31 October 2007

A LONG day, a mistake and some winter returnees

Just after sunrise we were at Matsumae to check out the large numbers of migrating Brown Eared Bulbuls heading south for the winter. And see them we did. Loads of them.

Several Goshawk were eyeing the Bulbuls. Lots of other common small migrants were on the move. Long tailed Rosefinch and Olive Backed Pipit being two of the more interesting. Heading back to Kikonai the autumn colours were stunning.

Kokonai had some good birds. 4 Great White Egret, more Rosefinch and Rustic Bunting, my first Dusky Thrush of the season, a lone Black Legged Kittiwake and one of those dodgy Herring type Gulls with yellow legs were with the Gull flocks, the usual common Ducks and the Whooper Swans from last month were still present.

An easy photo on an otherwise poor day for my camera. Cutest bird of the day was this Hokkaido race of Long tailed Tit.

Back at Kamiso the first Brent Goose of the winter had returned. And yesterday there were Black Necked and Red Necked Grebes offshore. A crap shot of some flying Brent Goose.

We then headed out to Onuma. maybe because I'd been up so long or maybe because I'm just an idiot I got confused by a raptor en route. It was big, obviously an Eagle. Soaring over a forest, no white tail, rather dark. I thought hold on a minute....isn't that a Golden Eagle? A rarity up here (though I think I may have seen 1 last year in central Hokkaido). I took some crappy pics and posted them on birdforum's ID section. It's a first year White Tailed Eagle. Oh the shame.

By now the brilliant light and autumn colours at Onuma were fantastic-the best I've ever seen.

Not so many birds at Onuma or perhaps I was too knackered to find them. We finished off watching the sunset..........

I need a new fridge. The motor is so loud it gives me a headache. I'm 39 years old and have never bought a fridge. Always in furnished apartments or I've had old ones given to me. Expenditure on a fridge may scupper some of my more ambitious lens purchasing schemes.

Today had a 'the last warm day just before winter' feel about it. Yuki-mushi ( a kind of white midge) were everywhere (and have been for the last week) and these are a sign winter is not far away. I wonder what kind of winter we'll get this year? Last winter was very mild but the previous one was the harshest I've ever experienced. Some of the winter stuff seems to be arriving rather early this year. Hmmmmmm........

Right. 1 beer (only), a bath and off to bed. I'm f#*ked.

28 October 2007

Another unoriginal post

Surprise surprise. More Night Heron pictures. They'll be off down south soon anyway (and then I'll be taking lots of winter Nuthatch pictures-my other staple). Only 2 showing on the river today, a subadult and an adult. This was the species that persuaded me to buy the DSLR. So I have to take lots of pics of them you see.

A Brown Dipper was beginning its' winter hols downstream near my flat. Singing too. Quite a few small birds flitting around in the bushes today. Some had to be left unidentified but a few perched out in the open for a few seconds allowing an ID. Daurian Redstarts (the beautiful males), a pair of Goldcrest and this poorly shot female (or immature?) Red Flanked Bluetail were the most interesting.

An absolutely lousy picture I know. Better than Friday at Yunokawa where I didn't get a single decent shot of anything. Lots of Rustic Buntings there and 1 boring to look at female Russet Sparrow was new to my Hakodate list (now at the dizzying heights of 178!). They're very common in summer at nearby Onuma but this ws the first I'd seen in town.

The sport just gets worse. Now not only does it look like the gloomy shadow of England's non qualification for Euro 2008 is hanging over the season but now it looks like Liverpool will be out of the Champions League by the middle of next month. I almost daren't watch the game against Arsenal tonight.

On a brighter note, NOVA, the company I used to (a long time ago now) work for has gone bankrupt. It's even made the BBC's website and the yahoo! front page. Serves them right for being so petty, sneaky and dishonest.

Music on my ipod recently has included 'private press' by DJ Shadow, 'tye-dye' and other tracks by the Tindersticks and various tracks from George Harrison's 'all things must pass' album. I downloaded a Gang of 4 compilation..............they were crap back in the early 80's and it still sounds crap now. Amazing how many crappy contemporary bands sound like them too.

I watched 'Sexy Beast' last week. A pretty good movie in which we get to see Ghandi beat up the main protagonist of 'Scum'. 'A Mighty Wind' is next up........

Struggling a bit to find any pics to post so here's one of our pet Clownfish swimming near some coral.

I got a webcam last week. Talked to my brother on yahoo messenger this morning. It's less than 1 frame per second on yahoo.......so my fat hungover face kept freezing in the most unflattering poses. Hopefully he'll get skype up and running. It's all part of my grand plan to update my 4 year old i-mac. I got more RAM in the summer, a webcam last week, a DVD burner will come next week and I may try to install a copy (ahem) of Tiger next week too. My boring life. I'm talking about computers now.

The wife will be home soon. She works at a local department store so she sometimes gets perishable food freebies at the end of the day. Last night's score included a $25 box of sushi and some tasty asparagus wrapped in pork and deep fried in breadcrumbs (it sound gross but isn't).

So let's see. Liverpool to turn the corner by beating Arsenal tonight. And then win their next 3 CL games thereby squeaking into the knock out stages. Israel to get a result against Russia. Yes that's right. OK. It'll happen.

24 October 2007

Another long walk

After a week of crappy cloudy, windy and rainy weather the sun came out again and I did the same walk as last week. The birds were largely the same en route to Mt Hakodate. I counted EIGHT Night Herons.

Rustic Buntings and a couple of male Daurian Redstart were other things of interest on the river. Not much around in the previous seven days. Arctic Warbler and a female Merlin being the best.

Mt Hakodate was still looking very autumnal.

And here's a view of the cape.

Like I said many of last week's birds (including the Grey Bunting) were still around with a couple of new arrivals. There were several Long Tailed Rosefinch and best of all an immature male Mugimaki Flycatcher. A Flycatcher with a noticeable orangey breast. A regular but scarce passage visitor to Japan, it was a lifer for me and probably the bird of the year so far. Shame I couldn't get a picture. I ID'ed it thru my pocket binoculars and then got the camera for a record shot (it was too far away for a decent shot) but off it went and I never saw it again. So here's some shots of a big toadstool and some weird triffid/flytrap type thing.

At Kamiso yesterday the duck numbers had increased markedly since my last visit.

Nothing special species-wise..........a few Scaup offshore and the first Pochard of the autumn.

Around October 24 down the years:

1983 (Oct 22). A seawatch off Freshfield produced Great Skua and later on at Marshside there were the usual waders including 2000 Red Knot. The Great Skua was well well offshore I recall. Many years later I saw them about 10 cm from my face as they divebombed me and a friend on Orkney. Later that month (Oct 30) walking down the Ribble at Penwortham I sas Black Tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank and a flock of 120 Dunlin. Nothing special about the latter but that regular winter flock of Dunlin disappeared a couple of years later.........

1992 (Oct 24). From 1991-late 1994 there are hardly any entries in my birding logbook. I was in London and not doing any birding. On this date I was back in Preston for a visit and walked down the river. Nothing of any interest except 2 Kingfishers.........the only ones I ever saw on my old local patch.

2000 (Oct 22). I climbed Mt Yotei in Niseko.

I used to smoke back then. It wasn't such a hard climb although it was pretty icy at the top I recall. The problem was we ran out of daylight on the descent and had to walk on the steep forest trail in the dark. I should never have smoked that celebratory joint at the top. I got my first ever Red Flanked Bluetail on the way down. About 30 minutes before sundown and still halfway up the mountain.

2004 (Oct 20). Mt Hakodate again. Lots of migrants..........Goshawk, Eye Browed Thrush, Red Flanked Bluetail and Japanese Robin being the pick.

2006 (Oct 22-25). We visited Shiretoko with my parents. Not much birding but I had my best Japanese nature experience.

One of five Brown Bears we saw fishing in the river. A hastily handheld digiscoping shot.............but not so bad considering. For more details click here.

So last week was a nightmare sports-wise. England aren't going to qualify for Euro 2008 (if I don't believe Israel can do it then maybe they'll go and surprise me), the rugby was predictably disappointing and I'm beginning to despair of Benitez. Dodgy or borderline refereeing was a feature in England/Liverpool games last week although Liverpool got the benefit at least............but I have to say I'm a bit jaded as far as sport goes. I don't even know if I can be arsed taping Liverpool's game in Turkey tonight.

17 October 2007

A long walk and some Australian memories

I took a longish walk this morning, from my flat to the forest at the foot of Mt Hakodate. Not so far I suppose, about 3 or 4 miles. I followed the river downstream. Some of the birds were reminiscent of riverside walks back home. Stonechat, Grey Wagtail, Common Kingfisher, Great and Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Teal, Tufted Duck, Mallard and Grey Heron. And only 2 Black Crowned Night Heron. At least 1 of them was an adult in full view striking a few different poses.

On the beach was pretty quiet. No offshore stuff yet and only a few Gulls. There were a few Herring type Gulls with the resident Slatybacks including this odd looking one.

There are usually a few of these around in winter. Darker backed than the usual Herring (Vega) Gulls and with yellow legs (which don't show so well in this picture). Heuglins or tamireynsis (sp?)? God only knows.

I didn't bother with Cape Tachi-machi as it was too crowded so I headed into the forest. Japanese Bush Warbler were by far the commonest bird........they were everywhere. The archetypal small boring brown bird.

Also in the forest were Rustic Bunting, 2 or 3 Grey Bunting (a pretty scarce bird in these parts), lots of Goldcrest alonside the resident paridae and Nuthatches, a few Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, the first female Daurian Redstart of the winter and lots of unidentified stuff flitting about.

Japanese White-eye were still very common. They seem to love this kind of berry.

A great photo opportunity was foiled due to dust on the sensor of my new compact digicam.

You can't notice it so much on this shot but there's a big spot on all the photos taken with my Fujifilm F31FD. The spot is 'hidden' on the above pic in one of the parks. I seem to be cursed when buying new compact digital cameras. The 70mm end of my main camera isn't wide enough either.........as you can see from this one.

Around October 17th down the years:

1994. In October 1994 I was in the middle of a long stay in Australia. Far North Queensland to be precise. For most of October I was staying with my uncle. He lived on a patch of land on a clearing in the rainforest on the Atherton tablelands. This is where I slept, in that bus behind me.

It was full of all kinds of creepy-crawlies which didn't bother my cousins living close by but which definitely bothered me at first. It was weird sleeping in that thing listening to the sounds of the forest at night. Crazy laughing noises, hoots, screams, snakes and marsupial rats moving around under the bus (which was ancient and not sealed against any nasty things that might come in from outside). I dealt with this by getting drunk and stoned and listening to my walkman. My uncle's Fox Terrier was there to look after me anyway (I watched it catch and kill an Eastern Brown Snake.......the third most venomous snake in the world or so I'm told).

My uncle lived nearby.........he was going through a rough time in his marriage and a nephew from England into the mix wasn't really something he needed or wanted at that time. He had a serious operation this year. Get well soon Tom.

A brief list of some of the more memorable ones would include White Breasted and Wedge Tailed Eagles among many species of raptor, Sulphir Crested Cockatoo, King Parrot, Sacred, Forest and Azure Kingfisher, Grey Headed Robin, Pale Yellow Robin, Grey Fantail, Red Backed Wren, Eastern Whipbird,Lewins and Bridled Honeyeater, Red Browed Finch and lots and lots of other stuff. Best bird of all was a Cassowary. I was strolling through the forest with the dog when suddenly man's best friend bolted off somewhere in fright. I could hear a stamping noise behind me. I turned round and faced the Cassowary at less than 10 feet. No camera of course. And off it stomped.

Not an Eastern Brown Snake I can assure you.

My other uncle (Mick) lived in a nearby village and his garden had some excellent birds. In amongst all the Cuckoo Shrikes, Lorikeets and Honeyeaters I also saw Crested Hawk and Metallic Starling. It was a great place. The nearby Lake Tinaroo was fantastic for bird too. Plus there was a pub in the village.

Sadly my uncle passed away last year and my aunt is currently recuperating from a serious operation. Get well soon Janet.

I could write lots more about my time on the Atherton Tablelands but I don't want to bore the handful of regular readers to this blog more than I do normally.

Right. C'mon England in Moscow.

{Edited to add. Oh dear oh dear. Gerard missed a absolute sitter and the Russian penalty was outside the box. And I thought we'd turned a corner this season. I really did. The annoying thing is that Russia are actually pretty crap (but mind you what does that say about England?) and if England hadn't dropped silly points against Macedonia we'd still be in the driving seat. The last time I felt like this was in October 1993 when Holland knocked us out of the WC qualifiers...............for only the 3rd time since I started watching football almost 30 years ago there'll be a tournanment without England.

Bye bye Steve McClaren and hello someone else. Jesus wept but Gerard had a stinker. And did Owen touch the ball? A bit difficult when the defence was booting it upfield at Heskey to knock down. Oh wait a minute............

F*#king hell. Russia willl win in Israel and even if they don't I can't see us doing Croatia.

Well that opens my schedule for June 2008 at least. No late nights watching England struggle against all and sundry yet again. And England fans won't disgrace themselves in genteel Alpline villlages.}

16 October 2007

Mellow autumnal week Part 2

Autumn is my favourite season in Hokkaido. Not hot anymore but not cold yet either. Usually clear but this afternoon there was one big bad hail and thunderstorm when we were heading home from a drive up north. Thank the lord we'd given up on the idea of camping.

We started the day off at Yakumo. The above Dunlin and Glaucous Winged Gull were 2 of the birds I saw there. Also around were Greenshank, another 6 species of gull including Glaucous, Common and Herring Gulls (all winter visitors). Other stuff on the move included lots of ducks (including the first Goldeneye of the autumn), a female Merlin and a couple of Osprey.

We drove north towards Niseko to a foul smelling hot spring area in the mountains. You don't need a map. Just wind down the window and follow your nose.

Nice autumn colours nearby if you could ignore the desire to gag on the smell of sulphur.

After yesterday's tame fox at Onuma we had no less than FOUR of them begging around the car. Must have been a family. The vixen was presumably teaching the cubs to beg for free handouts. Reminded me of when I was a social worker in Hackney.

These pictures are just too easy.

The autumn colours near Niseko were beautiful. Whole mountainsides cloaked in reds and yellows.................I have a camera full of lousy pictures to show for my efforts. Errr.......difficult light conditions you see and just a crappy kit lens don't you know. A fast wide angle lens is now #4 on the list of lens I'll buy one day.

15 October 2007

Mellow autumnal week

A Red Fox at Onuma this afternoon.

The mellow autumn weather continues in South Hokkaido. No bird pics today. Not much around birdwise the last few days in Hakodate. Just the common Ducks, a few Rustic Bunting, the last straggling Night Herons. Beautiful clear weather though.

Just the common woodland stuff at Onuma. Lots of Thrushes hiding in the undergrowth (Pale Thrush I think) plus a couple of Black Woodpecker glimpsed in the distance. We'd planned to go camping this week but decided it was too cold. And it seemed pretty darn chilly at sunset.

The fox was the only decent wildlife subject from the last few days. Unless you count this.

Is this a Salmon? It was in the small crappy river near my flat. Every autumn a few Salmon (I think) make their way up the nearby concreted stream. Are they (re)colonising? Are they just stupid? What gives?

At Moheji and Menagawa recently there have been a few Salmon but not so many. Maybe it's a bit early. Shame that after all the hassle they have to make it to these rivers in Hokkaido they all end up like this.

At Yakumo in early winter there are thousands and thousands of rotting Salmon corpses which provide food for the Eagles........

So England are in the RUWC final. Amazing. Although some people think they don't deserve to be there. I'm not really a rugby person but I know that points on the board at the end of the game is where it's at not style.

Let's hope there's no f#*k-up in Moscow on Wednesday night.
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