Sunny and Dull


Niigata, Japan

Nikon D800

December 28, 2014

Welcome back to this blog for a new year.

After whinging on Phil’s blog that I had to work on Christmas Day, I then had 9 days off over New Year. (Sorry for the whinge, Phil).

Of those 9 days, just one; Sunday, December 28th, was fine and even sunny. All the other days were plagued with heavy winds and rain. -Not even decent snow, which I find more bearable to be out in.

SUNNY: On the sunny day, I went to Fukushimagata and wandered about ankle deep in very white, clean snow. The bright sunlight reflecting upon it really made for nice lighting, especially when birds flew overhead. The one thing that didn’t excite me however was that it was quiet for birds. All the accipiters and harriers of past weeks had gone as well as many of the waterbirds that I guess had attracted the raptors. 

I did see a single White-tailed Sea-eagle sitting in a tree across the wetlands but it was far away and only visible with binoculars. Hence, December 28th was good for a healthy walk in nice scenery but not exciting for bird pics.

Then the week was very bleak and miserable. Perfect for DVDs and fluffy slippers. When Friday, January 2nd arrived we headed to the shops for the Japanese New Year Sales. After about a year of considering it, I bought a Nikon D7100. Exciting, huh? I got a nice deal and the kind staff at Yodobashi Camera gave me some cool presents; not one, but two real Nikon bags. Expensive accessories when you have to pay for them. I am very pleased. 

I still love my D800 but there are times and places when and where I just don’t need full-frame, such as vast wetlands and kestrels along the Shinano River. I always just felt too far away with a 400mm lens on full-frame and almost always used crop mode. I realised a golfer doesn’t meander around the course with a single club so I am happy to expand my kit. I’ve read many nice things about the D7100. I’d looked at it often but was nervous of its small size and light weight. I came to the conclusion that people don’t complain that their iPads are getting smaller and more light weight.

According to my weather app, Saturday was supposed to be sunny but again the light was poor and and small but windy snowstorms were again more common than birds. I still went out for a walk with my new camera….

DULL: I went to Toyanogata and meandered ‘neath dark trees without any good bird chances. Finally near a waterway I sighted a very pale thrush-like bird and struggled to get it focussed in a very “twiggy” bush. I set the focussing system to single-spot focus but the bird flew out the back and I never saw it again. I was enjoying listening to music with earphones connected to my phone and shrugged the chance away as I stumbled onto a walk-bridge. I looked upstream and immediately picked up a peregrine in seventh gear and accelerating coming right at me. No time to think about camera settings, just point and shoot! …..Messed up! What an idiot! What was I doing? Dreaming about the place for hours just to mess up a fleeting chance. I guess there are lessons to be learned. A rough test for a new camera; a speeding peregrine in poor light, with the camera set to single-spot focus and earphones pulling at my ears as music fogged my mind. It’s such rare chances I want a responsive camera setup for. I just wasn’t expecting it first up. I probably won’t get such a chance again for some time.

I continued around Toyanogata for another couple of hours but snowstorms outnumbered photo opportunities. I know times are quiet when I spend time photographing corvids. Still happy to have time off and get fresh air. Will have to be more serious when I set out again.

Greater White-fronted Goose

Bean Goose

The new observatory at Fukushimagata. Very open. Not really a "Hide"

Black-eared Kite
Looks nice with the light beaming upwards
(above and below)

Grey Heron 
(Above and below)

There were many dinosaur footprints about the place.

Carrion Crow

The light reflecting up from the snow even brings out the details of crows.

A mix of Geese

Great Cormorant

Another dark bird that looks attractive with the light reflecting upwards

Peregrine Falcon

First pictures with Nikon D7100 (cropped)

Photographic Tips: Don't use single-spot focus! or Bose SoundTrue in-ear  headphones when trying to photograph birds in flight.

(The headphones are great otherwise)

Toyanogata, Niigata, Japan

January 3, 2015

unedited and uncropped

Brown-eared Bulbul
(above and below)

Bean Goose


Japanese White-eye


DULL: Black-eared Kite

Carrion Crow

Toyanogata...time to go home

Nature pics with V1

Black-eared Kite

Shinano River, Niigata, Japan

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

(please click on the image for a larger view)

 Played around with my Nikon V1 last weekend. Think I still prefer DSLR but it's a pretty light and nifty outfit. Better for static subjects with SLR lens and FT1 but reckon I got away with a few flyers. Handy focal length as it has a crop factor of X2.5 (I think, I recall). All handheld.

Carrion Crow

Shinano River

Same combo as above

Dragonfly with V1 and 30-110mm Nikon 1 system lens (uncropped)

Fukushimagata, Niigata

(cropped and adjusted)


(Cropped and slightly sharpened)

Kestrels and Crows

Common Kestrel 
also known as Eurasian Kestrel

Niigata City, June -August 2012

Been lucky enough to know of kestrels living and nesting at a cement factory along the Shinano River in ever since I've been here.  This year they raised just two but other years I have photographed them with 4 or maybe 5. I don't remember exactly although it seemed to be a huge family in the past. (I'll have to find my old photographs) I'm guessing the smaller number this year is due to the eradication of trees along the river -less habitat for food. Also in the past I'd seen them with mice or voles but this year only sparrows for prey.

I just visited them four or five times throughout the summer and got these pics. On the last visit they had been overtaken by both Carrion and Large-billed Crows but they showed great courage trying to chase the much larger birds away. The photos were dull and taken well after 6 in the evening. They're also usually just a bit too far for my 400mm lens to reach and I don't want to go on to the private property.

Crow flying

Carrion Crow

Shinano River, Niigata, Japan
January 2008

Nikon D300 with AF-S 70-300mm f5.6 VR

Some experimental shots of Carrion Crows dropping some kind of nut (looks like a walnut) onto hard surfaces. These photos were my first first bird photos taken with my Nikon D300 and lens just over 4 years ago. I actually went looking for the crows doing this behaviour in January this year but failed to find them. It was a common thing to see them doing this and I've seen them doing it in Winter and Summer. They also wait at intersections and sit on the traffic lights and drop the nuts onto the road and watch to see if a car would drive over them, then parachute down when the lights go red.  A couple of times I found a falling nut just miss me when I was crossing at an intersection and I looked up to see a crow looking down at me. I guess they must of thought my big head looked hard enough.

Still been having a quiet birding time. It was snowing three weeks ago and I went out with the birding camera and didn't take a single shot. Today it was so hot and I saw summer birds along the river. I missed the spring birds. I also went out in early April looking for gulls but was disappointed with their absence too.

Grey Heron

Grey Heron
Fukushimagata, May 28, 2011.

Grey Herons are common all year round in Niigata, however it seems numbers are highest in the warmer months when there are frogs and things in the rice fields. It's easy to overlook them because they are so common.

Grey Heron
Summer 2010

Also at the moment Carrion Crows are nesting and can be seen chasing away Black-eared Kites whenever they come into sight. Wish the skies were brighter.