Summer Lovin'

Tiger Shrike

Niigata, Japan

July, 2018

I've been enjoying summer this year. I feel for those suffering from the floods though.

I have been trying to get out despite of my feebleness in the hot weather. I think winter is so long here that I should enjoy wearing t-shirts and shorts while I can. There have been some nice summer things to see including bugs, dragonflies and butterflies. I have been trying to collect images of the dragonflies to post later after I've tried to ID them. I've also seen many butterflies but mostly on the wing and out of reach of my lens. 

Yesterday was the anniversary of breaking my arm so I'm pleased I can get out with my camera. It's good to look back and realise that I have had many good days since. 

I've watched the kestrels at the cement factory court, return to the nest with food, fledge, practice hunting bugs, and disperse for another year too.

Azure-winged Magpies

newly fledged

Bull-headed Shrike


Eurasian Kestrel

Whiskered Tern


Digi-scoped Kestrels

Eurasian Kestrels

Shinano River, Niigata, Japan

June 19, 2018

Another year and again the kestrels at the cement factory have successfully fledged 3 young. The first year I recorded them was 2005. They are a bit far away for my DSLR so I got out my scope. The pics are close but the camera is a bit old and I am a poor digiscoper.

Anyways, it's nice to see them and have another record of success.

Dare I publish this during the Japan-Colombia World Cup match.

Remarkable Kestrels

Common Kestrel

Cement Factory, Shinano River, Niigata, Japan

July 1-7, 2017

We had some disappointing news to start June off. I was looking forward to seeing the Northern Goshawk family, however, apparently they had a battle with crows at the beginning of May and the crows destroyed the nest and eggs. I usually have some nice freshly fledged goshawk pics for the blog, but not this year.

Further disappointment was had with the Peregrine pair I know. Weekly watches have failed to find any signs of nesting success.

The best news for the last month (as far as raptors go) has been with the Common Kestrels at the cement factory alongside the Shinano River. I have been watching them since 2005. The last couple of seasons were challenging but this year three young birds have looked very healthy. If I wait around for a bit I can get to see them have a game of cat and mouse. Interesting that all the photos I have here are females, even though taken on different days.

Industrial Kestrels 2016

Eurasian Kestrel
young bird

Shinano River, Niigata City, Japan

May 2016

 I was fortunate to find that the kestrel family again raised 3 young. It seemed to me they had left the nest early....late May. Usually I think it's been mid-June. I've been watching them at the same cement factory since 2005.  This time things looked a bit tougher. The adult bird (pictured below) seems to have lost its right eye. It still managed to fly off and return about 20 minutes later with prey.

The biggest concern to me this year was that all three young birds were spending most of their time on the ground. I've seen an old man alongside the river there feeding cats in the early evenings. 

I first found the kestrels on a Friday evening in late May, then checked them again on the Saturday and Sunday. Each day they were mostly on the ground searching for beetles in the grass. They looked cute but very vulnerable. One bird in particular wasn't distracted by the arrival of a parent bird with food. The other two flew up after the free feed but the one lone bird was playing with a large beetle on the ground.

I was busy for the rest of the week and didn't return until the following weekend. At that time there wasn't and hasn't been any more signs of the family. There were only cats. I can only hope the family moved on to a safer place.

Adult with injured eye.

Joy and Stress

Common Kestrel

(Eurasian Kestrel)

Shinano River, Niigata, Japan

May/June 2014

These two were doing this the day after their first chick fledged.
I will have to see what becomes of it the weeks ahead.

I first found a family of Common Kestrels nesting at a Cement Factory alongside of the Shinano River, in Niigata back in June, 2005. Every year since they have always been successful at raising young. The first year I watched them, they raised 4 but I have never recalled them have fewer than 3.

I cannot enter the property but I can view with binoculars or telephoto lens from a path alongside the river.

Observations for 2014, as follows: 

I had been looking out for them since May, but below are observations since the first chick had left the nest.

Saturday, June 14, 2014. I visited once at about 1:30pm. One chick had left the nest successfully. Two healthy parents.

Sunday, June 15. I visited twice, morning and late afternoon. One chick, two parents, Food captured included a small mammal probably a mouse as well as a sparrow or two. Busy parents.

Monday, June 16. Arrived late, 6:20pm. ( a work day) A wonderful sight: Three chicks successfully out of the nest and exercising. Adult male attacked a cat in long grass in front of my feet. Female warded off nearby crows. 

I informed Mr Honma that night.

Tuesday, June 17. I approached the sight at 5:40pm and noticed that the long grass at the side of the river had been cut. Not so many places for the cats to hide. I then met Mr Honma who was about to leave for home. He was upset. Mr Honma had noticed one kestrel was trapped inside a window of a room at the top of a line of silos. He showed me photos he’d taken. I viewed stunningly clear pictures on the back of his D4 then looked at the live scene. At first I couldn’t see anything at the window but as I got closer one kestrel appeared outside the building flying around with a mouse and two chicks seemed to follow it out of sight. I assumed it was an adult and two chicks. We waited a little then we both saw a panicked kestrel inside the room scratching at the window.

Mr Honma explained that he’d gone to the office of the cement factory and explained the situation to them. He said, they told him that the building he mentioned was no longer in use. Mr Honma tried to press the urgency of the situation but told me they were looking at their books. He said he could tell by the tones of their voices they would do nothing. He went back to view the bird at the window but no one out of the office. That was 40 minutes before I got there. I said to Mr Honma that we should both go back to the office and demand they do something. He wouldn’t let me approach them. 

Mr Honma waited until 6 but had to go home. I felt sad for him. I told the 77 year old the news of the three chicks for good cheer. The bird in the room again appeared distressed and fluttered at the window but again went out of view. I waited until 6:35. It was a helpless time.

Wednesday, June 18. I arrived before 5pm but things were dull with grey skies. I witnessed what appeared to be 3 chicks huddled together through my binoculars but they separated before I got the camera ready. Was it good news? Another on top of an aerial looked to be adult female. (I’m not confident identifying Common Kestrels as they are much darker than Nankeen Kestrels of Australia)

I concluded that there was one adult female and three fledglings. No sign of adult male. I hoped he was out hunting.

Thursday, June 19. 

Adult male seen delivering prey. Family of five seen flying around together briefly.

Friday, June 20.

5 kestrels seen briefly.


Thursday, June 26.

After 6 pm: One young bird sitting alone on the tower. Same scene the day before. No sign of the rest of the family but I assume the lone remainder is being fed by an adult. One young seems to avoid any attempt at flying.

*Will have to watch out for the last hanger-on.

End Report.

First to fledge

Parent bird charged towards me and nearly crashed into an unknown something in the long grass at my feet. Target found in the below picture!

Trapped with no help in sight. What to do? Three days later we found a family of five so I hope it escaped.


My last photos of the family pretty much together. I think four young on the right and dad top left.