30 April 2010

Eastern Crowned Warbler

An Eastern Crowned Warbler in some of the bushes alongside the local river this afternoon. The weather has been atrocious the last 2 or 3 days, very windy and lots of really heavy rain. Today was my first foray out for a while. I got up early and saw Siberian Stonechat, Osprey, Japanese Bush Warbler, Dusky Thrush, Hawfinch and Teal. I then headed down to the nearest quayside to see if any interesting birds had been blown into the harbours. They hadn't.

The afternoon was better. Eastern Crowneds are one of 3 breeding phylloscopus warblers and are usualy the first to arrive at the end of April, and here is the first one of the year.

It was extremely hard to focus, the wind was blowing branches all over the place and it's an active species anyway.

A female Red Flanked Bluetail wasn't as confiding. A couple of unidentified Thrush species were also skulking around, I couldn't get a clear look at all. As I've said before City Hall has chopped down lots of the bushes and trees but the birds were adept at finding unmolested patches to hide in.

I got up to watch Liverpool vs Athletico Madrid. I'm too jaded to worry about Liverpool getting knocked out but one thing that struck me was how utterly awful the Liverpool bench is. The 3 subs who came on show the paucity of Liverpool's second string players. Degen? That Morroccan one who never scores? That Spanish kid who looks about 12 years old? WTF? Is that honestly the best we can manage? It isn't an exaggeration to say all the other 19 clubs in the Premier League have deeper squads than Liverpool.

Enough of that, I'm in the middle of 5 or 6 days off (a couple of hours tomorrow morning but that's all), the weather seems to have changed for the better and May is the best birding month of the year..............

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28 April 2010

On this day (April 28th)....................

Black Winged Stilts

April 28th 2006.

A blurry old pic of a pair of Black Winged Stilt at Kamiso 4 years ago. Just after I'd started digiscoping. There were a bit flighty I recall, dunno if I could have done much better with a DSLR. They stuck around for a couple of weeks and I saw another one a couple of weeks later at Onuma. I got very close to that individual and if I'd had my current set-up I could have got some nice pics. Of course I haven't seen one since.............

Probably a regular spring overshoot, I saw several in 2005 in Yakumo for example.


27 April 2010

Spring 2010 continues

Spring is moving on and more migrants are passing through, the above is a blurry pic of a Japanese Bush Warbler which is one of the commonest. A nondescript bird, it does have a remarkable song. The first Red Cheeked Starling of the season also appeared today, a female. Again, not a particularly good shot but it like I say this individual was the first of 2010.

Asian House Martin have arrived, they nest in colonies under some of the local bridges. Black Faced Bunting, another common summer migrant, have also started singing along the river. Other stuff this last couple of days included Reed Bunting, Red Flanked Bluetail and Bullheaded Shrike.

I took a walk down to the nearest quayside, not much around except for the Black Throated Diver which is still in winter plumage.

I bumped into my father-in-law who was catching crabs off the quayside............some of which will be arriving for dinner shortly.

Gah, I've done something to my back again, dunno what exactly but it's pretty painful.

So for Liverpool to finish 4th this has to happen; Spurs lose at home to Bolton, City draw against Villa and again against Spurs midweek, we beat Chelsea. If that happens all 4 teams will be level on points going into the last round of fixtures with Liverpool having the best goal difference. I can see the 2 City games being draws but can Bolton do Spurs? About as realistic as Liverpool beating Chelsea, ie not very...........

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25 April 2010

Grey waters and dirty optics

A Short Tailed Shearwater in the Tsugaru Straits this afternoon.

I joined a local birding group's outing on the Hakodate-Oma ferry. Oma is a smal port in the north of Honshu, it's a out 90 minutes away from Hakodate. Short tailed Shearwaters were the focus of the trip, countless numbers migrate through the straits and have come all the way from Tasmania. I've seen them from the shore before but this was the first time I've been close.

They were tricky to photograph, I have lots of shots of out of focus birds and in focus waves. Other stuff on the sea included Rhinoceros Auklet and a couple of flocks of Red Pharalope. This was a lifer for me.

In late May there is a heavy passage of Red Necked Pharalope (which again can be seen from the shore) but I didn't realise the other species was here too. Nice to see a few in summer plumage too.

There were also some Dolphins which were impossible to get a decent shot of.

So landed at Oma and had 2 or 3 hours to kill. Oma is a really rundown ramshackle place. It is noticeably poorer than Hokkaido and the town seems to lack any facilities whatsoever. This ferry service will close later this year meaning Oma will be even more of a dead-end. Me and the wife came here 10 years ago to visit the nearby Osore-zan to see the itako (mediums who can speak to the dead.............yeah right) do their thing. It was a backwater then too........

There were a few birds however. Brent Geese and Whooper Swan flocks were heading north and there was an Osprey fishing in the port. When I was taking these I was thinking 'wow, these are going to be my best ever Osprey shots'.

When I looked at them a couple of minutes later I was thinking 'wow, what the f**k is wrong with these?' I checked the camera settings and then looked at the lens. The optics were filthy, caked with sea spray I guess. I didn't have any lens cleaning gear with me and very gently cleaned it the best I could with the sleeve of my shirt.

There were several species of wader there too. Turnstone, Little Ringed Plover and a summer plumage Pacific Golden Plover. The resulting pics weren't quite as bad but still look as if they were taken through a dirty window.

The weather was better on the way back and there were still loads of Shearwaters. This one seems very pale, dunno if it was just the angle and the way the sun caught it or what...........

So an interesting day and a nice change. I met some friendly folk including a doctor from Matsumae who spoke extremely good English, the tour 'leader' who is a retired professor and a big expert on seabirds plus a couple from Sapporo who professed to be fans of this blog.

Next time I do this sort of thing I'll put a filter on my lens, a slight drop in IQ quality is better than a salty lens.

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*Edited to Add*

Whilst dumping lots of photos in the trash I've been looking through some of the other Pharalope pics and found at least 1 Red Necked Pharalope in there (not on the above pic though).

22 April 2010

Spring stuff

A Red Necked Grebe coming into summer plumage. A very dark and cloudy day when I took these.

It's been a little chilly the last few days in Hakodate but the spring birds are starting to arrive.................

In the same place as the grebe I saw my first Swallow of spring and also my first wader.........

The first time I've ever photographed a Common Sandpiper (!).

Migrants were also present on the river near my flat.

This was one of a pair of Red Flanked Bluetails. They didn't come any closer (even the above shot is a crop). This is one of my target species this spring, I have to get a good shot of it. Well, not have to as such but it's a really attractive bird that is common in spring but until now it has been beyond me to get a decent shot of it.

Other migrants included several Japanese Bush Warbler, a male Japanese Thrush, Common Buzzard, Bullheaded Shrike, Grey Wagtail, Siberian Stonechat and Black Faced Bunting. Whilst I was waiting in vain for the Bluetails to come closer a small flock of Coal Tit (presumably migrants too) kept me entertained.

I watched 'Surrogates' the other night. Normally I avoid Bruce Willis movies like the plague but this one wasn't so bad.

I've just been working out the permutations that would see Liverpool finishing 4th. Basically Spurs and City need to lose this weekend (they both have very hard games). City then have to draw against Spurs and Villa. Villa need to draw or (better) lose to B'ham. Bolton need to get a draw at Spurs. Liverpool need to win their 3 remaining games (which includes beating Chelsea). It would help if West Ham and Burnley have something to play for on the last day and Hull don't.

There need to be a lot of results coming together for that to happen.


21 April 2010

On this day (April 21st)....................

April 21st 2008.

Male Common Crossbill in an acrobatic pose in the small park near my flat a couple of years ago. This was in a corner of the park behind the public toilet, not a place I'd normally choose to loiter in...............

Crossbills usually start to depart Hakodate in late April, the odd group occasionally lingers though. Probably my fave small bird as you can tell by the number of photos I post of them.........


19 April 2010

New car & old birds..........

So our new car came, unfortunately the weather was lousy on Sunday. Dark and rainy, we managed to get to Onuma and the tame Tits and Nuthatches were present and still hanging around waiting to be fed.

In the 5 weeks since we'd last had a car Onuma has completely thawed. Summer returnees included Moorhens, Coots and lots of Little Grebes........

The first Asian House Martin and Black Faced Bunting were also present but aside form those this was the most interesting bird of the day.

A young Bewicks Swan I think. Much less yellow on the bill than a Whoopers Swan and a shortish neck too. Onuma has a big flock of Whoopers every winter (they have all gone now) but this is the first time I've seen a Bewicks in south Hokkaido..............

Looks like an interesting end to the footy season. Why didn't Liverpool try to buy N'Zogbia, Bale or Dawson instead of some of the other crap they've bought in recent seasons?

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16 April 2010

A bit of spring after a bit of winter...........

A Black Crowned Night Heron on the river near my flat this afternoon, presumably a new arrival.

Today saw bright mild spring weather and in the morning I went down to the nearest quayside (about 25 minutes on foot) to see if anything interesting was on the sea. Last week's Black Throated Diver was still around.

It wasn't as confiding as last week. Whilst I was waiting for it to come closer I noticed what appeared to be a little penguin just a few metres off the harbourside.

It was another Ancient Murrelet, my third sighting in Hakodate in the last 5 months. You have to admit it's cute.

It was very active, diving all the time.

Like I say just like a Penguin except with longer wings.

Other stuff on the sea included Red Necked Grebe, Red Breasted Merganser, Scaup plus both Temincks and Pelagic Cormorant.

A long way out there was an Osprey fishing, here are 2 very heavily cropped images (almost 100% crops in fact).

If today was springlike yesterday most certainly wasn't. I met a nice couple from Colorado, Wayne and Laura, who were passing through Hakodate on a Cruise Liner and had a few hours to stretch their legs onshore. We met at Cape Tachi-Machi and had a walk through the forest at the foot of Mt Hakodate. There were frequent snow flurries and there was a bitingly cold wind. The usual resident Tits and Woodpeckers were around including a female Grey Headed Woodpecker, the first I'd seen in Hakodate for a few years. Due to the nasty weather there weren't so many birds in the forest although we did hear the first singing Japanese Bush Warblers of the spring.

Down in Yachigashira Port I was surprised to find a group of 9 Brent Geese. I thought they would have gone by now, apparently not.

The light wasn't great yesterday, apart from the green seaweed these could almost be monochrome......

There was a  'Tamiyr' Gull on the beach.........

Not much in town. I saw the first Grey Wagtail of the year a couple of days ago, an Osprey flew upstream yesterday, there are still a few Dusky Thrush and Hawfinch around and there were a couple of male Pochard in Goryokaku Park a couple of days ago.

The Night Heron was a nice find today, out in the open in good light for a change.

It flew off pretty quickly though. Shame about the scaffolding in this hot. Damn construction is everywhere.

Flying Night Herons were my first ever shots with the 7D: we have come full circle.

Big weekend of footy coming up, I've given up on Liverpool's 4th place chances so I'll just sit back and enjoy the Manc derby and Spurs v Chelsea.

I lived in North London for 2 or 3 years back in the early 90's. Most of that time was in Arsenal territory (in fact at one stage I lived about 100 metres from their old Highbury ground) but I always had a soft spot for Spurs. One of my co-workers was a big Spurs fan who had connections at White Hart Lane and I sometimes went to games and even went to the Players Bar a couple of times (I saw an injured Gazza drinking with his mates one time). 

The only north London derby I saw was one at Highbury when Spurs won 3-0. It was before an FA Cup game so George Graham put out a reserve side and the Spurs fans I was with went crazy........... if you're a Spurs fan a win is a win. I watched the second half of Wednesday's game, it isn't often Spurs beat Arsenal.

It isn't often Liverpool have beaten anyone this season.

We have a new car! Let's hope the nice weather continues until Sunday (I'm busy tomorrow). The forecast is for rain but weather forecasters are sometimes as accurate as those 'experts' who said  Liverpool would win the League this season.

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