31 January 2008

A crapping Eagle

Yesterday we showed a reader of this blog (Megumi) a few of the places we usually go. Yakumo and Onuma and some stops in between. It was a pretty good day for birds if not for bird pictures. Both species of Eagle were present and afforded good views through the scope at least. Not much flying around though and I had to be content with this individual snapped out of the car window. As you can see it was snowing which didn't really help much.

We did get a very good view of a Crested Kingfisher flying yards in front of us as well as the usual common winter species of the area at the river mouth. Glaucous Gulls, Whooper Swans etc as well as a Long Billed Plover and a Great White Egret. Tis picture was at the river mouth from the bridge on Route 5.

There are probably some funny captions you could make for this picture. 'How not to behave on a first Eagle date' perhaps. If I was Gary Larson I'm sure I could think of something much better.

Driving back to Hakodate I noticed some Japanese Waxwings and managed some record shots before they flew off.

It was a productive stop as there were also some Brambling and Redpoll feeding in the same trees.

Nearby I also saw a couple of Daurain Jackdaw mixed in with the crow flocks but again they flew off before I could even take the lens cap off. We started and finished ths day in Onuma.

A male Smew was the most interesting bird. We showed Megumi the tame Nuthatches which came to the hand to be fed. I'm still searching for that perfect Nuthatch shot.

If the Nuthatches are always reliable, the mountain is even more so.

No Waxwings yet in Hakodate but this winter's influx of Redpolls continued. This was part of a group near my flat the other day.

Today there were 2 Night Herons, a single Peregrine, 2 Daurian Redstart as well as flocks of Dusky Thrush and Grey Starling.

Liverpool lost again last night. I taped it but couldn't be bothered watching it this morning so I checked the score on the internet. Thank god I didn't watch it. A penalty in the last minute..........just watch them draw against Sunderland at the weekend. Tha fans are blaming the owners but why is nobody questioning the purchases of Benitez? Kuyt and Voronin in particular are just not up to it and Kewell (who was already there when Benitez arrived) should have been moved on a long long time ago..........and a lot of the OK players he bought are just that. OK. Useful squad members perhaps.

How many Liverpool players would the top 3 actually want? Torres, Gerard perhaps. Carragher as defensive cover maybe. Reina is pretty good I suppose. Alonso (when fit) and Mascherano..........Babel as a future prospect I guess. Not many anyway......

28 January 2008


I have discovered bad light and an absent minded approach to camera settings results in crappy photos.

Well this is actually my 100th post on this blog. Nothing especially interesting to say today. The lousy weather has resulted in sparse photo opps and today's pics are heavily cropped and photoshopped. The male Merlin was one of 2 present at Kamiso where there were lots of Long tailed Tit and the mammal above. Some kind of Weasel I guess. The usual problems with twigs in the way again, for example with this Jay.

There were quite a few birds at Kamiso again. Several Common Buzzard, the aforementioned Merlin and Jay, 3 Brown Dipper, Goldcrest, 2 species of Woodpecker and 3 species of Tit, Whooper Swan, Mute Swan, several Glaucous and Glaucous Winged Gull, Great Crested Grebe and the usual common Ducks.

The Long tailed Tits were so active it was impossible to get good shots in the gloomy light.

The Weasel hung around for a few moments before disappearing into some snowhole.

Ther are lots of tracks in the snow, some I guess belonging to Foxes(or dogs) and others to Weasels and mousey type things. No Bears alas. Not that there would be any so near town as they'd be shot and turned into bearmeat before you even had time to say 'oh sh*t there's a Bear!'. Plus they should be fast asleep now anyway.

It was nice to get a Merlin photo, this was just before sundown and it was rather dark. There were actually 2 of them on the wire but the female flew off as soon as I got out of the car.

We went east of Hakodate yesterday. We both had nasty hangovers and the weather was awful. There was a flock of about 40 or 50 Asian Rosy Finch. I fired off some shots of these and also Harlequin Duck, Pelagic Cormorant and Brent Goose. And all the pics were complete crap. I mean really crap. Later on I discovered I'd switched off my lens' IS system. I was using a 1.4kg 400mm lens at shutter speeds of between 1/50 and 1/200 in poor light without IS. After I return the lens I now know IS is essential and will settle for nothing less when the time comes to buy my own big lens. Great for photos, bad for bank balance. Here's the best of a very very bad bunch.

So I've been pretty bored the last week. I've uploaded loads of photos to my flikr page (see link on the right) but have used all the half decent ones I posess. Watched a couple of FA cup ties on sopcast (that headshake goal celebration thing of Ronaldo-what a tosser), met a friend on Saturday night and drank way too much........and just wrote my 100th post on this blog.

23 January 2008

Noisy Woodpecker......and more Eagles

A female Black Woodpecker at Onuma late this afternoon. It was just before sunset so I had to use my lens wide open at ISO 800.........hence the title of today's post. To make it even halfway decent I had to use noise reduction filters in photoshop, something I normally never have to bother with. Actually it was noisy in the conventional sense too, retiring to a hole and crying out loud for about 5 minutes.

I was pretty close, none of the above 4 photos were cropped. I hope I can get as close to this species again (especially before I have to return the 100-400 lens). I wouldn't go as close during the breeding season of course. I think this female just uses this hole for roosting, I often see her around this area just before sundown.

Earlier in the day we had been up to Yakumo. Today was relatively mild but the eagles were nowhere near as co-operative as last week. This adult Stellers and immature White tailed were the best pictures of the morning. The Whitetailed is the only cropped pic of the day (and only slightly at that).

Once again there were lots of Eagles (I estimate 50-70). Most of them just sitting around in the distance like this.

2 Crested Kingfisher (very brief viiews), lots of Brown Dipper, a few Jay and common Ducks were the only other stuff around, Onuma was even quieter (though we only got there just before it got dark). At Kamiso 2 days ago a Black Throated Diver was the most noteworthy species and I haven't seen any Waxwings in Hakodate yet.......

Here's yet another view of Mt Komagadake, this one from the west.

Another draw for Liverpool, looks like they have a battle on just to finish 4th. After they started the season so well and England had those 2 victories in the qualifiers I had high hopes for the 2007/8 season. Now I'm hoping Liverpool can finish 4th and am trying to forget international football exists until next season. Sad but true.

Around January 23 down the years:

1983 (Jan 29) Gale force winds blew a Fulmar upstream to Penwortham.

1984 (Jan 21) Ribble at Penwortham again. 72 Whooper/Bewicks Swan, Corn Bunting and Tree Sparrow, Pinkfooted Goose, Dunlin and Snipe. The following weekend (29th) a Green Sandpiper was a surprise find.

1985 (Jan 20) Same place. same birds pretty much. 3 Ruff, 300 Dunlin plus the usual wildfowl.

2001 (mid-late Jan). I was in Venezuela, me and a friend were visting another friend who was working for the BBC. Not a birding trip really. actually not all. My only ever experience of South America to date. I landed in Caracas and my friend (who had developed an interest in birding) took me to the local park near his flat. Wow. Scarlet Ibis was the most memorable species but there was also Chestnut Fronted Macaw, Red Capped Cardinal, Plumbeous Kite, Yellow Headed and Oriole Blackbird, Saffron Finch, Blue Grey Tanager and the abundant Kiskadee and Black Vulture and oh lots of other stuff. It was a bit overwhelming to be honest, all those totally unfamiliar species.

The next day we headed off to Henri Pittier National Park. This is one of the best birding places in the whole world but I saw almost nothing...............as we were lying on the beach drinking beer. I did see Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Green Kingfisher, Blue and White Swallow plus a few unidentified Terns and Swifts........

I then met my other friend and we headed off to Merida in the Andes. We got the cable car up to the top (the highest in the world no less) and hiked over a high pass and down to a sphagetti western looking village whose name I can't remember. I did see Bearded Helmetcrest (a rare high altitude hummingbird) and manged to identify a handful of other species........Rufous Spinetail, Great Thrush, Velvet Fronted Grackle, Paramo Seedeater and Plumbeous Sierra Finch. The pass was over 4500 meters and we had ascended rapidly from about 2000 (I think, maybe less) and I was as unfit as ever as well as a heavy smoker. It was a brutal hike especially as were carrying all our luggage (why? I forget). Here's a pic of me from that day taken by my good friend Franny.

2003 (22 Jan) Hakodate. My first Waxwings in Japan a mixed flock of Bohemian and Japanese Waxwing, about 50 in all). They had all gone the next day.

2004. This time the first (unidentified) Waxwings were on Jan 21. On the 26th a flock of 100 Bohemian with a couple of Japanese were near my flat.......they hung around for a few days.

2005. A Waxwing-less winter in Hakodate. Not much else around either.......

2006. A bitterly cold winter and i entered hospital at the end of the month for a knee op. The Waxwings arrived early this tear on Jan 18 and there were several influxes throughout the winter. the early waves were mainly Japanese and later on Bohemian....right until later March.

2007 Even earlier last year...the 17th. Mainly Japanese Waxwing and again several influxes right through winter and early spring.......on the 25th there was an Ancient Murrelet at Moheji.

20 January 2008

Winter continues

The cold winter continues here in southern Hokkaido. Over the last few days I've been to Onuma, Menagawa and Kamiso, all pretty near Hakodate. Friday had the best weather and ths usual common species were at Onuma.

There were also Redpoll, the usual Woodpeckers and several Jay........

The mountain looked great against a blue sky with the frozen lake in the foreground.

Over at Kamiso I got 1 local tick. 2 Mute Swan were in the fishing harbour. They are a feral species in Japan but a tick is a tick. Also around were several Yellow Throated Bunting, 2 Common Buzzard mewing to each other in a duet, 2 Great White Egret, the usual Ducks and grebes on the sea, an adult White tailed Eagle, a female Merlin and this Brown Dipper.

Today we went east to Menagawa and it was cold. We actually found a new spot neither of us had been to before. Instead of going through a long tunnel we took a side road, parked the car and walked round the coast. There were cliffs and a quarry that would make a great set for a low budget BBC post appocalyptic TV drama. There was 1 adult Stellers Sea Eagle,1 White tailed Eagle and lots of Rustic Buntings as well as various Ducks offshore including several groups of Harlequin Duck.

There were also some pretty cool icicles.

This is a female Blue Rock Thrush, lots of these on the coast.

Whilst I take photos of birds my wife prefers to take pictures of clouds. Here's one of hers from today. Like I said it was cold.

Cold and dark. I could get pretty close to these Brent Goose but shutter speeds were so low most of the shots were pretty crappy.

And to finish off here's a very cold looking Glaucous Winged Gull.

The footie was pretty dull last night. I know it's PC to drool over Arsenal but I find them so sterile to watch. Chelsea are as boring as Liverpool. Whilst I'm dutibound to watch Liverpool I have no such obligation to Chelsea thank god. Mau Utd. Pah. Good but annoying.

Can't believe the Keegan thing........are Newcastle insane?

Can I be arsed to stay up and watch tonight's game? Man City v West Ham. Probably not.............but I may change my mind.

Still no Waxwings in Hakodate, hopefully that'll change in the next few days.

16 January 2008

Another day with the Eagles

We headed up to Yakumo today to take another look at the Eagles. After the recent cold snap Yakumo was looking more wintry than ever with deep deep snowfields making off road birding almost impossible. I tried. Waist deep snow. I need snowshoes.........they're on the list for next winter.

There seemed to be a lot of Eagles today. I'd say at least 50, maybe more. About 20 or so adult Stellers, about 15 or so adult White Taileds and the rest immatures of both species. There were no Eagles perched in trees where it was safe to stop......except this one.

Now that would have been the perfect shot if the branch/twigs weren't there. This individual played hide and seek with me for a minute or so before it flew off. Still it's the closest I've ever been to a wild Eagle (no more than 6 or 7 metres).

Most of today's shots are of birds in flight ('bifs' to use birder's jargon).

Of course there were lots of birds perched on trees on the valley sides but not close enough for a picture. So bifs it is. I have to say I haven't really got the bif knack yet...........metering is tricky especially against white skies, I lose focus a lot of the time (should I be using AI servo? Single or continuous shooting? I was using one shot focus and single shooting-perhaps a mistake) and basically I'm just not quick enough most of the time.

In case you didn't know, the black and white ones are the Stellers Sea Eagles and the brown ones are the White Tailed Eagles.

And here are 2 immatures. The first is a Stellers and the second a White Tailed. I think. The first one has the big Stellers beak anyway.

It was very very cold..........my hands and feet were like blocks of ice when I got back to the car.

I also saw something else of interest today..................some birdwatchers. Not photographers (I usually see a few of those around) but actual birdwatchers dressed in green and carrying scopes on tripods. I only saw them as we drove past near the river mouth in Yakumo. Who were they? I'd never seen them before. Perhaps not locals. Did they know just 3 or 4km away there were loads of Eagles? They all had their scopes trained on a single White Tailed Eagle that seems to always perch on a tree next to the main coastal road (but not near enough for a good pic).............

Inland there wasn't so much around although I did see another Crested Kingfisher very briefly. Other than that lots of Brown Dipper, a few Japanese Wagtail, some Goosander and Goldeneye and a female Bunting of some sort out of the corner of my eye when I was floundering through a snow drift. At the river mouth were groups of Whooper Swan, a few common Ducks, a flock of 30 or 40 Dunlin and a few Gulls with several Glaucous and Glaucous Winged. Offshore were rafts of Scaup, Red Breasted Merganser, Black Scoter and Goldeneye with a smattering of Long Tailed Duck and a few Grebes including at least 1 Great Crested.

You know that mountain that I always post pics of? Here's a view of it from the back and a few km up the coast.

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