Sunday, 31 July 2011

One Chance.

Post edit:  Eurasian Spoonbill 

I had believed I had encountered a Black-faced Spoonbill but looking at it again, the distinct face and pinkish bill are of a Eurasian Spoonbill.  Thanks very much to Ayuwat from Unravel and Stu from Hakodate Birding for the comments below and keeping me honest.

(Photographs at Fukushimagata, Niigata, January 9, 2006)

 I thought this was my only ever encounter with the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill but actually it's my only encounter with an Eurasian Spoonbill.  (Still a rare species for here!) The only spoonbill I've seen in Japan. I was taking a stroll with my camera at Fukushimagata, Niigata on a cold day back in January 2006 when I just looked up and saw it coming overhead. There it came, and there it went. Photos were taken with a Pentax *ist DS 6Mb DSLR with Pentax smc 400mm f5.6 lens. Not the best focussing setup but I was happy with it as my first digital SLR. I think a zoom lens with a focussing motor would have been better in this situation. 

This "armpit" shot is my favourite.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

A Frogmouth on its Nest.

Tawny Frogmouth on a nest.
(Murphys Creek, Queensland, 2008)

 I usually don't like going up to birds in nests but I quickly took couple of snaps of this Tawny Frogmouth sitting on a nest in a tree alongside a country road. The lower picture shows the true angle. Tawny Frogmouths often put their nests in the fork of branches that are fairly horizontal. I have seen and photographed Frogmouth nests that are just a small collection of sticks running almost parallel to the fork. This nest looked quite leafy. (Photos from a nice outing with Mick Atzeni)

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Look! A Tanuki


A standoff with a wild Tanuki back in May 2006 at Sakata, Niigata. 

Lucky neither of us had a six-gun.

Tanukis are referred to in English as “Raccoon Dogs”. When I first researched about them ten years ago I found they were not related to either raccoons or to canines. It seems now though, that most reference sites on the net regard them as having a distant relationship to canines. Anyway they are not related to raccoons and are only distantly related to dogs so I’m happy to call them by their local name, “Tanuki”. To me, calling it a “raccoon dog” is a bit like calling a Koala, a “Koala Bear”, a name appointed by folks in the northern hemisphere.

The problem is that Tanukis are also found in Korea and China and hence are known by different names in different places as their range expands across language borders.

There is less confusion when we can just use their native names. Last year I’d just arrived at Fukushimagata to do some birdwatching and was told in English with great excitement that some people had just seen a badger. (There is also a species of Japanese Badger). I was excited too as I’d never seen a badger but I soon realised that the people speaking Japanese around me were talking about, “Tanuki.”

I’m still happy to see a Tanuki if given the chance. I’ve only had this one good encounter apart from a handful of passing glimpses along roadsides at night. Mostly I see them as road kill even in urban areas.

A "Tanukis cross here" road sign along the sea-side road, Niigata City.

Tanukis do suffer from traffic. I remember watching a documentary on Japanese TV years ago that discussed the problem of highways and roads cutting through their habitats and blocking them from territories and natural corridors. One problem discussed was that in many places, the gutters in Japan are too high for Tanukis to climb and escape traffic so they thought about making artificial corridor tunnels under the roads. I seem to remember similar discussions about making such corridors for Koalas between Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

When I first arrived in Japan I was told by Japanese friends that I should never trust a Tanuki; that it’ll try to trick me and even transform itself into another being (As old Japanese legends suggest). Maybe I was worried the one I met might have changed into a bear, a dragon, or a samurai, or even something with deep, hypnotic eyes and cherry-like lips. Tanukis are often despised by vegetable farmers for digging up vegetables. Statues of Tanukis are also stood-out in front of pubs and restaurants as a sign that weary travellers are welcome and can be assured of a nice rest and a good feed.

The Tanuki statue in front of the Japanese restaurant at Fukushimagata.  (October 2010)

Saturday, 9 July 2011


Whistling Kite
(Lake Apex, Gatton, Queensland, September 1, 2008)

Got these pics with a Pentax D200 and Sigma 28-300mm f6.3 lens. Nice and portable but slow auto-focus. Was with some members of the Toowoomba Bird Observers and we were all clicking away happily. I regret that the originals are -j-pegs. I wish I'd set it to RAW.

Monday, 4 July 2011

One Weekend in Summer

Oriental Reed Warbler
(Fukushimagata, Niigata, July 3, 2011)

Had a warm, humid and cloudy weekend with just a few spots of rain. Visited Junsai-ike on Saturday night to see my first ever fireflies. I thought they were stunning, but I just took my little compact camera for some shots and we didn't spend too much time there so I would like to go again another time. 

Also went back to Junsai-ike on Sunday morning hoping to get some shots of the resident Northern Goshawks but only heard them apart from a brief glimpse of a new fledgling. The goshawks have been successful again rearing three this year. Unfortunately one of the young had to be recovered from the roadside after it had left the nest and was taken to the local refuge for wild birds. 

After a couple of hours at Junsai-ike, went to Fukushimagata where there are many happy Reed Warblers, various egrets and herons, Black-eared Kites and a few distant osprey. 

(above and below) Japanese Bumble Bee
I'm absolutely terrified of these guys. They are so huge! I never saw a bee like this in Australia.

(Junsai-ike, Niigata, July 3 2011)

Skink on cut timber.
(Junsai-ike, July 3, 2011)

Exposed for a few seconds and handheld. Trail of a firefly. There are information signs about the two species of fireflies in the park. I'll have to do my homework and translate the Japanese information....some time.
(Junsai-ike, evening of July 2 2011)

Above is a movie comprising of four clips that goes for about one minute of fireflies. 
(Post edit: Hmmmn, didn't upload too well....I recommend full screen!)

Abstract shot looking overhead at night in Junsai-ike. Small, green spots are fireflies.

I've seen about the smallest frogs I've ever seen at the edges of the ricefields in Niigata.  It could sit safely on an Australian 5 cent piece, or Japanese ichi yen coin.

Summer view of Fukushimagata, Niigata. (July 3, 2011)

Oriental Reed Warbler