27 May 2008


Almost zero birding this week as a result of no car and bad weather.........but tomorrow I'm off camping for a few days in the wilds of far north Hokkaido (in fact we may even visit Japan's northernmost point). It's unseasonably cold here so it's bound to be freezing up there.

We finally got the car back and we went out to Ono to check the ricefields for waders. There weren't any but there was this lone Cattle Egret, the first one I've seen in Hokkaido. Not a great shot though.

Not much else. I heard the first Common Cuckoos of the year and the Oriental Reed Warblers are still as noisy as ever.

I'll update my blog from my cellphone a couple of times perhaps. Hopefully the photos will be web-sized and the right way up.............

23 May 2008


Rainbow from the balcony......

I got up very early on Wednesday, it started raining so I went home after seeing no birds but at least there was a rainbow from the balcony.

Still no car and lousy weather (windy or rainy) so not much to write about.........some late Crossbill, a pair of Chestnut Eared Bunting, that's about it plus the common stuff. I missed the Red Necked Pharalope passage too. I'll stop now before I go into whine overdrive.

Here's a couple of crappy photos from a very very windy afternoon.

The main wildlife experience of the last week was watching some local government workmen getting rid of a crow's nest. it took FIVE men to remove one nest. It was comedy gold. 2 on the ladder (screaming like drunks in an absurd attempt to intimidate the crows), 2 on the ground with poles and 1 in the truck whose job seemed to be watching the others whilst smoking. Anyway, 1 chick flopped to the ground and was put in a bag presumably to be disposed of somewhere. A murder of crows.

The Champions League Final was much better than I expected, thought Chelsea were a bit unlucky. Drogba-what was that pathetic little slap for? If you're going to be red carded at least use your fist. I actually ended up wanting Chelsea to win. Whatever. Football is dead to me for the next 2 months anyway.

18 May 2008

Carless and hungover Sunday

2 of the commoner local birds. Bull Headed Shrike and Oriental Reed Warbler. These were taken this afternoon with the 70-300 lens (I decided it wasn't worth taking the 100-400 lens with me, a mistake as it turned out). I had a nasty hangover after knocking back the equivalent of 8 or 9 pints last night. Plus we don't have the car after my wife reversed into the front window of one of the local convenience stores.

The Shrikes and Warblers (and the Red Cheeked Starlings) are just about the only birds to be photographed near my flat in the summer months. There are usually 2 or 3 pairs of Shrikes and 6 or 7 pairs of Warblers along the river. The latter species are especially noisy and are abundant summer visitors across the region. I'll have plenty of chances to get better pics I hope.......

Ditto the Shrikes.....

Not much else around. The first Spot Billed ducklings were born a couple of days ago and this Japanese Skylark is the first halfway decent shot I've managed of the species.

The 70-300 seems very light compared to the white monster I've been using most of the last 6 months, it almost feels like a toy. Still, today's heavily cropped shots weren't too bad.

Not much else happening in the last few days so here are a couple of random shots of nothing in particular.

I'm too hungover to bother cloning out the dust spots on the sunset shot.

Caught a bit of the Cup final last night...........didn't look a terribly interesting game I have to say. I'm listening to Test Match Special at the moment, I miss watching live cricket. I have to put up with Geoff Boycott's 'insights' though......

So I hope we get the car back soon. The Champions League final should be worth watching, dunno if I'll be watching it live.........

14 May 2008

Pointless early rise

So we got up at dawn today and were atop Mt Hakodate at 4.30am. The weather was cool, overcast and a bit foggy and rapidly getting worse. Perfect for a fall of migrants? Nope. Almost no birds at all. A few Siberian Blue and Japanese Robins singing somewhere down in the mist, a lone Sparrowhawk flying over, the odd Japanese Thrush here and there, the inevitable Black Faced Buntings and Bush Warblers and that was about it.

With my wife (justifiably) complaining bitterly about the pointlessness of it all we headed down and the above Red Fox was right at the foot of the mountain. Actually at one point there was a Mexican standoff between me, the Fox and a local cat. My wife said it reminded her of the final scene in The Good, the Bad, the Ugly but she tactfully declined to say which one I was.

Narcissus and Blue and White Flycatchers were in the woods at the bottom too but it was too dark for any pictures. There were 2 Grey Tailed Tattlers at the fishing harbour nearby but the light was awful as you can see.

So we headed out to Onuma where the forest was again full of birds. Absolutely loads of these.

In the small area of forest I checked there must have been half a dozen males buzzing around although the poor light meant the photos were poor compared to last time. I also saw (from a distance) Black and Grey Headed Woodpeckers at nestholes, lots of Siskin, a few Long Tailed Rosefinch, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Brown and Japanese Thrush. Here's a crappy record shot of the latter.

Another Fox on the roadside provided the best photos of the day.

It's pouring down with rain outside now but the previous 2 days saw nice bright sunny weather, here are some Red Cheeked Starling pics from Monday..........these are slowly improving.

Nothing much else about near my flat..........here a couple of random shots.

So the end of the Premier League was a bit of an anticlimax after all. I'll halfheartedly watch a bit of Euro 2008 next month I suppose. Actually I haven't even checked if it's on regular Japanese TV or not. It's on Sky but I can't be bothered paying for it. Last time some of the games were on terrestrial TV but most weren't........and anyway the games will be on in the middle of the night and without England's involvement I won't muster the energy to get up and watch stuff at 4am. I might watch some of the big games on sopcast if they're on at a reasonable time.

England's bi-annual flop at a major tournament will be something we miss in 2008. The last time they didn't qualify was in 1994 and that was odd watching the World Cup with no England. It spoiled my summer somewhat but at least my life was full of other distractions then (I was getting ready to quit my job in Hackney and travel around Australia and Asia and the summer of '94 consisted of endless drinking and pot smoking, moving out of my flat and crashing at various friends' pads around London) but I lead a dull life these days I'm afraid.

Perhaps I'll use the free time to finally start to learn photoshop properly.

11 May 2008

Flycatchers and other stuff

A male Narcissus Flycatcher at Onuma this afternoon, one of the most beautiful of the local avifauna. Quite a few of these around today I also got a male Blue and White Flycatcher and a lone Asian Brown Flycatcher near my flat this morning. My wife spent most of the day sleeping off a hangover but we made it out to Onuma in the late afternoon and the forest was full of birds and the views of the mountain were fantastic.

As well as all the common resident Tits and Woodpeckers there were also Mandarin Duck, 5 species of Thrush including several Eye Browed (see the crappy pic below), a Fox munching on a carp (too dark for a picture of this alas), more Blue and White Flycatchers and loads and loads of Russet Sparrow (again see crappy photo later on), parties of White Rumped Swift.......and (I think but I'm not 100% sure) some Ruddy Kingfishers calling deep in the forest........

Closer to home the migration season continues.

Japanese White-eye on my early morning trip to Mt Hakodate last week. Lots of Blue and White Flycatchers here too (please see yet another crappy pic below) as well as loads of Eastern Crowned warblers and this lone Sakhalin Leaf Warbler.

Red Cheeked Starlings continue to frustrate my attempts to photograph them, as did the first arriving Oriental Reed Warblers which didn't even pose long enough for any record shots........

We went to Onuma last Wednesday too but not so many bird around though of course the mountain was still looking as nice as ever. This Oriental Turtle Dove was the only bird shot worth uploading from that afternoon.

Here are some of the crappy record shots mentioned above.

I'm just getting ready to watch the last round of Premier League games. I hope Man U don't score early on or the whole evening will be an anticlimax. Now that Mr Mclaren has left my footy watching schedule empty next month I hope that either tonight's games or the Champion's League final (which I can't watch live) are memorable.

I watched '10,000 BC' last night. Oh my god it was bad. An absolute stinker of a movie. It wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't taken itself so so seriously.It was kind of Clan of the Cave Bear meets Stargate with all the utter utter crapness that entails. At least "1,000,000 years BC" had Raquel Welch in a bikini. I've started watching 'Wonderland' which looks like a pretty good movie anyway.

4 May 2008

Clouds of Godwits

Early May is arguably the best time of year for birds around here but for various reasons I haven't been able to get out much. The above pic was just east of Hakodate, a few hundred metres behind me were thousands and thousands of Short tailed Shearwater.

Not Shearwaters here, these are Bar Tailed Godwit.......plus Eastern Crowned Warbler and Stonechat.

Today we went to Asabu to watch the Ospreys on their nest on am offshore stack. Too far away for pictures though we could see the male bringing fish to the female. the most conspicious bird was Bar Tailed Godwit, a skittish flock of about one thousand of them.

Also around were 5 Great White Egret, 1 Intermediate Egret, a lone Grey Tailed Tattler and lots and lots of Stonechat.

Ever since I got the 100-400 lens as mine officially (rather than just on loan) the picture quality seems to have declined rather rapidly. I have to send the money this month and next month. Maybe after I do that the curse will be lifted. Here's a Latham's Snipe from just outside Hakodate this afternoon.

We went up to Yakumo last week. Very very hazy, no decent photos at all. Red Necked stint and Velvet Scoter were 2 of the more interesting species. We actually ended up near Niseko where the snow was still piled up at the side of the roads........

I went to Yunokawa a few days ago but the huge construction project next to the river seems to have rendered the area birdless. A depressing place now. 6 huge new stores are being built. No doubt this will mean existing stores in town closing up and relocating there leaving unused derelict mildew encrusted shells whilst the breeding habitat of 20 or so species of bird is gone forever. I won't bother going to Yunokawa again for a long long time anyway. Never liked the place much in the first place.

I managed to pop out to the river near my flat a couple of times. Asian Stubtail and Eastern Crowned Warbler were the 2 main birds of interest here........

So the footy season is fizzling out. Man U will surely win the title at a canter, tonight's 2 games are meaningless, Liverpool never really looked like going through on Wednesday............and something is happening in the Alpine region next month, can't quite remember what though. I hope Chelsea v Man U in Moscow will be a bad tempered red card strewn battle. A fitting end to a lousy season.

My cold has gone.......as have the cherry blossoms. Should be some good birding coming up over the next 4 or 5 weeks and our first camping trip of the summer too......
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