26 September 2007

Autumn approaching

The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting cooler. The leaves haven't changed colour yet but the vegetation is starting to thin out a bit. There's still plenty of places for autumn migrants to hide in though. The 2 most common migrants this year seem to be Siberian Stonechat (above) and Black Crowned Night Heron (below). All over the place.

Other migrants in Hakodate tend to be skulking around and hard to ID. An Arctic Warbler was in the bushes next to my apartment a few days ago and there have been several Asian Brown Flycatchers and lots of dull greenish/brownish things flitting about that are probably warblers or flycatchers of some description. Since I got the DSLR the binoculars often stay at home when I go for a walk in town.

The ducks have started to reurn to Hakodate. Pintail, Wigeon, Teal, Goosander, Mallard and Tufted Duck have all been at Kamiso and today there were also 3 Scaup. The Glaucous Winged Gull was still present.

We went to Onuma this afternoon. The common woodland species were much in evidence. Marsh and Varied Tit, Nuthatch, Japanese and Greater Spotted Woodpecker plus lots of Japanese Grosbeak and a few Japanese Green Pigeon. Coot, Moorhen and Little Grebe were still on the lake. And lots of turtles too.

Tragedy struck at the weekend. This cute little critter went to the great fishtank in the sky.

It was a kind of pufferfish that cost about $30 and stayed alive in our fishtank precisely 48 hours. The Clownfish has had no problems..............fingers crossed.

Lots of nice clear weather the last few days.

Autumn is usually the nicest season around these here parts. I prefer spring in England to Japan but October here is much nicer than back home. The locals do bang on a bit about Japan's 4 seasons as though fall colours are somehow unique to Japan but I'll concede they do have nice autumns. The Salmon runs will start soon and the peak migration season will be upon us in a week or 2. And the old lady downstairs sells us lots and lots of cheap beans.

Just into Season 5 of the Sopranos. This week I downloaded 'Coogan's run' and 'Catterick'-2 series I missed from the UK. I also downloaded an Ian Dury album. 'New Boots and Panties'. My aunt actually taped me this in 1979 (with 'Outlandos d'amour' or whatever it was called on the other side). I'd forgotten what a good album it was. Mt aunt also omitted a track, 'Plaistow Patricia', to protect a 10 year old from hearing the 'c word'. Now after all these years I have to say she left the best song from the album off the tape. Though 'clever Trevor' has stood the test of time just as well.

20 September 2007

19 Night Herons and some early winter vistors

Lots of Herons around in Hakodate this week. Not only quite a few Grey Heron but loads of Black Crowned Night Heron.

There were 4 or 5 of various ages on the river near my flay whilst over at Kamiso there were 19 individuals. Mainly juveniles with a few adults.

Other migrants passing through included Pacific Swift, 3 species of hirundine, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Arctic Warbler and Grey Tailed Tattler.

There were a dew duck around too. The first Tufted Duck and Pintail of the autumn in Hakodate (though there were lots of them last week in Yakumo). And on the beach there was this rather raggedy looking adult Glaucous Winged Gull. A common enough winter visitor to these parts but this is the earliest I've seen this species in Hokkaido.

We went to Kikonai this afternoon and there were some more wintry birds. One of a pair.

I'd actually seen these Whooper Swans last week. Dunno if they'd been here all summer or had just arrived.

So it's my 39thn birthday today. I went out eating and boozing last night. After me and the wife had left my friend apparently got accosted by a very drunk aggressive Russian claiming to be a Russian 'mafia'. After last week's gangster incident I have to say Hakodate is turning into a Japanese version of the Bronx. Kind of. Er actually not at all. But at least it gives me a ready made retort to those Japanese who bang on how safe Japan is compared to the rest of the world.

Around September 20 down the years:

1983 (Sep 17). 17 Little Stint on the Ribble at Penwortham.

1984 (Sep 22). Got chased off Longton Marsh by the farmer. Managed to see a Little Stint and Little Gull mind you. In the afternoon we went to Leighton Moss and saw...............almost nothing worth mentioning. I seem to recall many dull days there when I was a kid but it definitely gets good stuff these days at least.

1985 (Sep 22). 21 Curlew Sandpiper, 2 Little Stint and 14 Knot were the pick of the waders on the Ribble.

1987 (Sep 22?). I left home and started University at Newcastle upon Tyne.

I can't believe this was 20 years ago. Oh so freshfaced with my life all ahead of me. I have rather hazy memories of my first term. I certainly didn't do any birding for the first couple of months. I lived in Longbenton in student accomodation for my first year..................god I can even remember the Whitley Tavern and drinking pint after pint of Vaux.

1988 (Sep 18). 3 Siskin at Penwortham. Never saw so many of these in England compared to Japan.

1995 (Sep 20). Ribble yet again. I had wound up back in Penwortham and was actually on the dole for a while. And on this date (my 27th birthday no less) I saw the only real 'rarity' I ever got on my old local patch. A male Ferruginous Duck.

1998 (Sep 20). My 30th birthday was spent on the plane to Thailand. The start of a 3 month trip around Asia. In the evening I spent a pleasant evening with my then girlfriend on one of those riverboats in Bangkok. The next day (the 22nd?) we went to Ayuthaya. A bit hazy on the birds we saw. Lots of egrets and storks from the train, Magpie Robin, Pied Fantail, a few unidentified Swifts and Drongoes, Common and White Vented Mynah. I didn't have a decent fieldguide and anyway I'm always a bit out of my depth with these tropical bird species.

2000 (Sep 24). Utonai-ko near Tomakomai Hokkaido. Falcated Teal and White Fronted Goose were the 2 most noteworthy species.

2001 (Sep 20). Niseko. We climbed Mt Yotei and slept in the mountain hut at the top. It was so cold at night. Yotei is about 1800 metres high and the first snow of th season chose to fall that same night. Lots of Japanese Accentor at the top. Here's a pic from a warm up hike a couple of days before.

2004 (Sep 22) Asian Brown, Sooty and Grey Streaked Flycatcher all present on the river near my flat in Hakodate.

2006 (Sep 22-23). Mukawa. My first vist here produced Grey Plover, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Greenshank, Goshawk whilst over at Utonai-ko there were Bean Geese and lots of Swans.

So Jose has quit Chelsea, England are equally crap at both 20/20 cricket and Rugby Union and Liverpool's momentum has stalled after the international break. I'm on season 4 of the Sopranos and tomorrow we buy the clownfish. My old company from many years ago(the great satan that is NOVA) appears to be biting the dust. Ha!

16 September 2007


Haven't really gotten the hang of taking pics of birds against the sky yet.

2 of over 100 Oriental Honey Buzzard flying south a couple of days ago. Mo-san (his blog is linked on the right) drove me (up a very rough road) to the top of a mountain near Matsumae overlooking the Tsugaru straits. It's a well known spot for observing raptor migration. Oriental Honey Buzzard was the most numerous (by far) of the 8 raptor species. The 3 accipter species were also around as were a few Common Buzzard as well as the resident Peregrines, Black Kites and lots of Osprey on the drive. Stonechats were abundant and other smaller migrants on the move were lots of Black Faced Buntings and Pacific Swifts.

Earlier in the week I went to Yakumo with Tony and Megumi (2 very nice people who read this blog and live in London). We spent a pleasant day around the rivermouth at Yakumo although the birding wasn't as good as the previous week. Lots of common migrant Ducks, a few waders (including 9 Eastern Curlew and 4 Greenshank), 1 or 2 Common Kingfisher, Osprey etc.Here's a pic of some of the Teal.

We finished the day at Onuma. Hopefully we can show Megumi the Eagles next winter.

I had a quick walk down the local river today. Not much about..........Asian Brown Flycatcher was the most interesting species. Lots of bugs including this boring white butterfly.

Who'd have thought it? Two 3-0 victories were not what I'd been expecting. Maybe England will qualify for Euro 2008 after all. Maybe Heskey should rescue the Rugby team (but don't ever trust him with conversions/penalties).

An amphetamine fuelled gun toting 'gangster' from Honshu out whooping it up after a successful drug deal in Sapporo decided it would be fun to steal a car and frighten the local populace. He fired at the local fuzz who fired back and killed him. Who said Hakodate was a boring town where nothing ever happens?

Thanks for the rides/lunches this week to Tony/Megumi and Mo-san.

11 September 2007

Things moving..........a little

One of many Stonechats passing through Hakodate this afternoon. Also on the move were Grey Wagtail, both species of Starling and an unidentified Cuckoo species. A different Night Heron (a subadult by the looks of it) was around today. Slightly more co-operative than its' younger relative last week but it too decided to play hide and seek later.

This is my new 'hobby'.

A tiny 16 litre salt water aquarium. It has 2 turbo snails (it had 3 but one died). And another one looks like it's dying), 2 hermit crabs (in rude health) and 3 Florida Fighting Conch (a rather silly looking snail type thing with a stranger hoover-like nose). The fish come later when the nitrogen cycle is complete..........

Around September 11th down the years:

1983 (Sept 11). Ribble at Penwortham. Black Tern, 8 Little Stint and Green Sandpiper.

1990 (Sept ?). Ilford. I moved down to London and rented a house near Rdebridge tube station. Middle of nowhere London-wise. Only one pub. And that was a ghastly beefeater type place where we saw a huge punch up between the local whites and Asians the first time we entered. Wanstead Park was near the house. I saw only my second ever Lesser Spotted Woodpecker there. I wasn't much into birding at that time in my life. Might have been an ok local patch.

1995 (Sept 11-14). I was on the dole and wemt up the river Ribble four out of four days.Not much except Little Stint and lots and lots of Curlew and strangely 1 lone Pinkfooted Goose.

2002 (Sept 11-17). Malaysia. We stayed on Tioman Island on the way back to Japan. 1 year to the day after the terrorist attacks I recall. I didn't do any research about Malaysia and we turned up at the domestic airport in KL and ended up on a $70 flight to Tioman. No accomodation booked so when we arrived we asked around and were taken by boat to a small 'resort'. It was pretty basic and though it had a nice beach it didn't sell alcohol. Impossible to take our custom elsewhere. Malaysia=Thailand minus the fun.

Nice enough place however. Birds? Don't remember too clearly. Sooty Tern, Eastern Reef Egret, White Bellied Sea Eagle, Pacific Swallow.........and some other commmon local stuff.

2003 (Sep 11). Hakodate. Striated Heron was a surprise on the local river. Also lots of Asian Brown Flycatcher..........

2004 (Sep 11). Hobby over my apartment and 10 muscipia (dunno if I spelt that correctly) Flycatchers, both Asian Brown and Sooty. These have been much scarcer the last 2 or 3 autumns.

2005 (Sep 11) Yakumo. Flocks of Black Tailed Godwit, 10 Greenshank, 1 Spotted Redshank as well as Great White Egret and Mandarin Duck.

2006 (Sep 12) Hakodate. Whimbrel, Grey Tailed Tattler, Terek Sandpiper, Red Necked Stint and Mandarin Duck.

So hopefully England can win at Wembley tomorrow..........I'll be getting up at 4 to watch it on an internet feed with Chinese commentary.

I've given up any hopes for England doing anything in the Rugby World Cup. Bunch of toffs anyway. Can I support Ireland? My mum's maiden name is 100% Irish and 5 or 6 generations ago my family were some kind of oppressed serfs dreaming of emigrating to the bright lights of Chorley.

Or how about Wales? My surname is definitely Welsh although to my knowledge any family connection to Wales is even more tenuous than to Ireland.

Absolutely zero connection to New Zealand I'm sorry to say.

9 September 2007


A nervous Cormorant that had just evacuated its' bowels.

September is typhoon season in this part of the world. A couple of days ago a typhoon (that was already fizzling out) hit south Hokkaido. High winds, lots of rain. Lots of bedraggled looking Gulls standing among the flotsam and jetsam on the beaches. Just before the typhoon hit the Bar Tailed Godwit was still around as was a lone Terek Sandpiper and yet another group of Red Necked Stints (apparently this year is seeing very high numbers of this species throughout Japan).

Not much else going on in Hakodate. Some White Rumped Swifts passed over yesterday and I tried unsuccessfully to get shots of 2 separate Black Crowned Night Herons.

The above bird was sitting motionless in a tree next to the local river. Over at Kamiso the same species was standing in a photogenic pose but flew off as soon as I raised the camera to my eyes.

Nice result for England last night. 3-0. At one stage I had the cricket, rugby and football going on 1 TV and 2 computers in 2 separate rooms.

I bought a small saltwater tropical fish tank on Thursday. We have to wait 10 days before we put any actual fish in it (my wife has already decided which. Clownfish). We got a few snails and hermit crabs..........one snail died immediately and the hermit crabs started eating it which caused a hysterical outburst from my wife who is sensitive to such matters.

My last post inspired someone to attach not one but two comments. They seemed to have been offended by the fact I made tongue in cheek comments about locals in northwestern Scotland staring at strangers (they did) and there being lots of drunks in Glasgow bus station (there were). Oh and he called me an a**hole too. Which may well be true of course but for someone to write rather abusive comments on a birdwatching blog read by about only 25 people a day about flippant comments written by a nobody in Japan about events that happened 16 years ago............the mind boggles. I deleted the sentences that raised this person's ire anyway (as well as his/her comments). And I'll have to moderate comments in the future. Kind of pathetic on a crappy little blog like this but hey.

Unless it was someone who knows me taking the p*ss....................

3 September 2007

Godwit and grey skies

A Bar Tailed Godwit at Kamiso yesterday. Very grey skies, wet weather and high winds have reduced birding over the last few days. The Godwit was the main thing of interest at Kamiso, there was a lone Red Necked Stint and a few Common Sandpiper too. Not a great day for pictures. This was my favourite, the Bar Tailed Godwit hanging around with a couple of Gulls.

I hadn't seen this species in Japan until last spring and now I can't stop seeing them. They're everywhere. This was my 4th or 5th sighting in Hakodate this autumn.

Elsewhere not much. Hawfinch, an unidentified phylloscopus warbler flitting in and out of the bushes, a few Grey Herons. That's about it.

Lots of these yellow Butterflies about a few days ago when it was still sunny.

I made a joke about Emile Heskey being recalled to the England squad a couple of posts ago. I didn't know Steve Mclaren was a reader. Hey Steve-I was only joking.

Here's some more odd Japanese English above an ATM.

Around September 3 down the years:

1983 (Sept 3) Ribble at Penwortham. Peregrine, Black Tailed Godwit and Greenshank.

1984 (Sept 8). Also on the Ribble. 12 species of wader including Great Knot and Spotted Redshank.

1987 (Sept 8). Seaforth. Ringed Billed Gull, 37 Little Gull, 2 Black Tern and the usual common waders.

1991 (late Aug/early Sept) Scarba, Scotland. I was an adult 'counselor', 1 of several adults accompanying some deprived kids from Hackney for a week on an uninhabited Scottish island. An ex SAS soldier ran the program. The island itself was gorgeous but it was spoiled somewhat by the midges (which were really bad) and the fact we had to watch over the kids (aged 12-15). Luckily there were no major incidents.I abseiled down a cliff amongst other death defying acts.

One of the other adults was Sylvester Mittee, He was a professional boxer (Euro and Commonwealth champion no less). The best night was when me and 2 of the other adults had to camp in the wilds in a cave and 'live off the land'. Luckily Sylvester produced 3 mackrel and some Mars Bars. On the way back we stopped at Glasgow bus station. Sylvester took one of my cigarettes to go with his Carlsberg Special Brew (he said the combination would get his bowels moving properly again after a week roughing it sleeping in caves). Yes we were drinking hi strength lager having not had a shower or bath for a whole week sitting on the floor in a corner of on Glasgow Bus station.

Gannet, Short Eared Owl, Twite and all the common seabirds were around on what was like I said a quite beautiful spot.

1994 (early Sept). My first visit to Lake Tinaroo in Yungaburra. I spent a fair bit of time birding at this location. Despite the drought in Queensland it was still teeming with birds. Bush Thick-knee, Royal Spoonbill, Brolga, Glossy Ibis, Magpie Goose, 8 or 9 species of Duck including Pink Eared Duck, Caspian and Whiskered Tern, Comb Crested Jacana, Black Winged Stilt were some I can remember off the top of my head. What a great place this would be for a local patch.

2004 (Sept 8) Hakodate. A huge typhoon hit Hakodate. Typhoons have usually fizzled out before they get this far north but not this one. It knocked the power off for almost 12 hours for the whole city and blew down countless trees. I ventured out to see the aftermath. Roads blocked because of the debris, no traffic lights operating......absolute chaos. Brown Flycatcher, Eastern Crowned Warbler and Stonechat were a few migrants passing through that survived the storm.
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