Tuesday, February 20, 2007

And so it goes on...

yes, the never-ending cycle that is work and no play, the ever persistant presence of the tired eyes, the bags that reach my knees (bags from my eyes lads, bags from my eyes!!!). I don't know how much longer I can do this to be honest but I guess I had better wait until my parents come to visit in the next 6 weeks or so. I am looking forward to that, it should be fun seeing their faces and observe them look on in awe and wonder. I will enjoy that.

Well, the last couple of weeks have been pretty heavy on the work-side and quiet on all other fronts. A bit of birding the weekend before was good. I was guiding a visiting British birder from Tokyo around the parks of Osaka in search of JP and life ticks for him. We had a 75% success rate so that was good. He enjoyed himself and the company was thoroughly enjoyable. I of course slept out on the Monday when Neil and I were due to go back to the find the Oystercatchers so I woke up and screamed in frustration at my inability to hear my alarm clock. I guess I needed the sleep. I went out birding locally anyway and came home to watch some movies and generally chill out. I ended up sleeping for most of the day...I think my body is trying to tell me something!!!

I have seen some class movies lately. Namely "Lucky Number Slevin", "Scoop", "The Departed", "The Illusionist", and "The Black Dahlia". I recommend people should go and see them. I can't wait to see the "The Last King of Scotland" with Forrest Whittaker as Idi Amin. The reviews have been awesome. I also watched "The Wind that Shakes the Barley" which got my wind up and as those of you who know me well can only imagine what I was feeling as I was watching that...fecking Black and Tans, murderous pigs. Anyway, enough of all that. Oh by the way, if anyone is interested in seeing a politician in new light, or rather an ex-politician, watch "An Inconvenient Truth" by Al Gore...excellent and frightening all at the same time....

The world appears to be going mad, Baghdad is like Beirut about 20 years ago at the height of the kidnappings and car bombs. The US of Anarchy wants to put even more troops into Iraq to ease the transition...bollix. When are they going to wake up and realize that they are better off putting the money into better things like research into renewable and clean energy!!!! The sooner that gimp gets out of power and somebody decent (hahaha, yeah I know, I laughed aswell) gets in with a bit of commen sense and decency, the better.

Well, I have no more energy to write anything interesting. I was hoping to post up about the Chinese New Year festival that was held in Kobe on Sunday, accompanied by breathtaking photographs but the weather forecast was bad so I didn't go. Of course, the weather turned out to be really nice in the afternoon and the place was supposed to have been mad. Whaddaya goin to do...

Carmo's Diet: This week I have mostly been eating mexican

Carmo's Birds: not to give too much away....Long-billed Dowitcher, Spotted Redshank and Penduline tit the picks...JP 295

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: Jessica Biel

Monday, February 12, 2007

The January Bird Report

Well, to spare all you avesphobes out there the uncomfortable feeling of reading a posting where I talk about birds and what not, in amongst the remainder of what else I got up to during the week, I have decided now to summarize the birding in a monthly post. Please be aware that this may change as the mood suits. Thank you.

So, January was a good month in notching up 8 Japanese ticks, including 5 lifers and a cat. C JP tick. The first weekend back after my break back home was exciting if not long. Despite being totally out of it from jetlag, Neil and I headed up to Kanazawa on the Japan Sea to look for the wintering Upland Buzzard, and if time permitted, a quick look at the geese flocks in Fukui. An overnight drive from Kyotanabe, a few hours kip in the car at the site of the buzzard, and by dawn we were ready to twitch. I didn't know where I was or what time it was but it was great nonetheless. A dozen or so Black Kites sitting in the now ploughed and dry rice paddie fields set the heart racing, and common buzzards gliding low over the ditches causing Neil to slam on the breaks, I quickly gathered my senses. A merlin bombing right over the car in pursuit of a buff-bellied pipit was incredible to see, while a couple of Marsh Harriers hunted along the grassy verges. After about 30 minutes of criss-crossing the roads that traverse the fields, I spotted a pale buzzard sitting on a ditch. We slowed down and got a better look...Upland Buzzard!! Magic. The bird gave us a stare and off it flew giving exceptional views. We spent the rest of the day driving around the fields but we never could relocate the bird. However, it wasn't over yet. As we were driving along, admiring the 6-7 Marsh Harriers hunting over the reedbeds that skirted the river and pond in the area, I was woken abruptly by Neil thumping my arm and applying the brakes...Azure-winged Magpies!!!!! 18 in all. Beautiful birds and an unexpected lifer for the trip. It had been so long since Neil had seen them they may as well have been a new species for him. I was thrilled as the only place that I know of where one is guaranteed to see them is Tokyo...sweet. A fitting end to a great day.

The following weekend was kept local with news of an overwintering Red-breasted Flycatcher and a pair of Chinese Grosbeaks. We met early enough and headed for the grosbeaks first. After finding the city park they were in, we quickly located the birds by the presence of the photographers. Stunning is all I will say really. The photo (above) does them some justice. When the birds flew off amongst the flock of Japanese Grosbeaks (below), we headed back to the train station and onto the next site. After 2 train changes and a taxi, we finally reached the park and once again, we were alerted to the bird's whereabouts by the click-click-click sound of camera shutters and the shouts of "sugoi" from the locals. Red-breasted Flycatchers are rare in Japan, with the more annually occuring Taiga Flycatcher being the more likely species to occur. Although we weren't too sure at the beginning if it was an RB Fly, we finally agreed that it was one. Many of the Japanese birders/photographers there were not aware that 2 species existed now which can be difficult to tell apart. Still, it constituted a JP tick as we had seen Taiga Fly on Hegura-jima a year earlier. After some stunning views (first photo above), we headed off and called it a day.

The following weekend was another local twitch. I dipped on the first morning there, even waiting in the one spot for 5 hours and looking at the reeds/scrub that the birds was last seen fly into. I returned the next morning and, after a 2 hour wait, was treated to spectacular views of Japan's 2nd Golden-Crowned Sparrow (see below). A birds common in the United States, but only the second time seen in Japan, the first being back in 1935 in Tokyo. Although some will say it is only a sparrow, it is actually a nice looking bird. I got some dodgy photos but it's enough for a record shot. The park where the bird was found is massive and so the area was packed with birds. Brambling, Siskin, Greenfinch, Black-faced Buntings (see final photo), White-cheeked Starlings, Pale and Dusky Thrushes aplenty. Despite a brief search, I could not find the reported Common Starling which would have been a JP tick for me, but the consolation came in stumbling across a few Red-flanked Bluetails, Daurian Redstarts and Hawfinches. Magical morning.

February is not yet over, but it has been exciting also...if my life gets as banal as it is looking like it could be, I may be posting the bird report a bit sooner than you think...

I have posted more photos on my Flikr page, including some more shots of birds from home...

Carmo's Diet: This week, I have mostly been buring the candles at both ends

Carmo's Birds: As mentioned above...with February ticks added on...295

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: I've given up for now

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Not quite the bird post yet...

Well, it's been pretty crazy since I last posted. Work has just been ridiculously busy and I have not had any time to do much else really. As well as that, I have been pretty sick all week and not being able to take a day off to shake off the chest infection/fever/head cold/snot factory that is my nose. Life is just marvellous.

Last weekend I managed to get out for a few hours birding on Sunday morning, heading up to Tobakaido for some early morning bird calls and a walk in the forest. It was cold, bright and rather beautiful. The area is a just one massive shrine/temple complex nestled in amongst the trees. It is a very calm place and something that I needed after the week of work I had just put down (LM was away on hols for the week so there was more work to be done other than my own). I didn't see any new birds or anything out of the ordinary, just the usual woodland birds of this time of year...Daurian Redstarts, Red-flanked Bluetails, Pygmy Woodpeckers, Japanese White-eyes etc. However, they are always nice to look at. The area also enompasses Fushimi-inari and the temple of the fox. A place very popular with the Kansai folk in the new year as it is a place to go to pray for good fortune and wealth.

I also swapped all my Nikon gear for Canon...yes, sorry Dad, I went to the dark side. I am very pleased with my choice and the quality of the photos are superb. You can see a collection of such photos on my Flikr page. I didn't have to add too much to the trade-in and so it was worth it. I was going to go out to Phoenix near Amagasaki this morning but figured a sleep in was in order to try and shake this illness and it seems to have worked a bit as I feel so much better now. Instead, I went to Tsurumi park to see if I could take some shots of the American Wigeon there and sure enough, the fella obliged (see above). Lots of locals out for their walks and plenty of people there feeding the ducks. All in all a pleasant afternoon.

Tonight, Neil and I are heading off to Mie Prefecture in search of a Shore lark and hopefully some nice gulls. A couple of Saunder's gulls were also seen there last week. Fingers crossed we will have a successful trip. I will fill you all in the bird-dedicated post during the week. Bet you all can't wait...

Carmo's Diet: This week I have mostly been eating dried blueberries

Carmo's Birds: American Wigeon, Goshawk, Peregrine Falcon. JP List: 291

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: Heidi Klum