31 May 2010

Not happening

A roadside Skylark from yesterday. 

After a whole week of rain and mist the weather has suddenly improved.

Yesterday we went to Yakumo and Oshamanbe. There were lots of birds around but nothing, just nothing was posing for the camera. It just wasn't happening at all photo-wise. Don't know why but it was just one of those days.

The scrub and wetland areas had all the usual birds including the first singing Grays Grasshopper Warblers of the year, lots of Oriental and Common Cuckoos, Long Tailed Rosefinch, Reed and Chestnut Eared Buntings, Wryneck, Lathams Snipe etc......

Not so many Black Browed Reed Warblers yet. This is one of my favourite summer visitors but near Hakodate their usual haunts have all suffered from the curse of the grass-cutters (Hakodate City's usual waste of tax revenues by throwing money at unnecessary projects to keep unemployable men occupied). None at Yakumo either but there were a few singing at Oshamanbe, this poor shot being the best of a bad bunch.

I have managed some OK shots of this species before but not of Chestnut Eared Buntings which seem to hate me and my camera.

Lots of waders around today: Bar Tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Grey Tailed Tattler, sumer plumage Red Necked Stints, Mongolian Plovers and Sanderling. None close enough for a photo though. At Yakumo we watched the Heronry from the bridge. I took some video but the quality wasn't so hot due to the traffic noise, obstructed views and distance. I was using a 1.4 teleconverter which at least turned out handy for this shot, a pair of Falcated Duck.

I saw a very late Dusky Thrush today and another late Daurian Redstart last week and several Asian Brown Flycatcher, otherwise the flow of migrants has dried up in town.

Here are a couple of views from Onuma. One taken with a 100-400 and the other with my crappy old 18-55 kit lens. Guess which one is which.

I watched England triumph over Japan 2-1 last night. 2 very well taken goals, bodes well for South Africa. I can relax now in the certainty that our talented boys are in great form and the quality will just flow and flow.

Why is Walcott so bad? Why does Heskey always miss? Why will both probably not only be on the plane to South Africa but also possibly in our starting X1 in the first game? Why? Why?

Thanks for clicking this link.


Hope the weather stays fine this week...........

29 May 2010

On this day (May 29th)....................

May 29th 2008.

Male Siberian Rubythroat at Monbetsu in north Hokkaido.

We'd actually taken a wrong turn which resulted in a huge huge detour (and a huge huge row in the car too I might add) but when we hit the coast we found a small car park with this individual singing merrily away.

This species is common on autumn passage in Hakodate but is usually very skulking. In north and east Hokkaido it is a common summer visitor.


28 May 2010

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

May 28th 2007.

Peregrine Falcon at Kiritappu in east Hokkaido. Not a bird I often photograph as they tend to fly very fast overhead and disappear before I can get my camera ready.

This one had just killed a White Wagtail and was actually fairly close. It's cropped but was only shot at 133mm meaning that it is reasonably sharp even though it was taken with my old ultra cheap (non APO) Sigma 70-300.

Kiritappu is a cool place. We didn't see the Tufted Puffins (which I hear is very difficult now anyway) but we did see a singing male Siberian Rubythroat, several White Tailed Eagle  and lots of stuff in the bay including a small flock of Falcated Teal.


27 May 2010

On this day (May 27th)....................

May 27th 2007.

Red Necked Stints at Mukawa.

This species is a common autumn migrant but is a much scarcer in spring, at least around Hakodate it is. On this day there were thousands of them and most were in summer plumage too........

Taken with my old 400D and ultra cheap Sigma 70-300.


24 May 2010

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

May 24th 2009.

Ural Owl chick at Onuma last year, one of a brood of 4 fledglings. It looks very sweet and innocent here but a few minutes later a parent brought it some kind of rodent which was then decapitated and eaten by this cute fluffy bundle of feathers.


23 May 2010

Lathams Snipe

This is a Lathams Snipe. a common summer visitor to Hokkaido and in open country they can be seen atop telephone poles on every country road. This one was on Route 5, the main (and until a recent toll highway was built) and only road north out of Hakodate.

It looks just like every other species of Snipe in the world. I first saw this species in Queensland (where it overwinters and is known as Japanese Snipe). Like many of its congeners it has an extraordinary display.

I couldn't video it flying but here it is calling................handheld out of the car window during a temporary lull in the traffic.

We just spent the weekend camping near Niseko. The first day was very warm and sunny but today was cold, windy, misty and drizzly. I saw lots of birds but couldn't get so many photos.

Wader migration usually peaks around now. Grey Tailed Tattlers were very common and were joined by smaller numbers of Ruddy Turnstone.

Other waders included Bar Tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover.

Other stuff in no particular order: Siberian Blue Robin, 6 species of warbler including Arctic Warbler at the campsite, 3 species of flycatcher including loads of Narcissus at Onuma, Woodcock, Great Egret, Pergerine, Eastern Marsh Harrier, Japanese Green Pigeon, loads of Oriental and Common Cuckoo, Japanese and Brown Headed thrush, 5 species of Tit, Mandarin Duck, Scaup, Pochard, Shoveler, Black Scoter, Wigeon, Goosander, Glaucous Gull, an odd sounding bird at night that may have been a Jungle Nightjar (by the time I was fully awake it had gone), several species of Woodpecker.............

I still haven't managed to get a decent Osprey shot.

Like I say not much photography got done so here's a pic of me drinking beer outside the tent instead.

Thanks for clicking this link............


21 May 2010


A Wryneck in Goryokaku Park this morning. It was calling loudly (the call is very similar to a Grey Headed Woodpecker which I thought it was at first). Not a great shot but a nice find and the only migrant of the day.................summer must be coming as it was rather warm and humid too.

I got up early to take a Red Cheeked Starling video and this time I remembered to bring my tripod and the results were much better. If you double click on 'vimeo' you can check the HD version.

In the same tree was this Tree Sparrow. The HD version is quite good, click in the right.

It was a bit foggy/hazy and I aborted plans to catch a ferry to Oma to check out the offshore Pharalope migration. Mt Hakodate was also very misty in the morning so I went to Yunokawa. I could see flocks flying west about 500 meters out, record shots confirmed they were all Red Necked Pharalopes (I couldn't find any Red Pharalopes which would have been a local tick).


19 May 2010

Oriental Reed Warblers

An Oriental Reed Warbler singing next to the river near my apartment this afternoon. This is a common summer visitor, on the 2KM stretch of river (in the middle of town) there are usually about 10-12 singing males every summer.

They are normally pretty shy but today 2 males were squabbling over territory (ie fighting over who gets to sing from the top of the coolest tree) and didn't pay me much attention.

They have a very noisy song and it was one of the typical sounds of summer in Hakodate.

The vegetation is growing visibly by the day and soon they will be nesting.

I took a wobbly handheld video, the camera's internal mic picked up more wind than birdsong alas. If I was serious about video I would be using my tripod and would have invested in an external mic by now................

I got up early this morning after one of the people I teach told me she'd seen some odd looking birds flying over the sea near her apartment. About the size of sparrows, all flying in unison, sometimes landing on the water to feed. they could only have been Pharalopes. I went down to the bay area where she'd seem them yesterday but there was nothing doing...............

My wife also showed me a newspaper cutting of a Yellow Browed Bunting (a pretty rare visitor) in  a local park a couple of weeks ago.................

I can rely on the Red Cheeked Starlings any time though.

The cherry blossoms are starting to fall, soon the background will be green instead of pink or white.

And here's a wobbly handheld video I took of the Starlings. It is really hard to hold a heavy 400mm lens still whilst looking at the screen on the back of a camera............

A few days ago the last batch of migrants were passing through. This Asian Brown Flycatcher got me thinking of Sooty Flycatcher as it appeared a little darker and scruffier than most of the Asian Browns I see. But it when I got home and looked at the pics it wasn't a Sooty at all.

It was sharing a clump of trees/bushed with a female Blue and White Flycatcher, an Eastern Crowned Warbler, a Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, 2 pairs of Red Cheeked Starlings and a pair of Black Faced Buntings. the latter species seems commoner than ever this spring, there are 4 or 5 singing males on the river. They are real skulkers though, here's one from today.

It's going to rain tomorrow so on Friday I need to be pro-active and go out there and find me some Red Necked Pharalopes. Some springs they are abundant and tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of birds pass Hakodate. Usually they are well offshore (you can see them with the naked eye though). I'd love for some to come close enough inshore to photograph.........

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***Once again I'm having problems with publishing comments. On my dashboard it keeps telling me I have comments to publish but when I click the link it says there aren't any....................mysterious.

If you've left a comment and it hasn't appeared I apologise.

This blog is free so I can't really complain................but hey, someone,  sort it out!***

17 May 2010

Red Cheeked Starlings in the cherry blossoms

Some male Red Cheeked Starlings in Goryokaku Park.

I spent the last couple of mornings watching a small colony of Red Cheeked Starlings in a very handy location in the main park in town and despite the crowds I got some nice pictures.............

The cherry blossoms were rather late this year and perhaps in most springs this scene doesn't happen so often...............

As you can see the females are a little dull by comparison but they still have their charms............

But most of the time I was concentrating on the males......

I took lots of shots..................................occasionally they did something a little interesting.........

They were nestbuilding...............

A very photogenic bird you have to admit..................

My wife had found the tree with these Starlings on Saturday. We could stand on the old ramparts (the park used to be a fort) and look at the tree top at more or less eye level.

On the day my wife found them there were lots of White-eyes in the park but by the time I got there on Sunday most had gone and I didn't get any shots. 

This morning I was very surprised to see 3 Grey Tailed Tattlers in the park flying around the moat looking for somewhere to land................I couldn't get a photo of them though.

The light was very good, the sun was behind me and I was down at ISO 200 or even 100 most of the time.

When they left the trees I couldn't afford such luxuries.........

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The last post's pics may look a little odd because I forgot to change the colour profile to sRGB. On some browsers/monitors the colours will appear dull and washed out.............I'm a tad lazy and I can't be a***d to go back and change it now..................

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