Summer Shadows

Summer scenery at Toyanogata, Niigata, Japan

August 28, 2016

 At least I tried to do a spot of birding and I was even hoping for dragonflies, but I just ended up getting into the summer shadows at Toyanogata to finish August off.

I saw a lot of dragonflies on Wednesday but they quickly disappeared.

Hopefully, the next big thing will be the raptor migration at the end of September.

Azure-winged Magpie

Oji-ro and JPW

White-tailed Sea-eagle
"Oji-ro washi"

Toyanogata, Niigata, Japan

January 10, 2015

Enjoyed a late morning at Toyanogata with Mr Honma. He kindly showed me where to see the lone White-tailed Sea-eagle and I was very happy to get such close views despite lots of branches and twigs between us and the subject.

We also saw plenty of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a couple of Japanese Woodpeckers and a number of the Japanese Pygmy Woodpeckers. Quite a few Great Tits and Mallard out on the water.

Thank you Mr Honma. A very satisfying outing.

Finally some sun

Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker

Toyanogata, Niigata, Japan

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

A place for a walk

Sakura at Toyanogata, Niigata on Saturday, April 21, 2012

Nikon V1 with 10mm f2.8 lens

Haven't done much birding recently. The main bit of birding excitement for me was my first ever Hoopoe sighted at this park two weeks ago. We were told of its presence by another birder and were lucky to find it but it quickly flew off and further search failed to re-find it. I failed to get a photo but it is an unmistakable character and much daintier than I'd expected. It came a few days after a pseudo-typhoon in the Sea of Japan blasted us with 100km an hour winds. A similar but weaker event occurred about four years ago in the same season and I found a pair of Amur Falcons and some Daurian Starlings, (all species from the continent), so I guess it's worth being aware of strange encounters following strange weather. 

I guess a more important occurrence of the birding world has been the hatching of Crested Ibis chicks in the wild on Sado Island this last week.  A species once extinct in the wild -(I'm tired tonight. Can I say it was extinct now that it's back?) Anyway, it is the first such hatching in 36 years (I read on the net). The latest news I could find was at The Daily Yomiuri

Saturday was the only day that was fine last weekend and I took the dog for a walk. Two weeks ago it was snowing and today the blossoms are almost replaced by new green leaves.

White-tailed Sea-eagles in Niigata City

White-tailed Sea-eagles (male with the fish)

Toyanogata, Niigata, Japan
All photographs February to March 4, 2012

Range: 200 metres. Cropped image:
 Nikon 1 V1, FT1 + Nikkor AF-S 300mm f4 and Nikon 1.4xTC II on flimsy tripod.
Equal to 1134mm

 I've been learning more about White-tailed Sea-eagles visiting Niigata in the Winter months. They're not abundant but they can be found at various locations around Niigata City: Toyanogata, Fukushimagata, and Sakata all have a couple each. It's not easy to get close views however, other than a lucky fly-by. I've had just a handful of such encounters which are usually very fleeting. Usually they're sitting out of reach in the middle of an island (as above) or out in the marshes and wetlands. I guess that's the way big eagles like it.

Anyway with such distances, I experimented with different equipment. I normally don't have good long-lens technique nor handle a tripod well so please don't judge the equipment by these images. On the days I visited the wind was quite strong and the cameras weren't held steady on my cheap flimsy tripod. I guess I should spend a few thou and get a nice heavy Gitzo or such.

Never intended to be a Nikon fanboy but I'm happy with the stuff I've got. Still love my D300 the most.

Uncropped image with the above equipment. I think ok for 200 metres distance.
The background is the park on the other side of the lake about a kilometre away. 

Nikon 1 V1, FT1adaptor with Nikkor AF-S 70-300mm f5.6 VR on monopod.
Equal to 810mm

A nice light combo. I think I'd like to try it on closer, passerine subjects.

Digiscoped with Nikon P300, FSB-8 adaptor, Nikon Fieldscope ED50, eyepiece 40x W DS on flimsy tripod.
Range 200 metres. Sharpened but uncropped.

View of the island in the lake with Big Swan Stadium in the background. Big Swan Stadium was built for the 2002 World Cup. I think England actually played there.
Nikon P300

Nikon D300 with Nikkor 80-400mm VR @400mm
bird on the left is a Black-eared Kite

Nikon D300 with Nikkor 80-400mm @80mm

D300 with 80-400 again.

Nikon D300 with Nikkor AF-S 300mm F4 + 1.4x TCII
Note Big Swan at the top left.

Nikon D300 with 300mm f4 and 1.4TC again, cropped.

The White-tails at Fukushimagata, Niigata, as seen from the observertory. About 250 metres.