank Black (lots of random tracks) , Neil Young (Decade) and The Stranglers (Rattus Norvegicus) were my faves this time round. Missed England v Germany (can't believe I didn't give a toss about the result in that game) but after the Liverpool v Chelsea travesty I needed a break from football anyway.

15 August 2007

Heat, Herons and Shelob.

A Grey Heron and a juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron.

There are always a few Heron species around from late summer. And they're usually pretty jumpy. By the time you've got your camera up and ready they've already taken off. I'll never make a decent photographer. For flight shots I need a high shutter speed but my camera settings are always preset on the expectation birds will be relatively stationary. By the time I remember I need to switch from aperture mode to shutter mode they're flapping towards the horizon.

Over at Kamiso the wader passage has begun and the first Black Headed Gulls since spring appeared. 1 Bar Tailed Godwit (a local tick) and 3 Terek Sandpiper were close enough to ID but too far for a picture. We went back the next day but the jetskiers were out in force and there were no interesting birds about.

It's been really hot the last few days. 32-34 degrees celsius. Not that hot compared to many other places in the world but hot to the likes of me. Not much birding then. This little monster was hiding under the railing next to the river.

Still haven't quite worked out the 'macro' function on my cheap lens. Bits are always out of focus. It looks like it's preparing to spring on its prey like Shelob onto Frodo but actually it was upside down hanging quietly off the rail. It was flipped over in photoshop.

I watched the opening weekend of the footy season online. Not bad considering my low spec antique PC. I watched all the salient action but missed Gerard's goal live due to buffering. I sorted out my settings the next day and then Sky announced that they are showing the Premier League after all. Only a week late.

Around August 15 down the years:

1984 (Aug 17/20). Ribble near Penwortham. Wader passage underway. 11 species in all including 300 Golden Plover, 200 Dunlin, also Ruff, Greenshank and Spotted Redshank. Passerines on the move included Winchat, Lesser Whitethroat and Wheatear.

1986. (Aug 17). More waders at Penwortham including Little Stint and Black Tailed Godwit, 1 Peregrine and 30 Shoveler were also present.

1987 (multiple visits). 5 or 6 trips up the Ribble. This was the time of my A level results and I thought it may have been the last summer in Preston for a long time. Not quite true though I've only been back a handful of times in August since. As above lots of waders.

1995 (Aug?). The hottest summer I can recall in England. I visited a friend in Worcestershire and god it was hot. Is it hot everywhere I go in mid August? Here's a pic of me and a friend in England's yellow and pleasant land in 1995.

1997 (Aug ?) My only ever visit to Italy. 2 or 3 days in Florence (by train from Munich. My Italian list is zero. I may have seen Pigeons. A 3 day drinking binge in the burning heat of a Tuscan summer sounds a lot more exciting than the reality. Here's a pic of me looking dazed and confused in Innsbruck en route to Italy. My travelling companion gave me this several years later and is the only picture I have of the whole trip.

1998 (Aug?) A camping trip to the Austrian Alps and another very hot weekend. An idyllic weekend sleeping under the stars up in the mountains getting stoned, eating salami and cheese, drinking cheap red wine and watching shooting stars. I left Munich a few days later and turned 30 a month or so later. Like the Italy trip no photos survived (I lost them all in the move back to England). This really felt like it was the end of something (my youth I suppose) I can't recall any birds from this specific weekend although I remember hearing Marmots. Lots of them. And you know those Alpine cows with those tinkling bells? Annoying when you're trying to sleep. And one of them tried to eat my shorts too.

2001 (Aug 18) 4 Red Necked Stint in a tiny sewage outlet in front of a pachinko parlour in Hakodate.

2002 (Aug 16). A long visit back to the UK with my wife. Nowhere near as many waders as on the 80's. Only 5 or 6 species. Grennshank was the most noteworthy.

2003 (Aug 14) Hobby flying s over Hakodate.
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