30 November 2007
One of many Goldcrests today. Difficult things to photograph.
We spent a very pleasant day in the forest at Onuma. My wife was a bit worried as a Brown Bear had been seen here a few days ago (there were a few signs up). This was the largest mammal on view today.
There were lots of birds in the forest and on the lake. This was the most interesting bird and least pleasing photo of the day.
One of a group of 3 Common Crossbills atop some kind of evergreen. These were the first ones I've seen in ages (over 3 years in fact). For 3 consecutive springs they were everywhere in Hakodate and then none at all until today.20 or 30 Whooper Swans were on the lake, 2 Great White Egrets were lakeside, there were also single Goshawks and White Tailed Eagles, huge rafts of Goosander, Long Tailed Rosefinch, Siskin, all the common woodland stuff including the usual suspects.
Common woodland stuff being Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker (above), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Headed Woodpecker, the 5 paridae species, Nuthatch and Treecreeper.
It was very sunny today but the lake is beginning to freeze so the ice was making strange whistling creaking noises.
If those shots look unoriginal try these 2.
At least the Goldcrests broke up the monotony a little. Here's a pic of me fondling the (borrowed) Canon 100-400. My wife prefers anonymity on this blog but she couldn't object to the sunset picture surely.
Yesterday in Hakodate was also good for birds. I saw 2 very late species (usually they're well gone by now)-Black Faced Bunting and Japanese Bush Warbler. Also around were Grey wagtail, Grey Starling, Hawfinch, Dusky Thrush, Brown Dipper amd this Common Kingfisher. I didn't have the big lens with me for these shots......
So that was November 2007. I got a nice new lens, was loaned an even better one, watched in utter horror as England f*#ked up big style, ate the nicest sushi I've had for ages, changed my fave beer brand from Sapporo back to Kirin, went to a hot spring resort and updated my ancient i-mac with an external DVD writer, USB webcam and a self procured copy of Tiger.
28 November 2007
'Dark days' refers to the weather rather than any sinister happenings or mental anguish...............
A Red Flanked Bluetail at the foot of Mt Hakodate this morning. NOT taken with the 100-400 lens which was in my backpack at the time (actually it stayed in my backpack all day). Dashed difficult to get a picture as the bird just refused to stay still. Here's another one that at least shows us it's an aptly named bird.
Other stuff in the forest included Siskin, Japanese White-eye, Long Tailed Rosefinch, 1 or 2 Japanese Accentor (a local tick) as well as the common residents, none of whom wanted to be photographed. On the long walk to the mountain I saw Brent Goose, 5 species of duck including Pochard, Brown Dipper, Little Grebe, Glaucous Winged Gull and hundreds of Common Gull resting before heading south to Honshu. The snow has all gone (temporarily alas) but it was a raw wintry day. I went to the small hide in the forest that overlooks a feeding station (I wanted to get some shots of Woodpeckers with the big lens) but for some reason the folks who organise such things haven't left any food out yet so there weren't actually any birds there.
In the last 2 or 3 days I went to Onuma and the Brent Goose site in Hakodate and took some more predictable shots of the usual species. At least the Nuthatches were striking some different poses. The following shots were with the big lens.
And The Brent Geese were swimming around and trying to feed. I say 'trying' because there was an awful lot of garbage in the sea. I cropped most of the flotsam and jetsam out of these pics.
I tried to get some other shots of some other species the last few days. The 100-400 lens is great of course but it's a little heavy for a walkaround lens (especially dangling around the neck). It also needs reasonably good light which hasn't really been a feature of the last few days. Here's the Japanese race of Great Tit (much shyer in front of the lens than its' congeners). The Long Tailed Tit and Japanese Accentor shots on my PC aren't worth uploading..........
The Marsh Tits were as tame as ever.
And as the picture quality declines here's a White Tailed Eagle flying over Ono on Tuesday.
I'm sure winter will return in the next few days. Not much happening in my life at the moment........November always was a bit of a slow month.
Mourinho for England? Now that would be interesting. If I ever care about football again that is.
Today's gripe about Japan. Potato salad/spaghetti/noodles in sandwiches. Whose insane idea were those fillings? They were my only choices in the nearest supermarket to Mt Hakodate. And they put mayonaise on pizza too.
25 November 2007
One of a group of 4 Brent Goose in Hakodate this morning. Very mild weather after last week's snow, sleet and freezing temperatures. I met up with Franck today, a French birder/photographer from Grenoble living in Date (about 2 or 3 hours north of here). He's a technician in a cheese factory (hence the title of the thread and see later for more). An interesting companion for the day, he has worked in various countries including Uzbekistan and has wound up here in Hokkaido.
I took him to see the Thayers Gull (which hung around just long enough for Franck to get a shot) and the Harlequin Duck/Brent Geese near Mt Hakodate. The Geese in particular were highly photogenic today.
Not much else on view. Here's a crappy shot of a Harlequin Duck and a close up of a scruffy Slaty Backed Gull with an apparent black eye.
We then headed up to Onuma and at that point Franck very generously lent me his 100-400 IS L lens...............not just for this afternoon but until March. All the pictures below were taken with this lens. Franck was using the Canon 500mm F4, a real monster of a lens.
The Varied Tit had joined the tame paridae and Nuthatch group.
It really is a nice lens (if a touch heavy). My 70-300 IS USM lens is very nice too of course (and I'll continue to use that as my everyday 'walkaround' lens) but the big white L lens is in a different league altogether. It gives me a nice 3 month 'free trial' to see if it's worth splashing the cash in the future.
2 White Tailed Eagle flapped over the trees before I could take a picture, the woods were full of Jay, Siskin and Dusky Thrush, there were Coot and flocks of Goosander on the lake, a few groups of Whooper Swan scattered about, a female Yellow Throated Bunting and the usual common woodland stuff including this Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker.
Oh and Marsh Tits of course.
So thanks again Franck for the wonderfully generous loan of the lens. I'm looking forward to using it this winter. Oooh. It's almost made me forget about the football. Which I won't be mentioning again anyway.
24 November 2007
No festive Hawfinch pics this time. The Large Billed Crows had commandeered the red berries. Some very cold weather hit Hakodate this week........easily the coldest November I can remember in 9(!) years here. Lots of snow. Here are some more pictures of very cold Gulls. 4 species here.........with the pale adult Glaucous Gull standing out.
On the river near my flat the Night Herons were still there. 2 of them including the adult below. I still can't get a clear shot without branches or twigs in the way. A crappy cropped male Daurian Redstart was my only shot of this beautiful bird.
Lots of Common Teal on the river, still a bit tatty looking after the autumn moult.
Not much else around........Brown Dipper,Coal Tit and Dusky Thrush.
Football? One of the loves of my life until something started going wrong the last 2 or 3 years. The game is changing and not for the better. The Liverpool game is on live behind me but I can barely raise the interest to turn round and watch it. What a wretchedly depressing week. I won't even say anything about England. I don't need to. After 30 years of following football I feel jaded and fed up with it like never before. Like looking at a woman and realising I don't love her anymore or taking a drug that doesn't give me a buzz anymore..........I feel like it's over. It's finished.
The Liverpool team full of players I've hardly heard of from all over the world managed by a conservative Spaniard and owned by Americans. I loved them once but now they're just not the same team. The England team full of underperforming overrated overpaid chavs managed by a cluelesss assistant coach who got knocked out by a team that had just lost to Israel before triumphing 1-0 in Andorra. Who gives a sh*t?
I'm sure I 'll go back to football's arms one day.............but I need a long break from it. Time to catch up on some movies on Saturday nights methinks.
21 November 2007
This blue sky was a rare break in the weather allowing me to take a picture of this Hawfinch. A slightly less colourful race than the one seen in the UK. Actually I've only ever seen Hawfinches once in the UK. May 1983 to be precise. Churchwood Penwortham. This small tract of woodland has almost disappeared as it's next to a bypass that was constructed in the mid 80's. Anyway, they're very common here especially in winter.
As I was saying the weather over the last 3 or 4 days has been awful. It's blizzarding again outside and minus 4. Winter has come early this year. The window of opportunity to get the Hawfinch pic was about 20 minutes. Luckily it was in a park only 2 or 3 minutes walk from my flat.
Not much else around to be honest. A few Dusky Thrush, some Coal Tit, a male Daurian Redstart, a few Oriental Greenfinch on their way south. This tiny park has provided me with some pretty good birds in the last few years. Red Crossbill, Whites Thrush, various migrant Warblers and Flycatchers, Wryneck, Siberian Rubythroat, Red Flanked Bluetail, Siskin etc. But today Hawfinch was the most interesting.
A Great Spotted Woodpecker was also in the park but it wasn't sat against a bright blue sky next to red snow covered berries so the pictures are crap.
Around November 21 down the years:
1998 (late November). I was in India and visited the town of Puri on the Orissan coast. I don't really know why I chose this place to spend a week or so but I'm glad I did. It took almost 24 hours to get there by train from Varanasi and it seemed like a different planet once I was there.
It was the location of my only 'real' birding in the subcontinent. I rented a boat (with driver of course) and spent a very relaxing day on Lake Chilka, a huge nearby lagoon. The birds were pretty impressive. Huge numbers of ducks including thousands of Ruddy Shelduck, a flock of about 100 Greater Flamingo, White Bellied Sea Eagle, another Eagle with a snake on its' talons (Short Toed Eagle? God knows), Brown Headed Gull, lots of Terns including Whiskered, Various Egrets and Cormorants, various waders including Black Winged Stilt and Red Wattled Lapwing, White Bellied and Pied Kingfishers, severasl types of Bee-eater.............you get the idea. Here's a lousy scanned photo of the Flamingoes.
Puri is a bit of an odd town. My abiding memory is of people squatting on the beach and taking a dump followed by the local feral pigs who ate the fresh hot snacks left by the local citizenry. I didn't go swimming or go barefoot either. My hotel was in quite a modern building and I was on the top floor. Amazingly the room had a decent toilet (no visits to the beach for me) and...........SATELLITE TV. I watched Robbie Fowler bang in a hat-trick against Aston Villa and England draw the first test in Brisbane. Both live. Puri is also a 'holy' city meaning grass and opium were legal so
I passed the time pleasantly watching the sunset over the Indian Ocean and pottering around the streets of Puri (they have 1 amazing temple but not much else). Vultures and cattle Egrets flapped overhead as well as Paddybirds, Treepies, various Drongo species and the common urban birds of India.
The most dramatic thing that happened in this very peaceful week was me dropping and smashing my glasses. the local glasses shop man looked at my good lens and made me a copy without giving me an eye test. They were fine.
Aftr Puri I headed north to Calcutta where I spent 1 night before getting yet another overnight train/bus to Darjeeling. I thankfully didn't go by this 'toytrain' though........surely the slowest form of commrcial mechanized transport in the world.
I was a little tired of travelling by this stage but I have to say I liked Darjeeling. The people were ethnic Nepali and seemed more laidback than lowland Indians, I had a spectacular view of the Himalaya from my fleapit window, I had some tasty Indian food that didn't give me the sh*ts. I even went to the zoo on a kind of 'date' with a local girl. I wasn't sure of her intentions.........I think it was perfectly innocent and she wanted a penpal or something. The zoo was predators only........Tigers, Wolves, Leopards and Snow Leopard. It was a weird day and in the evening I played snooker with a Naturalized Nicaraguan citizen from France. In Darjeeling I took a rest from smoking so much dope and my head cleared. Unfortunately my throat infection had got worse and I made plans to go back to England. Then there was a general strike............but everyone was still friendly and polite. And always possible to get a nice cup of tea of course.
2002 (Nov 26) A female Smew on the moat in Goryokaku Park.
2004 (Nov 26) A female Grey Headed Woodpecker in the same park as above. A female Goshawk was there a few days later on the 28th.
2005 (Nov 22) I first noticed the odd Gull on the river that turned out to be a Thayers Gull.
2006 (Nov 24) a White Tailed Eagle was a nice flyover species in Hakodate whilst on the local river on the 26th there was the Thayers Gull, a drake Gadwall and a Blue Rock thrush.