Monday, 28 March 2011

Birds of Toowoomba - Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike.

Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike
(Toowoomba, December 2009)

Thank you to everyone who has shown an interest in this blog and those who have sent e-mails and messages after the March disasters in Japan. Niigata is fairly safe although we remain concerned about the nuclear drama in neighbouring Fukushima and we are still feeling tremors from time to time. (Although most of these are centred hundreds of kilometres eastward in the Pacific Ocean). Sometimes my mobile phone sounds off an alarming alarm to warn me half a minute to a minute before any quakes. (The most recent was when I was crossing a busy road on my way to work this morning).

My main thoughts however, are for the hundreds of thousands of people who have been directly affected by the disaster. The government has said that the number of those needing shelter is now under 200000 but it will take a year to build temporary accommodation. There are several thousand who are in emergency shelters in Niigata and many more thousands have had to spread-out to at least 42 other prefectures.

I am so impressed by the courage of the Japanese people and their ability to carry on with normal lives. Work here is as usual with the only visible signs of strain in Niigata being seen mostly in the stores and supermarkets in the evenings where lights are off or dimmed to conserve power. (Niigata has been kindly spared of black-outs). Shelves at my local supermarket were also empty of bottled water. One shelf stocked full of soda water visibly stuck-out from the surrounding empty shelves. I also found the shelves were either empty or very low with instant noodles and energy/breakfast bars. It looks a little concerning but stocks of most other foods are very good. I am fortunate and haven’t needed to go to the supermarket often. I am not hungry and if I get the blues I can get plenty of ice-cream. I was told that stocks were low for a short time in Toowoomba after the January floods and my thoughts are still with those putting their lives back together there too.

Black-faced Cuckoo Shrikes are handsome and unobtrusive birds that are fairly common around Toowoomba. I recall that although many other birds such as magpies, currawongs and crows seem to be of common knowledge to everyone, the Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike is the first Australian bird that I identified with the use of a bird book.

Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike
(Greenmount, August 2010)

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Quiet Skies

Black-eared Kite

Out of harms way but we're still swaying from time to time. I watched the news all last night and again this morning and finally had to go out. I went to Toyanogata at about 2pm but it was so quiet for birds. I couldn't even find a crow. Eventually by 4pm I heard a couple of faint calls and some birds began to appear. I got these shots within minutes. The sky had been so clear and quiet.

Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker
...I think you can see his tongue.
Great Cormorant
Common Teal

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Two Common Ducks

Pacific Black Duck
(Toowoomba, March, 2008)

One of the first birds I ever saw in Japan was a Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha (below). I immediately thought of the Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa (above) of Australia. Both ducks are common year round in both countries. Both are about the same in size but their colours are slightly different and the yellow-spot on the bill of the Japanese bird is absent from the Australian.

Spot-billed Duck
(Fukushimagata, October, 2010)

Friday, 4 March 2011

Northern Lapwing.

Northern Lapwings
(Fukushimagata, November 27, 2010)

 Just wanted to post these photos before I forgot about them. I know they're not great but they're the best I have of this species. They are fairly abundant around Fukushimagata in the cooler months but I rarely get close enough for photo opportunities. I usually watch for them to start flocking as a sign that either a peregrine or goshawk is on the move. On the day I took these photos they were being harassed by Black-eared Kites and went back and forth across the nearby rice-fields. They looked quite beautiful in the clear, blue skies.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Brambling and Hawfinch

(Fukushimagata, February 27, 2011)

Sounds like a law firm. No such birds as "Brambling" or "Hawfinch" in Australia. We came across these birds at Fukushimagata on Sunday. A Japanese friend said what they were in Japanese but he was only a little interested in looking at them. For me however, I was happy to get some photos. It was only when I got home and looked them up that I learned their English names. I think I have got the IDs right anyhow. I have heard of them before and am happy that I can now put faces to the names.



(Fukushimagata, February 27, 2011)


White-tailed Sea-eagles sitting in the centre of the Fukushimagata wetlands.

Also saw the pair of White-tailed Sea-eagles at Fukushimagata. There was often a pair sitting on the same dead tree out in the middle of the wetlands for the first few years that I was in Niigata but then they disappeared for a couple of years. I wonder if this is the same pair, or at least contains one of the original eagles. I think they mainly feed on birds when they're here and I have witnessed them hunting on several occasions before. When they leave this post, a mass of waterfowl scrambles in all directions and it's hard to keep your eyes on the subjects, then they usually dive down and catch something out of sight in the reeds. Last Sunday however, we all watched as one of the eagles plunged onto something in the water... a little far away but it made for some drama...

A White-tailed Sea-eagle grabs something on the surface of the water.

The eagle seems to struggle and remains in the water for several moments.

The eagle finally lifts out of the water  carrying something.

Circling around trying to find somewhere to land. (A harrier to the left)

(Heavily cropped for a closer look) Has it caught a waterbird?

It finally touches down to feed but is harassed by various birds such as crows and some other raptors and flies off to the background trees.

Great Tit
(Junsai-ike, afternoon, February 27, 2011)
 Thought this tit looked attractive hopping around on the snow at Junsai-ike.