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Back to the Birds

June 25th, 2005

Well, I haven’t done birds for a while, so let’s get back to that a bit, eh? The weather should be good over the next week, and midterms have been graded, so I might have a bit of time to do more than just the incidental birdwatching.

I visited the Tama River a few times over the past few days, and I have to say that it’s like a change in the cast of characters. The ducks are all gone (though you can still spot some garden-variety types in the now-water-filled rice paddies nearby), the egrets are rather scarce, and the cormorants have gone elsewhere. The sparrows and starlings have remained. But there are a few new species here as well. The first and most startling was the appearance of the Little Tern (Koajisashi • コアジサシ). Tokyo is pretty far north for this bird’s range, but I saw a pair fishing by the side of the river. It was hard to catch them in flight because of movement and focus, but it was fun to watch. They would fly up and down a small stretch of the riverside, and when they spotted something, they’d go into hover mode, staying in one position for several seconds (see shot below) before diving down and snatching a fish from the water below.






Next, and not quite as clear in the photos is what I am fairly sure is a Long-billed Plover (Ikaru-chidori • イカルチドリ). I saw a few Little Ringed Plovers at the Wild Bird Park, and this one is similar, but the lack of a yellow rim around the eye and the specific white-and-black coloring above the bill seems to tag this one as a Long-billed Plover. Hard to catch, I only got a few blurry shots, as you can see. This bird camouflaged extremely well into the rocks along the beach, seeming to disappear most of the time.



And here’s the definitive shot with the head coloring:


Also on hand was a Japanese Wagtail and its immature offspring.



Then there was this guy, which I’m pretty sure was an Oriental Goldfinch, but it seemed to have almost too much red for that. However, I can’t guess what else it might have been:


This one I also couldn’t identify. There are a bunch of them making an somewhat of a racket in the tall grass, but they almost never came out above it to pose for a photo. I thought it might be an immature starling (the long pointed beak and general shape of the head and body seem to match starlings), but the tail seems too long for that. I think it might be a Japanese Swamp Warbler (Oosekka • オオセッカ), as the general appearance is similar and the habitat is right–but the identification is far from certain.


This guy was a complete question mark for me; I only got the one photo. Maybe an immature wagtail? The coloring seems a bit strange for that…


I should really download the category page for my birdwatching blog entries and take my PowerBook into the Japan Wild Bird Society shop near Shinjuku. They could probably help me identify the ten or so species I haven’t been able the get yet. For later.

And then there were the swallows. Everywhere. These things are out on the river en masse, and they’re flying around all over the place. Hard to get images of them like that, too–but I found a spot where they were resting. A recently-bulldozed slope along the riverside, where the end of land suddenly slopes down maybe 30 degrees until it hits the water. The swallows were flying in there to rest, and I was able to catch a few shots.





All in all, a pretty productive few days, birdwatching-wise.

Categories: Birdwatching, Uncategorized Tags: by
  1. YouKnowWho
    June 25th, 2005 at 03:00 | #1

    Where do you get the energy?

  2. BlogD
    June 25th, 2005 at 03:10 | #2

    Well, I have to do something for exercise, don’t I?

    Seriously, it’s an enjoyable hobby. Takes a lot of patience, though–the photos you see above are from about 3 hours of watching, and from maybe 200 photographs in total.

    And in truth, it doesn’t take too much energy–just walk around and when you see a bird, shoot away. The hard part on the river is to walk over all those rocks while keeping your eyes on the trees, the brush, the river, the sky–but not your feet, which get twisted every which way by all the stones and such. Aches and pains. Ow.

  3. YouKnowWho
    June 25th, 2005 at 09:03 | #3

    How do you do it? Tripod? Image stabilized long lens? How close are you, for example, with the last picture in your post? Do you ever put out food to get them close to the camera? Like a whole bag of corn chips? What about putting a whole bag next to a camera on a tripod w/ a long shutter release cable into the bushes where you perch w/ a blanket over your head, real sneeky like.

  4. BlogD
    June 25th, 2005 at 12:42 | #4

    No tripod, all the shots are hand-held. Most of the shots are taken at 16x zoom. The rest is patience, a steady hand, image stabilization (from canon, and a huge help), and choosing the best of many images. The last shot, I was probably 15 meters away. Also keep in mind that I crop the images, adding to the zoom effect.

    I never put food out for the birds I photograph outside. All the shots are simply of the birds doing their natural thing. The real trick is getting as close as possible without scaring them away, and that’s tough–birds are usually very skittish, except for pigeons and crows, and the ocassional park birds used to people. I never hide under a blanket, but I do sneak up around corners and stuff sometimes. And birds often hide within trees and brush, making it extraordinarily difficult to spot them, much less photograph them. Like I said, it takes patience.

  5. YouKnowWho
    June 26th, 2005 at 03:37 | #5

    Have you ever taken a picture of a bird w/ a cheap camera w/ a standard lens, from a boat where the bird is closely following the boat? Below is such example.


  6. BlogD
    June 26th, 2005 at 03:49 | #6

    Have you ever taken a picture of a bird w/ a cheap camera w/ a standard lens, from a boat where the bird is closely following the boat?Ummm… not really, no. I’m not usually on a boat with a camera with a cheap lens when birds are following. Usually.

    Nice pic, though.

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