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

Return of the Great Ice Eagle

Steller's Sea-eagle

Niigata, Japan

February 10, 2013

The best thing about this post is the title. Anyway, these are my only shots of a Steller's this year. The last was February 19, 2011. I guess it's nice to know the pics are just a few hours old.

Mr Honma and I had an early start as we'd tried other days but the eagle had departed before we arrived. We got there just before 7am. The eagle eventually left just before 9 and stirred up geese in the surroundings.

Above and below: Couldn't work this out at first but I think it's an adult male Northern Goshawk
....or is it a Sparrowhawk? 

There were mixes of Bean Goose and Greater White-fronted Goose,
as well as Whooper and Tundra Swans in the surrounding fields.

White-tails a Huntin'

White-tailed Sea-eagles
Too far away!

-I recommend clicking on the image for a bigger view!

Fukushimagata, Niigata, Japan.

January 12, 2013

Warning: This post consists of poor photography and dust spots. I was going to call it, "I am Useless", and post it on Sunday morning but another blog, Owls About That Then beat me to the "useless" theme. Actually, I was hopeless and useless. As you can see in the first shot the eagles were too far away. I took my attention away to focus on some buntings in the reeds behind me and and while I was bumbling about I became aware that billions of birds were flocking around me. I looked up to see an eagle right behind me and then couldn't get it in focus because of all the birds that came in between us. 

White-tailed Sea-eagles often hunt birds at Fukushimagata and always stir up the mud. They are so big but when all the birds are zooming around in all directions you just lose sight of them. 

I'm happy to find them for the first time this Winter. I had heard that they were first recorded at Sakata in Niigata back on November 21st. 

Mallard male

Spot-billed Duck 

Either Lesser or Greater White-fronted Geese and Bean Geese

Autumn around the Wetlands

Northern Goshawk

Fukushimagata, Niigata, Japan

November 5, 2012

Mr Honma and I checked out two wetland areas around Niigata today. First we went to Fukushimagata and were treated by this young goshawk which landed on a post behind the bird observatory for a few moments. She looked around just for a bit before departing and leaving us with a warm glow to the start off the day.

Secondly, we went to Hyoko and found a variety of ducks and Whooper Swans which have safely made it and which are likely to stay for the winter months.


Hyoko, Niigata

Tufted Duck

Northern Pintail

Whooper Swan


Eastern Buzzard

near Fukushimagata again in the afternoon.

Hut at Fukushimagata


Greater White-fronted Goose

Rice fields adjacent to Fukushimagata

Some Japanese Birds

Niigata, Japan
Spring 2008. An egret at the edge of the wetlands. Fukushimagata, Niigata, Japan.

A Common Gull, Larus canus, flies up
the Shinano River, January 2008.
A Whooper Swan overhead at Fukushimagata, January 2008.

I need a better shot of this beauty.
A Narcissus Flycatcher, Toyanogata, 2008.

Good action! A Black-eared Kite attacks a Grey Heron. The heron was certainly shocked and had to make a run for it. The photo was taken on the wrong side of a busy road. Shitada, Niigata, 2006.

A Brown-eared Bulbul along the Shinano River, 2007.

I was surprised to find these Australians living wildly between the rice fields of Japan!
This is a rare record here.

Black Swans, Niigata, Japan, 2006.

Black-tailed Gull. Along the Shinano River, Niigata in 2007.

A newly fledged Long-earred Owl at Toyanogata, Niigata, May 2009.

A male Bull-headed Shrike at Toyanogata, Niigata, 2007.

A young Peregrine Falcon rockets by at Fukushimagata on my birthday in 2007. (November 3!)

A Black-eared Kite eating on the wing at Hyoko in 2007.

An Intermediate Egret flies along with its legs crossed. Fukushimagata 2007.

A newly fledged Northern Goshawk changes branches in a city park. Niigata City, June 2009.

A Yellow Bittern standing on a lotus leaf in the summer of 2005. Fukushimagata, Niigata.

Greater White-fronted Geese fly overhead at Fukushimagata in January 2008.

Bean Geese fly overhead at Fukushimagata. January 2008

A Daurian Redstart at Toyano in the late winter of 2008.

A Grey Wagtail along the Shinano River in 2007.

A Japanese Wagtail at Fukushimagata in 2008.

Post edit: I now think this is a female Red-cheeked Starling aslo known as a Chestnut-cheekd Starling. But I had this rant about it before if you could be bothered reading:  In May 2008, I was walking along in Toyosaka, Niigata when I was astounded to see a beautiful, kestrel-like male Amur Falcon flying towards me. With my camera safley in my backpack, I watched as it flew over the road and shrank into the distance. A moment later, I stood motionless as the female of the same species followed the same path as its mate. About 5 minutes later and I reached a group of trees from which the falcons had appeared and discovered this, what I think is a Daurian Starling. Mostly found in the same area of China where the Amur falcons are found.

In May 2009, I found this Chestnut-cheeked Starling sitting on top of a tree in the exact place I'd seen the Amur Falcons one year earlier.

A Carrion Crow flying high over pavement to drop a nut. They do this again and again until they are rewarded with the nut cracking open to reveal its contents.

A Japanese Green Pheasant flies along the edge of the lake at Toyano, Niigata 2008.

A Brown-eared Bulbul wears pollen on its face while feeding in a plum tree at Toyano, 2008.

A male Northern Pintail scoots across the water at Hyoko, Niigata. 2007.

A Long-tailed Tit with a mozzie at Toyano, Niigata, 2008.

A young Steller's Sea-eagle had a swoop towards some seals on the ice. The eagle continued onwards but the seals were noticeably startled. Shiretoko 2006.

A Peregrine Falcon grabbed a cormorant at Fukushimagata, Niigata.

The pair spiralled downwards and the falcon let go when they hit the water. 2006.

A Black-eared Kite tries to grab something at Hyoko, Niigata in 2008.

Black-eared Kites trying to steal food at Hyoko, Niigata, 2006.