All posts by iflybecauseican

I have been living in Western Japan now for some time now, where I own and operate an English school. I am an amateur bird photographer, and this site is primarily for sharing my photos and love of birds with others. I also enjoy cycling, playing the piano, and woodworking. May the wind always be at your back and below your wings.

One Morning at Citizen’s Forest Pond

May 1, 2020

You only need sit still long enough in some attractive spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns.” – Henry David Thoreau

I again followed Thoreau’s advice yesterday morning, and sat myself down on a convenient cement seat, next to a pond. Ponds are a great place to observe the creatures that either reside there, or visit for food, water, and rest. Citizen’s Forest Pond, nestled at the foot of Shioji mountain, was created when a small stream was blocked by a dirt embankment. Cement blocks were stacked on both sides,  but the rear of the pond was left unimpeded. Here, various water plants grow, creating a safe haven and food source. Birds, mammals, frogs, snakes, fish, and insects have taken to Citizen’s Forest Pond, even though it is of modest size. It is nestled up against woods on one side, and a walking path on the other. A two meter high hedge separates the path from the pond, providing privacy for the animals. Here, I noticed a small gap where I sidled through. Low and behold, I found the aforementioned seat. Here, I sat undetected for hours as the people passed by on the other side of the hedge, oblivious of my presence.  Leaving some hours later, Thoreau’s observation was again confirmed. Sit for even one hour quietly. Inhabitants will emerge from hiding. 

 

 

 

 

The Asian Softshell Turtle photo was taken at a different location, (Mikasa River). This is an invasive species, but due to it’s popularity as a food delicacy throughout Asia, and reduction of habitat, it was put on the ICUN  ‘vulnerable’ list of endangered species in 2016. 

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160709/p2a/00m/0na/003000c 

Thanks for visiting!

 

Some Wildlife of Yasukougen

May 23, 2020    Yasukougen is a great place to observe birds and wildlife. It is nestled in a shallow and wide valley at an elevation of about 300 meters. It is about a 30 minute drive from my home, and I have been there 8 times in the past 2 weeks. Reason being, to TRY to photograph the Ruddy Kingfisher (Aka Shoubin) that has seemingly taken up residence there. The territory it has chosen is about 40,000 square meters, and therefore, each time I have arrived there early in the morning, it’s call invariably comes to my ears. For me, it is high on the list of birds I want to see and photograph. So far, I have glimpsed it a number of times, but it has always flown before I can capture it’s image. It’s call, which drew me to it in the first place, is mysterious and beautiful. I couldn’t believe my ears, as they are somewhat rare and extremely difficult to spot, let alone capture on film, which I have yet to do, except for one blurry image.

 

 

 

Each day I returned to Yasukougen, I expected it to have departed for one of it’s known breeding, grounds in Miyazaki, or Shikoku for example. I shall continue my quest to capture it on film, hopefully before it leaves Yasukougen.

  In the meantime, there have been other creatures to catch my interest in the area. Yesterday, a raccoon, and this morning a fawn. Both of them were photographed and or filmed on my way to a hole in a tree newly excavated by a pair of courting Japanese Green Woodpeckers (Aogera). As I was observing them from a blind, they suddenly became  agitated. I was worried it was because of my presence, but it was actually a young raccoon that had climbed into their tree to check out their hole. Afterwards it nonchalantly began grooming itself on a nearby branch for a few minutes. Then it calmly climbed into a neighboring tree, descended to the forest floor, and vanished into the early morning gloom. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flycatchers

May 5, 2020  About this time of year, you might find me walking around Yamagami Dam Lake in search of birds arriving from their wintering grounds. On this particular day, I was looking and listening for the Narcissus Flycatcher (Kibitaki) as well as the Blue and White Flycatcher (Oruri).  As soon as I got out of the car, I could hear a Narcissus Flycatcher singing from within the cedar forests that surround Yamagami Lake, and this male, as it turned out, happened to be in the exact same location and on the same perch as a male I had photographed last year. Of course there was no way I could tell if it was the same exact bird, but I would not be surprised. Speaking of flycathers, I have also seen the Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, with it’s extremely long tail at Yamagami Lake. That was just for an instant, and I was only able to get it’s tail in a fuzzy photo.

     A few days ago, I was on the other side of the lake with the camera set up, and a male Blue and White Flycatcher landed on a branch right in front of  me. I was only able to get off a few frames before he flew off right over my head.  I was back in the hopes of finding him still in the area. I did hear him, but I was not able to see him. A Red-billed Leiothrix also popped out of the bushes for a moment, flashing it’s bright epaulettes. Each of these gems of the forest has a beautiful voice. 

  Earlier this week, I went out to photograph the night sky. After the Moon set, taking with it it’s shining silver coat, the Milky Way began to stand out more as it rose up from the horizon. Glorious as always, it still takes my breath away.

Milky way w- cedars watermarked

Thanks for visiting. Tom

Night of the Lyrids

April 23, 2020   Last night was the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower. I went out to a somewhat dark location where I set up the camera in the middle of a green tea field. this shower averages 10 to 15 meteors at it’s peak. It also produces the occasional fireball.

 The night was cloudy half of the time, so the stars and the Milky Way were still visible through the clouds. After spotting around ten shooting stars, I climbed into the car and took a nap, hoping that the camera would capture a good meteor or two. After returning home, I attached the camera to the TV, and went through the exposures one by one. Besides the enjoyment astrophotographers get from looking for shooting stars, there is also the excitement we get when finding a good meteor in even one frame. 

 A couple of birds that are common to Japan are the Little Egret and the Common Kingfisher. I more often than not spot them at nearby Homan River. 

Thank you for visiting! Please be safe everyone.

April Images

April 11, 2020    In this time of social distancing, I find myself in the great outdoors even more than before. Walking around my favorite lake with blooming cherry trees, or strolling through the wooded paths of a nearby mountain, I always find peace of mind. I hope all of you find solace in nature’s healing and soothing powers in these trying times.

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!