13 January 2008

The Ice Warrior

Me playing around with an icicle at Onuma this afternoon. Very cold but amazingly the sun came out today. There were a lot of Woodpeckers around today............

This is probably the best Woodpecker photo I've managed yet. A female Japanese Pygmy Woopecker. This species is the most common, followed by Great Spotted. Also around today was a male Grey Headed (no photo though) and this female White Backed Woodpecker, a species much scarcer than the similar looking Great Spotted (actually I probably overlook a few White Backeds).

No Black Woodpeckers around today. Jay, Varied, Marsh and Great Tits and Nuthatch were as common as ever.

The small flock of Rosy Finch I saw at the start of the month were still present but difficult to get a good shot of, here's the best of a bad bunch.

The lake is frozen solid now and I walked out on the ice a few times today (the ice is under a foot or so of fresh powdery snow). Some oyajis (a disparaging but useful term for 'traditional' Japanese men aged 40 and over) were out on the ice fishing for wakasagi, a small crunchy fish cooked in sweet sake, sugar and soy sauce. This bast*rd completely ruined my shot. Trampling all over the smooth snow and pitching his silly little tent on the ice. Bah.

Of course my wife has to listen to me banging on about oyajis all the time and she reminds me I'll be 40 later this year.

About minus 5 this afternoon, not as cold as a lot of places in the world but still pretty cold for the likes of me.

This winter is actually pretty standard. Last winter was very very mild and the one before was extremely harsh. Last winter I didn't even get my down parka out of the cupboard but it's seen some sterling service already this year. This was a couple of days ago just outside Hakodate.

Here are 2 Buntings I saw on the outskirts of Hakodate last week, a male Yellow Throated and a male Rustic Bunting (I think).

Not so much else about recently, I've just about shook off the cold I had last week. I watched Liverpool fall further behind last night but what about Newcastle? I went to bed after the 3rd goal and woke up this morning and saw that Man U had scored another 3! It must be hard being a Newcastle fan. I can remember when I was a student there in the late 80's and all the 'sack the board' chants. I only went to see them at St James once, a 2-2 draw against Liverpool. Liverpool were drawing against crappy northeastern teams then too. I even think Newcastle were relegated that season. Just to show how long ago it was some of the Geordie fans were making monkey noise whenever John Barnes touched the ball. Pathetic, especially as Newcastle had a black player of their own. Anybody remember Mirandinha? Didn't think so.

Big support, loyal fans, occasional flashes of brilliance amongst the mediocrity, used to be quite good a long long time ago, modern delusions of grandeur, an impossible job for a manager..........England are The Newcastle of international football.

Around January 13 down the years:

1987 (Jan 10) A male Red Crested Pochard at Seaforth, one week later on the 17th we went to Rivington Reservoir and saw Red Necked Grebe, Smew and Red Throated Diver (all 3 rare enough to twitch then, all 3 common in Hokkaido now).

1992 (mid Jan) a 2 week holiday to Portagul, I stayed with a friend in Porto. Winter in northern Portagul seemed a little grey and miserable.............I went to Spain a couple of years later and much preferred it. We did a bit of travelling around (including Lisbon) but it was basically 2 weeks of heavy drinking and I have almost no memories of the whole fortnight except lying on my friend's couch waiting for him to finish work so we could go out drinking again. Sad but true. He was an English teacher ironically enough. Birds? Black Redstart and Cattle Egret were the only 2 deemed noteworthy enough for my old logbook. The only wildlife I really recall clearly where the thousands of huge rats swimming around in the river in Porto. Still, very cheap place to get drunk and smoke cigs in........

1995 (most of Jan) a 3 week trip to Indonesia, sandwiched between Australia and Thailand.

My first ever experience of Asia. I visited Bali and Lombok. Bali was a shi*hole, I can't for the life of me understand why it is so popular (or at least the bit of Bali I saw first, Kuta). It didn't help it was the rainy season. The hawkers in Bali were the pushiest I've ever seen and the beach was covered with thousands and thousands of dead rotting fish. Nobody ever explained to me why this was so. Pollution? Seasonal changes in ocean currents? Fish 'flu?

Lombok was much much nicer, I stayed on one of the Gili islands for a week or so. It was my first 'tropical paradise' type experience and I loved it. My abiding memory is eating one of those 'special' mushroom omlettes and retreating back to my beach bungalow. There was a huge storm that night but I was unaware as I was busy trying to catch lizards in my room. I gave up and lay under the mosquito net listening to 'Second Coming' by the Stone Roses over and over again until the 'shrooms wore off, it's an album which I still have some fondness for. The next morning I woke up and saw the devastation wrought by the storm.........including the corpses of several huge monitor lizards presumably drowned out at sea. That was kind of weird as I'd been trying to catch their tiny Gecko kin the night before.

Birds? I didn't have a decent fieldguide but on the island I saw Brown Booby, Pacific Reef Egret, a few common waders including Malaysian Sandplover and Crested Tern. Elsewhere on Bali I got Javan Kingfisher, Scarlet Headed Flowepecker, Javan Pond Heron, lots of unidentified Frigatebirds, Brahiminy Kite, Spotted Necked Dove, Rufous Backed Shrike, Red Rumped Swallow and lots of unidentifiable stuff.

2003 (12 Jan) White tailed Eagle was a good flyover bird in Hakodate, a few days later I had my first ever Black Throated Diver too.

So hopefully there'll be some Waxwings passing through Hakodate soon. I booked my ticket to England finally (March 27, can't wait). I watched 'Control' last week, kind of interesting but boy was it depressing............think I'll watch 'Waiting for Guffman' next to cheer myself up.


  1. OH! Can you use force?

  2. Hi Mo-san

    Yes..........I am training to become an Oyaji Knight........


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