27 October 2009

Autumn continues #2

Autumn continues in south Hokkaido with the usual picturesque scenes at Onuma.

An old friend of mine, Damian,  from back home in Preston passed through Hakodate for a few days last week and I'm just recovering after several days of heavy drinking and eating. I also seemed to have picked up some kind of nasty neckache so I'm a bit tired and grumpy as I type this (and hunching over a computer keyboard doesn't help much).

Great to see Damian and the first real bit of reminiscing with someone from my childhood I've done for ages.

Not much to report birdwise over the last week or so.

The male Bullheaded Shrike was one of several migrant species passing through town. I didn't get to Mt Hakodate last week, this is by far the best place to see migrants. I did go in the evening to show Damian the famous nightview but I forgot a tripod so here's a halfhourbeforeduskview instead.

The first Daurian Redstarts and Dusky Thrush have appeared and on the moat in Goryokaku Park there were 2 Coot, a Little Grebe and an odd looking duck that I thought was probably just a Pintail. It looks a bit browner that most of the Pintails I see though. Could it be a Falcated Duck? Damn these dull looking eclipse plumaged male/immature/female autumn ducks...............

The most interesting bird of the last few days was this distant immature White Tailed Eagle just outside Hakodate.

Damian got lucky with the weather as we showed him the local sights ( oh and he isn't a birder ).

The Night Herons are hanging on.

And this Grey Heron gave me some some more 7D BIF working out.

October isn't the best time of the year for bird shots and I'm itching to use the 7D on the winter stuff that will be arriving soon.

The Harlequin Ducks were as shy and difficult to photograph as usual.

And look at this for a tacky statue in Esan.

Nice result for Liverpool on Sunday, Carragher was a bit lucky to stay on the field though. LOL at Vidic, will he make it 4 out of 4 next time?

My neck is hurting again so I'll stop typing........


18 October 2009

Autumn continues

The Harlequin Ducks have returned for the winter, these pics were from near Menagawa, a few km to the east of Hakodate. This is a common winter visitor but is difficult to photograph as they are always just that little bit too far away. I come to this same place every autumn with the usual so-so results.........

There were also several Temincks Cormorant nearby.

Back in Hakodate the bird of the week was one I didn't even see let alone photograph. I took a walk down the local river, along the beach and ended up in the forest at the base of Mt Hakodate. The usual suspects were on the river. 5 species of duck included a female Wigeon and there was also a lone Coot (not a common bird here). Various unidentified stuff was flitting around in the bushes. Oh and the Night Herons of course.

On the beach the resident Slaty Backed and Black Tailed Gulls were joined by lots of individuals with pale backs. When I first came to Japan and had an ancient fieldguide these were known simply as Herring Gulls. A little later those in the know have labelled them Vega Gulls (or sometimes East Siberian Gull). 'Herring' Gulls have been spilt into various species across the world and several of these splits occur in Japan. Vega are by far the commonest. I think this is a typical one in winter plumage.

This one seems to have slightly yellowish legs. Individuals with yellow legs are sometimes known as 'taimyrensis' types which are either a) a subspecies of another split species known as Heuglins Gull or b) a hybrid of Heuglins and Vega. WTF is all I can say. I don't even know if this is one of those 'taimyrensis' types or not.

And this one has a completely different head shape.

I know Gulls are highly variable even within species. There were several other odd looking individuals scattered around. They obviously can't all be vagrants, perhaps all of 'em are just Vega Gulls. I give up. For now.

This Blue Rock Thrush was easy to ID at least.

The forest at the foot of Mt Hakodate was full of birds. Japanese Bush Warblers and White-eyes were abundant. The resident Tits and Nuthatches were everywhere and some of the more interesting stuff included Grey Bunting. A female White Backed Woodpecker was a nice find and i was very surprised to hear a Black Woodpecker calling. I am deeply familiar with this sound after chasing them around the woods in Onuma the last 3 years.

This one was in an area of the forest that I always thought looked perfect for Black Woodpecker. The other 4 local species are there (although I haven't seen a Grey Headed in Hakodate for several years). Unfortunately I couldn't find the Black Woodpecker, it was very close but it just didn't want to be found (the forest is still overgrown enough for birds to hide in). I climbed up the hill off the trail to try and find it but got nothing except mosquito bites on my face (what are they still doing here in mid October? Global warming eh?).

I hope I can find that Black Woodpecker in the next few weeks before the snow comes and closes the trails in the forest. It took me ages to see my first one at Onuma and then I started seeing loads of them. I wonder if they've been on Mt Hakodate all along? Surely not, I'm sure I would have seen or heard them, I've been birding there on and off for 9 or so years and I can't be that incompetent. Can I?

They do occur on the outskirts of town though. And because I count 'heards only' on my local list it's a new addition to my Hakodate list which must be around 188 or 189 now, can't remember exactly to be honest.

Here's one of the local turtles.

I have 'In the Loop' primed and ready to watch.

So Liverpool's title challenge is over before the clocks change. I didn't see last night's loss to Sunderland but god almighty to lose a game with a deflection from a balloon................... how annoying is that?


12 October 2009

Autumn kicking in.........

Some autumnal scenes from a couple of days in Niseko.

Under those clouds is the first snow I've seen this season.........

We just had a spur of the moment trip up to Niseko seeing in a cheap and cheerful hot spring hotel (this meant it was full of noisy chain-smoking groups of Japanese retirees). Not so many birds about in Niseko, I heard a Black Woodpecker, saw a few Jay and Buzzard and that's about it. We stopped at Yakumo on the way up and there were a few interesting things at the river mouth including a group of about a dozen Black Legged Kittiwake, presumably deposited there during last week's typhoon.

The 7D is proving to be a great BIF camera..........

I flushed a young Goshawk (no decent pics alas) but it did startle all the ducks and gulls (as well as a lone Greenshank). There were 9 species of duck (just the common species including the first Pochard of the winter), 6 species of gull, Black Necked Grebe, a dozen or so Common Tern fishing offshore, lots of Grey Heron plus a Great Egret. The gull species included several Glaucous Winged Gull, a fairly common winter visitor.

I watched the England game online (free of course but with Ukrainian commentary). I'm relieved they lost in a way as some folk were beginning to think Capello's England were kind of invincible. A reality check and less hype is exactly what was needed. Damn, looks like Portugal are going to squirm through and how lucky are Argentina?

Not much in Hakodate last week, here's a Night Heron from a few days ago shot at ISO 1600 on a dark dreary day.

Not really one for the album or anything but good enough for a crappy blog like this. I only went to ISO 1600 once on my 400D (for some Owl shots) and the results were terrible. The 7D looks more of a goer for sure...........plus it has all the half stops like 500/640/1000/1250 which should be very useful too.


8 October 2009

A quiet autumn week.......

Not much around the last week except the Night Herons which have been dwindling in numbers (only 1 today). I'm enjoying the 7D, it's great for action shots (like flying birds) but except the Night Herons there hasn't been much to photograph.

The frog below was on a dark rainy day at Onuma and the Temincks (?) Cormorant was a surprise find in the local park.

The first Rustic Buntings of the autumn have appeared but other than that nothing of note.

After 4 or 5 weeks of generally fine weather it's pouring down outside. A typhoon has hit central Japan and we're getting the tail end of it. 5 years ago a typhoon hit Hakodate before it had fizzles out and did a lot of damage. Trees down everywhere and no electricity for a day. Hopefully that won't happen tonight.

Looks like Liverpool's season will be over by Christmas.


3 October 2009

Breaking the 7D's cherry.............

I was able to grab an hour or so before work this morning to test my new 7D. Luckily the Night Herons obliged.

It is quite a complicated beast compared to what I'm used to but on first impressions it's a winner. For flight shots the AF is fantastic.

Even the usual skulking shots seemed better.........

It can't work miracles though............


2 October 2009

Goodbye and hello...........

So it's goodbye to my old 400D. These Night Herons were the last shots it will probably take birdwise. Ironically Night Herons were also the first too.

Well not strictly goodbye, I'll keep it for landscape stuff at least. And hoe can I get rid of it after all the thousands of shots it gave me over the last two and a half years?

Chopped the top of that one's wings off.......

But it makes a change from the usual view............

Not much else to report. Here's a fox from Onuma last week, lens wide open and ISO 800.

So goodbye to the 400D and hello to the 7D.

And here is a shot from my NEW 7D. Woohoo!

With the 7D and my old 400D kit lens wide open and at ISO 6400.

It seems a complicated camera especially after coming from the 400D. Plus at the moment I don't have an English manual (I downloaded a PDF one but it's just not the same as a book-I can't read it on the bog for starters).

One thing though. My 8GB card holds 765 pics on my 400D and at the same settings on my 7D it holds about one third of that. So should I get a 16GB or 32 GB one? Hmmm.......

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