14 March 2011

Monday morning

A Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker yesterday at Onuma.

A weird surreal atmosphere at the moment, Hakodate seems to be normal if a little quiet. Only 1 person (AFAIK) died, he drowned in his apartment when the low lying area near the bay was flooded. As I said in my last post I was there 2 or 3 hours before. I was sitting on the edge of the harbour, feet dangling a few inches above the water whilst taking photos of the Black Necked Grebe.

When I got home I was taking a nap, the doorbell rang (it was the postman with a recorded delivery) and just as I was signing for the letter the quake hit. As the water started sloshing out of the fishtank I grabbed hold of it expecting the quake to peter out after a few seconds but it just kept going and going, I thought christ I should get out of the building here and put some clothes on and headed out of the door with the whole building swaying and creaking. It stopped as I was heading out of the door so I went back in and mopped up in the living room, a strong aftershock a few minutes later meant I was mopping up again soon. My wife called and said do NOT go near the sea. 

I switched on the TV and watched the local news, it had live footage of some ports in Hokkaido getting damaged but nothing too bad, it said the tsunami would hit Hakodate at 4.10pm (in about 20 minutes). At 4.10 they had a camera fixed on the low lying area in Hakodate Bay and it quickly filled with water, nothing too dramatic but a bit disconcerting. I thought well maybe this wasn't too bad after all. Then I turned in the national news to see what was happening elsewhere in Japan and I'm sure you've all seen how utterly shocking those pictures were.

If that wasn't bad enough now there are the nuclear issues. I used to live in Fukushima Prefecture, thank god I don't live there anymore. Up here we are far enough away (and the wind direction is helping too) for us presumably to be unaffected but it is pretty scary stuff, if I was living in Fukushima now I think I would be heading south ASAP. There are some nuclear power stations just across the straits from Hakodate in Aomori but I understand they are undamaged.

No food shortages so far up in Hokkaido but there were lines at some of the gas stations yesterday, hopefully that's just a few folk overreacting. The planned power outages shouldn't spread up here, at least I wouldn't have thought so. In Hokkaido we haven't really been directly affected by the quake/tsunami but obviously it isn't very far away at all (400 or 500 km away as the crow flies to Miyagi-ken) and many people here have friends/family in the affected area. My wife's friend lived in one of the coastal neighbourhoods in Sendai that was very badly hit, she has tried contacting her but hasn't heard anything back yet.

Thank you for all the messages expressing concern on the last post. I feel a bit sheepish, like I say we got off very lightly indeed here. Just a couple of very scary minutes when the quake hit and lingering unease over the nuclear issues, very very minor indeed compared to the horrors the people are facing further south.

We couldn't go near the coasts yesterday, the tsunami warnings were still in effect so we spent a couple of hours at Onuma feeding the Tits and Nuthatches.

Other stuff at Onuma included Smew, Goldeneye, Goosander, Great Egret, Grey Heron, White Tailed Eagle and Treecreeper.

Not much in Hakodate the last few days, just the usual common stuff. 2 Great Egrets on the river as well as 7 species of duck (including both Merganser species and a drake Shoveler), a flock of Brambling and this tame Oriental Turtle Dove.



  1. So glad it wasnt too bad up there, we have a couple of friends there and in the Okayama region, we went through Sendai when we were there, the pictures are horrific, not sure how Japan will recover

  2. Its like us with YASI, it was scary but nothing compared to down on the Cassowary Coast. Then they got hit with flooding. We've had more rain than usual but at least we have power and a roof over our heads.

  3. Like I said in a previous post, i immediately thought about you when I saw the news on Friday morning and I'm so happy you and your wife are safe, but I'm so sad for the rest of the country. yes the images are shocking and incredibly terrific...

  4. I'm so glad you are all safe Stu. It is very upsetting watching it all on TV, all those people going through terrible traumas and worse but on the other side of the world being unable to help just watch in awe.

  5. Thank goodness you didn't decide to go taking photos down by the water a couple of hours later than you did.
    The news over here is full of the nuclear reactor problems as well as all the other horrors, fingers crossed there is no meltdown.

  6. Hi Stu

    My bro has arrived safely back in Blighty (only had 10 days left on his contract anyway) For such a normally chilled out sort of a guy he's been very badly shaken by his experience over there in the last few days.

    Stay safe



  7. Great image Stu, hand feeding bird is so fun! I t's great to have news from your point of vue! Hope everythings turn as fine as possible !

  8. Thanks for all your comments again, I'm just hoping things can get back to normal (or as near to it as possible) soon..............

  9. So many people have written or said the same sort of things, the surreal feeling of being in a relatively safe area where life more or less goes on as usual, while there was and continues to be so much death, destruction, and suffering in Miyagi, Iwate, and nearby areas. Things will never be the same.

    Excellent photos as always.


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