Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Just when I thought spring was coming...

The last week or so it has become warmer and the need for a coat going to work is now obsolete. Saturday was spent walking around Shinsaibashi with PJ and PC, showing them the general area, where all the Tiffany, Gucci, Salvatore Ferrungi, Bulgari, Tag Haur, Clinique shops were. You know, just in case they wanted to splurge out a year's salary on a gaudy piece of jewelry. T-shirt and a pair of jeans were all that were required in the pleasant spring air. Saturday night was spent dining in a fantastic Malaysian restaurant to bid Tim farewell as he heads back to London to bigger and better things and a normal working week...with all the perks that go with a normal job. I will miss Tim. He is a great chap, and chap he is. I wish him well in his new position with one of the better law firms in London. Toodle pip ol' boy!!
After dinner we headed back to the 'burbs and a session of Karaoke. Not my cup of tea really but I stayed for a bit, belted out a few tunes. Sent out the love to people of the world and duly went home sober as a judge. Sunday was spent resting, cleaning my apartment, getting food and generally chilling out. I needed a bit of R&R. Actually, I went to Osaka-jo in the morning for a bit of birding. LJ, I decided to take some photos of the those "lovely thrushes", just for you...I hope you like them :) A nice selection of Eye-browed, Brown and Dusky thrush (photos in that order).

So on Tuesday it was pissing rain on and we had one of the biggest lightening storms surrounding Osaka, with lightening hitting nearby buildings. It was mad. Then on the way home that night my iPod died a sorry death. Nothing spectacular, no fanfare. It just went quietly, not a sound...that was the problem. There was absolutely nothing!! I took it into Apple Store in Shinsaibashi last night and, without a request for a warranty card, they replaced it. I now have a spanking new iPod. Nice.

Not sure what plans are afoot for Saturday, but am off birding the Yamatogawa on Sunday with Neil. We is hunting gulls...It is supposed be warm and sunny, yeah baby!! Oh, and it started snowing tonight on my way home. This world is going crazy.

Carmo's Diet: This week, I have mostly been eating broccoli and asparagus

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: the one that got away...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Finally...Hokkaido Birds

Where to start, where to begin to tell the tale of a magical few days in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Where to lead you on this wonderful road, how to describe the beathtaking scenery, the quiet roads, lack of people, the quiet, the clean air, the frozen seas...oh to be a story teller.

Two flights from cold Osaka Itami airport on a fresh February morning, and 5 hours later, with a slight stop-over in Tokyo, I was finally breathing Hokkaido air. The sight of Mt. Fuji and volcanoes as we made our way up the country warmed the spirits but the blast of icy air certainly froze the flesh. Letting my gaze fall upon 2-3 metre high snow drifts was surreal. And we hadn't left the airport yet. We rented a Toyota 4x4 jeep, costing about 60,000yen all-in (including petrol) for the 4 days. That was bloody good. I guess I'd better tell you where we flew into rather than belt into the tale of the first bird I saw (a crow by the way). It was a tiny airport, smaller than Knock airport I would say. The terminal was really just a two-storey building and the bags could have been taken off the plane ourselves. I felt like I was home :) Anyway, we got in the car and headed east, to the coast and the birds. Nemuro Shibetsu was our first port of call, with Harlequin Duck, Glaucous-winged gulls, glaucous gulls (literally hundreds), Slaty-backed gulls, Pelagic Cormorants, Black Scoter, Common Guillemot, auk sp.'s flying in the distance and glorious White-tailed Eagles flying by. It was very cold but the excitement of seeing Harlequin duck and Glaucous-winged gulls insulated me I think because I felt so warm. We quickly got into the car again and headed south towards Furen-ko. The thoughts of seeing flocks of Steller's Eagle was racing through my mind as we drove by frozen seas and 2 meter snow drifts.

Along the way, we stopped to look at White-tailed Eagles perched in trees, with little groups of tits (Marsh, Great and Long-tailed) and Dusky Thrush pushing through. And then, just like home, in amongst the long-tailed tits, a treecreeper calling and flitting about the trees, my first (and so far only) one in Japan. This was quickly followed by Nuthatch and fly-over greenfinches. As dusk approached and the road stretching ahead of us, I spotted a Steller's soaring over the horizon...my first one in Hokkaido. Not to disappoint, rounding a bend I saw a large grey shape perched on a roadside bend and shouted out "OWL!!" much to Rob's delight. A quick u-turn and we were looking at a magnificent Ural Owl, no more than 20 meters ahead of us, sitting there in the twilight. Then, as silently as we sat there, the bird gave us one more cursory glance and lifted off the dead tree to fly north and into the forest. Incredible. What a bird to end an amazing first day in Hokkaido.

The following day we headed to cover the amazing Nemuro Penninsula. In -15C temperatures, we drove around the penninsula and watched pack ice float by the headland and cast our gaze across massive snow fields which were impenetrable and prevented us from reaching one of the best seawatching points in the region, Ochiishi Misaki. I was gutted, but there was still the point off Nosappu Misaki. Some Irish birders had been there the previous week and found a white-phase Gyrfalcon, so we were keeping our eyes peeled for it...alas, it never showed. On our way back to Nosappu Misaki we stopped off at at the beach at Ochiishi Misaki to look for buntings, preferably snow and lapland bunts as they were lifers for Rob. Unfortunately we dipped on them there and dipped again with a flock of 30 or so lapland buntings that were seen further up the coast at Notsuke Hanto. While walking the snow covered beach, I heard a call I couldn't believe I was hearing...Northern Raven!! A sound that brings me back to home, back to my youth when my good friend, and uncle, Jim (he who "ruined"my life by turning me into an obsessive birder) used to call out to the birds in Cuskinny and we used to listen to them answer back. Northern Ravens are a rare bird in Japan, seen annually in Hokkaido, they are very unusual in this part of Hokkaido. I was delighted, as was Rob, another lifer for him. Chuffed with ourselves, we headed out to the point of Nosappu Misaki. It reminded me of home really, the open headland, a lighthouse, seals, seabirds and a cold wind. The only difference was that the sea was frozen, the seals were ringed seals, the seabirds were Pigeon Guillemots, Spectacled Guillemot, Red-faced Cormorant, Harlequin Ducks, Slaty-backed gulls, calling Black Scoters (a very eerie call), Goosander and there were Steller's Eagles flying over head. Apart from that...

We slowly made our way back to Furen lodge and as we did, the sky was getting darker and the wind colder. We knew there was something on the way. When we got back to Furen lodge, Matsuo-san told us there was a big storm coming in so it might be difficult getting to Rausu, which was next on the itinerary. We decided to be cautious and changed our plans entirely. Theresa wanted to see the Japanese Cranes (as did we) and with the inclement weather approaching, we changed our reservations in Rausu to the following night and decided to head to Kushiro, further west along the coast, heading towards Sapporo. A second incredible meal with Matsuo-san and we all went to bed, tired but amazed at the sights of the day. One of those sights was a Red Fox, which stood by the side of the road in the glorious sunshine, staring at us for 5 minutes before getting bored and padding back into the deep snow covering the flat land of Nosappu Misaki.

Rob and I decided to get up at 5am and drive back to Nosappu Misaki to look for auks and murrelets before we went looking for the large morning flock of Steller's Eagle on the ice, waiting for the fishermen to throw their scraps out to them. When we got up we were greeted by a blizzard. In the true spirit of adventure (or stupidity some might say), we got into the car and made our way to Nosappu again in search of, well, birds we thought. As we drove through Nemuro City, the snow storm was getting worse, and visibility was deteriorating, quickly. Then disaster struck. We reached a certain point on the road out to find the road had been closed due to the weather conditions. Snow drifts had come right across the road and blocked our passage. We quickly drove across the width of the headland hoping the other road was open...it wasn't. What to do? We headed back into Nemuro City to look for Waxwings. I know, it was madness but we're birders and that is what we do. Although we didn't find Waxwings, we found a pair of Redpolls, a lifer for Rob and a rare bird in Japan. The drive through the blizzard was worth it for that alone.

A quick stop at the lake on the way to Kititappu en route to Kushiro, yielded a flock of Steller's Eagles, roosting in the trees after their morning feed. Despite our best efforts at sneaking up to them in order to try and get a decent photo, we were rumbled and off they flew. A dozen Steller's, plus the same number of White-tail's, took off from the trees...amazing. My mouth was just hanging open and I froze. To witness that spectacle was incredible. I then came back to the present and started taking photos of the flying eagles. A smile on my face as broad as the frozen Furen bay didn't leave my face for quite a while. A small number of Sika deer were startled from their foraging on the bay edges as we walked back through the snow drifts to get back to the car and the journey west to Kushiro. A brief visit to Kititappu yielded Brunnich's guillemot, White-winged Scoter's, Buzzards and about 300 Black-eared Kites sitting in a group of trees. That was remarkable. We arrived in Kushiro tired but exhalted after a wonderful day. A good night's sleep was needed.

The next morning we arose at 5am to get to the Setsurigawa Tsurui Japanese Crane site. This was the coldest temperature we had experienced on the trip, a chilly -18C!!! It was bloody freezing. It was bloody worth it though. As the sun rose over the hills, heating the air and the water, an eerie mist was rising off the river and the Cranes were stirring in the distant. As the morning got older and the sun higher in the sky, the Cranes started dancing and calling. It was fantastic. Although very distant, it was worth braving the temperatures and the noise of the 100 or so Japanese photographers that had gathered to witness this spectacle. As I was scanning the trees behind me for a Nuthatch I heard calling, I noticed a pair of Cranes not more than 200m away, snoozing in the river. Fantastic! They didn't seem to mind the noise of the photographers and just kept on sleeping. And that is how we left them. A nice way to start my birthday day. We had wanted to check out some of the forests in the area but the depth of the snow made it impossible. The drive back throught the hills, covered in snow and tree-lined, the active volcanoes in the distance bellowing out steam/smoke made for a surreal drive through northern Japan. We once again reached the east coast and birded Notsuke Hanto. A 10km long stretch of a sand spit, looking like a breaking wave on the map. Although the gulls kept us busy, it was the lucky find of a stunning male Asian Rosy finch which made the stop here worthwhile. A fabulous bird that Neil warned me not to see as he has still to see this bird. I knew now I could go back to Osaka with some ammunition to slag him off. A gorgeous bird, rich colours and great call.

That night, we drove up to Rausu, situated on Shiretoko Hanto surrounded by the Sea of Okhotsk. This for me was the most beautiful of all the places in Hokkaido I had seen. Epic scenery. Driving on roads which cut through forests, one suddenly comes upon a coastal road that is perched on the foot of tall mountains that are covered with snow and ice and plunge into the sea. The sea, frozen in the sheltered bays, was deep blue. A big fishing port, Rausu was magnificent. With Glaucous gulls and glaucous-winged gulls abundant, it was also awash with Steller's Sea Eagles and White-tailed Eagles. The area holds the largest wintering population of Steller's sea eagles in the world, with approximately one-fifth of the world's population residing there. To see them fly in from the frozen sea ice and roost in the hills behind us was amazing. A sight to behold and a call that was beautiful.

We pulled into the world famous Blakiston's Fish Owl Minshiku, dumped our gear in our room, had a wonderful meal and met 3 British birders who were staying for their second night. The owls hadn't turned up the previous night so we were worried that maybe they wouldn't turn up tonight. It was our only chance. I was willing to stay up all night if I had to. This was a dream bird, one that was on my "Japanese wish list" of birds. At about 6pm, we got into the car and waited. And waited. And waited. At about 9pm, the female bird flew in!! The female had been ringed the previous year at her nest but the male was not. This pair of Fish Owls regularly feed on this stretch of the river and now fish are put in a small pool of water on the river bank for them. This bird was HUGE!! I again froze. The bird was no more than 30yards away. I managed to take a couple of dodgy photos and she flew off again after a couple of minutes, eating the fish she had caught. We waited again for another few hours but I was feeling really bad at this stage and needed to sleep. We retired to the Minshiku. As I was just about to hit the pillow, I saw the camera flashes go off again. I looked out the window and there, on the tree, a pair of Blakiston's Fish Owls. They were magnificant. I was amazed at how large these birds are. A couple of fish later, and off they flew, calling into the night air.

The following morning greeted me with a need for two buckets (if you know what I mean). However, we went out of a couple of hours before heading back to Nemeru Shibetsu and the flight home. A Brown Dipper was busily feeding in the stream in front of the Minshiku, calling loudly and not bothered by our close proximity. A brief scanning trip up the coast yielded guillemots and an unexpected Long-billed Murrelet!! What a bonus. a few distant auklets flying were probably Ancient or Japanese Murrelets but too distant to tell. A very tired or sick Brunnich's guillemot came ashore and a dozen Harlequin ducks floated on by. I was in need of medical attention so we called it a day and headed back down the coast to the awaiting flight home. As I glanced out the back window for one more look at Rausu, half a dozen Steller's eagles were flying out to sea, tumbling and talon grappling on their way there, screeching and calling. With the ice-capped moutains as a backdrop to this wonderful display by a magical bird, I smiled with the realization that I had the most amazing birding experience of my life...

Places we stayed: the world famous Furen Lodge on Furen Bay near Nemuro Penninsula (2 nights), owned by Matsuo-san. Fantastic knowledge of the area and a great cook. By far the best food I've had in Japan and he makes his own sake which was fantastic; The Wood Hotel (1 night) near Tsurui-mura outside Kushiro, warm with a great open fire; the Blakiston's Fish Owl Minshiku in Rausu (1 night), with great food and a wonderful bird to be seen from one's bedroom window.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Hiroshima and other goings on

Friday night saw my tired ass head to Shin-Osaka to get the 20:32 Nozumi Shinkansen train to Hiroshima, 90 minutes to being 400km away from Osaka. 90 minutes to being in one of the best cities I've seen in Japan. A, thanfully, uneventful train journey ended and I was met by Sean and his wife, Norico at Hiroshima station. A short car journey later (literally 5 minutes), and I was sitting down in their lovely apartment supping on a beer. It was really nice to be able to sit down and shoot the shit in pleasant surroundings and a cold beer. Norico has superb English so it was not awkward and we ended up talking well into the wee hours of the morning. It was my first time meeting both Sean and Norico and we got on very well. There was no awkward silences or the like, and we had lots to talk about. The entire weekend was like this and I must say I enjoyed their company thoroughly.

A few hours sleep and we were wide awake, sipping on coffee and looking out on the pouring rain. Unperturbeded, we headed out and birded the environs of Hiroshima. It was great to able to bird such fantastic habitat so close to a city. Mudflats, reedbeds, ocean, rivers and forests, all within close proximity to the city. Norico was aabsolutete legend, driving Sean and I around to our destinations. In the midst of the pouring rain, we saw some fabulous birds. Plenty of gulls, Slaty-backs, Heuglins, Vega, Common and a very scary looking Glaucous-winged gull. While scanning a man-made pond (about the size of Cuskinny, I saw pond as the lakes here are huge), which arose from the ongoing reclamation project here, and trying to ignore the multitudes of buntings flying through the reeds, I picked up a male Garganey. A new bird in Japan for me and a first in Hiroshima for Sean. I was delighted. Over the sea wall, Red-necked, black-necked, great crested and little grebes, wigeon, teal, pintail, and scaup swam close by, being monitored by Ospreys sitting on the posts in the water. Magical. Kestrels hunted over the pond and Black-eared kites looked for carrion along the shore edges. With a falling tide, the gulls started coming in, waiting for the mud to be exposed. No sign of my target bird though. Amidst the terrible rain, I was getting worried.

A short drive later, exposed mud looked alive with Dunlin, Kentish and Little-ringed plovers, black headed gulls feeding busily at the junction where the fresh water meets the sea. Then, music to my ears "Saunders' gull, adult, flying right! Hang on, there's 3!!", bellowed Sean! My heart started racing and I soon located the birds on the deck as the gulls came back into feed. Three glorious birds, two first winters and an adult. One of my target species in Japan and one of the world's rarest gulls. It was stunning. Unfortunately, the rain and conditions prevented any photos from being taken, but something tells me I will be down again to visit Sean and Norico for another opportunity to see these beautiful gulls...and to share their company of course !!

We birded on for another few hours before the inclement weather and fading light pushed us for home. I of course slept in the back of the car on the way home, which most of you will know, is typical of me. At least I haven't changed too much since I have been here! Sean and I went out at about 10pm, cycling through the streets of Hiroshima to our destination. I had a great time out with Sean and his friends, visiting some bars and a seeing a gathering of drunken Japanese locals in full song and welcoming me in without reservation. A great night out in a great city, the cylce home was better than I thought it would be, keeping my balance well and not crashing once...fantastico.

The following morning was slow, bleary-eyed but still raring to go. We headed up the mountains in search of White-backed Woodpeckers and Mugimaki Flycatchers. Both potential lifers and stunning birds to boot. Thankfully we scored on both, 3 woodpeckers (a pair at a nest hole) and a pair of flycatchers. As the weather was better on Sunday, with snow threatening all day but at least dry, I managed to get some photos of the flycatchers but the woodpeckers were too quick for me!! Calling Long-tailed Rosefinches and a fly-by Japanese Green Woodpigeon were lifers that got away but it did not dent my spirits in any way. My weekend was superb and I couldn't have enjoyed it more without the company of Sean and Norico. I certainly hope to go back again.

Back to work on Monday and a traditional Japanese "wake" was on the schedule. The boss' mother had died over the weekend, being ill for a while with Alzheimer's. A train out to Nara at 5.30pm and a bus to the temple from the station. It was basically like a removal at home. Upon entering the building we signed the book of condolences, greeted by the boss, and then we all sat down looking upon a picture of the deceased, listening to the priest chant and pray. We were then ushered up to the front (there was no body/coffin present) where we made an offering of salt(?) three times to the deceased, placing the salt(?) into an offering jar. Then we paid our respects to the family and left. All done in an orderly fashion. Quick and painless. The reason one should not put one's chopsticks sticking up from rice is that is symbolises the death of somebody. There you go.

A day off today (a public holiday of some description), which was nice. I bought a blender/juicer in a store near home and nearly bought a bike (only 50yoyos) while out with PJ, the newbie on the team. Then went out with the gang of six for old times sake as Timbo is off back to Londinium to his new job on Monday. He will be sorely missed. I enjoy his company and have many chats about cameras with him. The dinner was a good laugh and the food was excellent, not to mention the wine. All in all a good day and a fantastic weekend...

Carmo's Diet: this week, I have mostly been eating Italian (unfortunately not Monica Belluci)

Carmo's Birds: SAUNDERS' GULL; WHITE-BACKED WOODPECKER; MUGIMAKI FLYCATCHER; Garganey*; Green Sandpiper; Daruian Redstart; Black-faced Bunting; Buff-bellied pipit; Osprey; Kestrel; Black-eared Kite; Buzzard; and many more...now about 212 species for Japan and I'm not here a year yet.

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: Lisa Bonet

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day one and all!

Another week nearly done and Paddy's day beckons. Unfortunately I will neither be reveling in drunken loutishness nor singing "The Banks" as I toddle off home at stupid o'clock down Shinsaibashi way, for I am off to Hiroshima! To the city that US of Atrocities decided to obliterate about 60 years ago. I was there last September and I loved the city, very friendly people and nice atmosphere, cool bars and eateries. However, this trip is all about the birds and in particular Saunder's gulls! I have the great fortune to be staying with and guided by an English birder by the name of Sean M. It is fantastic how the birders I have met here have been so accommodating, and now Sean (and his wife) have to put up with me for the weekend (Thanks Sean!!). I am really looking forward to going down/across/west to sample the vistas and areas surrounding the city. By the way, doesn't Bertie look like a right brown-nose there, licking the shirt-tails of the Chimp??

Last Sunday I went birding with Neil to Yamayogawa, which is a stretch of the Yodogawa on the outskirts of Osaka, quite near Kansai International Airport (about 70 minutes by train from Osaka city "centre"). What a day in the pissing rain. Gulls EVERYWHERE! I won't bore you with the details coz I am too tired to go into it now but the list is at the bottom. I will mention that a possible Thayer's gull got away from us that would have been the first record for the Kansai region...Gutted!

Since I witnessed the moped 'snatch and dash' incident last Friday night, there have been both marked and unmarked police cars parked on our road every night. It's mad. If that was back home they wouldn't give a toss and would maybe do a run around the area on the following night of the crime and leave at that, thinking Joe Public will be happy with that service. In saying that though, now word either about the "Body". Either they couldn't find it or didn't need to bring us in for questioning...

I'm off to bed now, that's been my week really. Working away hard and actually back in the gym again, more or less...

Bye for now and I'll see you after Hiroshima (the Hokkaido blog report coming next week folks, stay tuned, photos are now completed......bet you are all so excited, especially LJ and the boys after my previous posting)

Actually, before I go, wasn't it really convenient for Israel that the US and UK monitors were removed from the prison in Palestine? Wasn't it fortunate they didn't kill any "Peacekeepers" there? It's a f^%king disgrace and I am livid about it. Goddamn it all to hell but I could go on about this fiasco for hours...And here's another beauty from Iraq: 11 people most of them women and children were killed when US forces flattened a house during a raid north of Baghdad early yesterday, police and relatives said. The US of Atrocities acknowledged the raid and said it captured one insurgent, with only four people killed a man, two women and a child. Only 4 innocent people killed, including two women and a child, just to kill one claimed "insurgent". Give me a break...

Carmo's Diet: This week, I have mostly been eating chicken, pesto, peppers and olives...

Carmo's Birds: Thayer's gull (probably); L. HEUGLINI 'TAIMYRENSIS'*; L. HEUGLINI HEUGLINI*; Vega gull, Mongolian gull, Slaty-backed gull, L. canus kamtschatschensis, kestrel, sparrowhawk

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: Natalie Portman...please

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Thrush species amongst blossoming Plum trees

Good evening, good night, good morning and hello...

A busy week saw the workload come and go like the tide, up one minute, down the next. It was an enjoyable week at work, I learnt a lot and feel more sure of myself. OOOhhhhhhh!!!! I witnessed my first crime in Japan also...a chicken chaser snatch and grab (for those of who don't know, a chicken chaser is a moped), no less than 30 seconds from the gaff!!! The poor women had been carrying her handbag over her shoulder exposed to the road-side, at about 11pm on Friday night. The guy just drove up and grabbed, took off before I knew what was going on!! Quite alarming really...but what can one do in that situation, I don't have the speed in the old legs to keep up with a scooter. Still though, not a nice thing to see, the poor woman was devastated. Lesson to be learned today...never carry a bag on the side exposed to the road, keep it safe to the inner side of the footpath. Common sense really but then again, it's Japan. The safest country in the world according to reports...

A new bio team member will be starting on Monday, a fresh arrival from Oz, PJ has just finished a Masters and is a good sort. I took himself and PC (new Irish girl) to Umeda for a spot of sight seeing, shopping, food and beers (I finally fell off the wagon after a month off the grog). However, before that excursion happened, I arose at 6.30am and headed to Osaka-jo to see if there were any migs aboot. It was a cloudy, misty morning, but I headed out anyway. I like this time of morning, it's quiet, peaceful and can be somewhat surreal. The birds were present, the usual White-eyes, Black-faced Buntings, Pale Thursh, Dusky Thursh...and then, while walking around a copsy area (not corpsy, I've had enough of that), I flushed a Brown Thursh. A new lifer and Japan tick!! While enjoying this smart male, a female popped out of the undergrowth, calling alarmingly and flew into a tree. While observing her, some Dusky thurshes appeared and then, much to my surprise, between 8-10 Eye-browed Thursh flew up into the trees, another lifer and Japanese tick!!! What a score!! I didn't think I would see any new species today but lo and behold, I nail two!! No photos for proof but my word should be enough. Happy with my lot I headed to the plum garden and I was blown away by the colours, fragrance and the amount of photographers (all over 60) swarming around the garden taking photos of the flowers. I felt like I had to join in so I spent a good hour amongst them all, some even bringing me to some nice collection of flowers!

At about 9am, I headed away, to 'bucks for a short soy latte (I'm posh, me) and then home, where I did some grocery shopping and finally finished the Hokkaido bird photos before heading into Umeda with PJ and PC. I had a great day with the two of them, a bite to eat and some beers. It was strange but somewhat good having a beer. I miss it but don't...you know what I mean?? Now at home and ready for bed. Meeting ND at 8.30am in search of birds, not corpses this time!!

I hope this finds you well. Leurve machine, checked out camera prices for you so will email you tomorrow.

Carmo's Diet: this week, I have mostly been eating Balance Power Bars

Carmo's Birds: EYE-BROWED THRUSH, BROWN THUSH, Black-faced Bunting, Japanese White-eye, Japanse Pygmy Woodpecker, and Vega gull. 208 species for Japan now..wicked.

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: Watched Brotherhood of the Wolf again...Monica Bellucci is a goddess...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

So today I found a dead body...

So, there we were, finishing up what was a quiet day's birding, standing on the banks of (my own lovely Lee, if only) the Yodagawa scanning the water one last time before getting on the train. In my usual, eloquent way, I uttered "Oh, jezus...". Neil, obviously thinking I found something to brighten up the day, asked me what I had in the scope. "Em...I think it's a body". Yup, while scanning the far shore/riverbank, slowly picking through the ducks, I came across a body, face down in the reeds. What I can only presume was an adult male due to the size of the corpse. Wearing dark trousers, runners and a white top. We couldn't discern the head as the upper torso was in the reeds while the lower body was on the mud. The water level was very low so this may be the reason why we picked it up in the scopes. Humming and hawing about what to do, Neil rang his wife who called the police and managed to get an English speaking policeman to call us. We gave directions as to where the body was and where we were. The scene of the discovery is across the river from where this photo was taken...
About 15 mintues later, a squad car arrives, picks us up and, with lights flashing and siren blasting, drove over to the other bank. Now, it might seem distasteful to say this, but it was kind of exciting being in the back of the squad car with lights and siren going on...you'd never think we were grown men. So, anyway, we were met by another squad car and about 4 other policemen. We showed them roughly where the corpse was, they took our details, thanked us and drove us back into Umeda. The body was very close to the city centre. It was funny watching the faces on the Japanese people as they saw two gaijins getting out of the police car, lights flashing, shaking hands with the officers and going in our separate directions, Neil to Hankyu and myself to JR. All in all an eventful day.

The Final Installment

A quite typical week at work saw it end on a high and a new Irish person arriving to join the firm. I had to go out to Kansai airport at the crack of dawn on Friday morning to meet and greet a new Irish girl, from Belfast, who is starting on the paralegal team of the Firm. A very friendly and outgoing person, typical of the Belfast people I know, will make a good addition to the foreign staffers. Although, she wasnt' feeling all to well on Friday night, she came out for a couple of drinks with us after work. I had to go back to work at 3pm on Friday, which was very weird. Trying to get into the frame of mind to work was difficult but a short day was had, 5 hours all told but I got something done so that was good.

Saturday morning, early rise, and off to the barber. I haven't got my haircut since before Christmas so it was well overdue. Also, not having a drop of alcohol for over a month now makes it a hell of lot easier getting up on a Saturday morning after a few pints on a Friday night. It feels good, maybe I will keep it up for a while yet!! Anyway, I went to the same barber again and asked for "shorto"...and that is exactly what I got. Lesson number one when getting a haircut in Japan and not being able to communcate exactly what you want: NEVER CLOSE YOUR EYES!! I closed my eyes, heard the clippers going, felt him put it to my head, knew something was wrong...a No.1 cut!! It's far too cold for a cut like that at the moment. He saw the fear in my eyes and asked "Ok?"...what could I do, ok I said, smiling that winning smile which calms the othe person into a reassured frame of mind. It will grow back. COME BACK KEN HARTE!!!

Then, round 3 with Ton. I was looking forward to this all week. I got in, Ton explained the colour scheme and away to work he went. It was definitely the most painful experience I've had with tattoos. Whatever type of needles he used, or maybe it wsa the complexity of the colouring, it was 4.5 hours of pain, pain, pain. All good though and I am delighted with the final result. The man is a genius. It's sore as today and bled a lot more than the previous two visits. I just hope the colour holds nicely. I have to go back in one months time so that Ton can have a look of it and take proper photos. Ben was very impressed as were the girls and other tattooists there. That made me proud. It's cool...don't you think?

After stumbling out of Chopstick, high on the body's own painkillers, I wandered around Shinsaibashi looking for a Turkish restaurant as one of the lads had organized a surprise birthday dinner for LM. I got to the restaurant and informed them that some people would be late, ie LM, CVB and SL. As 11 guests seated themselves down, we waited 90 minutes for the birthday girl to arrive. Dinner was good, a bit steep price wise considering how much I ate. Ordering many dishes and taking samples just isn't a way to eat a proper dinner, expecially when one has to fork out 35yoyos for it. I was bloody starving after it! The belly dancer strutting her stuff made up for it...slightly. Anyway, back to BR and LM's place for a bit of a gathering and then off we went home on the last trains.

All in all a good day, grocery and washing completed in the morning, rounding off the day with a "bath" when I got home from the party. When I say bath, I mean trying to fit one's body into a bucket, the bath is so small. I bathed the beast of a tattoo for about 30 minutes, continued my after care treatment, got into bed and read Fisky's book for a bit. Nice easy nighttime reading :)

Now, it's Sunday morning, it's a beautiful day, blue skies, a chill in the air and there's birds to be watched. Off meeting Neil now. Biwa-ko was cancelled at the last minute so it's off looking around Osaka instead. I am looking forward to it...

Carmo's Diet: this week, I have mostly been eating curry katsudon

Carmo's Birds: Goshawk from the window at work this week, which was nice

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: this chick on the train last week, if only you could have seen her...