30 April 2012

Golden Week 2012 #1

Asian House Martins at Kikonai yesterday.

A cluster of national holidays known as Golden Week kicked off yesterday and spring well and truly arrived, it has been warm and sunny, indeed I got sunburned today and consumed not 1 but 2 ice creams...............

Yesterday morning started at Akagawa, lots of activity in the forest before the dirt bikers showed up to scare everything off. Lots of Narcissus Flycatcher and Eastern Crowned Warbler were singing, other stuff included Japanese Thrush, Whites Thrush and Long Tailed Rosefinch. In Kikonai and Shireuchi there wasn't so much around.............a lone Bewicks Swan, a couple of Great Egret, a Greenshank, several Little Ringed Plover, Lathams Snipe, Osprey and a few Brent Geese, Wigeon and Red Breasted Merganser offshore.

Lots of Asian House Martin everywhere now...........

At Kamiiso yesterday there were no waders but lots of summer plumage Black Headed Gulls...........these look very exotic here (we usually only see them in winter plumage and there are no other common hooded gulls in Japan). Shame I grew up in England where they are so common birders probably don't even look at them..............

Today I walked the long walk down the beach in Kamiiso to look for waders: all I could find was 1 very flighty Whimbrel. We headed over to Asabu, there were some good birds here but nothing posing for the camera. Pacific Swift, Wryneck, more Osprey and lots of Siberian Stonechat and Chestnut Eared Bunting were singing...........here's one of the latter, a shy bird that flies off as soon as eye contact is established even through a car window.

Back at Kamiiso I waited in vain for the Ospreys to come close and eventually gave up and concentrated on the local Black Tailed Gulls which were courting. Like the Black Headed Gull this is a beautiful bird I maybe take for granted.............the second one here is a Slaty Backed Gull, the common resident large gull.

I don't know if I'm being paranoid but I'm sure I used to take better quality photos of more interesting species than I have been doing lately.

Roy Hodgson? I'm underwhelmed to say the least but he's done well using scant playing resources with mid ranking teams..........maybe he won't be a total disaster with England then.

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27 April 2012


We spent a long day in Onuma today, it was the first warm day of the year. Not many summer visitors yet but they are arriving every day, Eastern Crowned Warbler and Russet Sparrow made their first appearances of 2012 and there were lots of Japanese Thrush singing. All the common stuff was around including this female Black Woodpecker.

I really wanted to get photos of 2 species this spring: Mandarin Duck and Japanese Grosbeak. They are both so wary I may have to rethink my strategy, I even looked online at portable blinds.............maybe next year.

The tame Nuthtaches stalked me through the forest begging for food, they practically mugged me. At least I could get some different poses in different locations.

In Kamiiso this morning I saw the first Red Cheeked Starlings of the year as well as the first Wryneck, not much else around though. The last week in Hakodate was pretty quiet although yesterday a flock of Bewicks Swan was wheeling over the neighbourhood on their way north.

The felling of the trees last winter along the river means not many places for migrants to rest, all I could find this week were lots of Japanese Bush Warbler. A small copse remains in a private Go-Karting track and there were 2 Red Flanked Bluetails there, very hard to get a photo of (plus I looked like a pedophile shooting over the fence with my biggish white lens). This female was the best I could manage.

A big holiday week starts tomorrow, I have a few days day off coming up from Sunday so hopefully the migrants will continue arriving.

I didn't watch the Barcelona/Chelsea game but I'll probably get up to watch the Manc derby...................I haven't even thought about Euro 2012, I can't remember being so indifferent about an international tournament before...................so maybe England will surprise me.

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22 April 2012

A windy Sunday

An Osprey struggling in the wind at Kikonai this morning. There was a very strong (and cold) easterly wind (not so good for migrants though this side of Eurasia).

The first passage waders have appeared liker this Greenshank.

I also disturbed a Snipe species but couldn't ID it. The common breeding waders, Little Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper, had already arrived. Here's one of the latter.

Still lots of Brent Geese, Wigeon, Pintail and Red Breasted Merganser offshore but the sea was too rough to check properly. A Glaucous Gull was at Kamiiso but not much else. Ospreys were everywhere again and the ones at Kikonai were the easiest to photograph.

We started off at Onuma but it was cold and windy here too............and foggy. The 4 species of woodpecker were all very active again, here's a male Japanese Pygmy.

 Other stuff at Onuma included Japanese Grosbeak, Whooper Swan, Goosander, Treecreeper and Goldcrest. Brown Thrush and Lathams Snipe were new arrivals, the tame tits and nuthatches were still begging for food.

May is generally the best birding month in Hakodate, hopefully I'll have a few new birds to see and photograph next week.........

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20 April 2012

Spring slowly unrolling #3

A male Black Woodpecker at Onuma this afternoon. 4 species of woodpecker, 6 species of tits and the Nuthatches were all very active today. Other stuff in the forest included Brambling, Dusky Thrush, Japanese Thrush, Japanese Grosbeak and lots of Black Faced Bunting and Japanese Bush Warbler................the latter is a dull skulking bird but it is easy to see at this time of year.

The lake is largely ice free now so the waterbirds have dispersed. I saw lots of Mandarin Duck but that species is very shy here and impossible to approach closely. Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Coot, Goosander, Whooper Swan and Great Egret were around.............

Not much in Hakodate this last week, the Brent Geese were still around earlier in the week........

A Woodcock near my apartment was the most interesting bird in town and offshore at Cape Tachimachi a few days ago I saw several Black Throated Diver, a Rhinoceros Auklet and lots of Red Necked Grebe. A female Merlin flew across the highway in Ono on the way home today too.

Not a great last few weeks for my teaching business, we all have slumps but this was one has been a little severe as the wife is now between jobs. Why am I 43 years old and skint all the time?

To top it all there appears to be something wrong with my 100-400L lens...........the tension ring doesn't lock and there is quite a bit of dust in the lens too. I'd hoped to buy a new lens this spring but lack of money has put paid to that. I can still use the 100-400 of course but I'm debating whether to send it off to be fixed or not.

Actually I've been a bit frustrated with my photos recently. They seem to be lacking something, sharpness or 'pop' I dunno.

Today's Black Woodpecker was certainly frustrating. A tame male but unfortunately the light was terrible meaning highish ISO, the AF also had trouble locking on to an all black bird in the gloomy lighting.

So spring moves on, the birds are changing, hopefully some waders will start passing through soon. I saw a Common Sandpiper in the park yesterday. I checked the beach at Kamiiso this morning but nothing happening there, next week should be better I think.

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16 April 2012

On this day (April 16th)

Ancient Murrelet Ancient Murrelet

April 16th 2010.

An Ancient Murrelet in the nearest port to my house 2 years ago today.

This individual hung around Hakodate Bay for a few weeks and on this day came very close to the quayside as it pursued the hordes of tiny fish that were very common in April that year.........

I went to the same place today actually. 2 years ago there were grebes, divers and many seaduck in addition to the murrelet. Today there were only 3 Red Breasted Merganser, 3 Scaup and a single Red Necked Grebe, all way too far off for any possibility of a photo.

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15 April 2012

Spring slowly unrolling #2

A male Blue Rock Thrush in one of the many harbours to the west of Hakodate, we headed out to Kikonai and Shireuchi today in nice bright spring weather.

Lots of stuff on the sea: the usual seaducks plus flocks of Pintail and Wigeon and a few Brent Goose. There were also several Slavonian Grebe and they were coming into full summer plumage.

This individual was close inshore but the beach at Kikonai is steep and narrow and the surf is unpredictable: I got my feet soaked. I though gore-tex boots weer supposed to be waterproof.........they aren't. Also offshore in Kikonai were 2 Black Throated Diver and several Red Necked Grebe.

Ospreys were everywhere, I missed a chance for a great photo as one pitched into the sea and sat in the water for several seconds before emerging with a huge fish............unfortunately it was just a few metres from where I'd been standing earlier and was too far off for a shot.

There was a pair at Kikonai and they were calling to each other as they circled overhead.

Other stuff around today included Great and Little Egret, Gadwall, Common Reed Bunting and Little Ringed Plover. Glaucous Gull and a female Smew were at Kamiiso but not much else.

The day had started up at Akagawa, an upland forest in the northern part of town. It is an area I don't visit often but maybe I should visit more in the future. 4 species of Woodpecker were here including Black Woodpecker, among all the tits and nuthatches there were also several Red Flanked Bluetail and 2 Woodcock (a local tick no less). 2 flocks of Bewicks Swan headed north over the mountains, despite the snow on the ground (it is quite high) theer was a definite air of spring around.

We finished the day at Ono, the Siberian Stonechats were already set up in their summer territory.......

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13 April 2012

Spring slowly unrolling

An Osprey at Onuma this afternoon. A heavy crop and a not very good photo but my first Osprey shot of 2012..................

In Onuma the snow and ice had melted quite a lot since last week and the birds weren't as concentrated as a few days ago, they were spread out over the rapidly expanding unfrozen portions of the lake. Large flocks of Pintail and Wigeon were the most noticeable and in the forest were Brambling and thrushes (mostly Dusky and Pale Thrush).

I tried to get better shots of the Great Cormorants, the light was better today but they are a difficult subject, all I could get were flybys and none of them very good.

The tame tits and nuthatches posed nicely in the spring light.

Lots of woodpeckers drumming everywhere: here's a Japanese Pygmy.

Summer visitors have been arriving all week. Barn Swallow, Asian House Martin and Siberian Stonechat in several locales as well as returnees from the south such as Japanese Bush Warbler. Sadly the trees and bushes along the river near my apartment were decimated by Hakodate City at the end of last year so I guess any migrants will just pass over my part of the city now: all that remains are tree stumps and piles of garbage.

Not a great week for photos but at least there were some interesting birds around. In Kamiiso the Gadwall and Falcated Teals from last weekend remained for a few days but defied my attempts of get any decent photos, this was the best of a bad bunch from a few days ago.

We finished off in Kamiiso this afternoon. Most of the ducks have gone now, 7 species of gull were present though as well as this Osprey, another heavy crop.

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