Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sumo Wrestling and Melancholy Whores

Good evening everyone, and welcome to this evenings cabaret. I have just returned from a brilliant 4 day trip on the pacific ocean, travelling from Nagoya to Tomakomai in Hokkaido and back again. All 2200km of open ocean and nothing but the wind and the sound of the sea stimulating my aurical senses. Wonderful. Did I pass the 300 species mark on this grand adventure? I'll leave that for another day...On with the show!!

Last Saturday was St. Patrick's Day. Ireland showed England that it is better at two sports which they invented oh so many years ago...Ruby and, yes folks, Cricket. The victorous boys in green whooped the asses of Italy and, surprsingly, Pakistan (ranked 4th in the world in one-day international cricket). Although the French, yet again, beat us on points scored, we really should have taken the b*tards in Crokers. Choke Park they may have called it that day, but we certainly showed Engerland how to play the game the following week. Glorious. Meanwhile, as Ireland was wowing the world of sport with their magnanimous displays on that auspiscious of days, I attended that most traditional of Japanese sports...Sumo wrestling.

The Grand Sumo Tournament was held being held in Osaka this season so after much painful and disappointing moments, we finally got some tickets for Saturday's event, the half way stage of the two week tournament. The earlier bouts begin at 9am or some such hour, and it is not until 4.30pm that the big guns come out to play. The guys who appear on all the talk shows, get paid a fortune to advertise products, and are generally held in such high esteem in Japan that the most beautiful women in the country want to have their babies (politely put as the Grandmother may read this....Hi Gran!!). Can you imagine bedding down with this fine specimen of a man ladies (see left)?? Hhhhmmmmm, I didn't think so. However, this guy is just an amateur and wouldn't even be looked at by the common folk...but as my old lady (hi Mum!!) would say, somebody loves him. And I am sure they do Mum.

A bunch of us from the gulag, as I fondly call the office these days, went along, some earlier than others. As I was at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium at 10am to get the tickets, I had some time to kill so I took a wander around Namba Parks (affluent shopping area...Brook Brothers is here you know) and had quite a delictable luncheon in a Japanese Organic food shop sampling some quite equisite miso soup, rice balls with smoked salmon and walnuts, and a lovely cup of organic soy chai (can you make that for me Master Daly??!!). So, while munching down on that fine cuisine, I decided to finish off that Melancholy Whore which had captivated me the night before. No, not that kind of melacholy whore, but a feast of masterly writing by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. His book "Memories of My Melancholy Whores" is well worth a read if anybody is interested. The man is simply a genius, even at his ripe old age of 80.

Anyway, we went to the sumo tournament at about 12.30 and stayed until 6pm when it finished. Some beer, lots of fat men pushing and bitch slapping each other around a tiny ring, and plenty of shouting made for a brilliant day. The customs and traditions that accompany the sport are amazing. The colourful attire of the referrees, the singing of the names of the combatants before each fight (in the junior events) and the intense rivalry of the opposing fighters always evident. The grand finale of the day's fighting saw a packed house cheer on their favourite fighters. It was brilliant to see them give it their all and watch the crowd beam with delight as their man won. This tournament was broadcast nationwide and is only a few of such high standing held each year so I was really excited to have seen it. A brilliant day out.

Sunday was spent with Kazu walking the hills and forest parks around Mt. Rokko near Kobe. A beautiful place with incredible scenery and some pretty cool birds too. I managed to notch up my 299th species that day, finally catching up with a species that had eluded me all winter...Long-tailed Rosefinch. Fabulous. The days other birds included a fine flock of Yellow-throated buntings (photo above) and a resplendid male Red-flanked Blutail that posed by a small river (see below). The walk down the mountain took about 2 hours and it was called "20 crossings" in Japanese as one crosses the river 20 times while going down the moutain. What suprised Kazu and I the most was snow!! It snowed quite hard during the early part of the morning but thankfully didn't snow very much while we were walking down. The bullfinches and siskins didn't seem to mind the snow too much, but the Japanese Accentor took cover in the dense undergrowth. A good day and a pleasant way to finish off a good weekend.

Following that, I just couldn't wait to get on the ferry in Nagoya and make our way up to Tomakomai in Hokkaido and the possiblity of my 300th species in Japan...

Carmo's Diet: This week, I have mostly been eating Viking buffet

Carmo's Birds: Yellow-throated buntings, LONG-TAILED ROSEFINCH, Dusky Thrush, Pale Thrush, Bullfinch, Jay, Red-flanked Bluetails, Daurian Redstart, Siskin, Willow Tit, Green Woodpecker...pre-ferry trip...299 species in Japan

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: All that talk of melancholy whores and whatnot....not that the chick I name is a's just the talk of women etc... I knew it wouldn't giving up women??? As much chance as GWB aka The Gimp getting voted in for a 3rd term in office...the chick this week for Byrdy is...Jennifer Morrison


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

White day shines some light

Good evening everyone and welcome to this evening's cabaret. I am totally delirious tonight following a regular man's 8 hour day on 2 hours sleep. The reason for the 2 hours of sleep? I worked a mammoth, and current record, 19 hours between 8.30am on Tuesday to 4am on Wednesday morning, being back at the office again at 8.30am...ain't life grand.

So, without further ado, and while I am still awake and jittery from the gym, I give you...THE BIRD POST for Feb 4th-March 3rd, 2007 (daaaa da da da...dddaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa).
Saunder's Gull flight with BHG - Mie Pref
February 4th: A twitch to a place near Nagoya in Aichi for a plethora of potential ticks, lifers included. The overnight drive and a couple of hours kip in the car made for a bleary-eyed start, but through the murky light of the pre-dawn, a magnificent (Oriental) Shore Lark was visible in amongst a handful of Skylarks feeding on some waste ground near the Pacific coast. After a couple of hours of watching the lark (lifer by the way), we took a walk up the beach and saw Sanderling (JP tick), Dunlin, tons of Vega gulls but no sign of the Oystercatchers we also wanted to see. We drove up the coast and stopped off at some amazing habitat that we just don't have in Osaka...nice open mudflats in a big estuarine floodplain....glorious. From in amongst the hundreds of ducks, cormorants, and egrets, 4 Brent Geese wenting swimming by...another JP tick. This is probably Branta bernicla orientalis, the race of Brent Goose occurring in E Siberian and W Canada. Info on the web suggests it's either a race of Black Brant, Pacific Brant or it's part of Black Brant and isn't racially distinct. Don't you just love geese. Then a couple of Saunder's gulls floated by (see photo above)...magic. In total we saw close to 30 Saunder's gulls, including a flock of about 20 on a sand bar. Definitely coming back here again during migration time. So, 3 ticks including a lifer. Not bad. No Oystercatchers though...
Japanese Waxwing
February 10th-12th: Spent within the environs of Osaka, the 10th being filled by showing an English birder from Tokyo around the various parklands, providing class birds such as wryneck, Golden-Crowned Sparrow (still around) and Chinese Grosbeaks as lifers for Richard. We also stumbled across a glorious flock of 34 Japaense Waxwings (see photo above). The female Goshawk being persistently mobbed by a flock of Jungle Crows made for an entertaining spectacle while waiting for the Golden-Crowned Sparrow to appear from the reeds. The 12th was supposed to be another trip to Mie Prefecture to get the Oystercatchers but I slept out and missed it. Bollix to working so much. I ended up going to Phoenix where I found a Spotty Red, LBD in winter plumage, plenty of duck, Kentish Plover, Green Sandpiper and a brilliant flock of Reed Buntings and Chinese Penduline Tits.
White's Thrush
February 24th: A trek up to Tobakaido in the early morning was worth the unmerciful waking hour of 4am. A walk for about an hour up a trail in the woodland finally rewarded me with my first Grey Buntings, lifer!! Beautiful buntings but difficult to see as they can be skulkers. While waiting for the buntings to reappear, a pair of Red-billed Leothrix were noisily flying around my head, accompanied by the mad JP White-eyes. After a few hours in the peace and quiet of Tobakaido and Fushimi-inari, I headed to the Imerial Palace grounds in Kyoto, where a probable hybrid Dusky x Black-throated Thrush was found during that week. Although I didn't see that thrush, a fantastic White's Thrush showed extremely well on the lawn before it flew up into the trees (see above). Aswell as that, there was a supporting cast of Rustic Buntings, hundreds of Olive-Backed Pipits, Pale, Brown, and Dusky Thrushes and a large flock of 60 JP Grosbeaks. A lone Daurian Redstart and Bull-headed Shrike were nice to watch amongst the blossoming Plum trees (aaahhhhhhh).
Temminck's Stint
February 25th: Another twitch to Mie prefecture, this time in the company of Kazu and 2 of his friends. It was a great day out and it was good to spend some time with Kazu. We had an amazing day, seeing Ruff, Wood Sandpipers, Long-toed Stints, Common Snipe, LRPs, Grey-headed Lapwings, Northern Lapwings, Rustic, Meadow and Black-faced Buntings and skylarks. However, the stars of the trip were a brilliant flock of 7 Temminck's Stints (a lifer and major bogey bird, see photo above) and Japan's 2nd Semipalmated Plover (photo below), also a lifer (I think). The Plover was a cool bird but bird of the day for me had to be the Temminck's stint. Although an annual passage migrant in Japan, I have waited a long long time to see one of these birds. Kazu found the first Temminck's and I was so thrilled. We also watched a Japanese Green Pheasant crash in to a window, bounce off and tumble into the ditch but he looked ok. Neil could not make it that weekend but he caught up with the Plover the following Thursday...and he got the Oystercatchers....fecker.
Semipalmated Plover
March 3rd: A mega twitch to Shikoku with Neil for Japan's 2nd Red-backed shrike (photo below)....or is it??? Answers on a postcard please and more photos available on My Flikr Photos. Other birds that day included a flyover Crossbill, JP Sparrowhawk, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Bull-headed shrikes and tons of JP Bush warblers singing everywhere...spring is coming. Although it was 22Deg C that day, it was snowing in Osaka a week later. The world is going mad...
Shrike sp.
Enough I said!!!! Check out more photos on My Flikr Photos!!!

Monday, March 12, 2007

I think that I...

am coming to the end of my time here. I didn't go birding this weekend, I didn't go boozing or cruising for chicks (I've given up on them, remember). I didn't do anything constructive this weekend (except tame that bitchin side-crease). I filled my water bottles. I didn't have mental fortitude to write to my swan. I dreamed the dream, where I was not tired as I passed out on the couch of PJ's on Sunday afternoon while watching Lost...waking up and not knowing where the hell I was. Lost. Freaked. Exhausted...roll on the day I get on the ferry in Nagoya and sail the Pacific. No office, no 14 hour days of writing, just 14 hour days of watching and observing. I look forward to that. This is not a sad post, nor a doomsday's just a very exhausted and sleepy post. The humor is there and the form is good. The anger I keep for the office. The bird post is coming, the photos are edited. Time to sleep now. Time to sleep...

Sunday, March 04, 2007

My love/hate relationship with Apple...and why I now look more like my Dad

Hello to one and all, it's been a while so I am sure you are starved of your weekly rundown by yours truly. So, to ease the pain, I have found some time to finally post. If you are wondering about the title, as I am sure you are, once again my iPod decided to take on a life of its own and do its best to really piss me off. Those of you who know me well will be well aware of my allergy to speaking to people for the first couple of hours of waking in the morning. Can you imagine my absolute horror and immediate vein-bursting rage that ensued when I discovered upon turning on my iPod that the SOB had deleted all my tunes, photos and backed-up backed-up files!!! As I was out the door and heading to catch the train to work, I did not have time to go back and reload the beast. Instead, I had to force upon my confused and dazed mind, the noise of the morning rush hour...not pleasant. Two days later, after resetting the Pod and reloading de tunes, the FSOB did it again!!! Enraged and ready to push any annoying pavement cycling local off their bikes if they rang their bell at me again to get out of their way as they careened past me on the pavement, I took the Pod to Apple store in Shinsaibashi that night after work. While at this time of night (9.30pm) my mind was saturated and not wanting to deal with anything irritating, I managed to keep my cool and negotiate in a very calm, persuasive, and in, which is what shocked me, such an eloquent manner, the replacement of my iPod...for the 4th time!!! I was hating Apple right there. Yes folks, this was my 4th iPod in less than a year...hence my frustration. However, what I was most proud of was getting the store to honor a verbal agreement I had with the Manager which was if my iPod broke down again, I would get the latest generation iPod as a replacement. They conceeded to this verbal agreement in the end. Nice wan I thought when i walked out the door and headed on my hour long journey home.

About a week or so later I received a phone call from Apple store saying my replacement, the latest gen iPod was in. After having convinced my self that I would get a 30GB ivideo generation iPod to replace my 60GB iPhoto iPod, when they produced an 80GB iPod I was dumbfounded!!! I didn't particularly care if I was getting a 30GB as that is all I require to be honest. However, I wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I appreciatively accepted the generousity of Apple and walked out the door a happy man. I love Apple.

Apart from that drama, the slog that is work at the moment...sorry, that is always work (boring topic I know but such has my life from Mon-Fri become), and the general malaise that comes with not knowing what day one has until someone realizes at 10pm on Friday night while sitting at our desks that it is, indeed, Friday. With that it's off to 280yen for some beers and soy beans (yes Master Daly, I even eat the beans that provide the milk for my latte that you so love to make). i've been out birding a bit at the weekends lately trying to notch up my 300th species for Japan. After today's mad twitch with Neil, I am on 299...only one to go. More on that later when I post a birdy blog towards the end of the week, which will probably mean the weekend.

Anyway, did anyone see the lunar eclipse last night (Sat March 3)?? Although Europe was supposed to get the full show, us mere mortals in Nippon only saw a fraction of the spectacle. It was however, quite cool to see the moon glowing red as it was sinking in to the Inland Sea of Japan, from the north east corner of Shikoku. Pretty damn impressive. I also visiting Mt. Kongo (see pic below) on Saturday just gone, about 2 hours travelling from my apartment all told. Nice place, quiet, calm and void of a lot of people. Although the typical Japanese hill walkers were out in force, walking poles, bear-bells and loud conversation, I avoided them as best I could. While they are nice people, they just don't walk very quietly and it ruins and spoils the whole point of being out in the peace and quiet of the countryside....

By the way, that mad twitch with Neil saw us cross a series of six major bridges and five viaducts in crossing the Akashi Straits between Honshu and Shikoku. The six bridges are: the Shimotsui-Seto Bridge, Hitsuishijima Bridge, Iwakurojima Bridge, Yoshima Bridge, Kita Bisan-Seto Bridge, and Minami Bisan-Seto Bridge. The worlds longest suspension bridge, the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge (1.991 Km long at its central span), I drove across shorlty after I first came here back in 2005. Pretty is a photo of the Kita Bisan-Seto bridge (I think). Massive.

I bet you are all wondering "why does Carmo think he knows he looks like his Dad?". Genetically of course, I resemble my ol' fella a helluva lot, and phenotypcially I do aswell. However, with the lack of barber time since I returned to Japan, I am now sporting a lovely side-crease people!!! Just like my ol' disrespect Da, but I think it's time to get a bazzar.

With that lovely thought, i bid you all adieu...

Carmo's Diet: this week, I have mostly been trying to burn off the spare's not quite working

Carmo's Birds: Some goodies...but here's a taster, Long-toed stint, Wood Sand, JP Snipe, LRP, Crossbill, Osprey...

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: I've given up on women