Mr Honma's Bird Tour

Steller's Sea-eagle

Niigata, Niigata, Japan

February 1, 2014

Mr Honma's now in his late seventies. He doesn't go birding/birdwatching everyday but he keeps mindful of what's about the place. 

He picked me up at 8am and our first bird of the day was the Steller's Sea-eagle. I'm not excited about photographing it up on the metal electricity tower but I'm still happy to see it. What bird-minded person in the world would be disappointed starting the day with a Steller's Sea-eagle?

After that, we visited the big, dark, Peregrine Falcon (Which I regard as a "Peale's Falcon"). I am a little concerned about it because it kept closing its right eye. We enjoyed nice views of it.

Then we headed to Hyoko and saw the winter collection of ducks. I took heaps of pics as usual and will post some later. They had posted a wanted ad the day before (in the newspaper), looking for American Wigeon and Smew. I took a pic of the Wigeon and was given a laminated certificate and two tickets for entry into the local museum. 

To finish our outing off we visited an area known for a Crested Ibis. ("Toki") Lots of cars and photographers and sightseers. 

We headed back home at 1pm and saw another Steller's Sea-eagle circling over the busy motor-bypass running right near the centre of the city.

I thought we'd seen a number of important birds for the morning; just running briefly between one then the next. I told Mr Honma any birder in the world would surely be impressed with such a tour. I told him he should get a bus and do the tour everyday. He looked at me very seriously but didn't say anything.

Thank you, Mr Honma. I really enjoyed the birds and your company! 

Steller's Sea-eagle with Eurasian Kestrel below

Peregrine Falcon

Whooper Swan

American Wigeon

Notice looking for location and time of sighting of the two pictured birds.

Birders watching "Toki" (Crested Ibis, Japanese Crested Ibis)


Crested Ibis

Sado Island, Niigata, Japan
May 5, 2012

Nikon V1 + 30-110mm lens

Back on May 5th, it was still Golden Week, and we elected to do a flying bus tour of Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture. We started early and got a jetfoil to the island where we met up with our tour. They decided that because it was a very busy holiday and many humans were touring the island that day, that they'd reverse the original schedule, thus our first stop, which was also of most interest to me, was the "Toki" Centre. The Research Centre and Museum for the Crested Ibis. We enjoyed almost 25 minutes flying around viewing the museum and seeing the captivity bred Ibis. I was actually surprised to see what I thought of as good numbers and they were quite active. There was also a small collection of other live Ibis species from around the world including Straw-necks and I think, a White Ibis from Australia.

Actually I really enjoyed the whole bus tour. We went from the "Toki" Centre to a temple, then Sake factory, then had an included lunch followed by a scenic drive and back to the port. I also got to meet Mr Charles Jenkins which was a great pleasure. Somedays are like holidays.

This is a memorial for the last wild Japanese Crested Ibis that declares "Toki-Kin-Forever".

This was the last wild born "Toki", (Japanese Crested Ibis). Her name was Kin. She was captured in the wild in 1968 and died in captivity on October 10, 2003.

Further captive breeding had to be with specimens from China.

This Toki was named "Midori". "Midori" means "Green" and was named after the colour of his tag. He was the only male of five wild Toki's captured in 1981.

A sign at the entrance to the centre.
The only five storey temple in Niigata prefecture is on Sado.

We drove over the 'skyline' of Sado...from one side to the other.

View leaving port on the ferry back to Niigata

Sayonara Sado!! View from the back of the ferry.

"Toki". My rarest bird.

The last of the wild born "Toki", Nipponia nippon, Japanese Crested Ibis died in 2003. In 2008, 10 birds from a breeding program on Sado Island, Niigata, were released into the wild.

On Sunday, August 2 2009, my birding friend Mr Honma, called and asked if I'd like to try and see a Toki. Late that the afternoon, we drove to a fairly residental area with a heavily tree-lined river. When we arrived, I was surprised to see what seemed to be hundreds of people lining a bridge and roads by the river. Cars were parked illegally and police were driving by with a loud speaker asking people to move on. We soon found a place to put the car and walked back up onto the bridge. I could see people around me and down by the river pointing to a group of trees about 300 metres up the river, below us. I couldn't see anything. Suddenly excited voices and sighs filled the air and I could see a large, white bird flying up the river towards us. I stood motionless for a moment, reminded of watching an Australian White Ibis Threskiornis molucca in flight. I soon woke up and reached for my camera bag which was still zipped up. Panicing, I got it open, reached in and felt my sweat drip around the lens. Unfortunately, I'd prepared a 400mm lens with an added 1.5X teleconvertor thinking I'd be using it on a tripod. It was too big and slow for hand-holding. I lifted the camera. A butterfly flapped its wings in western Brazil, and I shook as the camera slowly focussed. I guess it was about 5.30pm + and light was poor but I have uploaded the best of my results. I would have been better off with a 300mm lens for the overhead encounter but it was a wonderful experience. The perched photographs were taken with the a fieldscope and digital camera through the mesh siding of the bridge so they're also not as clear as I'd like, but anyway, I hope I'll have many more chances to meet a Toki!