Sunday, February 24, 2019

Japan Trip Part 3: Kyoto

Suzume (tree sparrows) on aerials, Kyoto
In Kyoto, we lodged in the Gion area near the Kamo River. Better winter birding than Tokyo along river (jōbitaki [Daurian Redstart]) and garden paths (shirohara [Pale Thrush]).
Seguro Sekirei (Japanese Wagtail), Kamogawa
Scores of wintering ducks, including wigeon and pintail, plus gray herons and egrets were reliably in the river. Along with a cooperative Japanese wagtail stepping from rock to rock.
Yamagara (varied tit), Kiyomizudera
I was hoping at least one temple we visited had a bird feeding station. And indeed, someone left peanuts for the varied tits at Kiyomizudera.
Kibashiri (common treecreeper), Inari Shrine grounds
The best birding, by far, was on the Inari Shrine grounds, right around the summit. There were classic mixed flocks of shijūkara (Japanese) and enaga (long-tailed) tits, plus kibashiri (treecreepers), and kogera (Japanese pygmy woopeckers). I even spotted a shime (hawfinch) along the shrine path, unexpectedly gorgeous.
Hashibuto-garasu (Jungle Crow), Maruyama Park 
Alas, I must have done something that displeased the Inari kami and came down with a dreadful cold the next day that curtailed my activity for the rest of the trip. Overall, though, nice casual winter birding in Japan.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Japan Trip Part 2: Port of Tokyo Wild Bird Park and Tokyo Station

"Tori" or "Bird." From giant Port of Tokyo Wild Bird Park sign.
It was around 3 pm and I was in Kanda. If I moved quickly I could grab a train, transfer to the Haneda monorail, get off at Ryutsu Center Station, and walk swiftly to the Port of Tokyo Wild Bird Park before it stopped admitting people at 4:30. I would still have half an hour before closing to look around.
0.5 Km to the Wild Bird Park
Signs along the way counted down the distance I still had to travel.
Traffic sign directing cars to the Bird Park
Apparently it was important enough to the area to have its own traffic signs.
Only 300 meters to the entrance!
Finally, I reached the corner of the fenced-in park, only 300 meters to the main gate.
New Year's closure 12/29 to 1/3
It was still before 4:30 when I arrived, only to find... that the park was closed for the holiday. I thought I had checked this online but... Oh well, I wasn't going to have time to bird anyway. And it was nice to have a context for the park's location even if I couldn't get inside.
What's this bird?
On the way back I discovered a series of bird information monuments featuring common birds that locals should know. This gull with the black head is what?
Yurikamome (Black-headed gull)
Yes, the black-headed gull. The local name is "Yurikamome." (The name of a new Odaiba-based train line). During the winter they settle at city parks and take handouts.
Yurikamome (Black-headed gull) outside Tokyo station.
If you find yourself at Tokyo Station in the winter with time to spare, it is worth leaving from the main entrance and walking towards the Imperial Palace grounds.
Yurikamome, outer moat of Imperial Palace Grounds.
The outer moats are filled with urban-adapted water birds, such as tufted ducks, coots, cormorants, little grebes, and lots of yurikamome.
Yurikamome, near Tokyo Station.
Next post: Kyoto.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Japan Trip Part 1: Tokyo Disneyland and Kasai Rinkai Kōen

Mukudori (White-cheeked Starling), Tokyo Disneyland
A New Year's trip with the family to Japan. Not birding-intensive, though Dad was let off leash to spend an hour here and there when appropriate. The trip started at Disneyland. As in Florida, there is no lack of bird visitors to the park.
Hoshihajiro (Common Pochard), Tokyo DisneySea
I was delighted to discover, for example, a flock of common pochard resting at a Tokyo DisneySea lagoon.
Bird Sanctuary--Keep Out! signage protecting Kasai Rinkai Kōen mudflats, seen from Disney hotel window
But the real bird action was next door, at Kasai Rinkai Kōen, where I spent a delightful December afternoon. The park features a ferris wheel, an aquarium, a large cook-out spot and two prime birding areas. The first is a small island and mudflat (seen above), a refuge for waders and seabirds. Dominating the surrounding waters (but not photographed--my good camera broke) was a raft of thousands of greater scaup plus hundreds of crested and eared grebes. An osprey and a common buzzard were active on the island.
Bird Park entrance sign
The second area is a deliberately designed and constructed bird sanctuary and observation area, including several blinds, a large educational center, and a lot of signage. 
Sanctuary map and guide. The building on the far right is the aquarium. The building in the middle is the educational center. The two ponds host ducks and waders in season. Visitors are advised to follow three rules: don't frighten, get too close, or hinder the movement of birds on the property.
The educational center was open (not a guarantee during the New Year's holiday). It featured photographs of local birds, exhibits about habitats and conservation, and, good for ID-leery me, a list of recent sightings. 
Sightings at the sanctuary ponds. I missed the kingfisher (カワセミ). Note that this refuge seems to get frequent spoonbill visits (but not this time of year).  
I was also struck by a display of stuffed birds that were literally stuffed toys, not taxidermy. 
Who wouldn't want a greater scaup or crested grebe stuffed toy?
If done well, this is a terrific alternative to creepy bird skins. For better or worse there was no gift shop. 

Blind building overlooking one of the ponds
The blinds are well-built and spacious. While there were plenty of bank-huddling ducks on the pond (including teal, shovelers, spot-billed ducks, long-tailed ducks, mallards, widgeon, etc.) there wasn't much blind action during my visit. 
Street light designed to look like a snag
I was particularly taken by certain details, such as street lights disguised as tree snags. Indeed, this park's proximity to Disney makes me think that this is not just a bird sanctuary, it is a kind of bird theme park. 
Hiyodori (Brown-eared Bulbul), Kasai Rinkai Kōen
I didn't see many small birds aside from sparrows, wagtails, and starlings. The dominant noise-maker at this property and, frankly, everywhere I went in Japan during this trip, was the brown-eared bulbul. When I last birded in Japan, June 2012, this seemingly abundant bird was actually one I missed. Not this trip. I got an intensive course in bulbul calls, whines, and shouts. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Bluebirds! Season Seven. Series Finale.

Haying season. Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
They're mowing at the Charles River Peninsula right now. Summer is over.
Box 7. Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
One last check of the nesting boxes. Box 7 was the last unfledged box last time I made the rounds. What would I find when I opened it up?
Tree swallow nest. Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Successful fledge. Nice thick nest for a tree swallow. You'll remember that it was house sparrows that added the foundation. Wild turkey feathers. I wonder about the place of turkeys in the feather economy.
Box 8. Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Looks like I never clipped the bittersweet growing on Box 8. I'll take care of it when I come back clean the boxes. 

All in all, a productive year for tree swallows. But no bluebirds on my side of the field. Plans for next year are uncertain. 

Kingfisher rattling over the river. Young red-tailed hawk piping above. This is probably the last "Bluebirds!" season I'll report. There are new projects ahead.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bluebirds! Season 7. Episode 6. Chicks.

Tree swallows, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
 It's hatching time for some, fledging time for others. How I love the young birds, ready to learn how to be birds.
Tree Swallow nestling, Box 5
Or, in some cases, ready to make the transition from lizard to bird.
Tree Swallow parent, Box 3
Or, in some cases, never to hatch at all. The eggs in box 3 have been there for over three weeks. The parents keep peeking in to check. Maybe today will be the day....

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Bluebirds! Season 7. Episode 5. Wins and Losses

Tree Swallows, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
June, already. And a series of cold wet days that made me worried about nesting boxes. For good reason--the chicks in box 4 didn't make it. But everything else is fine.
Tree Swallow, Box 7
I was particularly happy to see tree swallows on box 7. That had been a house sparrow nest since the beginning of the season.
House Sparrow nest two weeks ago, Box 7
Every week I removed the eggs. It took a long time for the sparrows to give up.
Tree Swallow nest today, Box 7
It's a late start for tree swallows but there's still hope.
Box 8
I think I might have to bring the clippers with me next week.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bluebirds! Season 7. Episode 4. Holding pattern.

Eastern Bluebird, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Boxes full of eggs (including one stubborn house sparrow nest) but no chicks, yet. Maybe the bluebirds chicks have hatched. I don't know.
Tree Swallow, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
For half the boxes I'm back to being an observer. I'm enjoying watching the couple at box 19. The female is a first-year (lovely brown).

Tree Swallows, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
They are full of energy,
Tree Swallows, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
but something seems a bit off.
Bobolink, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
This has been a good year so far for grassland birds. Meadowlark and kestrel visited. And bobolink (one female and seven males seen) and savannah sparrows are spending a lot of time in the grass. Fingers crossed!