Friday, 31 December 2010

End of Year Birds 2010

 Peregrine Falcon

Had a nice outing with Michael Atzeni this morning. The highlight was the above Peregrine attacking a kestrel at Gowrie Junction. It happened very quickly as they appeared and scooted up and down and around before disappearing. I only got one shot. It would have been good to get both birds in the frame but I was too slow.

Australian Kestrel

We found plenty of kestrels around Oakey.

(Above and below) Plum-headed Finch near Jondaryan.

Zebra Finch

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Swans and an Eagle.

Whooper Swan.

Visited Sakata, Niigata, on December 11 and again on the 19th. On both occassions I found numbers of Whooper Swans and encountered a single adult White-tailed Sea-eagle.

The Whooper Swans are spread over the Sakata wetlands but move out to the ricefields by mid-morning. The main viewing platform of the reserve is a good place to watch them fly towards you and head over to the rice fields.

White-tailed Sea-Eagle.

I got the above photo on December 11th. It was a lucky shot as I just picked up on the eagle fleeting alongside a ridge of trees on the northern side of the wetlands. I got this single shot just as it went through an open gap in the trees. Bad light though.

These photos were in the same area on the 19th. Light was better and I watched as it flew over farm lands and landed in a tree. Eagles are not common in Niigata so this is a highlight for any birder. Usually it is impossible to see them this close. All taken with a 300mm lens.

Friday, 17 December 2010

In the Hearts of the Bean Geese.

Fukushimagata, (Niigata) is a wetland reserve about half an hour’s drive north-east of central Niigata city. I learned a bit about its history when I arrived in Niigata some years ago but unfortunately I’ve forgotten a lot of details. I have Japanese brochures from the visitor’s centre but the best information I can currently find in English is: here.

From about the end of September to April, it is a hive of activity for migratory birds. Throughout these months, tour groups from other prefectures steadily arrive with field-scopes and cameras in hand.

Rare species for the region can be seen here. I’ve seen a Canadian Goose, gotten a photo of a Black-faced Spoonbill, recorded Amur Falcons (though no one else did..?), and heard of the excitement about a feast of others. I enjoy its potential for raptor encounters such as Eastern Marsh Harriers, Northern Goshawks and Peregrine Falcons but White-tailed Sea-eagles, Rough-legged Buzzards, and even a possible Steller’s Sea-eagle are all possible. Not guaranteed but all worth keeping an eye out for.

Many of the birds however are abundant. Ducks such as teal and widgeons; swans, mostly Whooper but with sprinkling of Tundra and various geese, all working together in the thousands to make the reserve a dramatic place to visit. The most noted species for these wetlands however, is the Bean Goose; the symbol of Fukushimagata. Fukushimagata boasts the biggest gathering of this species in Japan. All literature and souvenirs at the visitors centre are marked with its image. From the start of November they arrive like waves on the shore. Hundreds at a time. Their noise, like an approaching storm.

(Photographed at Fukushimatagata at the end of November, 2010)

Monday, 6 December 2010

Two Classic Aussies on the Wing.

 Sulphur-crested Cockatoo.
(Pittsworth, Queensland, January 6 2009)

Little Corella.
(Greenmount, Queensland, January 11 2009)

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Woodpecker Pecking.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Sakata, Niigata, April 3 2010).

I was excited about this encounter when it happened but as with busi-ness and all it all but left my mind. I haven't had too many encounters with woodpeckers in my life. I love watching them squinting and closing their eyes when they're pecking. They're delightful and busy birds.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Rough-legged Buzzard, January 2008 Niigata influx last…til now?

 Rough-legged Buzzard. (Fukushimagata, Niigata January 15, 2008)

I got a phone call Friday night from a Japanese friend who told me that two raptors of interest were at Fukushimagata. He translated the names from Japanese to English as a “Grey Harrier” and a “Fur-legged Buzzard”. I was a little confused at to which particular harrier he was referring but I knew he was talking about a “Rough-legged Buzzard” when he mentioned the “Fur-legged Buzzard”. It was fine yesterday so I went looking. I saw several distant harriers and some Buzzards but all were too far for me to identify. It seems that the movement of Rough-legged Buzzards is bit of a mystery at least in Niigata.

I had had a few winter seasons in Niigata and the only buteo I had found was the Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo). In January 2008 however, I found a few Buteo lagopus or Rough-legged Buzzards (Hawks) in both urban areas and wetlands around Niigata City. They remained around the place for a few weeks ...(hmm, almost a month..?) I saw one almost daily near the Niigata Prefectural Office and watched as another circled into the territory for a “look-at-each-other” encounter before departing. I also saw a couple of others at Fukushimagata in the same time frame. I haven’t seen any since so I thought it was an interesting “one-off” phenomenon until now perhaps. I remember it was a very cold period when they were here last and we are being currently warned that we may be in for the coldest December ever. It might be worth keeping an eye out for special visitors in the cold spell.

 Rough-legged Buzzard in flight (Above) compared to Common Buzzard, (Below)

and again, Rough-legged Buzzard below:

As far as my encounters with the Rough-legs, I was impressed by their beautiful pale eyes, broad wings and buoyant hovering in the cold air. I thought they almost moved like butterflies.
 (Above) Rough-legged Buzzard hovering.

 (Above and below) Rough-legged Buzzard near the prefectuaral office. (Pentax K10, 400mm)

(Above) The "prefectural" Rough-leg (at right) meets a passer-by of its own kind for a fly-around that lasted several minutes before the visitor had enough and continued on its way.

(Above and belew) A couple of Common Buzzard pics for comparison.
(Fukushimagata, November 21, 2010)

"Don't come closer!"The Rough-leg near the prefectuaral office on a dull day.

Interesting. The images in this post are a mix from Nikon D300 and Pentax K10 cameras.