30 May 2011

Another weekend away in May

Despite cold, foggy weather I think we can say summer is almost here. The grasslands at Yakumo and Oshamanbe are full of birds and Siberian Stonechat are probably the commonest, these shots were at Yakumo on te way back from a night at Lake Toya.

The most dramatic bird is Lathams Snipe, which has an amazing display flight, they are everywhere in this area in early summer.

The Black Browed Reed Warblers have arrived, they get bolder as June progresses and sing from exposed perches, for now they are skulking. Other birds around were Oriental and Common Cuckoo, Long Tailed Rosefinch, Black Faced and Chestnut Eared Bunting, Japanese Bush Warbler, Oriental Reed Warbler, Skylark, Brown Thrush, Wryneck, Bullheaded Shrike and several of these.........

A crappy record shot of an Eastern Marsh Harrier in the early morning gloom on Sunday.

We stayed Sunday night in Lake Toya.

We often stay here, it's about 100 miles from Hakodate and is a well known hot spring resort. It is suffering a bit now though, not many visitors (other east Asians are understandably chickening out of coming to Japan after the quakes/tsunamis/nuclear meltdown) and the hotel we stayed at was basically half price and only about 10% full.

There were a few birds around, this Grey Headed Woodpecker and Nuthatch were in the trees at one of the lakeside campsites.

Other birds included Eastern CrownedWarbler, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Great Egret, Mandarin Duck, Oriental Cuckoo, Russet Sparrow, Goosander, Tufted Duck, Common Sandpiper, Red Cheeked Starling, Narcissus Flycatcher and yet more Lathams Snipe. I checked out the coast a little too, the only wader was 1 Grey Tailed Tattler at Oshamanbe. There were a few Brent Geese offshore at Yakumo (the latest I've ever seen), a couple of Pintail too and a few Scaup remained at Oshamanbe.

I watched the Champions League final, a bit of an anticlimax, I didn't expect it to be so one-sided...............

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On this day (May 30th)...........

Yellow Wagtail

May 30th 2008.

Male Yellow Wagtail (of the local race) near Wakanai. In Japan this species only breeds in the far north of Hokkaido but they were easy to find on the wetlands at Sarobetsu.

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27 May 2011

Flying fishers

I got up early this morning to try and photograph the Ospreys in Kamiiso. I arrived at the port at about 7.30am, after about an hour I was feeling thirsty and went to the nearest vending machine to get a cold drink, the Osprey chose that exact moment to arrive. I missed it diving (again) but got these shots (very similar to shots on several earlier days it has to be said).

Never mind I thought, I have 5 or 6 hours to wait and it'll be sure to come back several times.

It didn't.

The weather improved, sunshine and blue skies but no more Ospreys. I had to dash to a toilet and nipped over to a convenience store to buy some lunch so I suppose I could have missed it. 

I hung around, not many birds about. A Kingfisher flew very close but too fast for a photo, a couple of Goosander, 3 Tufted Duck, Oriental Reed Warbler, Grey Heron, Black Faced Bunting, Temincks Cormorant, there were still a few Grey Tailed Tattlers and Common Sandpiper too, I also heard a distant Greenshank.

There were lots of Gulls, they were catching fish too.

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25 May 2011

It's gone quiet............

An Asian Brown Flycatcher on the river near my apartment yesterday. The spring migration is beginning to fizzle out, everything is going green.

There were 2 or 3 ABFs buzzing around, a drab-looking but perky character.

Other migrants included 8 Common Sandpiper, Arctic Warbler and Eye Browed Thrush but they were skulking in the bushes, as was this bird.

A female Mugimaki Flycatcher, a scarce but regular migrant and the first one I've seen near my flat.

Soon there will just be the residents and summer breeders, liks this Bullheaded Shrike.

The first 2 weeks of May were wonderful but it's been a bit slow since then. Last Sunday we went to the ricefields at Ono where Osamu (a local birder) had found a very impressive selection of waders. All I could find were a handful of Wood Sandpiper (which flew away as soon as I noticed them) and a flock of 10 or so Pacific Golden Plover, a local tick.

Onuma was getting more leafy and buggy (I got my first mosquito bite of the year). Lots of stuff around: Narcissus Flycatcher, Black and Grey Headed Woodpecker, Japanese Thrush, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Russet Sparrow etc but no photos except this huge frog.

Looking forward to the start of the test series tomorrow, god I can't believe it's just about summer again................

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20 May 2011

Ospreys on a grey day

I went to Kamiiso today hoping to see some waders on the beach and rivers. There were lots of Grey Tailed Tattlers but not much else, a couple of Common Sandpiper and 1 Little Ringed Plover only. This hunting Osprey provided me with something to watch, I saw it catch 2 fish. 2 out of 2 attempts, after watching the young ones fluff their lines every time last summer I have to say the adults really know what they're doing.

Shame about the weather, a grey drizzly humid kind of day.

I tried to get some shots of it diving but couldn't keep it in focus, the AF locked backed on as it emerged to be mobbed by this Black tailed Gull.

Not much else around. Lots of immature Black Headed Gulls (2 weeks ago it had been adults, the youngsters must migrate later I guess), a few Goosander, Chestnut Eared Bunting...............not a vintage day in Kamiiso.

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19 May 2011

The Wrong one

Yesterday morning I got up bright and early. The White Winged Crossbills had apparently stuck around, Osamu had seen them last weekend and had taken a very nice photo too.

When I got there it was warm and beautifully sunny. There were 2 or more very vocal Wrynecks around, a couple of Oriental Honey Buzzard high overhead, Grey Wagtail and Sand Martin also heading north but no Crossbills. Eventually I heard some calling but when I located them they had no white on their wings, they were just 3 Common Crossbills (as you can see from the picture above). The White Wingeds must have finally gone. Oh well.

There were 4 or 5 Japanese Waxwing high up in the trees, this is the latest I've seen any Waxwing species in Hakodate.

It's been rather warm the last couple of days, Osamu got some nice overshoot waders a couple of days ago. I hope they are still around this weekend when I can get over to Ono.............

Not much around near my apartment. Quite a few Asian Brown Flycatchers and some more Blue and White Flycatchers, here's a female in Goryokaku Park a few days ago.

Oh and Red Cheeked Starlings of course........

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16 May 2011

A weekend away in May

Some Red Necked Pharalope seen on the Tomakomai pelagic trip yesterday.

A Pacific Diver in sumer plumage, we saw several of these including one fairly close to the boat, close enough for us to hear its eerie call above the sound of the wind and waves.

It was a good say for alcids. Two of those we saw were lifers...........the bird of the day for most on the boat was this Long Billed Murrelet, here's a very heavily cropped record shot.

Most of the photos are pretty heavily cropped actually. There were also lots of Brunnichs Guillemots, some in full summer plumage, some not. This was another new bird for me.

Quite a few Ancient Murrelets were around too but the commonest alcid of the day was Rhinoceros Auklet.

My 'target' bird (at least for photos) was Red Necked Pharalope, there were some around but not the vast flocks I had been hoping for.

It was very difficult (for me at least) to photograph them from the boat. The sea was a little choppy and the movement up and down of the boat and waves combined with a narrow filed of view between the people sat in front of me made it really hard ro get a lock on the birds. I'm not really familiar with photography from a ship and I am also very unsteady on my feet on a small boat................

Still it was great to see such a beautiful bird up close.........

BIF shots were slightly easier.

They seem to have found something tasty near this buoy..........

It was a long day (7 hours on a fairly small boat) but an enjoyable one. No Albatross, Skuas or Terns but we did see a few Short Tailed Shearwater. One of the people on the boat was Mark Brazil, a well- known Hokkaido based birder and author of several books about birds in Japan and east Asia, it was nice chatting to someone who really knows their stuff.

We had driven up to Tomakomai the day before, on the way we saw several roadside Lathams Snipe in Oshamanbe.

I tried to take a video..............

On the beach there were some waders. Ruddy Turnstone, lots of Grey Tailed Tattlers, Common Sandpiper and some Red Necked Stint, the latter were coming into summer plumage.

I was very surprised to see 3 Yellow Wagtail with the stints. Again, heavy cropping going on here..............

Yellow Wagtails are pretty scarce in Japan, one subspecies breeds in north Hokkaido. This one is a different subspecies to that  however, it has a blue head as you can see (the Hokkaido one doesn't).

Other birds seen on the way included Pacific Swift, Osprey and some of Tomakomai's famous Magpies.

This ia another scarce bird in Japan and is normally only seen in the south (it is abundant in Korea however). 20 or so years ago they appeared in Tomakomai, a bit of a mystery there......

I pottered around in Utonai-ko on Saturday afternoon. Eastern Crowned Warbler, Siberian Rubythroat, Brown Thrush, Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Lathams Snipe, Oriental Cuckoo, Wigeon, Pintail, Whooper Swan, Mute Swan, White Tailed Eagle, Eastern Marsh Harrier, Long Tailed Rosefinch, Reed Bunting, Great Spotted and Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Marsh Tit and Russet Sparrow were around but nothing posed for the camera.........

Thanks again for Tomoyuki Namba for arranging the boat trip, I hope to join them again 2 or 3 times this year.........

Thanks also to my wife for doing a lot of driving.

There were some issues on blogger last week, I couldn't log in or do anything for a while and it appears some comments have disappeared too (if you left any comments last Thursday/Friday they seem to have vanished).

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