Let it snow

A slightly more challenging day today, with a boat trip cancelled and the weather deteriorating meaning that the afternoon was done in snow, making photography a challenge. Still, we had some cracking birds and an encounter with a very friendly fox. The forecast is better for tomorrow!

A stellar day

After a day dominated by travel, today was a day dominated by sheer quality. It started off before dawn with the temperature around -14C with a trip to see some Red-crowned Cranes in a very atmospheric setting. After breakfast a visit to a Ural Owl site gave fantastic views and then on to much closer views of cranes in the snow. Add in a supporting cast of White-tailed and Steller’s Sea Eagles, Sea Otters and auks, it doesn’t get much better. My laptop is struggling under the weight of the 1800 photos I took today, so here are a few I can upload onto the phone from Karen’s camera.

Flying north

Here we are at Kagoshima airport. There’s a volcano erupting a few miles away but that doesn’t stop anything in Japan.

As you can see we’re all smiles.

Bobbing about

No doubt about today’s star bird: we went to the coast and took a boat trip to see the Japanese Murrelet, a fantastic little auk that gave us some terrific views.  They’re proud of their murrelets in Kadogawa, as we discovered when a man from the local government turned up to take our picture and present us with a gift bag including a cuddly murrelet each.

Tomorrow we bid farewell to sunny and warm Kyushu and head to the other end of the country, to freezing Hokkaido.

Cranes

After a couple of days at Kaga we flew down south to Kyushu and had two nights at Arasaki.  It’s a frequent experience when visiting the far east to look out of your hotel window and see a lot of cranes, but this place is a bit different.  The cranes are part of a flock of 15000 Hooded Cranes, 500 White-naped Cranes and a handful of Common, Sandhill and Demoiselle Cranes.  It’s a noisy and unforgettable experience.

Wot no snow?

So today was Snow Monkey day, when we visit the famous Japanese Macaques, sitting in their hot spring to escape from the snowy waste that they inhabit.  Unfortunately, for the first time in 90 years, there’s hardly any snow, so instead we had one monkey in the hot tub and the rest mooching around causing mischief.

If that was a minor disappointment, it was more than made up for yesterday.  Having mopped up the target species in Karuizawa in Thursday we had a long drive to twitch some Pallas’s Rosefinch, a difficult species to get.  Not only did we see them, but they performed astonishingly.  There’s little better than a rare bird that is superb looking and poses for the camera.

Up in the mountains

The day started with a trip into Tokyo to catch the shinkansen to Karuizawa.  It certainly puts our railways to shame in the UK.  At about 3000 feet altitude, there’s a little snow, but less than normal, but it is cold.  Not many birds, but some of them are superb.

Turning Japanese

A board full of cancellations at Heathrow didn’t provide the most optimistic of starts, but we left on time and arrived in Tokyo early.  Unable to get into our room for 7 hours we took a train into Tokyo and went birding around the Imperial Palace gardens.  We had a glorious day with a couple of lifers for me, and a hatful for Karen.

We’re a tad weary now, though.  The tour starts early tomorrow morning.

Turned out nice again

Storm Ciara arrived today, and as I had a bit of shopping to do in town, I walked down with a camera.  We haven’t had the rain that Yorkshire seems to have had, but it was very windy, although the only place that was genuinely hard to stay upright was just in from the coast, where the street layout formed a wind tunnel.  On the beach it was tough to hold a camera steady, but this isn’t the biggest sea I’ve seen in Worthing.

 

Quantity over quality

The blog’s been a bit quiet of late, as I’ve been walking too far to carry my SLR.  Today I tried out a new camera, which is small enough to carry the 28 miles I covered today, but has a long enough lens  to make a decent effort at birds.  The result was OK, if not dazzling.  The light for the Snipe (which never perform like that when I have an SLR with me) was pretty poor, so there’s a fair bit of noise, but the sun had come out for the, fairly distant, Nuthatch.  It will do for a record shot, should I ever find a rare bird.