Had a wonderful day out yesterday birding with birder sepreme, Michael Atzeni from the Toowoomba Bird Observers. Mick kindly drove me around to significant birding spots in south-east Queensland and I had a ball. Saw some super species but the rarity of the day was this Pectoral Sandpiper, Calidris melanotos, spied by Mick at Jahnke's Lagoon near Gatton. Took almost 300 pictures on the day and will upload a selection later.
Enjoying another holiday at home. Got 40cm of snow the day I left Japan. I'm pretty happy it's not too hot though here in Oz. Getting plenty of showers. Love the summer smells and colourful skies. Got the Peregrine Falcon picture along with the Nankeen/Australian Kestrels in Gatton, Queensland, on Christmas day. Scored the female Superb Blue Wren in our front yard this morning.
Finally had a rainless Sunday to do a bit of birding this week. The first in almost a month. A friend and I went to an area of the northern outskirts of Niigata in the hope of finding a Crested Kingfisher. We'd seen them in the same area back in summer but failed to get photos. They're very lively and shy birds. The first few hours were very quiet but I enjoyed sitting by a river surrounded by Autumn colours. The air was fresh and it was especially nice to enjoy the sunshine. We gave up on the area that we waited at for most of the morning and decided to drive upstream to see if we'd have better luck. Sure enough I spied two on the opposite bank of the river. Unfortunatley, I opened the car door and they flew further up stream. The chase was on and we eventually got a couple of record shots. The Japanese name for "Crested Kingfisher" is "Yama-semi" = Mountain Cicada.
Crested Kingfisher = Yama-semi = Mountain Cicada
At one point, I had given up in the chase for Yama-semi photographs. They were too far away for my kit. My friend had a more powerful tool that he was setting up as they were far but still visable. I stood helpless on the side of the road as I waited for him but I casually scanned the skies in case something appeared (as my habits dictate). I had seen a couple of very high Black-eared Kites and Common Buzzards in the warm morning air so I thought I might see a goshawk or a falcon if I was lucky and, sure enough there she blew!! More than I'd hoped for, though very, very high! A species with one of the coolest of Japanese names for birds, a Bear Hawk = "Kuma-taka". Spizaetus nipalensis. (A Mountain Hawk Eagle, also known as Hodgson's Hawk-Eagle). It was too high to get good photos but Im happy to get some records. The last one I saw was back in August 2007 and I didn't get any pics. Actually, I have seen several but I have only taken one other photograph from a moving car. The best encounter was when I was cameraless in a business meeting in a village nestled in the mountains. I was facing someone who was talking to me and I saw a Kuma-taka fly right past the window! It was spectacular! -Like a metre long goshawk with beautifully barred wings and tail with a background of snow. I suddenly became deaf and wanted to run out of the office and up the hallway howling but thankfully some kind of reality set in and I pretended to focus my interest back to my business partner. Well, I think I appeared to anyway. I hope I'll get closer shots next time. The same with Yama-semi.
Sunday, October 25 was a beautiful, clear morning with changing wind gusts. The wind seemed to make conditions perfect for a few raptors, namely Common Buzzards, Black-eared Kites and an Eastern Marsh Harrier. The highlight however, was this young Northern Goshawk that appeared overhead at a bird observatory. He dipped and dived, zoomed and swirled for what seemed to be almost a minute. Three delighted birders stood side by side with cameras drumming to his dance in the wind.....
I noticed the first Whooper Swans of the season on the morning of October 8. They flew across the road in front of me on the way to work. Most of these photos were taken at Fukushimagata, Niigata on Monday, October 12. I went there again this morning and read the local community notice board which claims the numbers are already over three and a half thousand. They're certainly beautiful birds no matter how common and are an important feature of the landscape here from about now until early April. I'll probably put more photos of these up as they're hard to resist.