Birds of March

March 21, 2020

   March is one of the best months for watching and photographing birds. Many birds are on the move migrating north to their nesting grounds. Along with the increase in species, the lack of foliage makes spotting them easier. Here are some of the birds I enjoyed observing in the month of March.

 Thank you for visiting. Tom

Birds in February

February 12, 2020  This month, the weather was often cloudy and rainy, so I didn’t get out that much. I did go to Oshima Island last February 11 and, as is often the case, I was sidetracked in route by an interesting bird. In this case,a small flock of Black-faced Spoonbills feeding in an estuary near the road. I ended up missing the early ferry (caught the next one), but it was well worth it to observe and photograph this elegant, and endangered species.

    I recently came across an excellent documentary on the Black-faced Spoonbill. This species once numbered around 200 individuals, but due to the concerted efforts of people in the countries along the coasts of eastern Asia, their numbers have been increasing.   

  

  

    A few photos of the Black-faced Spoonbill and the “other” birds I happened to come across this February. 

Bull-headed Shrike, Pampas GrWhite-eye on plum blossomOriental Greenfinch, onion garden 2Darian Redstart, femaleBlack-faced spoonbill 3Black-faced spoonbill 2

Enjoy the spring, and thanks for visiting!

 

Just Passing Through

February 9th, 2020   Last week I was walking around a small lake called Yamagami, when I met a group of very small birds called Gold Crest, Kiku-itadaki. They are the smallest birds in Japan, weighing in at only 5 grams, (the weight of a nickel, or five 1 yen coins). The call of the Gold Crest is also quite high and tiny, and some older ears are unable to hear it. 

courtesy of Xeno Canto / Lars Erlenius

Goldcrest,,Kikuitadaki

This tiny bird, along with two other species in this post, the Long-tailed Rose Finch and the Red-flanked Bluetail, are migratory species that were passing through. I am not sure whether they were headed north or south, as global warming is altering the migratory movements of many species as their flora/fauna food source ranges are changing. 

Long-tailed Rosefinch 2

The Gold Crest feeds almost exclusively on small insects, usually on the outer fringes of conifers and other trees, but will come down to the ground on occasion as in the photo above. When exhausted during migration, they are less wary of their surroundings and sometimes alight upon people while foraging to replace body fat reserves.  During migration, these miniature dynamos are able to fly in excess of 600 kilometers nonstop as they cross bodies of open water. Not all of them make it across, and large numbers have on occasion, been found in the stomachs of sharks.

  Both the Long-tailed Rose Finch and the Red-flanked Bluetail migrate from Eastern Eurasia and Hokkaido south to Honshu and southeast Asia respectively. On the way, they pass through all of Japan, so every year I check out Yamagami Dam where they always seem to stop for a break. The Rose Finch eats the seeds off of grass stems, and the Bluetail, being a member of the flycatcher family, seems to find enough insects even in February hidden under and within the bark and twigs. I have also noticed them catching small flying insects when the sun is out warming them enough to make them active.   Long-tailed Rose Finch

    courtesy of Xeno Canto/Frank Lambert

Red-flanked Bluetail  courtesy of Xeno Canto/Peter Boesman

Long-tailed Rosefinch Beni-mashiko

Red-flanked Bluetail, blg

This location has become quite popular to local birders and photographers. Just in the past 5 years, I have noticed a 50% increase in their numbers here and in many other places. What do you get if you combine fascinating birds, the great outdoors, digital cameras, the internet, and friends? Why, one of the fastest growing past times throughout the world; bird photography.

A group of White-eyes were also interspersed among the other species in this popular patch of weeds and bushes. Watching their varied techniques as they foraged was interesting. See how they use their beaks to pry open seed pods. Thanks for visiting!

 

   

 

A Sunday stroll

January 5th, 2020     Late Sunday afternoon, I grabbed my camera and leash with the aim to walk along the local Homan River with my dog, Tabi. A modest river that is home to a multitude of bird species, I wanted to see how many I could  get decent photographs of within a few hours.

  The day was fair with just a few  wisps of cirrus clouds high up in the atmosphere. As I entered the rice fields along a small road that led to the river, I tied Tabi’s leash to my belt in order to have my hands free for the camera. Tabi has learned to keep still when I pause to take a photo. She will sit quietly by my side, sometimes for minutes as I wait for the bird to strike the right position. I suspect this is largely due to the small dog treats I keep in my pocket, which I give to her after each stop.

  I saw over 25 species, but I only include the ones I was able to photograph decently. Other species seen were Mallard, Cormorant, Tree Sparrow, Magpie, Bulbul, Pigeon, Greenfinch, Japanese White-eye, Bush Warbler, Siskin, Pygmy Woodpecker, and Little Egret. I always seem to spot a Common Kingfisher, but one did not appear until the very end of our walk. I thought to myself, “Not this day…” and then an immature male landed just across the river from us. The tiny Common Kingfisher is always around to make me smile, and is on my business card too!

Thanks for visiting!

 

   

Merry Christmas

December 25, 2019   

  These past few weeks have found me out in the middle of the night twice, once for the Geminid meteor shower, and the other for the Ursids. For the Geminids, the moon was pretty much full, so only the bright ones were visible. For the Ursids, named after their radiant from the Ursa Minor constellation, the crescent moon did not rise until 4 am, plus the clouds cleared as I was setting up my camera! Even though the Ursids were rather few and far between, I did manage to see a few nice ones. The location for the Ursids was on Kabeshima Island, with minimal light pollution. Not a soul in sight, except for a few cattle I occasionally heard in a barn nearby. My head was constantly looking up and down as I walked to a good location near a lighthouse. Trying to watch shooting stars while avoiding cow paddies really keeps one on their toes. 

 Merry Christmas to you all!


 

Secret Cove

November 3, 2019

  Yesterday I had planned on going to Duck Pond in Shikanoshima, but I arose too late to arrive there for the early morning sun. Instead I went to Yamagami Dam again, this time hoping to photograph water birds. As I was walking along the road that surrounds the lake, I decided to drop down a steep embankment covered in bamboo. The bamboo provided good handholds and when I reached the bottom I discovered a thick tangle of brambles. I had brought some pruning shears with me enabling me to get through without too many scratches. Here, I found a little cove with overhanging branches. It seemed a great place to get under the camouflage cloth I had with me. Right away, a Winter Wren, Misosazai, started scolding me, but it was too close to get focus on. Eventually it tired of it’s tirade and left me in peace.

   After about half an hour had passed, the birds I had probably scared away as I cut through the brambles, started to return. As you can probably imagine, birds behave differently, depending on if they know you are there, or if they don’t. It is quite fascinating and a privilege observing creatures when they don’t know you are there. I was able to see a Little Grebe, Kaitsuburi,diving for and catching fish, along with two of it’s competitors, the Common Kingfisher, Kawasemi, and the Great Cormorant, Kawa-u. Before I realized it, the sun had risen quite high in the sky and the light was becoming too harsh for good photography. I packed up my gear and reascended to the road, naming this new place ‘Secret Cove’ and I intend on keeping it so.

       (click on any image below for a larger view)

 

 

 

 

 

I have seen Little Grebes swallowing even larger fish than the one in the video below. They maneuver the fish into a headfirst position under the water which also provides lubrication, helping it slide down the throat. They then tilt back their heads and let gravity assist in swallowing.

Thanks for visiting my site, and enjoy the autumn outdoors.

 

 

Autumn Images

 

October 13, 2019       These past few weeks, I went to an estuary near Hakata Bay in Fukuoka four different mornings. I wanted to try and capture different images of Osprey, especially diving for fish. 

 The Osprey, or Misago in Japanese, is an especially photogenic bird. Nothing is more beautiful to me than an Osprey, wings spread in flight in the light of the early morning sunrise.

 In the enlarged photo of the Osprey’s head, you can see the clear membrane partly covering the eye of the Osprey. This is called the nictitating membrane, and it fully covers the eyes when the Osprey is diving at high speed and also underwater. There is more information about this membrane in the link below.

 Other various photos of birds  taken around the estuary on those four days.

  Two photos from one morning at Yamagami Dam. A Grey-Spotted Flycatcher, Ezo-bitaki, and one photo of two flowers.The small, white flowers are a species of Knotweed, Mizosoba, and the purplish red flowers are called touch-me-nots, Turifunesou. They are called Touch-me-nots because the seed pods burst open and scatter their seeds when they are touched. Thanks go to Unakunisan, my student, and his wife for helping me in identifying the flowers.

Please get out of the house and away from the TV and commune with Mother Nature.

https://www.audubon.org/news/birds-have-built-goggles

   

 

Cloud Warp

September 18, 2019 

This is a time lapse from the top of Kusenbu Mountain. On this day, it was extremely windy, so I could not set up the camera on the observation deck. I had to set it up on a picnic table down on the ground. Some of the Dazaifu and Chikushino areas are visible through the gap in the trees.  At the end, the moon starts rising from the clouds. I didn’t have time to continue the time lapse, so I took a few pictures with the long lens and inserted one of them at the end of the video. The colors of the clouds that evening were magical.

Bells & Birds

September 10, 2019

  I for one, am happy the hot summer days are coming to a close. It means autumn is not too far away now. Cooler weather and trees losing their leaves goes hand in hand with birds becoming more active and  more visible.  Her in Japan, we have been getting more rain than usual, and also typhoons, but these past few days, the skies have turned blue. I took the opportunity to go out in the early morning with my new lens in hand; the Canon 400mm f5.6 prime. A great lens for bird photography because it is very sharp and focuses quickly. It’s only drawback (for me) is that it has no image stabilization. All of the following bird photos were taken with it, except for the flowers, which were taken with the Rokinon 16mm f2.0 prime, which is my go to lens for astrophotography, but also takes pretty good macro (close up) photos too.

                          Please click on photos for a larger view.

 

This video time lapse and the landscape photo above were taken on Kusenbu Mt. with the Canon 18-135 mm is usm nano lens.


 

Thank you for visiting my site!

 

 

 

Homeward Bound?

August 17, 2019   Last Wednesday, Fukuoka was sideswiped by a large typhoon named Krosa. Luckily, there wasn’t much damage by wind or rain in the area.  I decided to go to the top of a mountain near my home and do a cloud time lapse from late afternoon passing into night. The clouds just after a typhoon passes, are often of varied shapes and sizes, that are good subjects for photography.

  Before the sun could slip behind the mountains, the clouds descended upon me and the camera. I let the camera click away for about thirty minutes in hopes that the clouds would lift again, but it was not to be.

 Occasionally in the video, there are black specks. These were swifts flashing by just as the shutter clicked. I envy them their mastery of the air, flying just below and even among the clouds at times.    

Here is a video I uploaded to YouTube after Typhoon Jongdari passed over Fukuoka last July. It was never posted on this site.

  Thanks for visiting, and please come again.  Tom