29 February 2008

Finch month continues

A grey but very mild Friday saw me walk around in the slush trying in vain to get nice shots of hordes of finches and other passerines today. Redpoll, Brambling, Crossbill, Asian Rosy Finch (just 1), Oriental Greenfinch and Hawfinch were all present but in the poor light actively feeding birds can be tricky to capture with my photo gear.

Redpolls have been common across the whole region all winter. I don't really know wht. Before this winter the only one I'd ever seen locally was 1 individual 5 years ago. I'd also only ever seen 2 Rosy Finch in the previous 5 years but have seen loads all over the place this year. And I hadn't seen any Crossbills in Hakodate for 3 years either. Bramblings are a bit more regular.

Siskins have been rather scarce this winter and I haven't seen any Bullfinch in town yet this year (although I did see some in Onuma a couple of days ago). these tend to come around this time to start nibbling on the buds that start to sprout on the trees.

Not much else around except the Finches. Lots and lots of Dusky Thrush and a lone female Sparrowhawk.

Shame about Gazza. I saw him once in the players bar at White Hart Lane. Must have been in the early 90's (so he was probably injured). I saw him play a couple of times, once for Newcastle and once for England. The seminal moments I watched on TV. The tears at Italia 90, the free-kick against Arsenal and the lunge against Gary Charles (another alcoholic funnily enough), the goal against Scotland.........the only England player of my lifetime who could have acheived greatness. Could have but didn't. Hope he gets well soon and finally grows up.

27 February 2008


A pretty cold day again saw us at Onuma for the first time in a while. I was hoping to see Stellers Sea Eagle perched on the ice on the edge of the melting areas trying to scavenge fish. Unfortunately the lake was still frozen (unlike last year at this time) so I had to make do with a drake Goldeneye and the usual Nuthatches & friends.

I think I have Nuthatch shots more or less nailed.

Mind you they're so tame I have no excuses for not getting good shots.

The Goldeneye was displaying to the Mallards, Tufted Ducks and Whooper Swans.

There were a few other Goldeneye about, a lone Coot, a couple of Smew, a female Black Woodpecker, several Jay, a Goshawk, some Long Tailed Rosefinch, my first Bullfinch of the year and 5 White tailed Eagle of various ages. Here's a first winter one near Hakodate when the sky was clear earlier in the morning. Best pic of a very average bunch.

Onuma was very wintry, if overcast. Here's a random selection of wintry shots. My wife takes much better shots of this type of thing so please check her blog(s) out, links on the right.

Mt Komagadake was covered in cloud and it was too cold to hang around on the off chance the cloud would lift.

The usual common birds included Marsh and Varied Tits.

So I finally got my re-entry permit and 4 weeks tomorrow I'll be heading back to Lancashire for a long overdue visit.......

26 February 2008

Full circle.......

It's all come full circle. Last March a Night Heron standing close by to the river inspired me to purchase my DSLR and the same (?) bird was standing in almost exactly the same place yesterday. It looked pretty cold. I took a lot of shots at various settings (I had the time) on my smaller 70-300 lens. I cropped some, left some in their original sizes. They all look pretty much the same though.

It flapped over to some cover after a few moments. The Long tailed Tits were still around and although the AF on the 70-300 isn't as good as the 100-400 I could still get some ok shots. The second one isn't even cropped.

Also around were lots of the common stuff including several Brambling.

I took the big lens out with me today but the weather was wretched. Sleet turning into heavyish rain and very very poor light. The Night Heron wasn't around but the Crossbills were.

There were a few interesting things round and about. Kingfisher, Long Tailed Rosefinch, lots of Hawfinch and more Redpoll. Shame about the lighting though...

Hope the weather improves soon. Another visit to immigration tommorrow (they said the would be open so they better had be) and hopefully on to Onuma...........if it stops raining/snowing/sleeting.

24 February 2008

Red Tape and Redpolls

One of many Redpolls around this afternoon. A rather chilly day too. I met Dan and we walked down the river to the beach in the raw wintry weather. Quite a bit of stuff around. 5 species of Duck including a drake Wigeon, 1 Asian Rosy Finch, several Hawfinch and the Thayers Gull which is presumably moulting into summer plumage as it's looking somewhat bedraggled.

I had a bad experience with Japanese bureacracy last week. I have a permant residency visa stamped in my passport but I still need a re-entry permit. I need one as my old one expired last year sometime. I have to provide a copy to my travel agent as the Japanese government likes to keep track of all foreign comings and goings to, like, you know 'prevent terroism' or something. I'll be fingerprinted next time I re-enter Japan too. Memo to foreign terroists: jump through all this stupid hoops and you can attack the Tokyo subway with biological or chemical weapons just like Japanese nationals have done before in what is the only terroist act to occur on Japanese soil in modern times.

So anyway off I went to the Immigration Office on Thursday. When I got there it was closed. All day, because all the staff had to go to Hakodate airport to meet one international flight. Unbelievable I thought. Wouldn't it be logical to leave one staff member in the office? Apparently not. I came back on Friday morning and the office was closed again so I went out to the airport. Of course there was zero activity in the international terminal (just one flight landing several hours later). I got to speak to one of the Immigration 'Officers' who said he couldn't do the paperwork for my re-entry permit at the airport (I had all the documents/revenue stamps etc).

This is when it got really stupid. I asked him if his office would be oipen on Monday. He said that he didn't know. HE DIDN'T KNOW! What was he expecting to happen? An international flight unexpectedly landing at the airport so him and his useless colleagues had better hang around just in case? I bit my tongue and asked for his office number so at least I could call to check if anyone was there. The idiot didn't even know his office number. He disappeared and several minutes later re-emerged to give me the number handwritten on a Hello Kitty memo pad. Morons.

I did see a Black Crowned Night Heron on the way back from one of my wasted vists to Immigration. Of course it was hiding behind a branch (I saw it beiing mercilessly harassed by the local Crows).

And here's a soaked Blue Rock Thrush taken a couple of days ago.

The Redpolls were very photogenic today particularly this individual.

I also saw the Crossbills again but it was impossible to get a good shot. This is the best, ironically it kind of looks like a pine cone.

The Long Tailed Tits were still around, these shots (like the Night Heron above) were taken with the 70-300 lens.

And here's a random Hakodate image from my recent wanderings around town.

I watched the first episode of 'Ashes to Ashes' last night. A carbon copy of 'Life on Mars' only not as good..............hmmm. I'll still probably watch the rest of the series though. What about poor old Newcastle? I think Keegan may well resign before the end of the season. Managers should never go back. Never. Look at Howard Kendall and Graham Taylor in their second spells at Everton and Villa. As useless as Hakodate Immigration Officers.

20 February 2008

Finch season continues.........

Crossbill was bird of the day but there was some other interesting winter stuff around today too.

I got up at 4.45am to watch Liverpool surprise me and beat Inter Milan 2-0. By the time the game had finished and I'd had breakfast the sun was up and it was a beautiful clear morning. I went to the nearby park to check if the Rosy Finches were there. They were but not as close as yesterday. The Crossbills were back, about half a dozen of them. One male in particular was very photogenic.

Here's a 100% crop of the photo at the top of the page.

There were also some Redpolls very close but I had the exposure compensation on (I had been taking Crossbill pics against the sun) and the photos were horribly overexposed and blurry due to the slow shutter speeds. Memo to self:remember to change camera back to your default settings once in a while. Here's one of the baclkit Crossbills.

Whilst I was sneaking around in the park I was attacked. By a Large Billled Crow. Gave me quite a smack to the head (I thought someone had thrown something at first). I like birds and am not an aggressive or violent person but I want to kill that crow. I had to leave the Crossbills to it and go back to accept the delivery of the new fridge before I headed out again to Goryokaku Park. The mild weather meant it was slushy but at least it was quiet (although some tree-trimming oyajis shattered the calm later on). Large flocks of Dusky Thrush Hawfinch, Brambling and Redpoll were feeding on te newly expose grassy bits. Here's pics of the first 2.

I don't know how grassy it'll be tomorrow as it's snowing again outside..........

Lots of birds at tops of trees today meaning some stange angles (and lots of butt shots). Here's a Brambling and Hawfinch.

The Long Tailed Tits I saw on Sunday seemed to have relocated to Goryokaku Park. They were as difficult as ever to get a good shot of.

There was also a lone Bohemian Waxwing. Not much of an invasion (I'm not sure if I've ever seen a Waxwing on its'own before), hopefully there'll be more arriving soon. I can't complain though as ther have been some great birds near my flat the past 4 days and almost all of them have posed nicely for photos (the Redpolls too, it was my cack-handedness that ruined that shot).

Other stuff of interest today included a Great White Egret flapping slowly overhead (but not slowly enough to lat me take my camera out of the bag for a shot), flocks of Coal Tit and a few Siskin and Oriental Greenfinch to add to a Finchy day.

I was happy when Gerard banged that goal in, it heralded a good day (apart from the Crow assualt that is). And our apartment is serenely quiet after the noisy old fridge was taken away............
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