Sunday, April 30, 2006

Goodbye Ruby Tuesday...hello Ruby Saturday

That's Keni and I doing our impression of James Bond. I've no idea what Bond Cherly is trying to do an impression of. Mine is obviously Mr. Connery. Anyway, onwards with the posting. I shall not bore you with the trivialities of my boring life here in bustling Osaka, or rather buslting stressful Patent Law Firm. Instead, I shall bore you all with the not so trivial events of my Saturday and Sunday morning/late afternoon visit to Osaka-jo park. An early rise on Saturday morning saw my rather jaded and now sagging ass in Osaka-jo at 6am. It was a beautiful day, the sun was trying come out and the temperature, a balmy 18C. There was a lot people about, some playing an organised game of softball, others just out for a run or a walk. But yes, some people are so crazy in this country they organize a game of softball at 6am. The game had started when I passed by. Nutters. I can understand birders, as we are mad, being up at that godforsaken time on a Saturday morning, but to get up and play a game of softball? That beats birders hands down for being entitled "mad".

So anyway, there were also lots of birds about, being migration time. With dozens of Narcissus Flycatchers and Blue and White Flycatchers flying above my head, singing Arctic Warblers and noisy Bulbuls, it was a beatiful morning. I had been looking forward to my day out all week. I knew that there would be some birds about but I had not expected there to be so many. Nor did I expect to see a bunch of people playing softball at 6am, so it was turning out to be an interesting morning. I was also talking to a few of the local birders, who quite candidly pointed out that the singing war going on between 2 individual birds were in fact Japanese Robins!! I have still not seen this species and it is one I would dearly like to see. As you may gather from my use of tense here, I could not find the little bastards. They are known to be notoriously skulky and they certainly proved that reputation. I am hoping they will be more forthcoming on Mishima next week.

As I had to meet Rob and his daughter Aya in Nanko at 10am, I started heading for the train station. I noticed a group of organized photographers standing near a bush. When I went over I found, to my delight and surprise, a stunning male Siberian Rubythroat. A lifer. A total surprise. It had made my morning. I spent a good 45 mintues just watching this incredibly smart bird feed on insects and run around a lot. Cool. Previous to arriving here, I also found a couple of female Japanese Grey Thrush...the first lifer of the day, and again, totally unexpected.

I spent the rest of the day birding and hanging out with Rob and Aya. She's a precocious little 2.5 year old, and tormented us for 6 or 7 hours before I finally had to come home and Rob had to go back home also. It was good to spend some time with Rob as we hadn't seen each other or gone birding together in ages.

Today, I went back to O-jo in the afternoon to take some more pics of the Rubythroat and see what else was around. The fantastic and rather surreal part to birding in Japan is the way that photographers here set up the scene. At the Rubythroat site, they had placed a bare branch in the ground near the bush it favoured most. Then, they would clear the area around the branch and place a few maggots on the branch for the bird. Sure enough, within 10 minutes of the maggot being placed on the branch, the bird arrives. Feeds, performs a bit and flies back into the bushes. While the bird is feeding and stitting around wondering what the hell are these strange creatures doing, the noise of the cameras going off is deafening. Fantastic. So, as I was setting up my camera on the tripod, a very kindly looking Japanese man came over and told me to come into the front so I could get better photos. When I said I had been there yesterday, he looked at me and said, "oh, do you know there's a male Siberain Blue Robin over there?" pointing to the south. I think my expression gave him the answer so he laughed and told me to follow him. He had excellent english and it transpired he is a Professor of Organic Chemistry, retired, from Osaka Uni. He said he needed hobby when he retired so he decided that bird photography was it. A typical occurrence amongst bird photographers. They are nearly all retirees. Anyway, I told him I had a PhD in Biochemistry so he was delighted. He informed me then that his son is an Associate Prof. in Marine Biology somewhere in Arizona and that he was going to visit him for a month next week. Nice. As we turned the corner, there was a scene that always makes me laugh. About 40 photographers waiting for the bird to come out. Again, the scene was set and when the branch was analzyed through the bins, one could see the maggots squirming on the edges of the branch.

As we said our goodbyes, the male Siberian Blue Robin popped on the branch, ate it's fill and disappeared back into the bushes again. Nice. I had seen one last year in O-jo at about the same time but it was good to get some photos of one. A beautiful bird.

Now, after taking about 200 photographs in the two days, I have a lot of work ahead of me. A 2 day working ahead makes this Sunday evening less painful and the prospect of going to Mishima island for 3 full days of birding, makes it painless. I can't wait to get on the shinkansen on Tuesday night to head to Hiroshima. Sean and I then will catch a bus to Hagi, which is on the north tip of Yamaguchi prefecture on the Japan Sea. Then a 2 ferry ride towards South Korea and we reach Mishima. Hopefully I'll be keeping you all enthralled with birding stories when i get back. I know, you all can't wait. Presently talking with some movie producers in the States about making a film called "The Birdman of Osaka". The producers want Clooney to play me, as he looks like me apparently. That will keep my Aunt Phil happy. Clooney reminds her of me. Oh well, the burdens one has to carry....

By the way bro, get your boss to send you out here. If the place is in Osaka, then your rockin' n' rollin' fella. That would be wicked if you they send you on buisness. Get working on it...

Until next week, after Mishima, I bid you all goodnight....

Carmo's Diet: gone to shite

Carmo's Birds: SIBERIAN RUBYTHROAT*; JAPANESE GREY THRUSH*; Siberian Blue Robin; Red-necked stint; Ruff*; Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwit.

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: Robin Wright-Penn

ps: my photopage is no longer working as I have to pay 100yoyos to upkeep it and I ain't doing that. I'm working on setting up a flikr pro account but am having problems with my paypal. Anyway, I'll have it up and running soon!!!!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Oh boy, summer's comin'!!!

A leisurely stroll with Neil around Amagasaki and Kumijima today really brought home the fact that summer is on the way. It wasn't the fact that there were feck all birds about. It wasn't the fact that people are out picnicing everywhere. It's the onset of the humid, heaviness that Osaka has during the summer. It was and is, damn hot. I am presently sitting in my shoebox, with both the window and front door open trying to get a breeze going rather than turn on the air-con. I'm trying to do some editing for a friend of mine and the heat is making it hard-going. I can't concentrate because of the humidity. I am dreading summer...

It is a strange quirky behaviour of man whereby one moans and complains like a bitch all winter about how cold it is and then as soon as it gets warm, one moans and complains like a bitch again because it's too hot. Will the human psyche ever by happy with it's lot?! Somehow I doubt it.

So, I bought a clever little gadget from Apple which allows me to use my iPod as a storage device for my photos if I am on the road and don't want to bring my laptop with me. It's a simple little connector which allows me to connect my camera to the iPod and download the images via the USB cable. It saved me spending a few hundred euro on a portable storage unit. The connector only cost 20yoyos!! Brilliant. The people at Apple are clever folk. Now if they could only come up with a trouble-free iPod, they'd be laughing. After getting my iPod replaced about 3-4 weeks ago due to the fact that it just froze and stopped working, the brand-new replacement is now acting up. It's pausing on it's own accord and freezes aswell. I am going to bring it back during the week and get it replaced again. It's ridiculous. Mr. Job, get on it and make this frustrating glitch go away!! I need the iPod to be faultless for Mishima in 10 days time or I'll be in serious trouble. Make it so...

The weekend was grand. A few pints after work on Friday night, the gym on Saturday morning, coffee with one of the lads in the afternoon, and a couple of pints with PJ in the evening. Out wader hunting with Neil this morning was a total disaster in terms of numbers of birds...there is just nowhere left in Osaka now for them. We went to Amagasaki which is usually brilliant but they are after filling in so much of the habitat that there is hardly anything left. Singing Oriental Reed and Fan-tailed Warblers were nice, summer plumaged Red-necked Stints and Mongolian Plovers were beautiful and fishing Ospreys were majestic. However, the numbers were miserably low. Japan is slowly becoming a concrete block. It is quite sad really. I wonder will there be any part of Japan left untouched by the Concreters in the next 50 years?? Somehow I think there will not.

I have just finished reading "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu (translated by Thomas Cleary), which is considered to be a must-read for all strategists. I'm not saying I'm a stategist, but I was curious about the book. Apparently the likes of George Dubya and Tones Blarewitch have read wouldn't think it when you read the book and then look at their strategy for the invasion of Iraq. Maybe they should read it again. Presenlty, although still reading Robert Fisk's tome at night, I am reading John Banville's "The Sea", which won the Booker this year. I only read him for the first time in the new year when the folks sent over his trilogy "Doctor Copernicus", "Kepler", and "The Newton Letter" to me as a Chrissy present. That was an interesting read. Somehow I feel that the "The Sea" will be a dark affair. At least the man can write.

If anyone would like to recommend a book I should read then feel free to leave a message with me. As most of you will know, and in case of some of you may not, I read pretty much about everything so leave the suggestions (no porn thank you, this is a family show after grandmother reads this; HI GRAN!!). A. Wilson...your suggestions would be welcome too! While you are it folks, some musical recommendations would not go astray. I am totally out of the loop here (not that I was ever in it, but it's even worse here) and haven't a clue what's going on. I bought Gorrillaz' "Demon Days" last week and that is good. Now banging out Kila at full volume for the locals to get a flavour of some alternative Irish music. So, any suggestions would be welcome. By the way, homegrown talent to watch: check out John Daly if he's playing in Cork or elsewhere, he has had his new record just released by a record label in London. An amazing DJ in Cork and is well known in London for his mixing style...the man is a genius if you ask me.

On a familiar note to most of you out there, if you want a good laugh, listen to the TodayFm podcast of Ian Dempsey getting slagged by Jay over his appearance on Podge and Rodge...classic.

Ok, I'm off to scrub the toilet, shower-room, "hallway" (that's about 1 square foot), and hoover my bed platform :) Before I go, I would like you all to take this moment to lament the end of a beautiful journey of one Mr. Jer "Pee Wee" Daly, who shall be returning to grace the shores of our beloved motherland, and walk down Pana for the first time in 2 years after his sojourn around the world. Presently risking life and limb in El Salvador/Guatamala, he shall be home at the beginging of May. Hug him if you see him, although he may not respond due to the shock of being home...

Carmo's Diet: this week I have mostly been eating Lotte 99% cacao polyphenol chocolate. It's good for the prostate according to Men's I just have to eat it

Carmo's Birds: Mongolian Plover; Red-necked Stint; Oriental Reed Warbler; Fan-tailed Warbler; Green Sandpiper; Whimbrel; Grey-tailed Tattler; Shelduck(!); Turnstone; Swallow

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: Eva Longoria

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Oh where, oh where, oh where...has the year gone.

Unbelievable as it may sound, I am now entering my second year in Japan. Crazy gravy baby!! Yup, time has gone like a flash, like a fart in the wind, like... like never before. I'll be 40 before I know it, hahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!! Now that's a freaky thought.

So, what have I thought of my year? It's had it's ups and downs, just like anyone else has had these last 12 months. I've seen some amazing things, experienced a fascinating country with wonderful people, and I've met some strange and interesting folk on my tavels. I've worked my proverbial balls off and got paid shag all for it. My health has suffered, you can't see my eyes anymore for the bags beneath them, and I'm going greyer on top (nothing down below yet). Would I change any of it or do I regret the move?


Here's to another hellishly wonderful 12 months...

ps: this was taken maybe 6 months ago when I you could see my eyes!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The week that was Hanami

Another week is flying by. Four days done this week and already worked over 50 hours. That is just madness. A really big case load has hit the Bio team, and CvB and I are working on a big one. It's exciting, stressful and tiring but I am enjoying a sadistic kind of way. Oh, and this is what happens to one who works too, those bags under that poor bastards eyes are there for good *sigh*

Last weekend was spent under the sakura and being blazed by the oh so warm sunshine. Saturday morning was spent cleaning, shopping for food and a quick excursion to Yodobashi camera. The Leurve machine, no sign of a package deal but will check again this weekend if I am there. My friend in the camera shop I usually go to was not there so hopefully he might be there this weekend. After that trip with PJ, we headed to Osaka-jo for the Hanami party the lads has organized. It was amazing to see so many people walking around, sitting under the trees, drinking, eating and generally being merry. Many groups ranging from the elderly, young families, gaijin's like us and the gigilo's with their groupies. An open-top ferrari driving around with hot chicks sitting on the top of the car seats. Although there was hordes of people, there was no trouble, all the litter was collected and placed in the bins/skips. All very responsible which was incredible. It is something that would not happen at home. Dave came down from Tokyo so it was great to see him. Even though he is only gone a couple of weeks now, his presence is missed by many. A few of the Japanese staff members were there. It was good to see Senji and Shino, and to see Senji in a relaxed and happy mood. He's usually stressed out at work. He's a machine I think. Sometimes the guy works 20 horus a day...madness.

I had to leg it off to Shinsaibashi to meet up with a couple of people for a bite to eat, which was a pity as I would have liked to have stayed on and enjoyed the craic. The Japanese people take the sakura season as seriously as they take their work. For many, it is the first sign of spring and the coming of a new summer and warm nights. The sakura's remain in full bloom for a couple of days and then over the course of a week, they are all gone. It is a rapid, yet vainglorious event. I thorougly enjoyed it.

Sunday was spent gulling with Neil. The weather was warm, somewhat sunny and little wind. A huge change from the previous week. We were not disappointed with our visit to the new gull spot. The usual cast of 2+ adult and 1stw taimyrensis; 2 yellow-legged birds which were otherwise no different to Vega could have been either hybirds or simply Vegas with yellow legs(!); several mongolicus, one with quite bright yellow legs but most were flesh to yellowish in colour; a possible 3rd winter
heuglini but not the 2nd winter usually present; the 1st winter Kumlien's was on show again... it seems it and the Thayer's have an agreement only to show up on alternate Sundays! Kumliens' was new for me in Japan so I was thrilled. Then, as I was taking a nap (it was quite warm and I was quite tired), through the sleepy haze I was enjoying, I heard Neil shout "knot!!". I don think I have moved out of a sleepy situation like that in a long time, if you know what I'm sayin :) An adult summer Great Knot!! Bonus! A lifer for me and one of the birds I was looking forward to finding this spring in Japan. I watched for about 30 minutes before it flew off down river. Magic.

Also, one of the first gulls we trained our scopes on was an intriguing individual. We both feel that it was a California Gull and the video footage that Neil managed to get look good for this species. It would be Japan's second ever record!! A mega rare bird here. Further analysis is required...stay tuned you bird lovers!

And now, I am sitting at home, listening to Morning Ireland and wondering what the hell some of the pathetic journo's are going on about how the Easter Rising was a forerunner for the ensuing European bloodbath of WWII and also, how it underpins the uprisings that have happened globally in the latter half of the 20th century. I am particularly talking about Geoffrey Wheatcroft from the Observer and his "The Evil Legacy of the Easter Rising" article- thanks for that Dr. Hynes and Dr. T- the twat even thinks it's 80 years since the Rising;
  • the article here
  • !! Christ, I nearly spewed my All Bran (keeps you regular) all over my laptop!! Then, thankfully, Dr. G. Fitzgerald put it all right with his article "Rising and early independence brought prosperity", and I was calmed again (thank you once again Dr. Hynes). Sweet Jayzus, if it wasn't for the boys in 1916 deciding, against all the odds, to take on the might of the British Empire and win, we wouldn't have the strong and more prosperous economy than we do now. Oh how the tide turns...we should embrace the heroes of 1916 and not put them down. A proud day for all.

    Carmo's Diet: this week I have mostly been eating Opposition Decisions and watching Scrubs

    Carmo's Birds: GREAT KNOT*; Kumlien's Gull*; Cattle Egret; Kestrel

    Carmo's Bird for Byrdy: that chick in Scrubs is quite endearing

    Thursday, April 06, 2006

    Where has the week gone.

    Hi all, I've just realized that it's been over a week since I posted!!! It has been pretty busy at work and last weekend was busy aswell. Another one of the boys has left the firm to go to Tokyo to another job. So that was Friday night taken care of. Another Karaoke experience and home to bed. I was very, very drunk. In fact, I was feeling the effects after a can of beer!!! AAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! I have to train how to drink all over again now *sigh*. Saturday was spent in a heap but I did purchase a brand new, fire-engine red, pimping(!) fold-up bike for myself. All for the bargain price of 50yoyos. Photos will be posted soon. So in my hungover state, I cycled around the area I live, aimlessly, as it was a beautiful day and I needed to clear my head.

    I tootled off to the Tsutya to get the last 8 hours of 24 Season 4 and watched that for the evening. Well, not all of it. I fell asleep in the chair, which is not the most comfortable, so I went to bed. Sunday was gulling day with Neil and we turned up the following, amongst one of the heaviest downpour of rain I have ever experienced: 15-20 heuglini taimyrensis, a presumed 1st winter heuglini heuglini which has been present on each visit during the month, as well as 10+ mongolicus. We finally found a "white-winged" gull and were able to get excellent views of it, however it proved not to be the expected Kumlien's we were looking for but a different bird; clearly a 1st winter Thayer's! So possibly the bird we had originally seen on the 12th of March could have been this species afterall. We were delighted as it was a lifer for Neil. Many shouts of joy and punching of the air with fists, as only birders do, and as only birders understand why we do.

    The week at work has been busy and tiring. My apartment phone rang at 5am on Monday morning!! Whoever the guilty party was, own up now ye langers!! Needless to say i couldn't get back to sleep and I slept on my desk at lunch time on Monday, as only I can do. I still haven't lost that talent, heheehheeee. Today, we had a Bio-group lunch, organized by Komatani-san under the sakura (cheery blossoms). The sakura are out in full bloom now and they should last for the next 10 days or so. It is quite beautiful really. The gaijins at work are organizing a hamani party this weekend. A hamani party is where you camp under the sakura for the night and all the following day, drinking, eating and being merry. The locals are mad for it and you can see entire families doing the same thing. All getting drunk under the trees, with babies, cats, dogs, and any other pet that they have. It's mad to see. I missed it last year as I arrived about a week too late.

    And now, it's nearly Friday. I have a teleconference in the morning so I have to be in early. Colonic irrigation chemicals...nice way to start a day eh?? Ok sin e for now, that's all my tired brain can think of. I leave you some photos of today and a view of Osaka from the 37th floor of the building I work in....

    Carmo's Diet: this week I have mostly been eating steamed salmon with a dash of pepper and drizzle of lemon juice.

    Carmo's Birds: see above

    Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: you are a legend fella!! here's one for you...Vanessa Paradis