28 February 2010

A quiet end to winter #2

We went up to Yakumo this morning and were bombarded with tsunami warnings all the way, the harbours were all closed (a worried looking policeman allowed me 5 minutes to take these Long tailed Duck photos).

This warning came as a result of that big earthquake in Chile. The birds obviously hadn't heard the warnings or perhaps they knew that nothing was going to happen.

There were lots of birds on the sea but we were a bit reluctant to chance it so we headed inland to see if any Eagles remained. Only a few were still present.......

The majority were White Tailed Eagles, like these 2 immatures. I only saw 2 Stellers Sea Eagles. There was also an adult Stellers at Onuma which flew right over the car but I couldn't get my camera ready in time, a low-key end to the 2009/10 eagle season in south Hokkaido.

The usual stuff at Onuma, the lake is about 5% ice free now. This Grey Heron was pretty much the only shot I took.

I enjoyed the Chelsea v Man City game last night although the result wasn't good for Liverpool. I wish Bellamy had worked out better at Anfield, who would you rather face as an opponent, Bellamy or N'Gog?


26 February 2010

A quiet end to winter

A quartet of Harlequin Ducks in Hakodate yesterday. They were displaying and this group of males (the one on the end is a young one) were harrying a group of females off camera.

It was a mild sunny day and I walked down to Irifune port to check out the Brent Geese.

Like I said it was mild, warm even. Actually it felt like the start of spring. About 13 degrees!!!! Only 2 or 3 weeks ago it had been highs of minus 9 in the day and so cold my fillings hurt. The town is slowly thawing, last night the snow on the rooftops was dripping down onto the road and lying atop the ice meaning it was crazily slippery. Now it is raining, hopefully it'll wash the snow away........

I took some more handheld video of the Brent Geese.........they may take a few seconds to load so please be patient.

This is one where they meet a Gull and scatter and then one steps over a rope. Will the excitement ever end?

This is one where I messed up the settings. I have a registered user setting (C3) for the best video but I forgot to change it for this one alas.

I couldn't be a**ed lugging a tripod down there (it's quite a long walk) so I had to rest the camera on walls or anything handy.

Lots of Red Breasted Merganser offshore, also Wigeon, Scaup, Pelagic Cormorant and several Red Necked Grebe too. This is common in late winter/early spring, hope some come a bit closer inshore this year............

Not much in town, just the usual common stuff that has been around all winter such as Hawfinch.

I don't know why early 2010 has been so poor for small birds in south Hokkaido. The first 6 or 7 weeks of the year were very very cold and there was a lot of snow. Did this disrupt bird movements? Did they winter further south? December 2009 was very very mild, were the birds still up north or to the west and got caught out by the sudden drastic change in weather? Did most of them perish? Or they just avoiding me because they know I got a new camera in the autumn?

I'm still holding out for some Crossbills but have officially given up on the Waxwings. 

Hopefully the mild weather may result in some interesting stuff heading back to the north from balmy Honshu......


25 February 2010

On this day (February 25th)....................

February 25th 2008.

Black Crowned Night Herons are primarily summer visitors, most leave when the first snow comes. This hardy individual stayed the winter though but you have to say it doesn't look as if it's enjoying the weather much............

This was on the river just around the corner from my flat and was taken with a 70-300 lens.


24 February 2010

On this day (February 24th)....................

February 24th 2008.

The winter of 2007/8 saw a huge influx of Common Redpolls into south Hokkaido, they were everywhere.
I saw flocks of hundreds of birds on the outskirts of Hakodate and even in the city itself there were loads of them............

This individual was feeding along the river near my flat and posed nicely for a few seconds before flying off.


21 February 2010

OMG some blue sky............

A Black Necked Grebe at Shikabe this afternoon.

Very nice weather today, lots of blue sky and tolerably mild weather. We started off in Hakodate, I tried to do a Brent Goose video but they didn't come close enough so we headed over to Kamiso. Lots of stuff on the sea here, mainly Goosander and Red Breasted Merganser but also some Grebes and Divers way offshore. Next stop was Onuma.

The usual stuff was around here, the most interesting bird was this Daurian Jackdaw, one of a group of 4 circling high in the sky.

This is a fairly scarce visitor to the region in winter although it seems to be getting commoner.......

I'd forgotten what a clear blue sky looked like.

Over at Shikabe there were a few Black Necked Grebe (nowhere near as many as last year though).

And here is a fairly common bird that I rarely get to photograph.

A drake Black Scoter. Lots of these visit the region in winter but generally they're out on the open sea. This wasn't so close but a lot closer than I normally get.

We headed back to Onuma, not much happening birdwise but it was nice and wintry......

My wife takes much nicer landscape stuff than I do, here she is in action.

February has kind of slipped by without me really noticing it. The Crossbills didn't arrive as they had done the previous 2 Februarys. Looks like next week will see me loitering under pine trees looking for red and green birds. They were here every late winter from 2002-2004 and then went missing for 3 years, returning again in 2008.

So basically I have no idea if they'll come or not.


Some common winter birds

Another quiet week in Hakodate, where are all the birds this winter? No Crossbills or Waxwings, no winter finches..............luckily I found this very co-operative Daurian Redstart. Several individuals set up winter territories on the river near my flat and this one is on a stretch with a concrete pathway and doesn't seem so bothered by passersby..............

Not much else in town. I went to Yunokawa on Friday, not much there either. A lot of habitat has been destroyed near the river. Some remains however but as seems to be the case with most places in south Hokkaido this winter it was pretty birdless. 3 Long Tailed Rosefinch and a flock of 20 or so Hawfinch and that was about it.

6 species of duck were on the river including Goldeneye.

And this Little Grebe too, not a bird I often get to photograph..........

Crossbills and Waxwings are unreliable, like many things in life. But that might mean they surprise me soon.......

Hope Liverpool can do Man City tomorrow. Just watched Everton beat Man U so you never know....................


20 February 2010

On this day (February 20th)....................

February 20th 2008.

A male Crossbill very close to my flat. This was part of a small flock that spent late winter/early spring 2008 in the local neighbourhood, alternating between different clumps of pine trees. I got up very early in the morning for this shot, they were drinking in the river and weren't shy at all.........

Crossbills: my favourite bird.


19 February 2010

On this day (February 19th)....................

February 19th 2008

Early 2008 saw a big influx of Asian Rosy Finch into south Hokkaido. There are usually some present most winters but they tend to occur in bleak windswept coastal regions. This one was part of a flock that spent 2 or 3 weeks in the small park near my flat.......................


16 February 2010

Waiting.................for the 17th.

We had a brief visit to see the eagles at Yakumo on Sunday. Still quite a few about but no great photo opps, this flyover immature Stellers was the best of a rather poor bunch.

I first saw the eagles at Yakumo exactly 10 years ago, mid February 2000. The person who showed me parked next to the river and they were feeding very very close in a heavy blizzard. No camera in those days of course. I didn't go back much until we got a car ourselves and I haven't found that place by the river (and trust me I've looked).

A quick look at Onuma provided the usual close ups.

This Gull was at Onuma too. Is it just a Vega Gull? Strange that it was on its own (I almost never see Gulls on the lake).

I had a walk around Hakodate today, here are some shots of the common winter species........

Dusky Thrush, Daurian Redstart and Hawfinch.

The Waxwings haven't shown yet. Actually it's been a pretty poor winter for passerines. The last 2 winters saw influxes of Redpoll, Asian Rosy Finch, Brambling and Siskin as well as the aforementioned Waxwings. This winter I've seen just 1 Brambling in town plus a few Buntings (and a Pallas Rosefinch which was a lifer so I shouldn't gripe too much). Now I'm waiting for the Crossbills to appear. Like Waxwings  they don't come annually but they come most years...........

I just looked back at some old photos and noticed the date Crossbills appeared in the park near my flat in 2008 and 2009. February 17th. Both years. Tomorrow's date is February 17th.

If I was a betting man I probably wouldn't put money on there being any Crossbills there. But I'm going to check..................

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