28 July 2010

Changes afoot

Changes are afoot. In my foot that is. The gout appears to be in retreat although it's still a bit sore and twingy. Hopefully I'll be up and about by the weekend.

The above Red Necked Stints were from last autumn, in a week or 2 the first passage waders of the autumn will hopefully be appearing on the local beaches and I'll be in good enough condition to walk out to meet them..........

I have been really bored stuck in the house for the last 17 or so days. It's hot and humid outside (and inside too: no aircon up here in Hokkaido in regular apartments), the hammering/sawing/drilling continues outside my window...............sorry I'm repeating myself so I'll stop.

I made this short 'movie', a compilation of videos from the first half of 2010 with my 7D.


21 July 2010

Some more birdscaping

A baby Moorhen at Onuma last summer, uncropped to show off its habitat.

I still have gout problems and am housebound, it's stinking hot and the construction noise is about 10 or so metres away..................no going out for walks in the day and no cold beer in the evening makes me a right grumpy basta*d I can tell you.

I dug out some more 'birdscape' photo from the previous 2 summers. All the photos are uncropped, like I said in my last post they suffer a little composition-wise as the birds tend to be dead centre (I wasn't anticipating birdscape type pics when i took them).

The Moorhen above was from July 2009, here is are some Little Ringed Plovers, the adult is from 2008 and the chick (it is there if you look closely) from 2009.

And here's a Night Heron poking its head up in a padi field last year.

Early last August the Red Necked Stints reappeared on the beaches, these are adults and were much shyer than the juveniles which pass through later and are much more approachable.

Thanks for clicking this link.


Hopefully I'll be up and about soon. At least my gout has struck at the worst time of year birding-wise...........

Joe Cole eh? Interesting................

19 July 2010

Limping and Birdscaping

A Black Browed Reed Warbler just outside Hakodate this morning and some kind of pink lotus at Onuma (I've taken so many of the usual yellow/white ones over the years, nice to see one of a different colour).

My right foot is still painful as hell with the gout so I could only limp and hobble around a bit, not much in the way of birds anyway. I can't really walk anywhere, thanks to my wife for driving me around today.........

Inspired by another blog I looked at some of my old photos from last year. These are apparently called 'birdscapes' ie showing birds in their natural habitat. The more cynical among us may say they are the photos we get when the bird flies off before we can get a decent shot (or the photo isn't sharp enough to crop) but I have to say I quite like them...........

This male Stonechat and Black Browed Reed Warbler were in the ricefields just outside Hakodate last year 2009. Both shots are uncropped, in fact very little processing has been done at all.

One problem with these type of shots is that the bird is inevitably in the centre (I always use the centre point AF point). Of course if I'm going to crop the picture this isn't such a problem. I must have locked focus and then recomposed that Stonechat pic (I think I was trying to get all that reed stem in), this is something I will try and do as a matter of course for these distant shots................

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16 July 2010

Down and (g)out

I've been stuck at home the last few days immobilized by gout. This affliction runs in the family and it gets me about once every 18 months or so.

What didn't help was the fact that last week I ate or drank basically every single food/beverage item that gout sufferers should avoid. To excess too I might add. My wife has no sympathy. 

I could have posted a pic of my red swollen big toe but decided to recycle some Black Crowned Night Heron pics instead. The 3 shots above are of an adult this time last year (2009), it was very active in early July, presumably the young were clamouring for food.

I saw an adult flying around the river this year in June but haven't seen any signs since. No young birds, nothing. Often in previous years they stppd around in the open. Here are some shots of youngsters from late June/early July 2008 (these taken with a 70-300). You can see how much trash the local wildlife have to put up with.

Before I came to Japan I had only ever seen 1 Night Heron, an adult in Redscar back in 1987. When I arrived in central Japan in 1999 I noticed some strange heron like birds flying around at night and squawking loudly, I now these were Night Herons.

I hope they bred again this year, I'll check again next week when I can walk more than 10 yards without wincing in pain.

I've seen plenty in the ricefields this summer but like I say they haven't been active on the local river so much. Maybe they're breeding further upstream than normal? The place where I saw them the previous 2 Julys has a very aggressive pair of Large Billed Crows nesting nearby and they don't take kindly to people lingering and will swoop around your head like that scene in the Omen Part 2.

In autumn along the river they are easier to see as the vegetation slowly dies off, they usually hang around until the first snow comes and then they head south.

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13 July 2010

Some good news for a change..........

So July has been pretty nasty. England's awful World Cup, non-stop construction noise, wet overcast weather and a flare up of gout in my big toe has left my nerves shredded.

But today I checked the letterbox and there was something from a big Japanese camera chain.  Junk mail? No! The above photo (a Spectacled Guilemot from January 2009 in one of the local harbours) has won first prize in a national photo contest. I sent it off to the amateur section and it won one of the 3 categories (nature I think but I actually can't recall which one exactly).

I had entered the photo several months ago and had totally forgotten about it. The prize money is a rather tasty ¥100,000 (a little over US$1000). It'll start my savings towards either a Canon 300 F2.8 or 500 F4 next year..................

Sometimes life throws us a few nice things. Not often I know.

Thanks for clicking this link.


12 July 2010

A weekend away

The Japanese Green Pigeon pics are slowly getting better.

A picture of me looking very summery.

We just got back from a brief break up near Lake Toya. The day we drove up there was very dark and wet, we stopped at Shizukari and most of the summer stuff was still fairly active and showing well and there were families of Stonechats everywhere.

The Black Browed Reed Warblers were still singing.

Grey Herons seemed to be in every ricefield.

3 species of Cuckoo were singing but as you can see it was really dark. We headed over to Toya and tried to kill time in the rain before check-in time. I only had my 100-400 handy most of the time, here's a view of a famous volacno.

Toya hosted the G8 summit a couple of years ago so the cheap guesthouse we stayed in had free wireless internet and multilingual signs everywhere (no doubt it had been full of foreign journalists). 

I started drinking at 3pm and was asleep after dinner at 9pm.........

There weren't any birds around though, just a few common things here and there: Russett Sparrow, Goosander, Mute Swan etc.

The weather was slightly better the second day, we spent the morning near Niseko. It was too cloudy for any mountain shots, here's a rural view also with the 100-400.

On the way home we checked the beach in Shikabe for Japanese Green Pigeon again.

A brief period of sunshine co-incided with some fairly close encounters...........

But most of the time saw grey skies and distant views, the BIF shots weren't so good today, in fact they were awful...........

They don't mind getting wet though.

The noisy construction work continues. I got up in the small hours to watch the World Cup final (not a great game unless you're a fan of yellow cards) and any chance of sleeping in late after I returned to bed around 6am was scuppered by the sounds of banging, sawing and drilling which began at 7.45am just outside my window.

Not a vintage World Cup. I missed the Ghana/Uruguay game (which seemed to be the only real 'classic') as it was on too late (or too early depending on your point of view) so I guess the best game for me would have been Italy losing against Slovakia. Otherwise a lot of fairly muted games, spoiled by poor finishing and the ball.

What would have happened if Lampard's goal had counted? Or if Green hadn't dropped the ball in the back of the net? Somehow I  still very much doubt I would have been getting up to watch England in the final last night.

I'm off to fantasize about what I'd like to do (and who I'd like to do it to) with that pneumatic drill that has been going for the last couple of hours.

Thanks for clicking this link.


10 July 2010


Taken and uploaded from the crappy camera on my cellphone. We are on one of our infrequent trips out of town.

5 July 2010

On this day (July 5th)....................

Cattle Egret

July 5th 2009.

Cattle Egret in summer plumage just outside Kamiso. 

Not a great photo but a nice find, this one (like most egrets) is fairly scarce in Hokkaido. I've seen many of these around the world but this was only my second in Hokkaido..........although I saw my third yesterday near Onuma. This has been the only one in summer colours. I've seen this species in great numbers all over the world but it seems kind of exotic here in Hokkaido.

I use these 'on this day' posts to pad out my blog a bit, to recycle older photos and also steer a few people to my 2 photo sites. I thought I'd do a few posts in advance for July and publish them later so I looked through old photos etc and there basically is nothing else of much interest from the last 4 Julys.................just goes to show what a quiet month it is in this part of the world

I'm looking forward to autumn already.


4 July 2010

Japanese Green Pigeon

We returned to the beach where we'd seen the Japanese Green Pigeon last week and I fired off lots and lots of shots.

The weather was lousy with mist and drizzle but in the late afternoon the sun came out for a brief time and that was when I could take some OK shots.

I find BIF shots of fast flying birds against a white sky very tricky, most of the earlier shots were underexposed and full of noise. Like this one...............

The beach was full of loose rocks and proved tricky to walk on, it also stank of rotting something or other and was full of horribly creepy looking bugs running around.

The Pigeons breed in the forested uplands but come to the shore to drink seawater, apparently to aid digestion..............

I didn't get many shots on the ground............

As you can see they are a quite stunning bird. Shame they are so jumpy.................

They'll be around for another couple of months, time to brush up on my BIF techniques.

Thanks for clicking this link.


Not much else around, the usual birds in the ricefields and Onuma but nothing posing for the camera. Well that's not strictly true. My wife asked me to take a snap of a cow and on looking at the image on my computer I was somewhat surprised to see a Cattle Egret standing under the udder.......................

I watched 'Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll' last week, the movie based on the life of Ian Dury. Not bad actually, I'm now awaiting '4 Lions' with some anticipation....................

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