Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Christmas

It's Christmas eve, and with the prospect of getting up to work in the morning, the old feelings of going back to school after the holidays is nostalgically stinking the air. The past weekend was spent in a hungover haze on Saturday following the Christmas party from the night previously. Thankfully the persistent rain laid any guilty feelings of wasting a precious day off to rest so I just lay on the couch and watched movies, did a bit of work on the new Cork Bird Report to be published next year. The Christmas party was good, the food was fine and the drink flowed. I was awarded a prize and presented with a plaque as an appreciation for the work I did in the year just gone. It was a nice gesture and one I will look fondly back on. The plaque will look nice on my wall, wherever that wall be next.

Sunday was spent working on the Cork Bird Report (nearly finished my section lads!!) and today was spent lazing and doing some more work on the Cork Bird Report. I watched American Gangster tonight to chill out and it was a good movie. Tomorrow, like everyone else in Japan, will be spent at my desk in the office, making sure that at least one man makes money and keeps well on board his own private life raft as the sinking ship that is Japan's economy slips slowly under the waves, bobbing over the surface every now and then. Christmas in Japan is a non event really. Christmas carols are played in the shops, with token decorations here and there...but that is it. The "traditional" Christmas dinner is a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken (I shit you not). When you explain to some locals that we don't do that, they baulk at the idea and think that that is funny. Come St. Stephen's Day, the decorations are taken down and the music in the shops ceases to be Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole. It's a funny ol' place at this time of year. Being here at this time of year doesn't make me feel homesick, or make me feel that I'm missing out on anything. It's just another day at the office, to coin a well used phrase.

However, for those of you reveling in the western festivities and traditional gluttonous gathering...I wish you all a very very happy JW presently navigating the Drake Passage and looking upon Bransfield's Antarctic discoveries - I think all your christmas's have come at once :)

Carmo's Diet: this week, I have mostly been eating mixed fruit and belgian chocolates

Carmo's Birds: not a lot if anything at all

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: Scarlett Johannson

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dip Dippy Dip Dip Dip...

...that's what it has been like for the last couple of weekends. For those of you who are familiar with the use of this term to describe perhaps "a dip in the ocean", or a "dip in the land", for us aves-obsessives it describes the horrible situation whereby one drives/travels a long distance and waits for a long, long time to see a rare or new bird only to come away from the search empty-handed and totally deflated. That my diligent readers, is exactly what happened to me and my co-obsessives on the previous two Saturdays. However, there was some silver lining the rather dark cloud that hung over my head, and I will tell you this later on.
(Rustic Bunting)
Dip Day 1: a 2am start on Saturday morning. Kazu and his friends Sakamoto-san and Toyo-san picked me up at my local train station to head off to Yokkuchi of Mie prefecture, near the city of Nagoya. The purpose of this trip was "Desert" Lesser Whitethroat...a mega for Japan. Although a regular migrant in Ireland, the "Desert" form from central Asia is extremely rare in Europe so I was keen to see this bird. Having arrived an hour before sunrise, we got a little sleep in the car and then headed to the spot where the bird was reported to be. To cut a long story short, after 10 hours, yes folks, that's 10 HOURS of waiting in the cold, and it was cold, yet thankfully dry conditions, we left empty-handed and somewhat deflated. The day was not all wasted as we were treated to some spectacular views of Long-tailed Rosefinch, Wryneck, Japanese Grosbeak, Hawfinch, Yellow-throated Bunting, Rustic Bunting, Black-faced Bunting, Daurian Redstart, Goshawk, Buzzard, and Black Kite. Neil had seen the bird on Thursday and apart from it being seen for one minute on Friday, it hasn't been seen since.
(Bull-Headed Shrike)
Pseudo Success Day 1: The following day Neil and I met up with Richard and Kaori who were down from Tokyo for the weekend. In fact, both Richard and Kaori had dropped into the Lesser Whitey site prior to dipping on the Golden Eagles at Ibuki-yama later that day. Our target bird for the day was a male Hen Harrier seen the previous couple of weeks coming to roost at a large reedbed in the area of Biwa-ko. The weather was spectacular with dark clothes, blue skies, snow-topped mountains and a biting wind. Baltic conditions really. We drove around the east side of Biwa-ko (Japan's largest lake) for the day seeing a spectacular array of birds, including Stellar's Sea Eagle, Goshawk, osprey, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, Bean Goose, Eurasian Spoonbill, thousands of duck including Smew, Baikal teal and Falcated Duck and a self-found American Wigeon. Watching up to 50 Black-eared Kites feeding behind a tractor ploughing a field was a bizarre and an amazing sight. The highlight of the day, for me at least, was watching the Eastern Marsh Harriers coming into roost at the reedbed. We estimated up to 20 individuals were flying around, lazily gliding and floating around waiting to go to roost. It was a wonderful experience watching these beautiful birds come to roost with a stunning sunset creeping below the top of the rushes. Although we didn't see the male Hen Harrier, we did see up to 3 female Hen Harriers, which was nice and number 338 for Japan, thank you!
(Baikal Teal)
Dip Day 2: The Saturday just gone was another day out with Kazu and Harendra (aka Divdude007 on Flikr), and later joined by Sakamoto-san, to Saidaiji to look for a flock(!) of 5 short-toed larks (lifer) and short-eared owl (JP tick). We got there by 7am and started the search for a tick. We were blown away straight away by the sight of a Goshawk feeding out in the open on what appeared to be a wigeon. When we tried to creep closer for a photograph, the bird just lazily took off and away over the ridge..damn! The rest of the day was reasonably okay with some amazing views of Wryneck, Pacific Golden Plover, Baikal Teal, Falcated Duck, Smew, Rustic Bunting, Common Snipe, and Sparrowhawk. We also found a probable Baer's Pochard x Eurasian Pochard hybrid which was nice...pity it was not a pure one, as I've only seen one individual previously. Despite the wait and the perseverance of looking through the many hundreds of Skylark, and scanning the low-lying land for the silent flight of the short-eared owl, we once again dipped on the target birds. What made the day even worse was that we heard that Japan's 3rd(?) Redhead was found there 3 days previously...and we didn't see that either.
(Japanese Skylark)

(Pacific Golden Plover) Christmas is coming so I hope Santa Claus will deliver the goods for me this weekend...

Carmo's Diet: This week, I have mostly been eating breakfast bars

Carmo's Birds: see above...338 for Japan now

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: Naomi Watts

Friday, December 07, 2007


it's been a while...story of my life these days, if you know what I mean. So, the last couple of weeks have been eventful, sort of. First of all, to update you on my previous post, I couldn't get the external hard drive to work again on my newly updated Leopard OS-running Mac. I spent 90 minutes at the Genius Bar in Apple Store here in Osaka but not even those Mac-Geniuses could solve the problem. I'll just have to wait for Seagate to release a fix for this. That meant that a new external hard drive compatible to Leopard was purchased and all is good a sense. I did lose some photos (not a lot) and all my tv shows which sucks arse!!

Secondly, my beloved EOS-1D Mark III (aka The Wife: high maintenance and expensive to accessorize) had to go in for a nip/tuck job and get her secondary mirror fixed, which was faulty from day of manufacture. I was without the beast for a week but finally it arrived back yesterday and I'm all happy again and able to take some photos and torment you all with bird pics next week, ahaha.

Thirdly, I went to a CosBar with PK and his JP friends last Friday night and had a great time. We went to an Izakiya first for some grub and then onto the CosBar. This basically consists of a place selling liqour and costumes to get dressed up in. The bar straff also were dressed up, mostly in nurses uniforms. Not one from shying away from a laugh (stop laughing) I got dressed up a in a little Santa dress and war-type cap. PK was a cheer leader and the JP friends ranged from busty nurses to slinky dress-thingy. THe other JP randoms who were also dressed up thought the sight of a gaijin in Cos mode was hilarious so we posed for many, many photos with them. The random thing about this experience is that the bar is situated in the underground shopping area under Osaka station!!! One of the busiest hubs in Japan rail network! Great fun and definitely a good memory from Japan.

Now, the weekend is upon us again. Tomorrow, or rather in a couple of hours, I leave for Mie prefecture to twitch a mega in Japan (Lesser Whitethroat) and then on Sunday it's off to Biwa-ko to see Steller's Sea Eagle and hen harrier...nice. At least I'll twitch a truly wild bird and not some hand-reared wader with a gammy leg (Ya can't tick that KP boys, ya just can't tick it!!! If you do, the Spotted Crake goes on the list, yaaaahhhhoooooo!!!!).

Sin e for now. More posting about the Christmas experience in Japan later...

Carmo's Diet: This week, I have mostly been eating Prawn Palak

Carmo's Birds: nothing yet, but maybe... (still 337 for JP)

Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: the chick on the 6th floor....heaven