1 January 2010

2010 begins

Some very cold looking Glaucous Gulls at Mukawa earlier this week.

2010 has begun with a huge snowfall, we went out today but it was a whiteout with few birds to see and no photos at all. There must have been 30 or 40cm snow last night and it hasn't stopped snowing all day. It looks like winter 2009/10 may be a pretty cold one here in Hokkaido........

So here is what happened on our end of year trip this week...........

We headed up north on very icy roads (seeing Rook and Daurian Jackdaw on the way) and the first stop was Oshamabe to check the harbour there. The Long Tailed Ducks had arrived for the winter, the above male posed very nicely  for one photo but f**kwit here had the wrong camera settings so the shot was spoiled somewhat. By the time I'd changed the settings they'd swam off into the middle of the port...........

There were Black Necked Grebe and several other species of duck here.............like these Scaup and Goldeneye.

We then headed over a mountain pass to Toyoura and somewhat surprisingly the sun came out and for the rest of the day we got the only decent weather of the whole 5 day trip.

The river here is well known for eagles. There are less than at Yakumo (I counted about 20 or so) and most of them were White Tailed Eagles. There look to be some great spots for photos along the river (and close to the road too) but on this day they were all high up in the sky........

From here eastwards there was almost no snow (that would change on the way back though). We saw several Magpies in Tomakomai, Peregrine, Goshawk as well as lots of Great Egret and Whooper Swans. Our final stop of the day was at Mukawa.

There were lots of raptors here including the above Short Eared Owl. It actually reminded me a lot of the Ribble Marshes, the Owl as well as Hen Harrier and Merlin were around. The former proved tricky to get a shot of, here's the best of a bad bunch.

To complete the feeling like Lancashire in winter theme some Geese flew over too. These weren't Pinkfeet however..........

The White Fronts were presumably heading to the nearby Utonai-ko..........

The raptors were after lots of small birds hiding in the grass............like this Buff Bellied Pipit disturbed by a Merlin.

Before I went I said I had 3 target birds for the trip. Rough Legged Buzzard, Lapland Bunting and Snow Bunting. We saw a lot of Buzzards perched alongside various roads on the trip but it was impossible to stop and check every one. The local Common Buzzards are very white too which adds to the confusion..........here's one at Mukawa.

Still no firm ID on a Rough Legged........

I did get to see Lapland Bunting though. The Harrier and Owl frequently disturbed a small flock of 20 or so smallish birds. I couldn't tell what they were but in terrible light the next morning we went back and saw them clearly enough to ID. A new bird to my Japan list. Here is a very very poor record shot.

No Snow Buntings near Yakumo on the way back either but 1 out of 3 ain't bad.

I liked Mukawa, I had never been there in winter before (I've been several times in spring/summer) and have to say I was impressed. The birding was excellent. In addition to the raptors and Buntings there were lots of ducks offshore including Black and Velvet Scoters and more Glaucous Gulls than you could shake a stick at. These were taken on the way back when the weather had turned nasty.

We spent one night in Mukawa and then headed north. The bulk of the trip was in central Hokkaido in the Furano area. There was some seriously heavy snow here and almost no birds. We stayed in a very nice hotel in the middle of nowhere with superb food for a couple of nights and I lounged around in a warm log room reading a sci-fi novel whilst my wife was happy outside taking macro shots of snowflakes. It was a nice relaxing 2 nights in fact.

The nearby landscapes provided lots of gloomy moody wintry photo opps.

We headed back south stopping at the same places but the weather was so bad we couldn't get out of the car most of the time let alone take any pictures. The Long Taileds didn't want to swim close to the car at Oshamanbe, the eagles at Toyoura were higher up in the sky and by the time we got to Yakumo the blizzard was so intense that my camera simply couldn't focus on the flying eagles..............

The Mukawa stuff compensated for the total lack of birds in central Hokkaido, apart from a few Crows and Sparrows I can't recall seeing anything at all in fact. A Jay or 2 near the hotel..........that's about it.

I hope the snow relents this weekend.

Happy New Year to all regular readers to this blog, I really appreciate you taking the time to leave comments.

Whilst I was away Liverpool won twice and England won the Second Test by an innings. I guess I'll have to go away more often. I could follow the cricket on my wife's laptop (2 of the hotels had internet connections) or on the BBC site on my cellphone. The wonders of technology eh?



  1. Hi,
    Wow that is a first 2010 very nice sequence of pictures... Still look quite cold in your are but you got very nice shots! I love the long-tailed ducks shots and the goldeneyes... None are here at the moment and I kind of miss them, so take good care of them!!!
    I wish you the best for 2010!

  2. The shot of the Buzzard flying in front of the reeds is outstanding. Like the moody landscapes too.

  3. Stuart, I cant find your email address any more. You might want to remove Mikes Photographs from your reading list as it is no more. This bloggin lark is not for me. I'll stick to adding pictures on my website as and when I feel like it.

    If people see them them fine, if not who cares. Check out the Sandhill from this morning.




    I'll keep reading yours as I like your pictures.

  4. Such a nice trip to begin with the 2010
    The owl shot with landscape looks sublime, I really like it.
    Your blog has opened up a lot more about birding in Japan for me all through 2009.
    Happy New Year and wish it's a good year for you!

  5. Beautiful series, the flight shots were my favorite. Happy new year to you...Thomas

  6. Thanks for all your comments.

    Nice Crane and Bear photos there Mike!

  7. Great photos from an obviously great trip. And we think we have problems with a bit of frost!
    Loved the Glaucs and the Long-tailed Ducks, brill. Good Luck, keep blogging. Phil

  8. I find this id note very useful for identifying the Taiga/Red-breasted


  9. Hi Unravel, I'll take a look at that..........perhaps my photos are inconclusive..........


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...