25 September 2009

Autumn begins.

A beautiful clear autumnal day again in south Hokkaido, the Night Herons appear to have mostly relocated downstream.

There were also loads of Arctic Warblers. Their buzzing calls were everywhere along the river......

Unfortunately they were hanging around in a dark shady area meaning crappy photos..........

Bird of the day was a briefly seen Siberian Rubythroat which was attacked by a Bullheaded Shrike and disappeared before I even had my camera out.

Lots of Asian Brown Flycatchers again yesterday............

The top one kind of looked like a Sooty but the bill is too long and the wings appear to be too short.

I'm determined to photograph (or at least find) a Sooty Flycatcher this autumn although time may be running out.

I had a trip to the dentist this morning. A small part of one of my teeth separated from a filling fell out earlier this month. The dentist took a look and said I had 2 options. He could polish it up and leave it be for a while (ie indefinitely) or completely rip out the filling and replace it. Let me see, I thought. I could take the first option (no pain, cheap and quick) or the second (pain, multiple trips to the dentist and loads of money). Well duh. Polish and be damned I said.


23 September 2009

A short trip

We just got back from a short trip to the Tomakomai area. We stopped at Utonai-ko, a well known bird reserve near Chitose Airport. This Bean Goose is wild but tame, I think it's the same individual we've seen several times before here. The Whooper Swans are also wild, some of them are sick or injured birds who couldn't make the spring trip north........

There were also small numbers of Pintail, presumably the first arrivals of the winter.

Other stuff here included Siberian Rubythroat (hiding in the bushes) and the usual common stuff including several Great Egret.

We also checked out the mouth of the Mukawa River. This is a site we visit once or twice a year, it's famous for waders. However the area seems to be under some kind of development, most of the wetland has been drained. This has been going on the last couple of years. It's a bit sad, I really hope the reason is not just somebody is using up government taxes to create useless unnecessary construction projects.

The only things of interest here were Eastern Marsh Harrier and an unidentified kind of Snipe.

Waders were thin on the ground everywhere. Apart from the odd Common Sandpiper the only shorebird we saw during the whole 2 days was this bedraggled scruffy looking wader that I thought was just a Dunlin at Oshamanbe.

But thanks again to Unravel who pointed out it is fact a Curlew Sandpiper....................

One possible reason for the lack of waders on the beaches were the hundreds (or thousands) of fishermen trying to snag Salmon, they were lined up on every beach from Hakodate up to Tomakomai.

We stayed in a cheap hotel in Tomakomai. This was due to the fact this week is a big holiday in Japan so all the decent hotels in the general area were either booked up or too expensive.

Dinner wasn't included in our hotel so we went for a major eating and drinking session at a nearby izakaya. This was snapped with the camera on my cellphone.

Tomakomai is not an attractive city. A gloomy industrial town. 8 years ago I had to work there for a couple of weeks, it made Hakodate look like Venice or something. It is surrounded by very nice countryside though: mountains, forests and lakes. Here's a view of the smoking top of the nearby volcano Mt Tarumae.

We went to one forested area just north of the city that is famous for Black Woodpecker and Crested Kingfisher. We heard the former but saw nothing of the latter (although we did see a Common Kingfisher). Actually the forest looks great for birds but as today was not in the best season for woodland birds plus it was a national holiday with gorgeous warm clear autumnal weather so the trails were packed. I reckon an early morning visit in May would more than compensate for having to stay in a hole like Tomakomai.

Lots of Japanese Grosbeaks were up in the treetops but they remained up there and didn't come down for a photo. I borrowed my wife's macro lens to try and shoot some of the many bugs...........

Not so good I know.

Macro is hard. DOF is so difficult to gauge. My camera isn't so great for manual focusing (it has a smallish viewfinder). Bugs move and flowers/twigs blow around in the wind. The macro lens my wife has (the Tamron 90mm one) is OK but the AF is lousy and of course it doesn't have IS. If I had it on a tripod with liveview to help with manual focus the results may have been better. I now have a lot more respect for macro photographers.

Wow there are loads of different kinds of insects. I had no idea.


21 September 2009


One of three Black Crowned Night Herons on the river near my flat this afternoon.

This one appears to have some kind of dragonfly parasite.

The migrants continue to pass through. Here's a crappy shot of an Arctic Warbler. I find warblers as tricky as flycatchers to ID but at least Arctics have a very distinctive buzzing call.

Still no Sooty Flycatchers, here's yet another Asian Brown.

A female Japanese Thrush was skulking in the bushes too but I couldn't get a photo.

Yesterday was my 41st birthday. It was a beautiful day and the start of a 4 day holiday in japan meaning the only northbound route out of Hakodate had huge traffic jams (something that hardly ever happens in this relatively empty corner of Japan).

Despite the glorious weather I didn't see a single bird of interest so here's a view from near Onuma.

The construction outside my window has entered its 12th week (and they do it 7 days a week don't forget), they're now digging up the car park in front of our apartment very very very very very noisily. Bastards.

I watched the Manc derby last night, very exciting stuff although the worst possible result. Liverpool's defence looks terrible, I hope they can hang on for a top 4 finish.


18 September 2009

Wader Season #8

3 Red Necked Stints were on the beach at Kamiso this morning. Initially they were very jumpy but they got progressively tamer and I just sat down on the sand and they busily fed only a few feet away. Most of today's photos are only slightly cropped, if at all.

Not much to say really. I arrived, I took a lot of photos and then I went home.

Not much else around. Goosander, Mallard, Grey Heron, Kingfisher, a few Stonechats and a lone Common Sandpiper was about it............

I took a hell of a lot of shots (and filled a 8GB card pretty much) and about half were out of focus. I don't know if it's down to my crappy technique/limitations with the AF of my aging 400D/limitations with the 100-400L or a mixture of 2 or more of these. The 7D should remove one of those obstacles at least. I don't like AI Servo on the 400D so I tend to use to use one shot focus, the 7D has a new focusing system with some new focusing options which I hope will help bumbling idiots like me.

A very photogenic species and they'll be gone very soon so forgive my deluge of Stint shots the last few weeks. They were eating all kinds of stuff including dragonflies.....

One point of interest was the large number of Salmon already in the river. Perhaps this year will see a big Salmon run after all.............

Here's a crappy shot of some Salmon from the river bank, AF was useless so I had to use MF.

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