Monday, 25 November 2013

Curious Cormorants

Grey Heron arrives behind an Eastern Great White Egret (I hope)

Sakata, Niigata, Japan

November 23, 2013

Looked for birds on Saturday morning at Sakata and again at Fukushimagata briefly yesterday afternoon (Sunday). 

At Sakata we saw lots of Great Cormorant, Spot-billed Duck, Mallard, Eurasian Teal and Whooper Swan but didn't get any better pics than the two here of Grey heron and Great White Egret. To be honest I'm complacent around Egrets as there are heaps in Niigata and in South-east Queensland where I do most of my birding, so I don't really study one from another so I hope I called this one ok? We also saw distant raptors, being, Northern Goshawk (young one), Eastern Buzzard, Eastern Harrier, and Black-eared Kite. Plus some sparrows.

Fukushimagata listed 1600 Bean Goose and 1600 Whooper Swan on their noticeboard for the day. We also heard we missed a single White-tailed Sea-eagle seen earlier in the day. I had a nice view of a young Northern Goshawk sitting in a tree with an Eastern Harrier but my camera was too weak for a decent shot. A guy with a 500 f4 showed me his LCD screen leaving me a bit envious. Anyway I had a good look through a scope.  "L"

Actually the forecast for yesterday was for rain in the morning but it was a pearler all day so we had a nice unplanned outing.

Happy to see the cricket going along as I expected as well.

I'm guessing the "white-bellied" cormorant is a juvenile.
It looked larger and different to the others but I'm assuming all are Great Cormorants.
Reminds me of Pied Cormorant from home.
Wish I could get closer and it was sticking its face into itself so much.

Fukushimagata, Niigata.

November 24, 2013

Bean Geese

Above and below: typical afternoon views of Fukushimagata.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Real Cricket's Played in Whites

Little Corella

On a cricket field at the University Of Queensland, Gatton Campus

December 30, 2009

A new Australian Ashes series kicks off this week so I'm just trying to get in the mood. These pics were taken from a car window back on December 30, 2009 at the Gatton Campus of the University of Queensland on an outing with Michael Atzeni. The subjects really were on a campus cricket ground. I feel sad now that I only took three non-serious snaps. Living away makes me understand what a beautiful sight these birds are in the wild, gardening in their natural regional cricket setting.

I'm guessing Australia will win this series. 

Red-rumped Parrot
Some One-day riff-raff sneaking in on the outfield.

Monday, 11 November 2013

White Wagtail

White Wagtail

 Motacilla alba ocularis

UPDATE: I'm now relabelling it as Motacilla alba   'lugens' not "ocularis" as originally posted thanks to Ayuwat's comment below - see comments and Thank you to Ayuwat.


Niigata Prefectural License Center, Niigata, Japan

October 27, 2013

I posted a Willie Wagtail which is a fantail from Australia a couple of weeks ago. This time I'm posting a common sight in Niigata which I believe is a real wagtail species from the northern hemisphere. This guy hanged-out with me while waiting at the Niigata Prefectural License Center.

I didn't realise until I opened my guides that there are numerous variations so I hope I have chosen the correct one. Any opinions are most welcome. Many thanks.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Weight of Gold

Golden-shouldered Parrot


Artemis Station, Cape York, Queensland, Australia

October 12, 2012

I've been out a couple of times the last few weeks weeks in Niigata and although I've seen some nice birds far off I've failed to get any good new pictures to post about. I've decided to post this article I wrote for the Toowoomba Bird Observers September 2013, Newsletter. It was an important experience for me and hope you find it worth a read. 

My first view

The Weight of Gold.
We came out empty-handed on the first day. We also missed out with our first tries on the second day and it seemed we were going to miss out altogether. We had spread-out and were moving forth in our final search. I heard a soft sound up at the top of a tree in front of me and I began to focus my eyes on a small greenish parrot. As the second-hand ticked to the next stroke, Mick, some thirty metres to the left of me, announced, “Found them.” (‘On ya, Mick. I was a second too slow. I did take a single pic of my find and later confirmed it was indeed what we were looking for). Mick’s find, however, was low to the ground and consisted of several birds.

male (left) with young

I’d done just a little research before the tour. I had learned that there were just 75 pairs of Golden-shouldered Parrots in the wild. All confined to special habitats of the lower reaches of Cape York. Now, almost a year later and I find estimates of 1000 to 1500 hundred individuals in the wild. It depends what you find on the internet of course so please disregard the accuracy of my estimates. It is for sure, however, that the Golden-shouldered Parrot is endangered as listed by Birdlife International. There are some small populations but all are threatened by a variety of conditions. When watching our gentle little family, I observed a couple of swoops at them by a Black-backed Butcherbird (Which sent them flurrying) and have since found that butcherbirds certainly predate on small parrots. Predation is of course common by cats and other introduced species. I was quite excited to realise however, that our family consisted of, I think one male, but several young birds. My delight soon became concern as our tour guide, Klaus, explained that they are usually successful breeding but numerous are lost in the wet season as the dusty patches of grass seed become flooded and food becomes scarce. I have learned that this species relies on carefully timed fire that rejuvenates the grass and flowers on which they feed.

Black-backed Butcherbird

Golden-shouldered Parrots nest in termite mounds and it is fascinating to think about the mounds not just protecting the eggs but maintaining a suitable temperature for the eggs success. One mound on one property is not enough, however, as nesting sites are regularly changed after each breeding season to avoid parasites etc. It must be understood that their world is delicate and can be easily destroyed by livestock, floods, ill-timed fire and predators as well as, of course, other changes to their environment. Maybe several of these factors also contributed to the disappearance of the Golden-shouldered Parrot’s close relative, the Paradise Parrot from the Darling Downs.

My advice is not to get a new camera just before you go on a tour. Instead of concentrating on live birds at close quarters my attention kept readjusting to the back of my camera trying to learn the menu and change focusing settings because I kept focusing on the grass in front of my subjects. I would have known instinctively how to adjust my older camera. I think it was because of this, I failed to get a decent portrait of the shy father. With any camera, I recommend practice, practice, practice.
Attention away from the camera and I understand what a privilege it was to behold the family foraging for seed in the delicate vegetation just metres in front of my feet. “Tread gently”, I told myself. I may not have the power to stop fire or rain or save a species from endangerment, but even to the slightest degree, just because I have learned of them, the weight of their future is upon my shoulders.

Juvenile male

References and Further Reading

Termite mounds