31 August 2008

A grey end to summer

Every year at the end of August a small number of waders pass through Hakodate. Other places in Japan get many more waders than we do here in south Hokkaido but it's still one of the highlights of the birding year I guess.

Red Necked Stints are by far the most numerous and a couple of days ago there were seven at Kamiso in the company of 1 Terek Sandpiper and several Common Sandpiper. The weather has been truly awful the last week or so with grey grey skies, humid muggy days, terrible weather for photos of fast moving shorebirds. These were the best I could manage of the Stints.

The Terek Sandpiper was even worse.

Last year there was a huge influx of Red Necked Stints as well as various other wader species, hopefully in the next 10 days or so I can get some decent pics.

We went to all the nearby wader haunts today (much brighter weather) but there was nothing. Only a few Common Sandpipers scattered around the beaches and all I got at Onuma were 3 huge mozzie bites.

The second year Glaucous Gull was still around at Kamiso. Last Wednesday there were 60-70 (!) Night Herons at Kamiso but they are a skittish bunch, the individual below was taken near my flat instead.

So that's summer almost done then. Bit of a quiet one. I'm completely indifferent about Liverpool this season and am steeling myself for the torture of enduring England's upcoming trip to Croatia. When I was a small boy I used to 'support' Carlisle Utd (the team for my birthplace). Perhaps I should go back to the fold. Third in League 1 this weekend I see. Plus who's cooler, Jimmy Glass or the likes of Frank Lampard/Dirk Kuyt?

I watched 'Tropic Thunder' last week which was pretty funny and have started watching 'The New World' which is............kind of slow.

OK I'm off to scratch my mosquito bites.

23 August 2008


Some sunflowers near Furano a couple of days ago.

We went to Asahiyama Zoo last week. I always felt slightly scornful towards people who take lots of shots of animals at the zoo, I mean it's so easy. But I've always been a hypocrite so here are some pictures of animals from only a few metres away...

To be honest, the zoo was a bit small and the cages were tiny. It was a very warm sunny afternoon so most of the animals were taking a nap. The star attraction of the zoo was this bored looking and sleepy Polar Bear.

The zoo was also extremely busy. The most popular place seemed to be the Penguins....

We were in central Hokkaido for 3 days, staying at our favourite hotel in Minami-Furano. It's a log building with the best food I've eaten in Japan. Normally I'm not a fan of these kind of places (you know those 'small food on big plates' joints) but here the food is just perfect, and just enough to fill you up. Lots of small portions of perfectly prepared tasty morsels.

The weather was nice enough most of the time (although it's cool and rainy down here in Hakodate). We stopped briefly at Mukawa both ways. 3 Eastern Marsh Harrier, 1 Great White Egret, lots of Sand Martin, Reed Bunting and Stonechat and of course various waders.

I think these poor record shots show a juvenile Marsh Sandpiper. It seemed smaller and daintier than a Greenshank anyway. Lots of Green Sandpiper, some unidentified Snipe, some unidentified small waders (Broad Billed Sandpiper I think but too bief a view to be sure) and lots of juvenile charadrius Plovers, probably Little Ringed Plover. All of the waders were shy and unlike last year there were no tame Red Necked Stints running about in the open.

A couple of Buzzards snapped on the roadside near Ashaikawa, shame the tail on the top one got chopped off. Near the hotel there were various common birds including lots of Asian Brown Flycatcher. These pics are not so good, I'd forgotten to change my camera settings after some outdoor night shots.

I even watched a couple of evenings of the Olympics in the hotel room. Female Hammer throwing, Americans (and others) dropping batons, an annoying Japanese table tennis player losing to a Chinese one.........not as bad as I'd been expecting, the coverage was about as biased as I'm sure it would have been in the UK. I missed the England friendly on Wednesday, can't believe Beckham is still playing. Actually I can't believe half of that team is still playing. Wasn't Capello supposed to to radically overhaul the team?

17 August 2008

An early visitor

A second year Glaucous Gull at Kamiso last week. This is usually a winter visitor, I don't know if it had been here all summer or not or if it was just an early arrival. I was on the beach looking for waders (nothing doing there) and noticed the Glaucous amongst the regular resident gulls, like these Black Tailed and Slaty Backed Gulls.

We still have car woes so not much travelling around recently. There were several Eastern Crowned Warblers in the trees nest to the local river this afternoon, the first autumn migrants. There were also the usual skulking Night Herons.

Lots more of this species over at Kamiso, here are a couple of juveniles coming into roost.

I watched 'Into the Wild' this evening, the story of a selfish spoilt rich kid with personal issues who ended up starving to death in Alaska. An ok movie marred by that bloke from Pearl Jam contributing acoustic numbers to the soundtrack.

Chelsea have just gone 3-0 up behind me as I type. I'm in a bit of an indifferent mood as regards the footy. I watched Liverpool in Belgium the other night and was almost laughing at how inept they looked (and they weren't much better last night either).

The Canon 100-400 does not make such a good macro lens. These dragonflies are abundant at this time of year.

We're off to our favourite hotel in central Hokkaido for a couple of nights midweek (hopefully the car will be fixed before then). We even have a trip to Asahiyama Zoo planned. The best food I've eaten in Japan plus waders in Mukawa en route and (cheating I know) close-up shots of Polar Bears...........

10 August 2008

Barrel scraping.........

Summer came up nice and hot in the first week of August, still no car available so I was stuck in Hakodate. Not many birds about yet, a juvenile Cuckoo (actual species uncertain) was near my flat this afternoon, lots of Night Herons over at Kamiso this evening too as well as several Grey Herons. Unfortunately idiot here forgot to switch the IS on.

The reason the IS was off was my moonshots last night (no IS on the tripod).

As you can see not much to photograph recently, scraping the barrel a bit. The last refuge of a blogger in Japan is a picture of food.

Some Scallop at the local sushi joint. It was taken with my cellphone camera, as was this pair of copulating dragonflies.

I watched five (!) movies last week. First up was 'The Mist' which was OK in a B-movie kind of way, 'The Descent', which was actually quite good and 'The ruins' which was also not bad at all. After these 3 modern horror movies, a sci-fi pic,'Sunshine' was up next, hmmmm.......not so great but just about watchable. In all the above movies ,which all have large ensemble casts, only ONE main character actually survives (and he wishes he hadn't, believe me).

The last film was 'Zoo'. Bit of a mistake this one. It was a documentary about the life of that bloke who died of a perforated colon after being shagged up the a** by a horse. Sorry to be so blunt in my description, the man apparently did it (or had it done to him) a lot and posted video of it on the internet. He was part of a group of zoophiliacs (people who shag animals if you're unfamiliar with the term, as thankfully I was at least until last night). I should stress this was a documentary, not actual footage of erm, man and horse. I was spared that. Unbelievably, the writer/director made this rather sensational subject matter into one of the most boring films I've ever seen. I was hoping for some insight as to why this man would choose this kind of thing as a hobby/lifestyle choice. What kind of horrible trauma led him to this? But no. Lots of soft piano music, moody shots of people staring out of bus windows and it even presented these creepy misfits (who prefer animals to people as bedfellows lest we forget) as some kind of harmless misunderstood victims. Yuk.

Er, not much to say after that but I'll try. I've been harassed by a pair of Large Billed Crows this week. Every time I walk up the river they scream at me buzz around my head. I have to keep my eyes on them all the time, if I don't they fly really close and these things look mean. I suppose they've noticed me poking around looking for photographic opps and have marked me down as a threat, presumably they have young nearby. I bet even those sick weirdos on that documentary last night wouldn't get frisky with a Large Billed Crow.
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