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

Mejiro and the Moon

A variety of Cherry Tree at Junsai-ike, Niigata, Japan

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mr Honma and I braved the crowds in the hope of finding flycatchers at Junsai-ike last Sunday. We failed. Apart from a brief encounter with some White-eyes, we didn't find much to excite us. 

Both of us haven't seen either Blue-and-white Flycatchers or Narcissus Flycatchers this year. They usually show before the blossoms appear. Mr Honma found several Japanese Waxwings at Junsai-ike just days before. A new record for him. I didn't get to see them.

I had a go at photographing the moon this week. I practised on Monday night, then it was overcast and stormy here on the night of the blood moon so nothing to see. I took more pics on Wednesday night and the moon was noticeably more orange than on Monday night. It quickly disappeared into the mist.

Not much to report but I thought they two subjects are nice together. All photos are uncropped today.

"Mejiro" (Japanese) > Japanese White-eye

Monday April 14th, 2014, Niigata, Japan

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 same place...and below..

Golden Week 2013 post 1

View at an inlet up along the Shinano River Niigata, Japan

April 20, 2013

The first two pics were taken last week but hopefully this is the first post for this year's Golden Week. We just had a three day weekend with Monday off. Two more work days for me til we get a big four days off. Hope the weather will let me do another Golden Week post in a few days.

Japanese White-eye

Junsai-ike, Niigata City, Japan

April 27, 2013

Brown-eared Bulbul

Junsai-ike, April 27

Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker

Junsai-ike, April 27th.

Tulips alongside the Shinano River, Niigata City late afternoon April 27th.

The Golden Narcissus.

Narcissus Flycatcher

Golden_Week has come and gone for another year. The ceaseless winter all but passed spring by and we suddenly enjoyed weather typical for late spring and early summer. I enjoyed a variety of things including just three birding occassions. 1. On Saturday, May 1, we went to Nagaoka and Kasabori Dam. 2. We went to Aizu, Fukushima Prefecture, and for the final "golden" day, Thursday May 6th, I went to Junsai-ike and chased  Narcissus Flycatchers. Here in reverse order, are photos from those days...

Thursday May 6th, Junsai-ike.

There were at least two Narcissus Flycatchers with subtle differences. One had richer, darker throat colours and another one appeared to have more of a flat yellow surrounding it's chest, and throat. I found it tricky to get satisfying exposures. (Shadows and bright spots splashed around a contrasty subject in itself. I think if I exposed the face and head of the flycatchers I overexposed their bodies, flattening out their colours too much.)

Blossoms have dropped and been replaced by young leaves.

Monday May 3rd, Fukushima Prefecture...

Looking up at the Aizuwakamatsu castle of Fukushima.

A view from the top of the castle.

The wall crossing the canal around the castle.

After visiting the castle we went to a small but beautiful park in the town and I found nesting Japanese Pygmy Woodpeckers. I enjoyed trying to photograph them among the cherry blossoms.

Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker

Saturday May 1st, Kasabori Dam, Niigata Prefecture...

View across Kasabori Dam from the dam wall.

Looking back behind the wall. Hmmn. Let's go and look in those cherry trees...

Japanese White-eye

..Oh no! It's doing a number 2. I wouldn't like to be standing under it.

...And a Brown-eared Bulbul with a bee to finish with.

It was so nice to have some fine days that were also holidays!