31 March 2008

England #1

2 of the common birds in England.

So I made it to England and have just about recovered from the inevitable jetlag. It's a pretty brutal journey from Hakodate to Preston. I had to spend a day/night in Tokyo. I went to that kind of bird reserve near Haneda airport for a couple of hours. Great Cormorant, Little Ringed Plover, various common ducks including Gadwall and Shoveler, Azure Winged Magpie, Japanese White-eye, Coot, Moorhen and Little Grebe.............we couldn't face the hassle of a trip into the city before sucj a long journey.

The aforementioned jetlag meant I got up early the first couple of days. On Saturday I made it up the River Ribble, my old local patch. Pinkfooted Goose, Wheatear, lots of Oystercatcher and Redshank, a few Curlew and Lapwing, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Magpie, Jackdaw, Jay, Meadow Pipit, Shelduck and Wigeon, common woodland birds including many of the same species as in Hokkaido such as Great and Long Tailed Tits. Here's a view of Preston taken from a couple of miles downstream.

And here's a Turnstone walking around on the grass at Fleetwood............

Spring is very much in the air here. Green is already appearing on the trees, the cherry blosoms have opened (yes, Japanese people, other countries have these too), daffodils are everywhere and the birdsong is much more noticeable than it ever is in urban Hakodate. Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Greenfinch and Chaffinch are singing all over the place. Some Moorhens have been nesting on the small pond in the woods behind my parents.

And Woodpigeon are everywhere. I can't remember them being this common.........

On Saturday I met up with an old friend and we drove to Marshside. This has changed quite dramatically since we regularly went there in the early 80's. There were no Avocets in them days.

They were too far away for a decent shot and it was also very dark and raining heavily too. Also in the hide were 3 birdforum members and it was nice to chat with these folks in person. They (and my friend) have some serious scopes. In addition to the Avocets we saw Merlin, lots of common ducks, Ruff and Black Tailed Godwit plus another bird that wasn't around 25 years ago, Little Egret. We stopped at the outer edge of our old local patch on the way back and got a new one on my old local list, a 3 Ruddy Duck as well as a dozen or so Shoveler and a Great Crested Grebe.

Franck agreed to sell me his 100-400 lens so I have it with me. I've only been doing halfhearted shotting, this Wren was maybe the best subject so far.

I've been drinking a lot since I got back, eating lots of food unavailable in Japan, ben missing the live football (my parents don't have Sky and I'm avoiding the score of today's Liverpool game so I can enjoy the highlights later on tonight) and catching up with people. Last night was my parents' 40th anniversary party...........I was pretty hungover most of today.

Speaking of wrecks.

This was offshore at Blackpool.............I have to say Blackpool was looking particularly sleazy and rundown.

A bit strange doing this blog on a Windows PC. I've noticed my photos don't look so hot on this one (compared to my Mac where they at least look average). Hmmmmmm............

26 March 2008

Tokyo blossoms

So I'm in Tokyo on my way back to England and updating my blog painfully slowly on my cellphone. Dunno if this photo is resized or even the right way up.

23 March 2008

Spring, homecomings and bye bye lens?

It's been an odd kind of a week. Very very mild springlike weather plus last minute preparations for my visit back to England. Nothing much happening on the birding front although the owner of the 100-400 lens I've been using over the winter will be shortly reclaiming it, on Tuesday perhaps. A bit of a wrench to let it go (and the photo quality on this blog will no doubt suffer, from average back down to fairly poor no doubt) but it's been great using it these last 4 months so merci beaucoup to Franck.

The Crossbills are still popping up around town and the last 'keepers' from the lens are likely to be these birds photographed today and yesterday.

I haven't left town all week. Furthest I got was Kamiso where this Pelagic Cormorant was fishing in the harbour.

This is the smaller and less common of the 2 local species of Cormorant.

The 2 Mute Swan were still present, this is fairly rare in Japan (though these are no doubt part of a small feral population found in Hokkaido).

The common Ducks and Gulls a are all still present. Here's a portrait of Black Tailed Gull, the commonest summer Gull.

Here's a yawning adult Glaucous Winged Gull on the river near my flat. A common winter vistor across the region.

The commonest resident Gull is the Slaty Backed Gull. At least this one is doing something interesting, eating a freshwater crab near my flat again. Shame the first pic is out of focus.

The right wing propaganda buses were out in force again today. I wonder what life is like is a Japanese rightwinger's home. You can imagine it.......

"What shall we do today dear? It's a beautiful spring day. A walk in the park perhaps followed by a spot of lunch? A round of golf maybe? A visit to see the grandchildren? Nah. Let's drive around town in the black bus annoying the whole city blaring out crappy military style music and mouthing off racist slogans that wouldn't be tolerated in any other civilised country. Ok! Sounds like a plan!"

Here's some shots of little Japanesey things that would warm the cockles of their little pure Japanese hearts.

I walked down to Mt Hakodate last week and took a look in the forest. It's eaxctly a year since I got the camera and one of the first places I went after I got it was the feeding station at the bottom of the hill. For some reason the active feeders weren't even close to the hide (unlike last year)....these were 2 of the better shots I could manage. A Great Spotted and a Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker.

Not much else in the forest, certainly no spring visitors. A male Bullheaded Shrike has been the only migrant I've seen so far. Other stuff around has included Redpoll, Kingfisher, the aforenmentioned Crossbills, lots of Hawfinch and Dusky Thrush, Brent Goose, 2 species of Cormorant, a Blue Rock Thrush, 7 species of Gull and a dozen or so species of Duck, a few Brambling, Jay, 5 species of Tit, Nuthatch, Wren and Black Backed Wagtail.......here's a Dusky Thrush and an overexposed pair of Brent Goose.

So an interesting 12 months with my first DSLR. I got some ok shots, especially with the 100-400 but also with the shorter 70-300. It'll be back to that one until at least the autumn.

Unless something dramatic appears in front of the camera on my short walk tommorrow my next post should be from England. It's been a long time since I've been back. I'm prepared to be shocked by prices, lots of semi-awkward conversations with people I haven't seen in ages and ages, delighted by decent bread and Indian food and am really looking forward to going to my old local patch with a scope and camera. I'm dreading the long uncomfortable journey, though we at least have 24 hours in Tokyo on Wednesday/Thursday at the beginning of the trip.

So Liverpool have FIVE huge games coming up and I'll be in England for 3 of them. I have a sneaking feeling they'll finish the season extremely strongly. Exactly how strongly and to what end we'll have to wait and see. But please god at least let's not lose to Man U again.


Mascherano is an idiot, Steve Bennet is a moron, Ronaldo is a smarmy w*nker, Kuyt is useless and football I hate you.

16 March 2008

A grey day with Grebes

We headed out to Shikabe this afternoon. A very dull grey day didn't help with photos but at least it wasn't so cold. the snall fishing harbour in Shikabe has produced some interesting birds in the past couple of years (including my only ever firm ID of a Hen Harrier in Japan) and there are usually various Ducks, Grebes and Gulls around. Black Necked Grebes were bird of the day though the overcast weather meant ISO was rather high and most of these pics look rather poor at high resolution (but I'm the only person who ever sees that so who gives a toss).

One or 2 were coming into summer plumage.

The 5 species of Grebe in Japan are exactly the same as in the UK. The 4 larger species usually bob around on the waves way offshore but these ones were pretty close.

They seemed to be gorging on some disgusting looking long worms that prsumably dwell on the bottom of Shikabe Harbour.

We have a small infestation of bristleworms in our small saltwater fishtank. Maybe we should set some Grebes on to them.

Not much else new around. Some Bohemian Waxwing, Redpoll, various common seaducks and Gulls. Here are some shots of some of the commoner species including a ghostly looking adult Glaucous Gull, one of many Black Kites (amongst thousnads of Gulls and Crows) outside a stinky fish processing factory and a female Scaup.

Another win for Liverpool last night. The league table is looking interesting.......we're only 8 points off the top. If we keep winning and beat the top 2............plus Man U/Arsenal have to play each other and both have to play Chelsea......hmmmmmmm........of course it'll probably all end in tears or anticlimax but at least our rivals for 4th place are losing 1-0 at Fulham as I type. Some very big games coming up for all the top 4 anyway and not just in the Premier League either. I'll be home bang in the middle of it all too..looks like I'll possibly be watching the Champions League game against Arsenal in a pub in the Lake District.

13 March 2008

Black Woodpecker #2

...........continued form yesterday.

It was crystal clear at Onuma and here's 2 familiar views of Mt Komagadake.

The female Black Woodpecker posed beautifully agianst the clear blue sky. Naturally I fired off lots of shots at various focal lengths/settings and ended up with about 200 reasonanly good shots that all look the same.

These selected are really no better or worse than the dozens of others on my hard drive.

There were other Woodpeckers around. 5 species at Onuma and we saw 4 of them today. The two most numerous are Japanese Pygmy and Great Spotted. Here's a shot of the latter.

No Nuthatch shots yesterday (though there were plenty around) as i was concentrating on the Black Woodpecker........but here's Marsh Tit instead.

We headed back to Hakodate in the afternoon and I took a walk in Shiki no Mori, a park in the northern part of town. I've seen some good birds here before but yesterday it was extremely quiet.........a few Jay and Nuthatch plus I heard some Crossbill somewhere off in the forest. We finished the day off at Kamiso. I haven't done much seawatching at all this winter so I dusted off the scope and scanned the waves. The usual seaduck were bobbing up and down offshore as weel as Great Crested and Red Necked Grebes. There were also several Glaucous Gull of various ages on the beach. This is a common passage visitor in late winter/early spring. Here's a coupls of shots of a 2nd winter bird with some of the more regular species in the background.

The sunset at Kamiso just before we went home.

So 2 weeks today I fly to England. It'll be my first visit home for over 3 years. At the moment the agenda consists of a trip to York, Hadrian's Wall plus a night in the Lakes, an Indian restaurant or 2, a night or 2 in my old local, some birding on my old local patch (the Ribble at Penwortham/Longton), perhaps a trip to Marshside or Leighton Moss...........
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