Saturday, 26 May 2012


Scaly-breasted Lorikeet

Toowoomba front yard, Queensland, Australia
August, 2011

What would an Australian living overseas possibly miss? Marsupials and Eucalypts? A lingering sun over reflective plains? Meat pies and chocolate milks?

Well to narrow it down, I’m a birder. If anyone has seen this blog they’d probably see that I’m a raptor nut, but even though I do miss Aussie raptors, I can see Steller’s Sea-eagles, Northern Goshawks and Oriental Honey Buzzards where I am. Another hint comes from a strange experience I had in Tokyo about eight years ago. I was standing on top of an apartment building hanging out my washing, totally surrounded by the grey, urban ocean of Tokyo as the sun faded the day away when I flock of bright green budgerigars flew right over the corner of the building and I watched as they disappeared into the dark canyons beyond. They, of course, are not natives here but a successful colony of escapees. Japan has a variety of escaped species now successfully surviving here. But anyway, apart from that encounter, I miss seeing……wild parrots.

I remember going to a wildlife sanctuary years ago and hearing a presentation about Australia’s parrots and learned that Australia’s first scientific name, meant “Land of Parrots”. I tried to do a google on the topic but only found a documentary by David Parer made in 2008. I was very excited to learn of this documentary and immediately shopped for it. I soon found it for sale in Australia ordered it and waited six weeks for it to come. Finally it arrived and I popped it in my player and discovered I can’t play it because of the region code. What fun. Actually I knew it was for Australia's region but I wanted it and ordered it anyway because I just hoped...Dare I attempt to occupy my mind with knowledge from a foreign land and wash the brains of the masses with the lifecycles of Australian Parrots. I guess I’ll take it back home some day and watch it if they let me take it back in through customs. David Parer is a great photographer. Maybe you have seen his work? He was responsible for footage of Killer Whales beaching themselves to take seals. Back in 1992, I was at a picture framers, when a television station delivered some of his work to be framed; stunning, huge, perfectly clear photographs of wild albatrosses. The parrot documentary was also filmed by Lindsey Cupper who made a beautiful book with his dad, called “Hawks in Focus”, which was a big influence for me. I always keep an eye out for the work of both of these guys.

So that’s my review of “Australia – Land of Parrots” (Blu-ray version). Hope I can see it someday.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


Crested Ibis

Sado Island, Niigata, Japan
May 5, 2012

Nikon V1 + 30-110mm lens

Back on May 5th, it was still Golden Week, and we elected to do a flying bus tour of Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture. We started early and got a jetfoil to the island where we met up with our tour. They decided that because it was a very busy holiday and many humans were touring the island that day, that they'd reverse the original schedule, thus our first stop, which was also of most interest to me, was the "Toki" Centre. The Research Centre and Museum for the Crested Ibis. We enjoyed almost 25 minutes flying around viewing the museum and seeing the captivity bred Ibis. I was actually surprised to see what I thought of as good numbers and they were quite active. There was also a small collection of other live Ibis species from around the world including Straw-necks and I think, a White Ibis from Australia.

Actually I really enjoyed the whole bus tour. We went from the "Toki" Centre to a temple, then Sake factory, then had an included lunch followed by a scenic drive and back to the port. I also got to meet Mr Charles Jenkins which was a great pleasure. Somedays are like holidays.

This is a memorial for the last wild Japanese Crested Ibis that declares "Toki-Kin-Forever".

This was the last wild born "Toki", (Japanese Crested Ibis). Her name was Kin. She was captured in the wild in 1968 and died in captivity on October 10, 2003.

Further captive breeding had to be with specimens from China.

This Toki was named "Midori". "Midori" means "Green" and was named after the colour of his tag. He was the only male of five wild Toki's captured in 1981.

A sign at the entrance to the centre.
The only five storey temple in Niigata prefecture is on Sado.

We drove over the 'skyline' of Sado...from one side to the other.

View leaving port on the ferry back to Niigata

Sayonara Sado!! View from the back of the ferry.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Tortoises on the Rocks (UPDATED)

Brown-eared Bulbul

Junsai-ike, Niigata, Japan
May 13, 2012

Nikon 1 V1 + FT1+ Nikkor AF-S 70-300mm VR 

UPDATE: Thank you to IsuzuGeek and Mick Atzeni for confirming that these ‘turtles’ are Red-eared Sliders. I was happily greeted to the new day (May 16th) with a comment from IsuzuGeek (check below) and an email from Mick (with links to this and ...this). I was excited to find out what they are, but a little disappointed to find they are an introduced species. (They are from the United States). Anyway, I have been able to add Red-eared Slider to my TAGS on this blog and have been given a flag to further lead me. I have found this link to a webpage on TURTLES of Japan and found their Japanese name is “Mississippi-Aka-Mimi-Game”. (Is that easy to say in a sentence?) Of puzzlement to me however, was that they are “Turtles”. They looked like Tortoises to me! I learned when I was a kid that “turtles had flippers and tortoises had claws”……This is apparently of the Australian view and dialect and differs to both British and American definitions for colloquial use, as outlined at this Wikipedia page. Other pages I found give cloudy definitions of ‘turtle vs tortoise’. It’s good to keep learning. What I thought of as a mediocre post as been a nice lesson for me. Thanks again, Mick and IsuzuGeek and to all who keep me honest in viewing this blog.

Original post below:

What do birdwatchers do on Mother's Day? Why, go birdwatching of course!
Had another quiet birding outing yesterday, this time at Junsai-ike. I failed getting a male Narcissus Flycatcher and was told about the presence of a female Mugimaki Flycatcher but didn't see it. All the birders we met talked of the quietness for birding. I think there were birds around but they were high up in the canopy. The air was cool but the sun warm. 

All of these pics were with the Nikon V1, FT1 adaptor and the Nikkor AF-S 70-300mm VR. Actually, I enjoyed this light weight combo and think the results are pretty ok. Nice for a walk in the park. 

Last week I walked past a couple of children admiring the green-coloured trees. It is a pretty time now with bright green plants and purple flowers and fine days. Maybe just 4 more months and the green will go away again.

Red-eared Slider

Original post: I'm sorry I don't know what this tortoise is. 

...with Moorhen

Azure-winged Magpie


Above and below: Brown-eared Bulbul

My best Bush Warbler pic for the day.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Wedding of the Foxes

Huge Fox Lanterns made by an Elementary school in the district


Tsugawa, Niigata, Japan

May 3, 2012

On the evening of May 3 (a Golden Week Holiday) we went to Tsugawa, Niigata to see a festival called, Kitsune-no-yomeiri. ("Kitsune"= fox; "no" = of ; "yomeiri" = "bridal ceremony"...kind of, we think)

As has been with all of our adventures recently it was pouring with rain but thankfully, things went on.

In the old days a bride marched to the groom's house to be married. Throughout Japan there are many folklores about "fox-fire" in the mountains and woods surrounding small towns and villages.  Actually its not a real fire; It was believed that this light is caused by a parade of foxes carrying lanterns as they guide a "fox-bride" on her way to the "fox-groom's" house. In this district in the old days there used to be a lot of foxes at Kirin-zan and this festival celebrates the local fox bride's journey to the river to meet her groom.

Thank you to my wife for her patience in explaining to me about what she understands about the event. It would differ depending on location.

Actually the stars of the show are carefully selected and are real subjects for marriage. On this particular evening, it was the groom who is a real home town boy. -So we heard!

Front of the procession. As you can see everything was covered with plastic.
Foxes carrying lanterns at the front of the procession
You can almost see someone (a fox) inside the plastic hood

All the participants were wearing fox make-up

Apparently if you pay 600 yen yo can have your face painted like a fox!

Suddenly, we could see the beautiful fox bride

The procession headed out over the bridge crossing the river....Onlookers had to stay back and watch.

On the other side of the bridge the groom appeared with his fox party.

The bride and groom met in the middle of the bridge and bowed up the river.

All the foxes came back towards the town side of the river....

....and disappeared into a sea of umbrellas. only close glimpse of the happy couple

They had a ceremony on a stage by the river and it was televised on a large screen

Another glimpse through the crowd. The ceremony lasts for two hours and everybody eventually waves the married couple off on a boat on the river...

We didn't wait for all to finish.
Looking back down the river. The stage (orange light on the right) and crowd on the left.