2 January 2008

New Year in Hokkaido

A wintry new year in these here parts.

A Ural Owl at Onuma this afternoon. This is presumably the same Owl I photographed last winter. My wife found it today in the same hole as last year. She had forgotten her cellphone so she rushed back to find me and just as i got to the right tree the Owl, which had been sitting in full view, dived back into its' hole as the exact moment I raised my camera some snow fell off an overhanging branch onto the Owl's head. It emerged about an hour later, flying off before I could get a shot. The above pic was the best i could manage after I relocated it a few minutes later. For a digiscoped shot of the same Owl in the same hole last year please click here.

Strange weather so far in 2008. A lots of blizzards and snow, some hail and even some brilliant sunshine. The feeding 'log' in Onuma is covered in snow. All the usual suspects were there, and despite the heavy snow, the forest was full of birds.In addition to the usual species we heard a distant Black Woodpecker and saw a small group of a dozen or so Hawfinch. None of those wanted to be photographed so here are some predictable shots of Marsh Tit and Nuthatch.

En route to Onuma both days we stopped in Ono in a vain attempt to see the Rough Legged Buzzard (which has probably move on by now anyway). Lots of Common Buzzard, a Merlin, a few Yellow Throated Bunting, a flock of 200 or so Redpoll and Siskin and a lone male Bull Headed Shrike. Here's a pic of a Black Backed Wagtail in Ono yesterday.

This morning we also had a look at the Kamiso area. Lots of stuff on the sea, 4 species of Grebe, huge flocks of Red Breasted Merganser, smaller numbers of displaying Black Scoter, another 9 or 10 species of Duck, Whooper Swan, 7 species of Gull including several Glaucous and Glaucous Winged plus Japanese Wagtail and lots of Dusky Thrush. Here are some crappy pics of a male Black Scoter flying off as I got out of the car.

Around January 2 down the Years:

1984 (1st week of January). In my teenage years I always went birding a lot in early January, something about year lists I guess. On the 1st I was in Penwortham with a flock of 100 Golden Plover on the fields down Howick Cross Lane being the highlight. They seemed to decline and last time I was home at New Year (1998/9 and 2004/5) they were nowhere to be seen. The 2nd I went to Marshside and got the usual Twite, waders and wildfowl, on the 4th was at Leighton Moss (nothing special here) and on the 7th me and some friends had a big twitch for Franklins Gull and Great Northern Diver in south Lancs (we missed both and in fact I've never seen either species in my life to date). We did get Little Gull at Seaforth.........and in amongst the Gulls was an odd one.........from my 'notes' at the time........."Common Gull size, slate grey body, paler wings with black tips, stocky with yellow bill".

1985 (1st week Jan). A similarly hectic week........my only ever Pintail at Penwortham was among 48 species on the first 2 days on my old local patch, the usual stuff at Marshside on the 3rd and Purple Sandpiper and Snow Bunting at Fleetwood on the 5th.

1986 (Jan 6). I must have had some kind of social life by this age as the only birding all week was a visit to Martinmere. Short Eared Owl, Hen Harrier and some Barnacle Geese (which I think were geniunely wild) were the pick of the birds.

1987 (Jan 2). Fleetwood again...............and by now my friend could drive. Glaucous Gull, Purple Sandpiper, Snow Bunting and lots of Common Eider offshore were the highlights.

1988 (Jan 4). A jaunt around north Mersyside, Ringed Billed Gull and Little Gull at Seaforth but we dipped on the Ross' Gull (although I did briefly get my face on the local news that night).

1994 (Jan 2). Me and 2 friends flew to Granada in southern Spain for a week. It was a great holiday that I look back on with a lot of fondness. There were 3 of us who had been friends at University and had all ended up living in London. None of us even live in England anymore (as far as I know, I've lost contact with one and have only seen the other one a 2 or 3 times in the last 10 years) and I suppose I may never see them again which is kind of sad. Anyway...........we drove around Andalucia, drank San Miguel and drank cheap wine, smoked a lot of hash, saw some Moorish palaces (well, one), hung out with some interesting people. Birds? It wasn't a birding trip at all but I did managed my first ever Hoopoe, Griffon Vulture and Crag Martin and also Crested Lark, Little Owl, Black Redstart and Serin. Here's a pic of me and one of the aforementioned friends. Happy happy times.

2004 (1st week Jan) Hakodate. Some good local stuff included Goshawk, Long Billed Plover and White Tailed Eagle.

2006 (Jan 2) my first ever day trying to get pictures of birds. A bitterly cold wintry day in Yakumo..........here's my very feeble first attempt at Stellers Sea Eagle. This was the coldest winter I've ever experienced........

I have yet to master bird photography but at least I've improved in the last 2 years. This was with my Pentax scope, a 4mp Nikon compact, a crappy zoom eyepiece from ebay and a crappier than crap Baader adapter. Still, at least you can tell what it is.

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