Archive for the ‘Birdwatching’ Category

Red-flanked Bluetail

February 25th, 2007 Comments off

Just two years and thirteen days ago, I spotted a nice Red-flanked Bluetail in my neighborhood park:

It was nice, but it was also the less-colorful female. Today, I asked Sachi to go on a walk through that park again to see if we could spot one–and indeed we did. Or, I should say, Sachi did–she’s got sharp eyes. After a minute of her pointing out its location, I took a large number of shots–95% of which I couldn’t use because the bird was hiding in the shade, and most of the images (at only 1/15th of a second exposure) we too blurry. However, a few were good enough to print, and shows that we got a beautiful blue male in good color:

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But here’s the best shot before it flew off:

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Nice little birdie!

The interesting thing is that we saw Great Tits, a Red-flanked Bluetail, crows, bulbuls, a Dusky Thrush, Tree Sparrows, and a few Black Kites. That was the whole roster–and looking at my post from two years ago, that was exactly the list of birds I saw back then.

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February 24th, 2007 Comments off

I went to Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park a little bit ago. I don’t know about the claim that December to February are the best birding months. I’ve heard people say that, and I did miss the first two months of that… but if February is any indication, I haven’t been missing much. Though I am focusing more on waterfowl, and maybe I should be looking for passerines much more. But there were a few birds there which provided interesting shots.

A Mejiro (Japanese White-Eye) in flight.

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Common Buzzards at a distance. The second one is to the left of the first, very hard to see. Can you pick it out?

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A Common Sandpiper came close.

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An Oriental Turtledove, even closer. A beautiful bird, the Turtledove. Lovely plumage.

This photo just struck me as funny. The Cormorant drying off, the ducks on one foot, and the gull ducking. A lot of little stuff in a small arc.

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And a Little Egret posing among the ducks.

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Cormorant 0, Fish 1

February 4th, 2007 3 comments

Cormorants are pretty common birds in this area. You see them all over the rivers and bay areas. You may even have seen them on TV, in some documentary about Japan: they are the birds used by fisherman to collect fish in the rivers at special times of the year. The fishermen tie a rope around the neck of the bird so it can’t swallow the fish, and collect the catch when the bird comes back up.

Ironically, this particular cormorant I saw today could have used that kind of help.

It was just past 11:30 am when I saw other bird watchers snapping images excitedly: a cormorant had caught a fish.


I took a few pictures, like the one above, and then figured that the excitement was over; the bird would swallow the fish, and that would be that. However, a few minutes later, I caught these images:




Apparently this cormorant had bitten off more than he could chew. Most of the fish was in his gullet, but the tail was still sticking out his bill. The poor bird was having trouble swallowing the fish, and to make matters worse, the other cormorants were ganging up on their beleaguered acquaintance and were fighting to get the fish for themselves.

Five minutes after the bird first caught the fish, it was still struggling:



The cormorant was still trying to get the fish down, and now it was ducking its head underwater more often than it stayed up, either in an attempt to maneuver the fish into a better position to swallow, or to keep it away from the other birds, or possibly both.

The bird was getting more and more tired. It would struggle, and then come up and try to swallow again, fighting off its competitors. The image just below was taken eight minutes after the initial catch, and it almost seems like the fish is going to come out:


Just after this shot, the cormorant was coming up less and less frequently. One complication may have been that cormorants’ feathers aren’t waterproof; this guy was probably getting soaked and heavy just as he was also likely struggling for air. By this time, he would stay with his head underwater for a fair amount of time, and every so often would muster strength in his wings and come back up for a moment… but each time he came up, he stayed up for less time and seemed to have less energy than the time before.

The other cormorants stayed by him, sometimes going underwater in what seemed like another attempt to steal the fish. In the image below, it’s almost as if the remaining fellow cormorant was trying to figure out what was with his cousin.


Eventually, however, the poor cormorant stopped moving. A little more than ten minutes after the whole drama started, it was over. I can’t tell you the fate of the fish, but the fate of the cormorant was pretty clear. The other birds just left, and the still body just drifted with the tide waters until it went out of sight.


A sad little drama of life and death in nature. It might or might not be so unusual, but it was certainly not something that you see every day as a birdwatcher.

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New Bird, Cute Bird, Strange Bird

February 4th, 2007 Comments off

I went birding today at the Tokyo Minato Wild Bird Park and at Kasai Rinkai. I intended to do more birding in the December-to-Febriuary period, but have been too busy on the weekends to get around to it. However, seeing as how there were hardly any birds around except huge flocks of ducks–all of which are standard varieties–I wonder if I’ve really been missing out on much.

I did, however, get a new species today: a Bullfinch.


Pretty little guy. I wish I could have gotten more images–there were actually four of them in a tree, posing quite nicely, when a bicyclist raced by, scaring them all off.

Not a new bird by any means, this White Wagtail was nevertheless very close and posed quite nicely as well:


Those two images have 1000-pixel versions available if you click on them, by the way.

Finally, there was something strange in the park: what appeared to be a homeless man who strayed into the closed-off bird sanctuary and started to settle down for a nice afternoon. I’d never seen that before…



There were a few other feathered variety of creatures I got images of, but nothing much else worthy of printing. Except, of course, for a sequence of photos of an otherwise normal bird playing out a rather startling drama.

… In the next blog post.

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More Birds

December 16th, 2006 1 comment

I revisited Bayfront Park, but also went on to the Ravenswood Preserve and the Palo Alto Municipal Airport preserve. Tons and tons of birds, and some interesting ones today.

First, there was a Bufflehead at Bayfront. Not the most amazing-looking bird, but a really great name.



Here’s a bird from yesterday, but a nice shot of one: a Greater Yellowlegs:

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Click for larger image

There were also more ordinary crows in attendance:

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And among a flock of blackbirds, a Red-winged Blackbird:

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Here is a neat new bird: a Cinnamon Teal:

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There were quite a few sandpipers resting in groups, seen here along one Green-winged Teal who snuck in:



And a squirrel to break up the birds:


Here is a bird, possibly a flycatcher, which I could not definitely ID:

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Here is a nice view of a White-crowned Sparrow:

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And a sparrow I could not identify readily:

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But one of the nicer birds I saw was at the Ravenswood Preserve near East Palo Alto, a lonely road out by the bay; a sharp burst of yellow, in the form of a Townsend’s Warbler:

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There were a lot of interesting passerines out there; this one might be a Hutton’s Vireo:

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And this might be a Field Sparrow:

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A real surprise was a Ring-necked Pheasant that suddenly popped up as I was leaving:

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That should do for now. There are more bird shots, but I’ll leave those for a bit later.

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Bayfront Park

December 15th, 2006 Comments off

While I’m here in the Bay Area, I’m going to try to get around to different places to do some birdwatching. I went to Bayfront Park today, a park at the end of Marsh Road between 101 and the bay, near (what else ) a sanitation plant. The weather so far has not been too great, but was good enough to get some good birding in.

One of the first birds I saw was instantly recognizable as a Curlew, in this case a Long-billed Curlew.

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Around that area, a marsh pond right near the park entrance, were a ton of birds, more than you could shake a stick at. There were a lot of Northern Shovelers:

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Several Green-winged Teals:

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And some American Coots:

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There were many beautiful, elegant American Avocets:

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There were a great number of Black-necked Stilts, all over the place:

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Click for larger image

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There were also a few Canvasbacks:


Birds I am less sure about but think I identified correctly included a Willet:


And a Greater Yellowlegs:

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Here are some birds I am less sure about, and will fill in later as I get IDs. What could be a dowitcher; it has a broad bill more reminiscent of an oystercatcher, and the bill and the bird’s size make it less likely a dowitcher, but….




This was some larger duck or even goose I could not nail down:


And there are so many of these little guys, I have problems telling them apart:


There was also a flock of Canada Geese that you could get fairly close to:

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And around them, a good number of colorful Western Meadowlarks:

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It also seems that the Black Phoebe I saw around my house the other day was no fluke. There were several that I saw in the park, and most of them had an interesting perch-fly-and-reperch action going on.

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Another interesting passerine: the White-crowned Sparrow, of which many grouped in bushes near the paths.

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Finally, I was walking back to my car when I heard a hummingbird very close-by in a patch of low trees. I ducked into the patch, and one Anna’s Hummingbird flew right up and perched just a few feet away, letting me get some lovely shots. Click on either for blow-ups.

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Tama Reien in December

December 6th, 2006 1 comment

The park was a little uneven today. In a few places, birds were all over the place, practically flying right into view. Everywhere else, only crows and bulbuls, and a dearth of bird life. But I’ll take what I can get. And there were a few nice birds today.

Of the birds I did see, I saw a lot. Japanese Pygmy Woodpeckers (Kogeraコゲラ) were visible in many areas.

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I also spotted two Daurian Redstarts (Joubitakiジョウビタキ), or the same one in two different areas. This one is a female (I have yet to spot a gaudy male), but has stronger colors than the two I have spotted in the past. I saw the first bird in a gravestone plot as I rode by, and though it flew off, it paused on a few sticks so that I could get some nice shots. The bottom shot I got later on another street, and could have gotten some great shots as well, except for a common event at Tama Reien–some car or pedestrian with a dog would come by and make noise or movement, as they tend to do just as you’ve spotted a good bird.

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In-between birds, I spotted a small cat colony–six cats (only three of which are shown below), resting lazily on a corner. You usually spot cats in birding areas. A few of them were a bit skittish, but one was of the variety that demands you pet it and give it a good, long scratching around the neck and ears. So was the one in the third picture below. As I squatted down to give the kitties a quick pet, this one jumped up on my knee and presented his neck for a good going-over. By holding the camera out at arm’s length, I got a great shot with the little guy’s tongue hanging out–in extreme pleasure, I presume. Kind of looks a little like Bill the Cat, though, doesn’t he?




At the end of my stay at the park, just as I was getting ready to pack it in, I happened upon some nice, autumn-colored trees that were just bursting with birds–a few woodpeckers, a ton of tits, and some Japanese White-eyes (Mejiroメジロ). I started getting some shots while balancing my bike between my legs, and then noticed that the flock actually started migrating to trees just a short distance away from me! Very rare for birds to get closer like that. And so I got some very, very nice shots.

Click on some for a larger view:






That’s all for today. But I hope that in the next two to three months, I’ll have some more nice pictures. December through February is supposed to be one of the best times for birding here, and last year, a broken foot kept me indoors. The year before, I had only started birding in mid-February. So we’ll see about this year.

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November Birding

November 19th, 2006 Comments off

As I noted on my entry of November 3, I went to Kasai Rinkai Park with Sachi to do some casual birdwatching. At that time, we just missed seeing a Eurasian Jay, by maybe 5 or 10 minutes. Assured that they were making frequent appearances, I went back the following weekend–and again missed the appearance by 5 or 10 minutes. Today, I was going to visit Sachi at her exhibition booth (she currently works for a firm in their Nailist division) at Tokyo Big Sight, which happens to be just between the Tokyo Minato Yacho Koen and Kasai Rinkai, two notable birding spots. So, after seeing Sachi off at the station in the morning, I went off to the two parks before meeting her for lunch. The following photos are a combination of the past two weekends of watching.


One bird that made an appearance both times was the Kasai Rinkai Kingfisher, who seems to be more and more visible–Sachi and I spotted him on November 3 as well.

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Along with the common-as-dirt Brown-eared Bulbuls, a flock of Azure-winged Magpies commonly enjoys a bath at dusk at Rinkai.

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And speaking of common, we got a trio of Common Snipes at Rinkai last week. They get four shots in this set, just because they turned out so well.

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We sometimes see cats in the parks–I saw two at Rinkai this morning, and once saw a tanuki (raccoon dog) there–but this morning, the Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park had a canine visitor making a brief appearance to enjoy the birds.


This bird is a little hard to see:


It’s smack in the center of the image, but mostly you can see the black rump sticking out. It’s a Gadwall, sleeping among the reeds of the marsh. This is a first for me with the Gadwall.

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Also a common sight everywhere nowadays is the Eurasian Coot; you can see a small bevy of them here feeding on the shore.

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A Herring Gull also put in an appearance, picking at the carcass of a fish (eww) at the Wild Bird Park.

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Meanwhile, this beautiful Grey Heron was apparently trying to coax some goodie out of this bit of detritus; from a distance, it appeared to be struggling with a handbag.

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Today, this Daurian Redstart showed up at the east lake at Kasai Rinkai. This is the second Redstart I’ve spotted, but both times it’s been a female. Not to discriminate, but the male has striking colors.

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Last week at Rinkai, this Eastern Marsh Harrier was what kept me from seeing the Eurasian Jay. When a bird of prey like this shows up, a lot of the smaller birds make themselves scarce. Nevertheless, the Harrier was another new bird for me. Note how crazily the leg plumage stands out in the second shot.

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However, finally, I got a clear shot (well, except for that twig) of a Eurasian Jay. A beautiful bird, and I still wish he’d have turned so I could get a shot of the gorgeous blue-and-black striations on its wings. But for the time being, I was satisfied with this shot.

The landmark Kasai Rinkai Ferris Wheel, from the birding area of the park

So, with three new life birds, I guess I can’t complain. But then, over the next three months, I should be getting more new life birds under my belt. I started birding, though not too seriously, in mid-February 2005; the really good birding season is supposed to be December through February, and last year, I was laid up with a broken foot just during that time. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some good birding done this time.

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Kasai Rinkai

November 3rd, 2006 Comments off

I haven’t been birdwatching much in the past three months–other things on my plate, as it were. But I had a chance to get back to it, a bit, with Sachi today, as we went to Kasai Rinkai Park. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my zoom lens, so the photos aren’t very good–but then again, today’s visit was less about photographing and more about enjoying.

However, I do think I might head back, maybe on Monday; there seemed to be a lot of good birds around. One blind was crowded with birders, as a Eurasian Jay had made an appearance; I’m sorry I missed it, but then again, without the telephoto, I wouldn’t have been able to get a good shot of it anyway. Other uncommon birds were in attendance as well, but even without hours of waiting and superior photographic equipment, Sachi and I still saw a long list of birds, including Snipes, Azure-winged Magpies, a Kingfisher, Coots, a variety of ducks (though they aren’t there in full numbers yet), as well as the usual Egrets, Herons, Bulbuls, Starlings and so forth. A good dozen and a half species that we could identify, at least.

A few I was able to get shots of: a Bull-headed Shrike…


That Kingfisher in action (lower right, see lower shot for detail)



And something I thought was a Goldeneye, until I saw the detail on my computer at home–and figured that it must be a female Greater Scaup, still not too common a sight (but a lot less rare than the Goldeneye).



Let me end with this unusually tall photo of an Egret on the shore at sunset.


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Howard Has Company

August 28th, 2006 1 comment

I was walking by Howard’s Glen the other day with a friend to show them Howard when I noticed… several Howards. I hadn’t gone by for a while since I had gotten my fill of Howard pictures, but it appears that the Green Pheasant population of the glen has increased somewhat. First, my friend and I spotted at least two or three females in various places, and in addition to Howard, there was a new male–probably immature, as this one had no significant tail feathers to speak of (though I can’t find any mention of this variation through a brief search). I went back today with my camera and saw just two–a female and the new young male.

The female, of course…

After landing in the brush… more on that below

Howard’s competition

Not a good image, but it’s the best that shows the lack of tail feathers; compare with Howard’s

The two new birds were also a bit flighty–neither one stayed in sight for very long, unlike Howard, who is relatively tame. The male (let me call him “Henry”), in fact, came into view right under me from beneath the overpass, and then quickly ducked back after spotting me overhead. I was only able to get him later after he came out when I was momentarily elsewhere.

The female (call her “Henrietta,” a name my mom came up with a while back) was also shy. I got the second image of her, though, just as I was packing up to leave and noticed movement of branches in the brush. I’d never seen a pheasant anywhere but the ground before, but Henrietta had flown up into some low brush and was actually perching. After sitting there looking around for a minute, she walked along the branches to go under the leaf cover and disappeared–presumably to a nest or a night perch. Just a few minutes before, Henry had disappeared behind a small construction embankment and had similarly not come back out, probably also settling down.

In any case, I’ll have to start coming back to the glen more often to see who’s running around down there.

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Recent Birdwatching

August 1st, 2006 Comments off

I’ve been a bit negligent in posting my most recent birdwatching finds. Not much new, but a few okay photos from a recent visit to Oi Wild Bird Park and Kasai Rinkai. Some of these photos were taken the day I got hit by lightning; some are from my birdwatching a week after that.

First, the juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron I saw the last time, except now it’s taking up a new roost–and it turns out there are two of them. I found this out by pointing out one I’d found to a nice couple who were peering through the same blinds as I was. After a minute I discovered that they thought I was pointing to one close by, when actually I was trying to show them the one far away–I hadn’t noticed the close one. This is also the first time I’ve seen an immature Black-crowned roost on the pillars like this–they’d always been in the swampy area across the way, like they were the previous time I’d been there.

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Usually, the adults roost there, as in this photo from August last year:

There were many of the usual suspects as well, including a Kingfisher…


Some Black-winged Stilts…

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Some Common Sandpipers…


And some Little Terns:


The terns are harder to get shots of, of course, as they tend to be always flying over the water; you can get them only when they hover before diving (note the bird looking down in most of the photos).

It was also a time for juvenile birds; the Heron above was just one example. The Wagtails are young–adults are sharply contrasted with white and black, but the juveniles are greyish in color:

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And you can spot young Little Grebes at this time of year as well, easy to spot with their striped heads:


And even a Bull-headed Shrike that I happened upon seemed immature–note the spots on the top of the wings (the larger spot on the middle edge of the wings is one thing that identifies the bird), and the not-so-contrasted head markings–adults are more striking than this young fellow, which I happened upon by pure chance:

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One that was probably not young was also not a bird. Right in the middle of the lake, we spotted something–and a look at zoom showed a bump with two more bumps. A bullfrog, apparently–unless the lake has become populated with crocodiles…


And finally, one of the more regular, but also striking birds in the Oi Park at this time of year, the Little Ringed Plover. In the first shot, I caught him with wings raised:

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And in these two shots, the little guy was very close up; click on the images for larger versions:

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Kasai Rinkai, July 8, 2006

July 9th, 2006 Comments off

I went to Kasai Rinkai with a friend again; this time I chalked up a new life bird. Actually, I had seen the Cattle Egret (Amasagi • アマサギ) before, but in captivity at a bird clinic in Yacho no Rakuen (Wild Birds’ Paradise). This time they were healthy and in the wild, at Kasai Rinkai, sitting in trees above the lake at the observation center (where the Cormorants are always hanging out).

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So chalk up one more life bird. And I owe thanks to a very nice couple who pointed them out to me–I might have missed them otherwise!–the Kawaharas. They spoke English very well, and are great guides for watching–I hope I run into them again. In the meantime, they run a very nice web site in English for Tokyo-area birders. They also gave me their cards, which had a sweet title for them in the upper-left corner: “a birding couple.”

In addition to the Cattle Egrets, we spotted an immature Black-crowned Night Heron, like I did last year:

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There was a nice-looking Grey Heron:

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A few Little Ringed Plovers:

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And a very pretty Black-winged Stilt:

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From what others told us, we missed a Yellow Bittern and a nice Kingfisher.

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Again with Howard

June 24th, 2006 Comments off

Okay, maybe you’re getting a bit tired of Howard, but I think he’s a lovely bird. I went down earlier in the afternoon this time, around 3:00, and there he was, as always. It is overcast today, but still, I got a few very good shots of him, both with 1000-pixel blow-ups if you click on the images this time. You can really see his colors well in the second shot.



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More Green Pheasant

June 20th, 2006 Comments off

At about 6:00 pm yesterday evening I went down to the empty field where I’d spotted the pheasant before, figuring I might get another shot–and what do you know, but there he was. And this time I got some good shots. The last in this series is the best by far, with a great 1280×854-pixel blow-up when you click it.

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The one above I got from the overpass, like I did last time. Then I went into the construction site itself, after the bird had hopped away up a hill towards an access road. Along the way, I got muddy feet, one foot submerged in wet mud ankle-deep, when I saw what looked like some sort of plover fly in–but was not able to get a shot in. But I did catch the pheasant, coming toward me this time:

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As you can see, he’s crouched down. Like with the very first time I saw him, it’s a defense posture. This time, however, he was in plain sight on a hillside, so it allowed for a few nice shots. Eventually, he figured I was not a threat, and so got up again.

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But this one was the best shot, as I was able to catch the bird at the hilltop, with a nice focus contrast of the hills in the background. Again, remember to click to see the full-sized shot.

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Japanese Green Pheasant

June 12th, 2006 Comments off

I decided to get a bit of casual birdwatching in today, without expecting much of a return. Mostly I just wanted to explore a bit of town that I hadn’t looked at yet. On my way back, I decided to scan the open, undeveloped fields in town to see if I could catch sight of a pheasant–and I got lucky! These are my best shots so far (as poor as they are) of the lovely male Japanese Green Pheasant that I kind of got a while back–but it was too dark. A beautiful bird, lovely plumage.




You can click on that last one for a larger image.

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Kasai Rinkai, Golden Week

May 9th, 2006 1 comment

Last week I was able to go to Kasai Rinkai for some birdwatching with a friend. I managed to get two more life birds, and spotted some old acquaintances. The two I got for the first time were the Dunlin and the Whimbrel.

There were a lot of Dunlins running around. Cute little buggers; I like the black patch on their bellies.

Click for larger view

The other new bird was the Whimbrel, similar in some ways to Curlews.


There may actually have been a third new species, but I am unsure–it’s so similar to several birds in the sandpiper family, it’s hard to tell. I’m going to have to get an outside opinion on this one:



Among those I’ve spotted before were Black-winged Stilts…

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…Little Ringed Plovers–these two in the first photo almost seemed to be doing a courtship ritual…

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Click for larger view

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Then there were a few Terek Sandpipers…

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…and a Ruddy Turnstone–in this shot presenting an interesting view, even if you can’t figure out where its head is…

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There was also a Grey-tailed Tattler:

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And I got an interesting shot of a Little Egret, with its cowlick looking funny (and note the purple coloring at the base of the bill):

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Click for larger view

There were more that I didn’t get to photograph, including some Little Terns and Common Snipes. Then there were the more common birds, including Spot-billed Ducks, Great Egrets (though one lady claimed one was an Intermediate Egret), Grey Herons, Crows, Bulbuls, Starlings, Tree Sparrows, Cormorants, Little Grebes, Oriental Turtle Doves, Wagtails, and Barn Swallows.

So, more than 20 birds in one outing, even if more than half were commonplace. Not bad at all. Oh, and I got a special treat this morning–a Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker was on a tree right in front of my work this morning, in the middle of Shinjuku, pretty far from any parkland. Interesting.

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Light Birding

April 14th, 2006 5 comments

This just must not be a very good time for birding. I’m going out there, but I’m not finding much. No life birds, of course, but not much in the way of birds at all. My luck has been especially poor at the Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park; seems like every time I’ve been there for a long time now, I’ve come up dry, or nearly so. Just a long trip, some walking, and butkus. I finally came up with the idea of calling in first, and asking if the birds are out there–but only after I went this time. What I’d like to suggest next time is that they do a mailing list, if they have computers in the observation center. They could set up a mailing list which people could subscribe to automatically. Then, when the volunteers in the center saw a good number of birds, they could send out a mailing. Birdwatchers with an eye on their computers would get notice that it was a good time to go to the park. Alternately, they could send out regular messages two or three times a day listing the birds spotted at the time. The upside would be that they would get more visitors when there were birds. The downside, I suppose, is that attendance (and income from fees) would drop when birds were scarce. Still, I’m going to suggest it to them.

Actually, this trip was worse than usual: I headed out to the park on my scooter on Thursday, and fifteen minutes out from the park, my bike broke down. I thought it just ran out of gas, so I pushed it up a hill to the nearest gas station. But after filling it up, it still wouldn’t work. So I pushed it down the same hill and up another to a bike shop, and they tried changing the spark plug, to no avail; they said the wiring was probably bad, and being a Yamaha shop (mine’s a Suzuki), they couldn’t fix it. So I called the chain I bought the bike from, and they came and picked the bike up and dropped me off at the nearest station to get home. Turned out that the bike had been on recall for three different issues, and my bike broke down due to one of them. That’s nice. Good of them to call me up and tell me about it. Instead, they leave me to break down and waste a whole day.

In any case, they fixed all three issues, and so I had to take the bus and train to Kawasaki City, then walk a distance to pick up the bike–always fun when your foot is still healing from a bone break. After picking up the bike, I figured I was close enough to the mouth of the Tama River to check it out. Good thing, too–it was the best birding area I had been to all week. I didn’t see anything new (I think), but did see new plumage on an old find. Specifically, the Black-headed Gull:


Before, I had only seen them like this:


There was a whole flock of them further out, in fact, in various degrees of plumage change:


There were also a few other gulls. These two I caught together, for an interesting contrast in their size:


I think the big one is a Herring Gull, but am unsure about the lesser one. Could be any one of several species, an immature gull I suppose. I’ll try to find out which one somehow.

Other than the gulls, there really wasn’t much out there. Cormorants galore. Various ducks, mostly Spot-billeds, Tufteds, Widgeons, and some Teals. I spotted but could not photograph a Little Tern. The Dusky Thrushes are back. The Brown-eared Bulbuls and White-cheeked Starlings are freakin’ everywhere. And that’s just about it.

Aside from birds, there were a few other things. When my bike broke down, it was near a small park with a pond. In the pond were turtles (fairly common in these parts), but this one seemed unusually relaxed:


And when my bike broke down and I was pushing it up that hill, I passed a girl walking her pet. But the pet made me do a double-take: it was a monkey. Not too often do you see a girl walking a monkey on the streets of Tokyo. Later, when I was in the park, I ran across her again; she had met up with a guy who also had a monkey, a younger one. The two monkeys were cuddled together for a rest, and looked quite charming.


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Local Park, Tama River

March 30th, 2006 1 comment

As the last installment of my past month of birdwatching, this one catches up to today. First I went to the hilly park around the corner from my apartment building, hoping to see the Red-Flanked Bluetails I spotted a year ago. No luck on that, though I did catch some Japanese White-eyes attracted to the blossoming trees…

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…and some Oriental Greenfinches.

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I also saw some Tree Sparrows, White Wagtails, crows, a variety of ducks, some Egrets (Little, Great, and Grey), some ubiquitous White-cheeked Starlings and a Thrush–I’m pretty sure it was a Dusky, but a construction traffic guard, apparently bored and wanting something to do, flushed off the bird when he came up to me to tell me to be careful of trucks passing by (which there were none, and not as if I wouldn’t have noticed them coming).

But I did see get one other bird that I’ll have to have checked out by people who know more than I do. The bird first appeared above me, chattering away, almost hovering–it didn’t fly off in any direction, but just tread the air, slowly drifting up and up in what appeared to be a courting display of some sort. After maybe five minutes, it dived down and landed on the river bed nearby. I saw it land, but its coloring was so perfect a camouflage, it immediately became invisible to the eye. But since I knew where it landed, I zoomed in and snapped several shots blindly, and got these pictures:

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Now, I think that’s a Eurasian Skylark… but I’m going to have to have that checked. It’s missing the usual crest, but otherwise it seems to be spot on. But this is a tricky one to identify.

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Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park

March 29th, 2006 Comments off

Last week, I finally got around to going to the Oi Park. As usual, few shorebirds were there–seems to be the norm for my visits. I’m told that April will see more birds there–but then, my first visit was April 15 last year, and there were few birds there–a swallow and a plover, aside from the ever-obligatory cormorants. Hopefully, I’ll be luckier this year. But not so far. Still, the lack of water birds didn’t mean there was nothing there. I did actually get a new life bird:

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That is a Daurian Redstart. A female alone, unfortunately–the males are much more colorful, with a full red breast, black back and face and a white cap. What marks this bird as a Daurian is the white patch on the wing. This bird is related to one of my first finds a bit more than a year ago, the Red-flanked Bluetail. Both birds are about the same size and shape.

Actually, there was one other life bird, though I’d seen it before. I simply had not been able to identify it with certainty. It’s the Buff-bellied Pipit (also called the Water Pipit):

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Also at the park, but not pictured here because I so recently showed them elsewhere, were Tufted and Spot-billed Ducks, Pochards, Mallards, and Northern Pintails, as well as Coots and Moorhens, Cormorants, Bulbuls, and Wagtails. There was also a Kingfisher, an Oriental Greenfinch, and a Grey Heron, not shown here because I couldn’t get decent shots.

There was one bird that I couldn’t get a good shot of because it was maybe half a kilometer away, across the park. I did manage to shoot an image through an available spotting scope to get enough of a shot of this Northern Goshawk:

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There was also a Herring Gull, though this one was on a rock in the Tama River, I spotted on the way in:

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Near the gull was a wagtail, this one the less common Japanese Wagtail, with the black head and white brow:

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On my way out of the park, I saw a few Japanese Pygmy Woodpeckers in the trees:

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And almost as if to console me for not seeing so many nice birds, a big flock of Azure-winged Magpies escorted me out of the park, flying and perching right above me for the last hundred meters and more to the exit.

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One other note: there are cats in the park, which when you think about it, is kind of natural. But this one cat was super-friendly. It walked straight up to me and demanded to be petted. After giving it a good neck-scratch and petting, I got back to the birdwatching. And the cat not only followed, it jumped up onto any available surface near my hands and started going back and forth. When I walked away, it chased after me, walking between my legs. Probably the friendliest cat I’ve ever met in Japan–or perhaps the most attention-starved. I practically had to run off to leave it behind.



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Inogashira Park, Near Spring

March 28th, 2006 Comments off

Inogashira Park is always good for birding, if only sometimes for ducks. It’s also good for up-close birding, as the birds get fed by visitors regularly, and so are fine with people getting close to them. That allows for good, up-close photos.

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One duck that is commonly found at Inogashira is the Mandarin, a very colorful drake along the lines of the Wood or Harlequin Ducks. Mandarins at Inogashira tend to gather right off a little, off-the-main-walkway path at the far west end of the park’s lake. Go along this path, and you can practically walk right up to them. They often rest in mating pairs on low branches near the water, and immature ducks can be seen as well.

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Although not great in number, Cormorants can also be seen. This one below is doing what a lot of Cormorants do, holding out its wings in the breeze. A Cormorant’s feathers are not fully waterproof, so it must do this after swimming in order to dry off.

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A common duck at Inogashira is the Tufted Duck:

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The first is a drake, the second a hen. Both have the crest, but the male’s is much more in the style of Elvis.

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The Northern Pintail is easy to spot; it’s a larger though more slender duck, with the namesake tail.

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The Northern Shoveler is also easy to spot; it may have a superficial resemblance to a Mallard (see below), but the spoon-shaped bill and the beady yellow eyes are a giveaway.


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Rounding out the seven common Inogashira ducks (the Spot-billed is not pictured here) is the Common Pochard, similar to American Redheads or Canvasbacks, except for its bill, which has a black base and tip and a lighter color in between (the Redhead has only the black tip, and the Canvasback has an all-black bill).

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Swimming along with the ducks being fed along the main Inogashira Lake bridge was a Eurasian Coot. I’ve never seen one of these with the ducks at feeding before; usually they’re off at the west end by themselves.

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A relative to the Coot is the Common Moorhen, smaller and more colorful. These can often be spotted along the main bridge, though usually they hang back at the rear behind the feeding ducks.

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Finally, there’s the Little Grebe, a little fuzzball which can sometimes be seen at this park. This one came right up to a lakeside feeding area, to my surprise; usually they’re out on the lake doing their usual diving behavior.

Aside from these birds, there were the usual numerous crows, and you could easily hear the Brown-eared Bulbuls in the trees.

Next: the Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park.

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