Thursday, June 19, 2008


it's been a while since I last posted. I guess I find it a bit more difficult to continue blogging now that I am back in Ireland. I am in the new job a while now and so far it is going well. Living in Dublin is a bit strange and startling, which is making settling in here a bit more difficult than I anticipated. Now, before I moved back here, I always felt that Dubland had its fair share of pompous arrogant twats, and so it has. Went out with folk from work to a dismal place called D2's. Although the beginning of the evening was good fun (the entire night was good fun actually) and crowd there pleasant, by the end of the night, the place was full of wannabe wannabes.
(VG and I at a Tigers game in Osaka)

For example, I was at the bar ordering a round and just asked the group of strangers how they were. To my astonishment, they just looked blankly at me, rolled their eyes to heaven and turned their backs...ignorant wankers. Thank Christ for my workmates and flatmate who are sound, like. At least I can have a decent conversation and a laugh with them, with no pretension whatsoever. Nice.

I went to Radiohead the week before last with JH. Incredible!!! What a performance, played in Malahide Castle. I have also been fortunate to acquire two tickets to see Mr. Tom Waits in Dublin!! A big thanks to FW for organizing that for me. I owe him big time for this. Taking my old man, Gandalf the Greyer, with me. Should be a hoot.

There has been some disappointment though. I found out today that I did not win Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008. Gutted. Distraught. Forlorn even!!! Seriously though, 2 of my entries reached the semi-final stages so I am well chuffed. They were from my trip to Yudanaka in Nagano in February to see the Japanese Macaques in the snow. Such a lasting memory that one. I do miss Japan. What makes it even worse is receiving emails from ND regaling tales from the last couple of trips to Ashyu forest in Kyoto prefecture where they saw a Black Bear!!! Devastated. ND and I saw bear claw marks on a tree last year and that is the nearest I have been to a wild bear. There's still time though...

A brilliant reunion of sorts last weekend with the old gang from uni was one of the highlights of the month. Brilliant to see everyone again, kids in tow and all. Superb day and a good laugh that night.

Some more items I am looking forward to are the visit of Horie-san and her sister next week and my trip to Geneva to visit VG on her brief stay there.

Carmo's Diet: This month, I have mostly been eating coving

Carmo's Birds: KING EIDER; Red-necked Phalarope*; GREY PARTRIDGE; Atlantic Puffin

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: Anything will do at this stage

Friday, April 25, 2008

Home...the story so far

I guess it is about time I updated my blog. I have been back in Ireland now for about 5 weeks. A lot has happened, both strange, good, and surreal. How to address such happenings would probably take up an entire tome of such grand designs that people, that is you reader, would fall into a deep slumber after about 5 minutes. So instead, I will paraphrase and summarize the happenings and take on a rambling style again after this post. Those of you expecting a dazzling post of Irish birding will be both disappointed and lighting fireworks in celebration, depending on your predilections.

Smiler Being home has been both strange and wonderful. It has been wonderful to see and be with my family, seeing my sister and beautiful niece in Sardegna, and going out birding some old haunts along both the east and west Cork coasts. In the midst of such goings on, I found an apartment in Dublin in lieu of beginning my new job there, buying a car to keep me sane and not pissing my Dad off in requesting the car for my own use, and sorting out all sorts of other shite (personal internet connections, car insurance, car tax, savings schemes, pensions, investments etc.). Of course, the move to Dublin was something of a strange feeling.
El Padrino and Elia
My visit to Sardegna was brilliant. I hadn't seen my sister for 3 years. That is a long time without seeing someone whom I love deeply and care for so much, and would do anything for at the drop of a hat. She looked amazing and was so calm in herself which made me happy. She has found happiness in the birth of her amazing daughter and the support of her fantastic partner (who is one helluva of a chef too by the way to garner my favors). I was blown away by Elia. She is my blood, my family, and my goddaughter. Now, it's not that I am broody in anyway (anyone looking for a sperm donor, no problem, but maybe that's about as far as I'd go for now), it was just wonderful to watch her gazing around (when she wasn't sleeping, yawning, and concentrating on getting that liquid waste out) at the world about her. Brilliant, simply brilliant.
Now, the birding has been average. Dipping on several birds, too hungover to go for others, but I did find a Night Heron on the "local patch", which was nice, and bumped into a Tawny pipit while dipping on a Little Bittern in Waterford. Although some similar low listers in Ireland (you know who you are) remain dubious at best at my claim, one must always remember that I can identify Golden Plover at 10 miles distance... It was great to see some old places like Ballycotton, Clonakilty, Long Strand, Knockadoon Head, the North Channel, and the like. However, as the weather was predominantly shite (grey, wet, and windy) photos were noticeable by their absence. Birding for 2 hours in Sardegna was good though...
Greater Flamingo
The move to Dublin has been okay. The new job is going ok so far. A nice office to myself which is weird considering I worked in an open plan office for the last 3 years. More on that later as I feel I have rambled...after all, the intrigue will make you check back here soon :)

Carmo's Diet: This week, I have mostly been eating rocket lettuce, beetroot, salmon, and pumpkin seeds

Carmo's Birds: Cattle Egret, Night Heron, Tawny Pipit, Common Swift, House Martin, Willow Warbler

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: Clémence Poésy

Monday, March 31, 2008

Sayonara Nippon

This will probably be the last post I make from Japan as I lose my internet connection at midnight tonight. Today was my final day at work and it was a roller coaster of emotions. I felt happy and sad to leave. Happy because I know I will see my family soon yet sad knowing that I leave behind many friends and colleagues who have made the last 3 years a wonderful experience for me. I will miss the times I had at work, no matter how bad they may have been at times, it was an amazing experience that few will have in the same field back home. I owe a great deal of gratitude to those people...the kind words and generous plaudits given to me today were overwhelming at times and the gifts and tokens from my Japanese colleagues were unexpected and touching to say the least. I will treasure them.

Of course my partner in crime PJ and the gang members of the Daito Dogs (SW, GA) will be sorely, sorely missed.

I spent Saturday morning with Kazu and his friend Kuwa-san. Kazu has been there throughout my 3 years here and was a great and kind friend. We spent many a long hour walking the river banks and parks of Osaka and beyond enjoying the birding and photography and the chats. I was also touched by the many emails his friends sent to wish me luck in the future. Some amazing people. I will miss birding with Kazu...I hope I can repay the debt and go birding with him in Ireland. Kazu, thank you.

Tonight/tomorrow I go on a final trip with Neil. For the last 3 years he has been the saving grace on those Sundays when I needed to get away from it all and the birding trips to Hegura-jima, Kyushu, Nagoya-Tomakomai on the ferry (twice), and basically all over Kansai and beyond...thank you. Also, to Rob for the mindblowing trip to Hokkaido in Feb 06 and Sean for the amazing trip to MIshima-jima in Spring 2006, as well as Hiroshima for the Saunder's Gull, and many more trips besides...thank you.

My next post will be from the fair isle of saints and scholars...until then, sayonara Nippon

Carmo's Diet: this week, I have mostly been eating breakfast bars

Carmo's Birds: Swallow, KP, LRP, Grey Plover, Common Gull

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: No. 6 (again)

Saturday, March 15, 2008


My sister had a baby girl at 2.55am on March 14, 2008 (Italy Time).


I AM AN UNCLE!!!!!!! Unbelievable.

An incredible moment. I too shall be godfather/ honor and privilege that is...

Uncle CarmoPolice....sounds damn good to me.

Carmo's Diet: this week I've mostly been eating the don

Carmo's Birds: Rough-legged Buzzard, Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Baikal Teal, Pacific Diver, Black-throated diver, Ancient Murrelet, Red-necked Grebe

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: sorry fella, but my thoughts are now all with my new niece Elia...

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Eagle and the Bro

(Jigokudani, Nagano, Japan) well, it's been quite a while since I last posted here. A lot has happened in the interim as well. I felt that it was about time I got it together and put something up as I don't know how long more I will be doing least from Japan anyway. What with my brother giving me grief and SCE mentioning I had been quiet of late, I felt it time to blog.

February was an interesting month for me. Apart from the 70 hour week at work, turning 21 (again), I also got offered a job back in Dublin, Ireland. The emotions regarding the latter were phenomenal as I had planned to stay on in Japan a bit longer. What with 400 species in my sites and the fact that I really like the country, the job (to an degree) and that it's my home and has been for the last 3 years. It was a hard decision to make but as a famous Irish soccer player would say, "at the end of the day" family comes first. There is just too much going on with my family that the only option really was to go home. And so, with a meagre 4 weeks left in Japan before I leave, I have a heavy, yet excited feeling running through my veins...
(photo courtesy of Yumster - me at Yudanaka)
other happenings in February were not really much to write home about. I did some birding with Neil but neither of us saw anything new, well, at least when Neil was birding with me! The usual winter species and some added extras in Pacific Diver on Lake Biwa last weekend (a lake tick for both of us), 4 woodpecker species in one spot (green, pygmy, white-backed and great spotted), 3 merlin, american wigeon, steller's sea eagle, white's thrush (x3), and in one day trip a total of 85 species which is my record day total for Japan. Neil also had Thayer's, Kittiwake, and our odd "small yellow-legged gull) one afternoon in Osaka, the former two being mega birds for the area.

I also went to Yudanaka in Nagano with PJ, VG and Yumster to see the infamous Snow Monkeys made globally famous by Sir David Attenborough (whom JW talked to last week by all accounts) in his Planet Earth serious about 20 years ago. It was a wonderful and amazing experience for me because as long as I can remember, it has been a dream of mine to see these guys. I was not all. Incredible. The snow was immense, and driving home on the Sunday was a chore for PJ as the conditiions just kept getting worse and worse. All in all, a fantastic weekend in Nagano, the home of the 1998 Winter Olympics.
(photo courtesy of PJ - VG and the Monkey) I also had the great pleasure of seeing The Police live in Osaka Dome. Amazing to see them play live but I thought that some of it was not great. Still...I got to see one of the best bands in the world play live...noice noice

(grooming at Yudanaka, Nagano, Japan) And so, having left work at 8.30pm this evening, the earliest I have left in 2008, I am going to go to bed. I have to meet Kazu at 7.30pm. We are going to go to a Sumo training camp before I got to work. The Grand Tournament starts this weekend in Osaka and we are going to see a very famous training dojo...should be cool.

Carmo's Diet: this month, I have mostly been eating on the go

Carmo's Birds: Steller's Eagle; Merlin; Pacific Diver; Red-flanked Bluetail; White's Thrush

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: No. 6

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The month that was that wasn't...part deux

...and so the month continued and I went to see the Meoto-iwa or "Wedded Rocks" at Futami in Mie prefecture, situated on the east coast of the Wakayama penninsula, with PJ, Yumi-chan, and ZL. It was a horrible day, showers, mist, fog, dark, low clouds and the prospect of being a disaster. A hard week of work warranted the get away, and PJ was itching to drive, and drive a long way. It was a sorry place, a pair of rocks a stones throw from the shore, with a temple on the shoreline, the trinket shops, tacky souvenir shops, and locals trying to make a buck from the religious pilgrims that make the trek to this famous shrine. The Meoto-iwa (Wedded Rocks) are the symbol of what keeps Japan from floating away. The rocks are considered to be male and female, and have been joined in wedlock via the sacred ropes (shimenawa). These ropes are renewed each year on the 5th of January, so we only just missed it by a week. As famous as this is, it was a bit of a disappointment but at least I saw the rocks...yeah.

I went home for a week to spend some time with the folks, see some people, and discuss matters. It was good to be home, good to see CC, JH, GB, KMcL, DW, TOR, JH (PhD), and some family too. The weather was crap apart from the final Friday so I went birding with CC down Red Barn/Pilmore Strand way in east Cork. A nice day out on the beach, notching up a county tick (Water Pipit - catching ya Barty boy!!!) and seeing an American bird (Buff-bellied Pipit) at close quarters. The flights were grand and all was good.

What struck me most was how much I have been assimilated into the way of the Japanese commuter. I hated having to listen to people talking on their phones on trains and buses. Having to listen to some gobshite talking on the phone about how she was going off to Florida for free coz her wealthy friends parents were going to pay for her; how another gobshite on the bus was talking about how he was fcuked over by the horsey-set in Leopardstown and how the guy he was talking to on the phone was not to tell anyone how horsey-gobshite's kids were black-belts in Karate, to which some other guy down the back of the bus shouted out "Don't worry bud, neither will everyone else on de bus!", to which the entire bus laughed heartily and horsey-gobshite hung up the phone...twat.

What is with Blackberry phones!?? Everybody who thinks they're someone has one! I make my apologies for JH as he only has one coz work pays for least that is my good friend's excuse, and having known him for 30 years, I have to say I believe him. It's just a phone. What more do you want it to do.

And another thing, what is it about talking on trains, planes and automobiles (buses)?? Why can't people just take 5 freakin' minutes to themselves and not have to contact somebody else who is traveling to a destination where these people will meet anyway? Why would somebody have to slap hard down on a table on a train when the person next to him (ie, me) was sleeping?!! He apologized after I just looked at him and just asked "Why?". That was all well and good but he could have been a bit more freakin' considerate and not to have done it in the first place...

For anyone who has travelled on Japan's subways, trains, and planes...the quietness and peacefulness is so, so nice

PS: welcome home JW...the South Polar Explorer

Carmo's Diet: This week, I have mostly been eating Katsu-don

Carmo's Birds: Not a lot...plenty of monkies though (more later)

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: Lost is back again...go on Evangaline Lily

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The month that was...(1)

It has been a roller-coaster of a month, starting off on a high and ending confused and dazed. In this post, I will concentrate on the trip to Kyushu with Neil and Sean, one that will stick in my mind as a highlight of my time in Japan. So readers, be warned, for what follows is birding...and superb birding at that.

(Black-faced Spoonbills sleeping)

Neil and I took an overnight sleeper train from Osaka to Kumomoto, situated west of central Kyushu, arriving surprisingly 40 minutes late at 8am. During the sleepless night I had, I witnessed the manic and startling behavior of Japan's trainspotters, whose totally obsession with all things rail astounds me. As I nonchalantly dragged on a ciggie at 4am as we stopped at Fukuoka, I was alarmed at the sound of what I thought was an Olympian 100m sprinter coming up the platform. As I casually turned around, there was a possessed Japanese man running with such intent up towards the top of the train that I first thought I was in for a beating by one of the Nationalist Party. What was foremost in his mind was getting video footage of the particular engine being attached to the front of our train...and they say birders are mad.
(Hooded Cranes landing)

As much as I'd like to bore you all with the details and little quirks of our birding tour of Kyushu, I shall just divulge the highlights here. Day one saw us twitch Chinese Gray Shrike successfully, while I nabbed my first tick of the trip when we say a flock of Eurasian Magpies from the train. Getting to the the Minshiku at Arasaki after nightfall, following the magnificent sight of 12 Black-faced Spoonbills and approx. 250 Saunder's Gulls (both species on the Red Data List of globally threatened species) nearby, the sound of 11,000 cranes started to echo off the courtyard of what would be our base for the following 3 nights. Rising before dawn to the sound of the cranes was incredible. To watch them take to the skies in a cloud of loud noise was awe-inspiring. I will never forget the sight nor sound of the cranes at Arasaki. It is certainly one of the most spectacular natural events I have observed in Japan and recommend it to all, regardless of your interest or otherwise in birds. It is truly a marvel.
(feeding time at Arasaki)

The remainder of our trip saw us notch up some incredible species in Forest Wagtail (Mi-ike Lake, Miyazaki), Ryuku Minivet, a self-found Willow Warbler (a rare bird for Japan, especially on the main islands), Great Spotted Eagle, Hen Harrier, Eurasian Starling, Brown Shrike, Chinese Penduline Tit, Dusky Warbler, Ruddy Crake, Sandhill, White-naped, Hooded, and Common Cranes, including Common x Hooded Crane hybrids, Rooks, Daurian Jackdaw, Black-faced and Eurasian Spoonbill together, Saunder's Gulls, Pallas's Gull, Oystercatcher, Eurasian Curlew, and Eastern Reef Egret. In all, I notched up 8 lifers and an additional 4 Japanese ticks, bringing me to 352, a tally I never thought possible in under 3 years in Japan. An unforgettable trip.
(Forest Wagtail)(

While we were in Kyushu, word reached us of an unprecedented invasion of Rough-legged Buzzards (left) into western Japan. Usually a couple of records are noted from Hokkaido each winter. However, with up to 30 birds present from Osaka to the western edge of Honshu, we were hoping that the Osaka/Kyoto birds would linger for a week or so. As luck would have it, I managed to connect with the last remaining of 3 birds at Ogura (Kyoto) the following weekend. A stunning bird which performed well and seemed unfazed by the presence of humans. It landed within 30 meters of about 50 photographers and continued to stare at us for 30 minutes before taking off and flying over our heads and away off over the paddy fields. It was certainly worth the 3 hour wait in snow flurries and a biting northerly wind sweeping over the flat and exposed landscape of Ogura.

Carmo's Diet: That week, I had mostly been eating fish, miso soup, rice, and pickled cucumber


Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: whatever you can get

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