29 September 2011

A walk to the beach

I had a day off today and this morning the weather was still warm and clear, I decided to walk down the river to the beach instead of taking the train to Kamiiso to catch the last few waders. Actually I thought that there probably wouldn't be any waders around but I was surprised to find this Mongolian Plover on a stretch of beach where I have never seen any shorebirds before. What did I miss today in Kamiiso I wonder?

Not as many migrants as I'd been hoping, here's a Siberian Stonechat from today.

Not much else around the last couple of days. Arctic Warbler, Mallard, Teal, Grey Heron and Kingfisher on the river and several Black Crowned Night Heron, here's a typical view of one from yesterday.

I've been trying to change the look of this blog a little, I want to make it wider and to make the photos larger. If I do that however the pictures and text from previous posts will be too small or out of alignment. Hmmmmm.......maybe I'll just leave it as it is for now.

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26 September 2011


A flock of Pacific Golden Plover in the ricefields at Ono yesterday. I was looking for Sharp Tailed Sandpiper, several had been seen with the Plover flock.

There was one small wader in with them but as you can see it was just a Dunlin.

There were several Common Snipe around too but the bird of the day was Yellow Wagtail, a scarce bird in Japan. There were 2 of them but they were very shy and I couldn't get any photo. I saw a few other brief glimpses of other waders but nothing conclusive except for 1 Common Sandpiper..

The Plovers were nice to see though and as you can tell we're finally getting some decent weather, the last 3 days have been warm, sunny and very clear.

Not much in town the last few days. No migrants near my apartment, just a Kingfisher and a flyover Night Heron.

At Yakumo there were more Kingfisher, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Common Sandpiper, Osprey, Goosander, Teal, Pintail, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, 2 Great Crested Grebe, Great Egret and lots of Black Headed Gull, here's BIF of one I took whilst waiting in vain for something more interesting to come nearer.

So autumn is here, nights are getting cooler and soon the leaves will be turning.........

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23 September 2011

OMG Sunshine

Well well well, we finally got some sunshine this morning and early afternoon (followed by a really heavy thunderstorm though).

We were at Shikabe and I was trying to get some Japanese Green Pigeon shots. BIF shots are tough for such fast flying birds and the 100-400 perhaps isn't the best BIF lens anyway (and of course I'm no expert either). When they fly against the sea it was often impossible to AF but luckily there was a patch of blue sky with the light behind me.

One problem with setting the camera up for BIF shots is when you're suddenly confronted with a bird doing something else your settings are all wrong, I can change them in slightly more than a split second but often that's not enough.

The white background was the surf, there was a big swell after yet another typhoon. The birds had to deal with big waves.......

Next year I'll approach this more seriously and sit near the rocks hidden and camouflaged. Today it was mainly BIF shots...........

Not much else around here, a few Common Sandpiper and Grey Tailed Tattler on the rocks, nothing else.

The day started early in Kamiiso with the last waders of the season (probably).

A Bar Tailed Godwit and a Grey Plover. Other waders included 1 Dunlin, 4 Red Necked Stint and several Common Sandpiper. Lots of Black Headed Gulls around now as well as the first Pintail and Teal of the autumn. There were 3 Heron species; Grey Heron, Black Crowned Night Heron and Little Egret. Actually 1 of the egrets had me thinking of Swinhoes again (bill seemed shorter and yellowish) but it probably wasn't. Here's a lousy heavy crop of 2 egrets, the one on the left seems to have a shorter lighter bill and shorter legs...........or is it just my imagination?

When I went back in the evening there were 3 egrets and they all were clear Little Egrets.

I put an ID request on birdforum anyway, you never know.......

In the ricefields there were lts of Stonechats and hirundines moving south as well as a small flyover flock of Pacific Golden Plover. I was looking for waders here, I flushed a couple of Common Snipe (I could ID them by the white edge to their wings), yet another new bird for my Hakodate list.

Not much in town last week, the weather was terrible most of the time. I did see a few migrants however.

A female Blue and White Flycatcher I think.

The commonest migrant was Asian Brown Flycatcher, they were everywhere. Other stuff included Arctic Warbler, Siberian Stonechat, Grey Wagtail as well as several unidentified thrush type things. Large flocks of Grey Starlings are around as well as the last few Red Cheeked Strarling, here's a male near my apartment.

So it's autumn now, time to get used to wearing socks and jackets again.

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19 September 2011

Grey Skies and grey seas

3 species from the latest Tomakomai pelagic trip. Sooty Shearwater, Streaked Shearwater and Common Tern (the east Asian subspecies).

As you can see it was very dark, a really grey wet day which wasn't so good for photographs. I struggle getting the birds in focus on a moving boat anyway and the terrible light made it even worse.

This Sooty Shearwater was nice to see up close and provided the day's nicest photos.

Streaked Shearwaters were very common.........

And there were also several flocks of Common Tern.

The terns were being harried by several Arctic Skua but they were too fast for me to capture any shots. Bird of the day was an Aleutian Tern which appeared momentarily in the gloom. Other folk saw some Japanese Murrelet but I missed them. There were also Red Necked Pharalope, a distant Laysan Albatross and a few migrating passerines on their way south (warblers and flycatchers mainly).

Back onshore Tomakomai's Magpies were everywhere (even seen from our hotel window). A Little Stint (rare over here) was reported from the harbour where the boat had departed from but we couldn't locate it, only Red Necked Stints (hell they look identical anyway). We spent a pleasant afternoon at Mukawa with some of the birders from Hokkaido University. Wood Sandpiper, Long Toed Stint, Spotted Redshank and Common Snipe were around (the latter being new to my Japanese list).

On Saturday morning I'd tried the ricefields in Ono looking for waders but the rain defeated me. I did disturb a couple of Snipe which may well have Common Snipe but it was nice for better birders than me to confirm the ID.

On the way back home we stopped briefly at Yakumo. the first Wigeon of the autumn, a lone drake, was calling from the middle of the river and I disturbed a Japanese Green Pigeon on the beach but there wasn't much else except for a lot of crows.......

I think that's a Giant Sea Turtle? At first I thought it was a cow(!), the pecked out eyes I'd mistaken for nostrils.........

Anyway, yuk.

I hooked up the wife's laptop to the internet at the hotel and watched the Tottenham v Liverpool game. I went to bed after the second red card/3rd Spurs goal. Oh dear.

September 2011...............wow what awful awful weather.........

By the way Blogger seems to be having some problems with the images, if you click on the images they may appear in a 'light box' style, this is beyond my control. On older posts it may be impossible to click on the photos to enlarge them. Hopefully this bug will be sorted out soon.

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16 September 2011

September.........the second half begins

A Bar Tailed Godwit on the beach at Kamiiso today.

We enter the second half of September today and my god the first half was dire, rain almost every day and not much chance to go outside let alone take bird photos.

Today was pretty good though, hot and humid, a little dark but mercifully dry.

There were 5 Godwits together on the beach at Kunnebtsu. 2 Blackwits and 3 Barwits.

The former are common autumn migrants but the latter seem much scarcer, this was the only the second time I'd seen them in the Hakodate area.

Also on the same stretch of beach were 2 Red Necked Stint and 2 Mongolian Plover.

Further along the coast were large numbers of Red Necked Stints (over 100).

Not much mixed in with the Stints, just one Dunlin and another Bar Tailed Godwit.

Not much else around. 1 Great Egret, a few Black Headed Gulls, 10 or so Goosander.

Nearer my apartment there were a few Asian Brown Flycatcher and other unidentifiable small birds flitting about, flocks of Red Cheeked Starlings getting ready to fly south to the tropics for winter and a couple of Night Herons, 1 adult and 1 immature. The latter was easier to photograph.

I'll be in Tomakomai this weekend so I'll probably miss the big footy games on Sunday night (but I'll take a knackered old laptop and try and watch them online). If the weather is good i'll be on another pelagic trip, hopefully to see some Skuas and other stuff.

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11 September 2011

Nice end to a slow slow week

It's been a grey grey rainy week and not much to report except the above Ringed Plover. A lousy week for photos but I got a nice bird at the end at least.......

I got an e-mail yesterday telling me there was a Ringed Plover on one of the local beaches, this is rather a rare bird in Japan and one I had yet to see here. I got up early today to try and see it and walked along the beach under the grey drizzly skies and saw nothing except the usual Red Necked Stints and Grey Tailed Tattlers.

On Thursday I has also been on the same beach, the birds that day included 2 Lesser Sandplover and a Sanderling in amongst the stints and tattlers. The Sanderling is the one below.

On Friday I had a quick walk along the river, a few Asian Brown Flycatchers flitting around in the bushes were the only migrants around. Today we headed over to Shikabe, I tried in vain to get some Japanese Green Pigeon shots but the dark grey skies defeated me. The only shot worth looking at was the flyover Peregrine.

We returned to a different part of the beach at Kamiiso and in amongst all the Red Necked Stints I noticed a Little Ringed Plover on the opposite side of the river, 5 minutes later I was on the other side comparing Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers, the 2 were together on the beach. #210 on my local list and #259 on my Japan list. Not a lifer of course as it is a common UK bird but as I said before it is a little scarce over on this side of the Eurasian landmass.

I watched England grind out victories in the footy and rugby, I watched Liverpool being wasteful and losing 3 points at Stoke..............when was the last time I enjoyed watching one of my teams?

Well, the cricket I guess..............

Hope the weather improves, the first 11 days of September have been awful.

Offensive though it was I had a genuine LOL moment whilst watching 'Shameless' a few days ago.

Someone had the name 'Bobby Sands' taped to their forehead as part of a game. "Who am I?" they said, "give us a hint".

Frank said "you're a sh*t interior decorator".

I spilled my beer I was laughing so much.

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