25 January 2009

A mild mild week.......

A male Long Tailed Duck earlier this week. This was as close as I've ever been to this species, usually they are quite a distance offshore. There were about 10 or so in the harbour at Oshamanbe earlier in the week. Males, females and immatures.

I even uploaded this very poor digiscoped video to youtube showing the males displaying and s couple of Goldeneye gatecrashing the party. It ain't actually David Attenborough standard although you can enjoy ne uttering a Motsonesque 'heh' towards the end, the waggling tails are pretty funny. You can also hear my heavy breathing as I must have been bent right over where the internal microphone was.

You can see more Long Tailed Duck shots here.

Sharing the harbour were lots of Scaup and this lone Slavonian Grebe. This is another species I usually only see bobbing around way offshore.

We ended up at Oshamanbe because the eagles weren't showing so well at Yakumo. The numbers seem to be decreasing, perhaps a combination of the mild weather and the low numbers of dead salmon for them to feed on. There were still some present but not in especially high numbers or close at hand. We were showing a friend the eagles so the Long Tailed Ducks were a bit of a bonus.

Other birds at Yakumo included Bean Goose plus the usual common stuff like this Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker which was fairly tame. Here are some more shots from Yakumo.

The weather has been very mild this week. Rain and temperatures 6 or 7 degrees above freezing, very unusual for mid to late January. Not much stuff around the Hakodate area except the usual tame Nuthatches etc at Onuma.

I made some videos of these too. They didn't turn out so good, this was the best, a strange hypnotised one. They often do this, just freeze for a minute or two, blinking a bit and listening intently for something.

As with the above video if you don't expect a high quality piece of nature footage you won't be disappointed.

The Great Egret was still hanging round the same unfrozen pond.

And despite the mild weather Onuma still manages to look wintry at least.

More shots from Onuma are here.

The week finished at Yakumo (again). It was much colder with a biggish snowfall Saturday night. The usual species were present including the Bean Goose and about 25-30 eagles only. Again the bridge over Route 5 was the best viewing point, this was the shot of the day, an immature White Tailed Eagle. More photos are here.

TV Show of the week has been 'Sons Of Anarchy', a slightly corny but enjoyable drama about a biker gang in California. Ironically the actor who plays the main character used to be in BYKER Grove. And he played that underaged character in 'Queer as Folk'.........now he looks like Kurt Cobain and pistol whips Nazis.

Speaking of Nazis I've also been catching up with some of those Louis Theroux shows on youtube, forgive me for being a year or two behind on such matters. The Nazis he interviewed in one show seemed like nice rational tolerant individuals compared to the Westboro Baptist Church members he interviewd in another episode. These are the fundamentalist christians who picket military funerals because they think god is punishing America because the US tolerates homosexuality and that divine retribution is being visited upon America. They have banners like 'God Hates Fags' and 'Fags Eat Poop'. Morons.

I've been reading 'The Road' by Cormac McCarthy. My god this is a bleak book. 2 survivors of a nuclear winter dodging cannibals in the ash and snow.......difficult to put a positive spin on that.

I knew Man U would be top going into February. Damn.

19 January 2009

Eagles, Egrets and Grebes.......

An adult Stellers Sea Eagle at Yakumo this afternoon. We took some friends up to Yakumo to see the eagles, it was a beautiful sunny Morning but the eagles didn't seem to be as numerous as last week and most of them were just sitting in distant trees doing nothing. The best place for seeing them was on the bridge over the Yurappu River on Route 5. 90% of the the eagles seemed to be White Tailed though, and most of them immatures. Here's an adult snapped from the bridge.

Oddly enough there was a single deer splashing around at the mouth of the river. Lord knows how it got there. There was also a single distant Lapwing on the river bank, only the second one I've seen in Japan. I've seen thousands and thousands of them in the UK of course but they're pretty scarce in Hokkaido.

My wife with a Varied Tit on her hand at Onuma earlier in the week.

A chilly looking Great White Egret at Onuma last week. Wintry weather hit south Hokkaido for sure (finally), lots of snow and freezing temperatures. The Egret (a bird I normally wouldn't associate with snow and ice) was in a small unfrozen part of the lake just behind the toilets in the main car park in Onuma village. You can see more Egret stuff here.

The last week has seen a huge invasion of Hawfinch into the region. They are everywhere. And very shy and flighty too. The above individual was snapped out of the car at Nanae, a suburb of Hakodate. Some more photos are here. I've only ever seen this species once in the UK but this common winter visitor to Hokkaido is abundant this year. As are Rooks and Siskins, 2 other species which seem to be everywhere I look this month.

We were actually looking for Waxwings before I got sidetracked by Hawfinches. Lots of berries for them to gorge on but so far I have seen the grand total of 3 Bohemian Waxwing in crappy light and not exactly close either. Here was the best photo I could manage.

Over at Shikabe ;last Wednesday there were a few confiding Black Necked Grebes in the fishing harbour. Shame the weather was a bit dark..........for some more pics check out my other blog here.

Here's a Red Fox snapped in the twilight at ISO 800 at Onuma this evening.

And here's a nice wintry view of Mt Komagadake from the west.

And here's a crappy distant digiscoped video with my naff gear of some feeding Stellers Sea Eagles way off in the distance.............

A decent video camera and scope is way down my current shopping list..................but I still want 'em of course.

I saw a few people birding today and 2 of the Japan birding blogs on the right have pictures of flocks of Snow Bunting at Yakumo.............a bird In have yet to see in Japan. Mind you it was late in the day so cold and windy when we ended up at the coast a flock of Snowy Owls may have been nearby and gone unnoticed. One of them also saw Pine Bunting, a bird I've yet to see anywhere ever.....

I was watching the footy last night. A couple of minutes to go before the end of the Man U and Chelsea games. Man U drawing and Chelsea losing. Looking pretty good until 3 goals went in during a crazy 2 or 3 minutes meaning Liverpool are only 2nd and Chelsea are still well in the hunt just behind them. Plus Arsenal and Villa won. Damn.

So Boy George has been sent to prison. If that had happened 25 years ago all the inmates would have been drooling in anticipation. But looking at pics of him now those same grizzled cons will probably be asking for protective custody if they have to share cells with Her Majesty's Prisoner O'Dowd.

Food of the week has been さんま (a Japanese sardine type fish) on baguette with processed cheese and lots of black pepper.

Song of the week has been So. Bay by Frank Black and the Catholics.

Birds of the week have been Hawfinch (quantity-wise) and Northern Lapwing (quality-wise).

I tried to change the layout of this blog last week (making it wider) but my cackhandedness meant I deleted all the links and pictures in the sidebar (plus I didn't like the new wide look and reverted back but it was too late). I had to manually redo the links and decided I couldn't be arsed with the old pictures of me in my late 20's smoking pot in various third world countries so please enjoy the new minimalist design.

My NEW BOOK is on sale. The book is actually quite nice and the photos are all from last year and the end of 2007. If you buy a copy I get enough profit to buy 2 cans of beer and bring me great happiness for about 45 minutes. So bear that in mind as you dither with your credit cards........

11 January 2009

Yet more Eagles..........a jerky pixelated video and a rarity

A White Tailed Eagle eating a rotten salmon last week in Yakumo.

We went up to Yakumo for the third time in 8 days last Wednesday and got some more nice eagle shots. This adult White Tailed was snapped off a main bridge inland at Yakumo. The crows were hassling it mercilessly.

You can see more photos of this individual here.

And I even managed a crappy digiscoped video of an adult Stellers Sea Eagle.

I tried uploading it to my own website but it took ages for the page to download when viewed in all browsers so i thought f**k it put it on youtube, it's easier. You can read more about this and see more video here. Whilst I was setting everything up it was eating a salmon on that branch and defending it against the crows. Unfortunately the fish fell off before I was up and running and all we get is a confused looking eagle taking a dump and them flapping off in a huff.

I'm glad I found a use for my old compact digicam and scope. Videoscoping. I hardly ever use my Scope except for a bit of seawatching at Kamiso.

So I found a bit of a rarity on Friday. A Fieldfare was among the Dusky Thrush.I only got a very brief view but it was clearly a Fieldfare, god how many thousands of them have I seen in England and Germany. No photo and I couldn't relocate it despite heroic efforts to do so. Of course now small doubts set in. But it was a Fieldfare, honestly. Shame it f*#*ked off and left so quickly.

I've seen a few rare and semi-rare birds around Hakodate now. The Fieldfare of course, Hoopoe, Mugimaki Flycatcher, American Wigeon. Plus a Caspian Tern over at Asabu in 2006. And I don't have a single photo of any of them.

It's got cold again and Onuma was finally completely frozen over on Thursday.

Not much in the way of bird pics so here's a Red Squirrel instead.

More pics and bird related stuff on my new blog.

I found 2 other Hakodate birding blogs. Both appear to be written by 2 staff (or students I suppose) at the Hakodate branch of Hokkaido University. You can click on the links on the right or go here and here. We've been seeing some of the same birds in the same places (Thayers Gull, Daurian Jackdaw etc) but have never seen each other.

So Liverpool couldn't beat Stoke last night. By the time Liverpool play again Man Utd could have overtaken them at the top. Oh and Stevie G might at that stage be more concerned with getting good legal advice than winning titles. Why the hell were Torres and Keane on the bench? Benitez is a good solid manager but not a great one. Now we have to hope Man U and Chelsea draw and Man U somehow drop points against Wigan and Bolton. Oh and Rafa's outburst against Ferguson (true though most of it was) could have waited until the end of the season with the title safely in the bag. I still can't see Liverpool as Premier League champions. Go on you bunch of foreign mercenaries prove me wrong.

Food of the week has been nukasanma, a kind of salty big anchovy type fish thing that my mother-in-law makes.

TV Show of the week has been 'Survivors'. I realise it's a bit of a badly acted cheesefest but as I said last week I'm a sucker for this kind of thing. 28 Days Later, The Day of The Triffids, Children Of Men, The Stand: I watched 'em all. Even the recent 'I am Legend' was OK. 'The Postman' was crap though. Has Kevin Costner ever made a decent movie?

Our car is currently off road. It has been making all kinds of odd noises and it's going under the knife on Tuesday. Further trips this winter to Yakumo/Onuma and even Kamiso and Ono depend on the outcome of the visit to the garage so fingers crossed on that one........

4 January 2009

New Year in Hokkaido

A Stellers Sea Eagle at Yakumo a couple of days ago.

So 2009 is underway. The relatively mild weather has continued meaning there is little snow in Hakodate. No two winters are ever the same of course but this one does seem unusually benign. The lake at Onuma is not 99% frozen over, not even 50% perhaps.

The eagles at Yakumo are still around. It was much more wintry up there although the snow was not quite as deep as in normal winters. For more eagle pics please check here.

And here is what they'd been eating.

Mostly grey weather so far in 2009. No sparkling blue skies and pristine snowfields so far this winter alas. Lots of views like this one though at Menagawa this afternoon. I did get a crappy picture of an Ancient Murrelet though.

The Ural Owl was still round and we saw it several times. I tried digiscoping with the Fuji 31FD but after using a DSLR with a decent 400mm lens digiscoping just doesn't cut it anymore, too soft and blurry (to be fair I use a 65mm scope with a 32X eyepiece, probably not the best combination but it's so fiddly that even if I had a 80+ mm scope I still couldn't be bothered. I admire those who get sharp images from a compact connected to a spotting scope but I give up).

Here's a cropped one from my DSLR anyway, it looks miles better than frame-filling digiscoped images.

Here is a digiscoped one.From the same standing position, uncropped.

On the same day I got some nice pics of this Red Fox.

For more Fox and Owl shots please go here.

I was going to do an end of year post but forgot. 2008? Bit of an up and down year. I turned 40 which wasn't such a big deal actually. I don't feel 40. I feel about............37 or 38. The end of the year was a bit of a downer. My friend passed away, my business dropped off somewhat (and that means my salary dropped too) and the economy in the UK (which was always my get out clause if things went bottom up here) is in an even worse state than my own finances.

But 2008 wasn't all bad. I had an enjoyable trip to England last spring and I saw north Hokkaido for the first time in late May too. Not so many new birds......Oriental Pratincole and Marsh Sandpiper were my only 2 life birds I think. Yellow Wagtail was new to my Japan list. Sport? Well footy-wise Liverpool and England are looking good going into 2009. I look forward to Liverpool not blowing it after Stevie G gets sent down. I watched the first half of the game against Preston last night, a bit odd seeing Deepdale on my TV screen in Japan.

I'll be posting more regularly on my new blog from now on. It looks a bit amateurish I know, even a simple application like iweb confuses me ( I tried rapidweaver which was harder and dreamweaver which was impossible) but hopefully it'll get better.

I've just been watching Blakes 7, season 4. Cheesy but still great. Avon was always one of my childhood heroes.

I tried downloading "Survivors" and got episodes 1-5 in MP4 format. They were so jerky and pixelated they were unwatchable..........from the jerky pixelated intro it looks like just the kind of post-apocalyptic tosh I'm an absolute sucker for. Hope there's an avi version next time I put my downloading hat on.

I hardly ever watch TV these days, just football. Japanese TV is dreadful, endless variety and cooking programmes and game shows with squeaky voiced bimbos and faggy looking males with early 80's Rod Stewart haircuts. I handpick a few UK/US shows to download, I think 'Shameless' starts soon.

Food of the week has been scallops and shimeji mushrooms fried in butter and soy sauce with garlic and pepper. Pretty darn tasty, I coked it twice over the festive period. We had expensive crab last night. Nice, but what a lot of effort to get at such a small amount of food. Plus one of the spikes on the shell cut my finger. Next week I'll be back on fried rice every lunchtime as austerity sets in.

I used some of my air miles to book flights to northeast Hokkaido in late winter. Some killer Eagle and Crane shots beckon........if winter ever kicks in that is. I guess it'll be much much colder up there, maybe my huge down parka will make an appearance this season after all.

Back to work tomorrow..............the year begins for real then I suppose.

2 January 2009

2009 begins............

Happy New Year to you all. A new year and a new way for me to blog. This site will be for weekly updates only, every weekend probably and only the best bird shots as well as my feeble minded musings about the week gone by and a few non wildlife snaps. For more frequent bird related updates (with less of my waffle) please go to my NEW BLOG.

The above Stellers Sea Eagle and Red Fox below are some of the delights that will await you........

I'll update this one on Sunday...........
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