29 October 2008

Return of some old acquaintances

The weather has been lousy the last week or so with lots of grey skies and heavy rain, a bit like autumn in northwest England actually. We ended up at Onuma this afternoon and the tame flock of Nuthatch, Varied and Marsh Tits was present and glad to be fed. It was rather dark though. I had my lens wide open at 5.6, exposure compensation at -1 or below and ISO at 800. I could only manage to get shutter speeds around 1/200 and so the pics are not so good. Still, nice to have some tame birds around.

There's a definite hierarchy. Nuthatch at the top, Varied Tit in the middle and Marsh Tit at the bottom. The Great Tits were staying well out of it.

Not much else at Onuma. A few Woodpeckers, a few Grebes out in the middle of the lake (probably Black Necked), a lone Whooper Swan, 3 Great White Egret, a few of common ducks and several cormorants.

Onuma was still looking very autumnal.

And when the cloud lifted momentarily the top of Mt Komagadake was dusted with snow.

Over at Kmaiso the 2 Whitefronted Geese were still around yesterday as were lots of the commoner duck species including large numbers of Wigeon.

Nearer home there were still a few migrants passing through. Here are 2 awful photos of what would be 2 highly twitchable birds if they flitting around the bushes back in England. Ir was raining and very dark when this Siberian Rubythroat and Red Flanked Bluetail were sharing the same spot in the undergrowth just round the corner from my apartment.

So Liverpool beat Chelsea. Not bad at all. I'd still prefer if they had 1 or 2 more local players (by 'local' I mean northwest England at least) but it is, for now at least, looking like they may, just may have a chance at the title at long last. The last time they won it I was young and freshfaced and also just about to start my finals at university. I'm now middle aged and grumpy as hell.

I've just about finished my blurb photobook and am awaiting the first copy of my calendar. I've been noodling around with my website a little too, that will next month's project now that the book/calendar have been finished. Here's another gallery for you to check out, this is some of best shots from last spring/summer.

This is a picture of my Uncle Tom, a bit of a legend in our family. He has sailed across the Atlantic and mined diamonds in Guyana amongst other things. I took this picture back in Australia back in 1994 when he put me up for a couple of months, that branch is a swarm of bees by the way. Sadly Tom is very very sick at the moment. My thoughts are with him and his family in Cairns.

22 October 2008

A lazy Autumn

It's been a while since I updated this blog. Not that I've done anything terribly exciting the last couple of weeks or anything.

A Bullheaded Shrike in Hakodate today. Not a lot of bird photos recently.

Autumn migration is well underway. Lots of Rustic Bunting, Japanese White-eye and Japanese Bush Warbler around. Varied and Coal Tits are in small groups along the riverside and Brown Dipper have appeared from upstream. Last week we got up at dawn again and went up Mt Hakodate.

Tons of birds on the move but no decent pics at all. Brambling, Japanese Grosbeak, Red Flanked Bluetail, lots of thrushes of various species (but too high up to ID), Pacific Swift, Siberian Rubythroat, all 3 of the local Accipter species and best of all a very briefly seen Brown Shrike (a scarce bird in these parts). Over at Kamiso flocks of duck are building (8 species) and they were joined last week by 2 juvenile Whitefronted Goose. Up at Yakumo a few days ago we got Eastern Marsh Harrier, Hobby, another Rubythroat, Bar Tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Greenshank, Buff-bellied Pipit, Great Egret and the first Whooper Swan and Scaup of the season. And no good pictures at all. Just lots of blurry out of focus Rustic Buntings and White-eyes. This lousy Marsh (or Willow-it wasn't calling) Tit is the best of a sorry bunch.

Here's a view from the top of Mt Hakodate.

Imagine lots of birds flitting around in the bushes or flying quickly high overhead.

I've finished one of my calendars and am waiting for my single review copy before I decide if it's worth selling online and I've almost finished my photobook too (just have to add a few sage words, the most difficult part). I've fiddled around a little more with my website.

There's a blog, which may or may not replace this one (can I migrate this to another site? Don't think so). Not much to look at yet.

And here's an Adobe Lightroom Gallery I put together of my best shots from last winter.

There are also some Aperture Galleries here.

I don't quite know what to make of the footy season so far. But I like it. England atop their group and (for now at least) plain sailing all the way to South Africa, Liverpool joint top of the Premier League and their Champions League group (although they may both change soon). The current season of 'The Shield' is gripping stuff too.

12 October 2008

I have a headache

A Fox at Onuma last week.

Not much to post today. I've been hunched over my keyboard a lot in the last week hence the headache.

*Nerdish Topic Alert*

I've just bought a domain name and am in the process of setting up my own website. I bought the domain name from GoDaddy and am using a free 2 month MobileMe trial from Apple. I've been using Iweb (the apple software that helps you design and upload webpages) and testing which photo software is the best to use with it...........and I've got cross eyed from staring at the screen too long.

A Night Heron on the local river.

Anyway you can check out my new website here or at the link on the right. It's in the experimental stage at the moment whilst I sort things out. I've given myself until the end of November to try a few different things so pages will be added and removed at whim until then. I'm aiming to try and sell a few calendars/photobooks on it but judging by the global economic crisis you'll all have resorted to cannibalism to survive by the time I get my arse in gear to actually selling stuff on my website.

So in addition to the website I've also been messing around with Blurb (books) and Lulu (calendars) software. So not much time to go out and take any pictures.

A Japanese Cormorant at Kamiso last week. Not much birding. We went up Mt Hakodate at dawn last Wednesday. Quite a few migrants on the move. Pale Thrush, 6 or 7 Siberian Rubythroat, lots of Japanese Green Pigeon and Oriental Turtle Dove, Brambling, Japanese Grosbeak, a few common raptors and Buntings, the usual resident Tits and Woodpeckers, plus of course various undientified stuff flitting around in the bushes.

Nearer home I got my first Daurian Redstart of the winter today but not much else about. Over at Onuma recently there have been some of these huge cartoon style toadstools........

The leaves are changing colour and there's a bit of a chill in the air. The chill was welcome today as I needed the fresh air as I hadn't really been out of the house for the previous 3 days ( a mix of work, rain and the aforementioned computer geekery). I stayed up last night watching the England game. Good result, poor first half though. Much as I love him for Liverpool Gerard shouldn't start for England anymore, or Capello should simply choose between him and Lampard and use the other as cover. End of story. Still, a good start to the Group and if they win in Belarus (which they should but of course this is England we're talking about) they'll be in a very strong position.

Before watching that tortuous first half at Wembley I watched Scotland v Norway. If I was a Scottish fan and I woke up this morning knowing that this amazing miss has possibly cost my country a place in the World Cup Finals, I would be really pissed off.

Right, I'm tired of computers. I might even go and read a book or something.

3 October 2008

October, a Walrus and a few migrants

A bloated brown mammal, stinking a little of fish and with foul eating habits and dodgy teeth. And it's standing next to some Walrus.

The Walrus were at an aquarium we visited in Otaru. Somewhat surprisingly there was a walrus show that involved (I kid ye not) sumo wrestling, kissing and all kinds of coy expressions. I had no idea Walrus could be trained.

Difficult to get good shots through the walls of the Walrus tank.

We were camping at Kuromatsunai last week. A bit chilly at night I have to say. the campsite was great for birds early in the morning. Lots of common woodland stuff including 4 species of woodpecker. Black was the most interesting but flew off before I could even get my camera out. This male Greyheaded came the closest but the early light wasn't so good.

The first snow of the year was atop Mt Yotei.

Lots of Buzzards around everywhere, here's one snapped out of the car window.

Still a few waders around. 10 or so Greenshank were at Yakumo as was the Grey Tailed Tattler below, at Kamiso on yesterday there was a lone Common Sandpiper and a not so tame Red Necked Stint. A bit crappy compared to some shots I managed of these species last month......

Back in Hakodate the migration season is getting more interesting. I had to cancel a dawn trip up Mt Hakodate on Wednesday (just about the only day's rain in the last month or so) but in the bushes along the river near my flat there have been several Arctic Warbler, easily identified by their buzzing calls but too active to photograph. A single male Siberian Rubythroat was also impossible to photograph as there is just enough vegetation left for it to hide in. Also present have been Grey Wagtail, Bullheaded Shrike, Peregrine, Teal, Asian Brown Flycatcher and various small brown skulkers.

Today there were 7 or 8 Night Heron too, tricky to get a clear view.

Lots of beautiful clear weather recently. A couple of days ago we went to Menagawa. The Harlequin Ducks have returned but only youngster or females and anyway they were too far away for a photo. Also here were Mandarin Duck and lots and lots of Asian House Martin plus White Rumped Swift getting ready to head south. No bird shots so here's a view of Mt Hakodate from the east near Menagawa.

Here's a final view from near Niseko.

After this view I haven't been able to get this song out of my head.

I'd forgotten what a knobhead DLT was. And although that Wurzels song is quite funny (the first time) I couldn't imagine people actually taking time going out and buying the record and putting it onto the turntable and actually listening to it. Odd times the 1970's eh.
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