Monday, June 26, 2006

Almost a Million Dollar Baby

The last 16 of the World Cup is coming to an end tonight, the rainy season has hit Osaka with a bang, and I was fortunate enought to see a mega rare bird for Japan on Saturday morning. I was also unfortunate to watch a jaded Irish rugby team succumb to an unnecessary defeat to Australia on Saturday night, so I drowned my sorrow in style, waking up at lunch time Sunday to find myself in my own bed, thankfully as I have no recollection of getting home. Ah, the joys of watching the game in an Irish bar and knowing the manager...brings back some memories I can tell ya. As a result of my suffering body on Sunday, I didn't have the energy to stay up and listen to my fellow Cork Republican comrades show Tipperary how to play hurling and secured our 50th Munster Senior Hurling title. Looks good to bring the Liam McCarthy back home again this year.

So, I arose at 4am and went in search of a Pheasant-tailed Jacana on Saturday morning (see photo above) and I was lucky to have glorious weather. At 6.30am that morning, the heat was such that I drank 2 litres of water by 8am! I also got sunburned in that time!! Madness I tells ya. A stunning bird and it was being watched by about 100 people, 99 of them Japanese and one young man from Cork. When I walked up first they were more intrigued by my presence than a bird that even made the local press. For a bird or anything involving nature making the paper, it must be something incredibly special. In my joy and rapture of watching this bird, it was only on my way back home that I realized I never took a photo of the masses of cameras and lenses that were pointed at the bird. I estimated that there was at least .75 million USD worth of camera gear was incredible. I was kicking myself for not documenting it, just to show how crazy it is here when it comes to wildlife photography. If one saw the scene front-on, one would think they were at a World Cup game! Anyway, I went home a happy man...

I also was practicing my "paning photography" with dragonflies on the way home and this is the best of a bad lot really (see below). I am off on a ferry trip in mid-August with Neil, travelling from Nagoya to Hokkaido with the hope of seeing some seabirds...fingers crossed we get a typhoon a day or so before which may bring some nice stuff up from the south pacific. So long as the ferry isn't cancelled!!!

That happiness was quickly soured by our tired display in Australia. The boys just didn't look like they had the energy. It's surprising as they have had a hard and long season. So, after a few pints of fabulous Guinness, we decided to stay up and watch the World Cup games. I made it for the first game but by 3am I was fit for nothing so I was duly thrown in to the back of a cab and somehow I got home. All good really and a great night. Having the craic and banter with Mick behind the bar was great fun and made me realize how much I miss the craic back home. Nothing beats a good bar with decent staff who will take the piss out of you and expect it back 10-fold. Brilliant craic!

Now, it's Monday evening, the Aussies are playing tonight but seeing as I didn't even have the energy to listen to the mighty Red Army bring home the 50th Munster title, I don't think I'll manage the soccer tonight. I think bed beckons. However, Brazil play tomorrow night so maybe i'll stay up for that game. I was surprised that England stuttered through to the next round. They really are doing well considering they are playing terrible football. It was a similar way when they won in '66...dear god i hope they don't repeat that or else we'll never hear the end of it. I can't see anyone stopping Brazil, and now with Ronaldo finding his form with some great goals in the last game, they just might be unstoppable.

I don't think there is anything else, so I will sign off and bid you all goodnight.

Carmo's Diet: This week, I have mostly been eating vegetables and drinking green tea

Carmo's Birds: PHEASANT-TAILED JACANA*; Little Cuckoo; Oriental Reed Warbler; Japanese Bush Warbler; Asian House Martin; Ashy Minivet (258 for Japan now).

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: the chick from Underworld

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Less starch in the collar thank you

Good evening one and all, I write (some of) this to you on a wet and pretty horrendous afternoon. The rainy season has hit Osaka with a bang today. Although the rain is a welcome break from the heat, the humidity remains a constant thorn in the side of gaijins and locals alike. What is particularly harsh is the fact that we have to wear the suit going to work even in this tropical weather. However, this week, as a treat to myself, I decided to get my shirts dry-cleaned as it is less than one yoyo a pop, cheap as my dear fellow. When I got them back, they were fantastically pressed and the collars and cuffs stiffly starched...just a tad maybe. All in all, a pleasant and somewhat nice feeling not to have to iron the shirts this week.

A trip to Nanko bird sanctuary on Saturday yielded a multitude of mozzy bites for my troubles and little else. A sojourn to Shinsaibashi in the afternoon to watch the game against the All Blacks was a pleasant and frustrating change. I thought we were unlucky, and lapses in concentration cost us the game. As that legend of a man, Paul O'Connell said, the game was there to be won, but they didn't go for the win. Is there something within the psyche of this team to become the best in the Northern Hemisphere and beat the best of the Southern? I hope not, as I think this team has the players to win on the big occasion. As the beer flowed and I got progressively louder and more aggressive in my shouts and rants at the large tv screen, the fun began. I don't think the locals were ready for the Carmo attack while the other punters remained calm and very eloquently raised their objections to the game play. Well, one Kiwi in particular who watched the game with us after the first half, probably feared for his safety after a I made my point known that the All Blacks second try was a knock-on while I thought the first try was a double-movenment. The lads thought I was hilarious. Those who know me will understand. Anyway, Andy the Kiwi ended up coming out for pints with us after the game and I must say I had one of the best nights in Osaka in a long time. We caught the last train home and good fun was had by all.

Sunday was spent in bed in the morning after a last minute cancellation to head to Kyoto. With that, I browsed the internet and came across this brilliant Cork band called Cartoon. They have a brilliant song called karmasookie, which can be downloaded as an mp3. I was well impressed. It was good fun browsing the Cork blogs such as Pure Cork Boy and the infamous StevieG. Great craic and mad to see that the place is still going strong. Now with that man Pee Wee back on the green shores and strutting his stuff down Pana and serving up a mix of beer, wine and excellent tunes in the new Roundy, I look foward to visiting home again. I was in stitches reading some of Pure Cork Boy musings on the club scene back home. Well worth checking out. Listening to Cartoon reminded me of the days with young master Pee and our times alighting on the dance floors of Cork in all sorts of horrendous conditions doing the tunes justice with our sleek and slick moves on the dance floor...nice...I look forward to doing that again, oh yeah.

As I was chilling out waiting to go to Kyoto, Kazu, a Japanse birder whom I met here last year, emailed me to tell me that there was a Chinese (Swinhoe's) Egret at Ebie!! I missed the one there last year so it was great to hear there was one here again. Although annual in Japan, they are very rarely seen in Osaka. I legged it to the train, rang Rob, and was on site 40 minutes later. Cool, another new species in the bag (see first photo above)!! Rob arrived 2 minutes later and we had a brief chat, making plans to go camping and trying to get me to play in the frisbee tournament next weekend. Anyway, he had to leg it back home before the family woke up as he had snuck out without them knowing. Although the heat haze was bad and the heat unbearable, a couple of Green Herons flew in (see second and third photos) which was nice. All rounded off with a close Spot-billed Duck (see photo below) which are common as muck. So, I left there in good spirits, notching up another lifer, and trying unsuccessfully to photo dragonflies, butterflies, Little Terns and Japanese Skylarks. A pleasant afternoon.

Off to Kyoto then, and back again as the whole venture north was cancelled at the last minute due to our inability to get the car. An emergency came up which there was nothing we could do. Oh well. There's always next weekend. So my friends and those I don't know, I bid you all farewell and good night...

Carmo's Diet: This week I have mostly been eating Subway Club, with Subway Avacado Special as a treat

Carmo's Birds: SWINHOE'S EGRET*; Little Tern; Green Heron; Kentish Plover; LRP; - 257 Japan

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: The brazilian chick I saw in the crowd during the week watching a game...

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Mishima Island: The Bird Post

After watching a lacklustre English performance last night, I don't think they'll do much damage at this year's World Cup. It was an abysmal display and looks like they couldn't break through a wet-paper bag to score in a brothel. "Traditionally slow starters" was being mooted by the press. I'm sure they compared this start to the boys of '66. Like they have been doing for the last 40 years. So with that, I decided to tell all you bird lovers out there, the joy and wonder of spring on Mishima.

The ferry trip from Hagi to the island produced the first lifer for me, Red-necked Phalarope, flying parallel to the boat, mixing it in with the Streaked Shearwaters. For such an expansive body of water, the Japan Sea seems bereft of seabirds. Strange really. Even after the storm on the third day on the island, very few birds were seen flying past from the headland. Of all the birding scenario's I miss the most from home, it's seawatching. But that's not for here. Once we dumped our bags into the Minshiku, we headed out and walked around for the day. There were birds everywhere and we were hearing reports from other birders of what was around and the list was mouth-watering. A scan of the reedbeds produced Chinese Penduline Tits, Oriental Reed Warbler and Japanese Bush Warbler. Finding 4 Richard's pipits was also a pleasant surprise in amongst summer-plumaged Buff-bellied pipits. A nice selection of birds to start off the trip.

The following morning, as we walked along the path we met some more birders, a mega was just found within one minute from where we were standing...we rushed around the corner and up the hill to be greeted by a hungry and busily feeding Black Drongo, a bird from mainland China. Stunning. Jet black, with a long tail that curved out on either side (see second photo above). Magical and a real rarity in Japan. I was chuffed. After watching the bird for 30 minutes, we headed back down the road in search of a Grey-backed Thrush, another rarity. On the way, I scanned the trees and picked out a roosting summer plumaged Chinese Pond Heron! The bird had been around for a week or so but had not been seen that day. Magic. As I was folding my tripod away, I looked up and saw a pigeon flying past...Japenese Woodpigeon!!! A scarce and local bird, it was a surprise to see on on this side of the island. I was on fire!! We walked up the hill towards the area where the thrush was reported. As we were just about to round the corner, I flushed a Japanese Night Heron from the roadside! Sean didn't get onto it and it disappeared around corner. Although the views were enough to id, I was not too happy with them. This bird is still on many a "wish list" for Japanese birders. Very hard to locate. As we joined the gathering watching and listening to the singing male Grey-backed Thrush, the heron flew past again and the views were cracking. I ran up the road after it and it flew right past me again, rounded the corner and disappeared for good. What a bird. Stunning. I felt like I could walk on water at this stage.

The rest of the day was spent walking and driving around the island, picking up birds like Red-throated pipit, Richard's pipit, Black-browed Reed Warbler, Pintail Snipe and migrating Grey-faced Buzzards. It was fabulous to watch the buzzards fly over our heads while eating our bento, enjoying the weather and listening to singing Blue and White Flycatchers (above), Mugimaki Flycatchers and Narcissus Flycatchers. The sound of the Arctic Warblers, Eastern Crowned Warblers and the flycatchers catching insects was brilliant. The snap-snap of the closing beaks, heard through the quietness of the island. Magical. At another location, while watching a Richard's pipit, the unmistakable call of a swift was heard, and then, barrelling over us at speed, came a White-throated Needletail Swift! Incredible bird, like a big, fat, short cigar with scitimar's for wings, a white throat and vent patch. It was a bird I really wanted to see.

As we made our way back down to the paddyfields, we saw more birders gathered and wondered what they were looking at. It was the Drongo again. However, we were also greeted with great views of Chestnut-cheeked Starling and Red-billed Starling also, the latter a major rarity in Japan. Nice. We were also treated to fly-over Crossbills, black-faced bunting of the Siberian race, and a bird I have also wanted to see...Japanese Yellow Bunting. A very plain but beautiful bird. While watching the buntings, a number of waders flew in, a collection of Pacific Golden Plovers (the first photo above) with a Mongolian Plover in amongst them (see Mongolian above). A nice bird, regular in Osaka during migration time but it was nice to see them on the island. We spent some time here watching the plovers and were then treated to Pacific Swifts coming down for a drink and hawking insects over the flooded paddy fields. Another swift species I wanted to see. I love swifts, the speed, agility, flying skills are mind-blowing. Fantastic birds.

Next day produced another find and another new species...Dollarbird!!! Cracking bird and well chuffed in finding it too. The weather was hot and birding was difficult. Things had quietened down, but flyover Oriental Cuckoo, more swifts, and migrating Oriental Honey Buzzrds, Grey-faced Buzzards, Japanese Sparrowhawks and Eurasian Sparrowhawks. Despite searching hard, we failed to see one Chinese Goshawk, which was a bit of a disappointment. However, the day was to get better. Singing Siberian Rubythroats, Siberian Blue Robins and then, Rufous-tailed Robin! Despite waiting and waiting and waiting, the bird never came out of the undergrowth. The bonus of the wait though was a Styan's Grasshopper Warbler!! A very difficult bird to connect with. Nice. There was a noticable fall of Brown Flycathers (above) and Eastern Crowned Warblers so there was some excitement in the air that evening. We weren't disppointed. A calling Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo proved to be frustrating. Great views of Richard's pipits, red-necked stints (see below) and then, while waiting for a Yellow-rumped Fly to appear, out popped a Rufous-tailed Robin!! MAGIC!! Despite dipping on Yellow-rumped and Sooty Flycatchers, it was an amazing day.

The following day was was excellent again, with Yellow-browed warblers in amongst the hundreds of Easter Crowned Warblers, birds flying out of every tree and bush. Singing male Siberian Thrushes were fantastic, Ashy Minivets flying around the trees were stunning. Then, while walking down a track, listening to the birds calls, I noticed a large flycatcher in a tree...Japanese Paradise Flycatcher!!!!! Good god I was in paradise. An amazing bird, beautiful features, the most stunning being the blue eye-ring and blue bill. Another dream bird seen on this trip. The surprise of stumbling upon one making it all the more enjoyable. Another bird we stumbled upon was a Jungle Nightjar while walking down another track in the pissing rain. Another trip down to the paddyfields produced a Black-winged Stilt (below) and more Pacific Golden Plovers. As the rain was getting too severe, we called it a day at about 5pm.

The following, and final morning was amazing. There were hundreds of birds after arriving in. At our first stop, three races of yellow wagtail, another Black Drongo, a Terek Sandpiper (below), and then, as I rounded the corner, Sean was watching a Brown Shrike! I finally got on the bird and it was a cracking male of the cristatus race. Then, we found another Brown Shrike which was of the other race, lucionensis! Cool. While watching the shrikes, we noticed a martin flying around the paddy, which we are positive was a Plain Martin which would be the second or third record for Japan!! We couldn't believe this. Then, I looked up and saw a large, long-necked white bird following a Vegae Gull....Black-faced Spoonbill!!!! I was starting to believe I was still in bed dreaming. This was the first record for the island. I was so happy to have finally seen one. On that high, we went off to look for what else was about. Then, while walking down a track, I flushed a bird which was unusual and certainly not a Reed Warbler. After some excellent views of not just one bird, but two(!), and searching the literature subsequently, I think it is a Blunt-winged Warbler which maybe a first for Japan! I didn't want to leave the island. It was scary to think what could be there. So, it was with a heavy heart, we packed up our bags and headed to the ferry. Mishima is certainly an amazing place for migrating birds...I will be back next spring again.

Carmo's Diet: this week I have mostly been eating beef coated with parmasan cheese.

Carmo's Birds: nothing much this week, still thinking of the Mishima list!! Species seen in Japan to date: 256 (26 lifers on Mishima!)

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: Brooke Burke

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Good evening. Welcome to verballage. A new concept of how to make life in Japan sound exciting when in fact, at the moment, it seems to be just about work, which although interesting, does not exactly set the world alight. The last week has been pretty crap to say the least but needless to say, life outside work has been okay. I took it easy last weekend and did sweet FA on Saturday. I managed to haul my ass out of bed early(ish) and clean the entire apartment, despite my subtle hangover. I think Japanese beer does strange things to one`s mind. The effects tend to get progessively stronger the longer one stays awake, despite the cessation of consuming the beverage. Great that this may sound to those who like to become inebriated in a different way, it can be quite misleading and tends to throw one for a loop. As a result, one gets more bollixed than expected. Good I know, but it depends on the situation. I would like to know what they put in the beer to make it react so. As it is, the Japanese genetic makeup prevents the vast majority from drinking copious amounts of alcohol. Maybe I am becoming assimilated.

Saturday afternoon was spent roaming the streets of Umeda doing nothing in particular and going home to chill out and read a book, watcha a DVD and get to bed at a reasonable hour. Sunday was a day of rest and in the afternoon, I went playing some ball in Osaka-jo park with the lads. That was good fun and the back held up remarkably well! Looks like a comeback could be in order. An impromptu bbq that evening left me puking my proverbial ring up in the early hours of Monday morning, and a quick exit from the train to empty my otherwise drained and parched stomach left me late for a meeting by a few minutes at work. Oh, Monday morning was not pleasant folks to say the least. You will all be glad to hear that I am now in good health and intend to go to the gym tonight as I left work at 10.30pm last night, by which time it was too late to go. The gym keeps me sane. I am thinking of taking up the noble sport of boxing as there is a gym near me gaff. A friend of mine, now in Korea, is urging me to do it. I reckon I will enjoy pounding all sorts of hell out of a heavy bag. Keep may never happen.

On that note, I will leave you all and get back to work. I am writing this in a broadband promotional place so only have a short period of time. I hope this finds everyone well and enjoying whatever season is now bestowed upon you.

Carmo`s Diet: This week, I have mostly been eating whatever I can keep down.

Carmo`s Birds: not a lot apart from crows and pigeons

Carmo`s Birds for Byrdy: anything at this stage fella

Thursday, June 01, 2006

On a different note entirely...

Ok, the rage is under control, simmering nicely, not going to bring it to the boil again in case it ruins the recipe, but it needs to simmer for at least another 4-5 days. Will let you all know how the dish turns out. I love talking code.

Anyway, I would just like to take this opportunity to congratulate a few people I know on the birth of numerous babies in recent weeks. First of all, the Crotty's in US of A, congrats on the birth of their first daughter, a sister for James at last. Typical Crotty and Dr. O'Leary. No details on anything else though, weight, reach, Ko's or titles.

Secondly, a big congratulations to Col and Claire on the birth of Cillian Michael, in the West Cork corner weighing in at an impressive 10lbs 4oz folks. They must ptu something in the water in West Cork. Nice one centurion, can't wait to bring him birding when I get home...just to give you two a break, and get his Galley list started. Must make sure to find a mega that morning just to piss you off, heheee.

Thirdly, and by no means last, to Billy and Lisa on the birth of Rory, weighing in at 7lb 11oz. Obviously a future star of Cork hurling and football, and the future captain of the Irish soccer team. I'll teach him how to tackle properly Billy...he should have no problems then!! Well done lads.

I'm falling way behind you guys. What with a trio of the next generation coming from my generation to a plethora of more waiting in the wings back home, I'd better start looking I guess. Or else find out if there are any of mine floating about :) Christ, I hope not...anyway.

Well done one and all. Can't wait to see youse all when I get home.