Japan – Part 3

  • July 9, 2016 3:42 pm

The final part of my Japanese wildlife blog focuses on the bird life of Kyoto Imperial Palace Park. Kyoto is so different compared to the neat, reserved, business city of Tokyo, it’s more vibrant, and full of temples with little green spaces tucked in everywhere. Down by the river, Grey Herons, Little Egrets and Great White Egrets patrol the shallow waters. Large shadows lurk beneath, curving carp winding themselves slowly around the rocks. Eastern Spot-billed Ducks (Anas zonorhyncha) dabble at the waters edge, rather plain and brown at first glance, but a closer looks reveals an attractive cream eye stripe, a pretty little duck. Walking along the concrete footpath alongside the gently flowing waters I’m amazed to see a large raptor circling overhead, a Black-eared Kite (Milvus lineatus). It glides up to perch on a roof top, surveying it’s urban territory. Back home this is how our Red Kites used to be seen, back when they were common and un-persecuted, cleaning up scraps in our cities.

I visited the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park for my final photography session, it was hot and intensely humid, the air thick and uncomfortably close. I headed over to a little stream, and found some birds drinking and cooling off. Overhead the familiar ‘zip-zip-zip’ calls of a group of Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus), the adults bringing the youngsters down to drink.

Long-tailed tit, Aegithalos caudatus, juvenile, in cherry tree, Kyoto Imperial Palace Park, Japan

Although incredibly neat and tidy, the park also has areas where the grass grows a little longer around the huge old trees. In a pine tree I find a juvenile White-cheeked Starling (Sturnus cineraceus), just like our own Starling, they are highly social, feeding together on the ground in just the same manner. The adult birds are pied black and white, with white cheeks as the name suggests and a vivid yellow bill. We saw them going to roost near the station too, a noisy flock murmurating around the rooftops, just like their European cousins, then waterfalling down into the trees outside the station as night fell.

White-cheeked Starling, Sturnus cineraceus, juvenile perched on pine tree, Kyoto Imperial Palace Park, Kyoto, Japan

Then the bird I’ve been waiting for. Regular readers (thank you!) will know just how much I love our sadly declining European Turtle Dove. Well, Japan has it’s own version, the Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis). By contrast this bird is common, strolling boldly around the parks in a way that our native Turtle Dove cannot. There are subtle differences between the two closely related species, the oriental dove is darker, it’s feathers a deeper browner hue, and it’s larger, bigger overall and not quite as sleek and slim as our own. It’s call is very different, a gentle cooing very similar to a Collard Dove, nothing like the musical purring of our European dove. To me it was stunning to see them, so many, so common, so relaxed. It was a delight to watch eight of these beautiful birds forging in the deep shade of the old trees, a pleasure to see a species doing well, but with a twinge of sadness remembering that back home, our own beautiful dove is having such hard time.

Oriental Turtle Dove, Streptopelia orientalis, feeding in long grass, Kyoto Imperial Palace Park, Kyoto, Japan

Oriental Turtle Dove, Streptopelia orientalis, standing in grass, Kyoto Imperial Palace Park, Kyoto, Japan

Oriental Turtle Dove, Streptopelia orientalis, bathing in stream, Kyoto Imperial Palace Park, Kyoto, Japan

Taking a break in the marginally cooler shade of the cherry trees, a tiny movement catches my eye. Olive green and difficult to spot amongst the foliage, a flash of intense yellow, and then finally in my viewfinder, a startling white eye-ring. This is the Japanese White-eye, (Zosterops japonicus), so unlike anything we have in the UK. The colour of it’s back matching the lush green leaves like a chameleon, only giving itself away with a flash of it’s beautiful buttery yellow throat, and weird white spectacles. This tiny bird is about the size of our Goldcrest, and this particular individual spent a long time attempting to swallow this large cherry. Fruit is a big part of this omnivorous bird’s diet in the summer.

Japanese White-eye, Zosterops japonicus, perched in cherry tree, eating cherry, Kyoto Imperial Palace Park, Kyoto, Japan

My last photos are of our constant companions. Wherever we went in Japan there were these little birds, incessantly chirping and reminiscent of home. Sparrows, they can be found almost anywhere, the shrubs outside our hotels, the bushes near the rivers, looking for crumbs near the temples, and here in the park too. But these are Tree Sparrows (Passer montanus) again, uncommon in the UK, so such a treat to see them up close. Such a handsome little bird.

Tree Sparrow, Passer montanus, perched on a rock, Kyoto Imperial Palace Park, Kyoto, Japan

Tree Sparrow, Passer montanus, perched on a rock, Kyoto Imperial Palace Park, Kyoto, Japan

I had a wonderful time in Japan, and would love to visit again one day! There is so much wildlife to explore, even in a country as densely populated as this. I could easily spend months photographing in this friendly place, a fantastic experience.

 

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Japan – Part 2

  • July 5, 2016 9:42 pm

The next wildlife stop on our tour of Japan was Nara, which is near Osaka, nearly 300 miles south east of Tokyo. Nara is famous for it’s very special sacred deer. They are Sika deer (Cervus nippon), and they roam freely in the town of Nara, and it’s wonderful park. As we walked up the hill towards the park a warm, musky animal scent met us, this is where the deer are. We followed our noses through the entrance and were greeted by the extraordinary sight of a Sika stag, with large antlers covered in velvet, snoozing near the temple, having his picture taken with eager selfie loving tourists. He sat patiently, quietly dozing with half closed eyes, as squirming young children were carefully placed next to him and photos snapped on cameras and phones.

You can buy deer crackers to feed to the sacred residents, and there were several stalls set up with stacks of these treats. Amazingly, the deer don’t seem to raid the stalls, but wait for people to purchase some cookies, and then gang up on them. They nip and headbutt, shoving whoever is holding the food, bullying them into dropping pieces of cracker as they flee the furry onslaught. Despite that, they are reasonably gentle for a large animal, it did cross my mind as a young stag carefully nibbled my clothes, that they could do some damage if they really wanted to. But they really are quite polite. Away from the chaos near the cracker stand, the animals are much calmer, and even bow their heads to ask for a treat. It was quite an experience to be approached by an animal, carefully considering me with deep brown eyes, bowing it’s head respectfully, and taking the cracker I offered with soft, velvet covered lips, warm whiskers gently brushing my hand.

With my long lens on my camera I was only able to capture close ups of these beautiful mammals, as they have no fear whatsoever of people.

Sika deer, Cervus nippon, Japanese deer, Spotted deer, close up of young female, Nara Park, Japan

Sika deer, Cervus nippon, Japanese deer, Spotted deer, close up of young female, Nara Park, Japan

Sika deer, Cervus nippon, Japanese deer, Spotted deer, deer being petted, Nara Park, Japan

The deer seem to realise their sacred status, and as we stood waiting to cross the road, two large groups of people on either side, patiently standing, a couple of deer sauntered slowly out into the road. We all watched with great amusement as all the cars stopped to let them cross, stopping for the deer, but not for the humans!

Sika deer, Cervus nippon, Japanese deer, Spotted deer, close up of young female, Nara Park, Japan

It was rather rainy, and some deer took shelter under the trees, but mostly they didn’t seem to mind the rain.

Sika deer, Cervus nippon, Japanese deer, Spotted deer, close up of young male in rain, Nara Park, Japan

Exploring the quieter areas of the park, we found this little fawn watching from the sidelines.

Sika deer, Cervus nippon, Japanese deer, Spotted deer, fawn resting under tree, Nara Park, Japan

Curiosity got the better of him though, and he joined his mother to find out what all the fuss was about, although he was probably too young to try the crackers his mum was being fed.

Sika deer, Cervus nippon, Japanese deer, Spotted deer, close up of fawn, Nara Park, Japan

The park also had some fascinating wildlife apart from the deer, including this amazingly bright butterfly, which I think is a Common Grass Yellow (Eurema hecabe). It flitted along just above the ground, and landed frequently. It looked like it was perhaps taking minerals from the damp soil. Despite it’s intense colouring, when it landed amongst the leaf litter, it was actually quite well camouflaged, mimicking the shape and colour of the yellowing dead leaves.

Common Grass Yellow, Eurema hecabe, butterfly, on ground, Nara Park, Japan

As I was photographing one of the deer, a bobbing black and white bird caught my eye as it hurried across the deer nibbled bowling green grass. It wagged it’s long tail as it chased insects over the short lawn, unmistakeably a Wagtail. This, I think, is a Black-Backed Wagtail, otherwise known as a Japanese Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba lugens). Related to our own Pied Wagtail, and like much of the wildlife I found, so familiar, yet also wonderfully different.

Black-Backed Wagtail, Japanese Pied Wagtail, Motacilla alba lugens, looking for insects, Nara Park Japan

Stayed tuned for part 3, for more bird life!

 

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Japan – Part 1

  • June 30, 2016 9:57 pm

Japan. Wonderful, mysterious, so utterly different from my cosy corner of Norfolk. I have been extremely fortunate to visit this enigmatic country recently on a family holiday, a trip of a life-time. Naturally my camera came with me, and naturally, I had to investigate the local wildlife. I’ve a lot of photos, of course, so I’ve tried to choose the most interesting ones for you in the following three part series. Today I’m bringing you photos from our first stop in Tokyo, the magnificent Imperial Palace Park.

A deep moat surrounds the outer wall, and where there is water, there is life. Dabbling around in the green algae, pairs of Little Grebe’s raise their young, their whinnying call familiar and reminiscent of the fens of home, only here they live alongside the quiet hum of traffic and groups of chattering tourists. Sliding through the green water, slick and black a Cormorant chases fish. This is a Japanese Cormorant, also known as a Temminck’s Cormorant (Phalacrocorax capillatus). This one caught a huge fish, and struggled for some time to swallow it. Before it could consume it’s dinner, it strayed a little too close to a Grebe family and was chased away by the plucky little birds, loosing the fish in the process.

Japanese Cormorant, Temminck's Cormorant, Phalacrocorax capillatus, with fish, Tokyo Imperial Palace moat, Tokyo, Japan.

Around the edges of the moat, pond turtles lurk, basking just below the surface, or hauled out on the soft earth. It’s so odd to see these weird unfamiliar animals watching me watching them. Tucked into a gap in the moat brickwork a Black-Crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) waits as still as a statue, grey powder blue and beyond my camera, but a beautiful sight to see.

Japanese Pond Turtle, Mauremys japonica, female, Tokyo Imperial Palace moat, Tokyo, Japan

The first thing I noticed as we arrived in the humid drizzle on the first day however, was a deep and slightly sarcastic laugh –  ‘Ha, Ha, Haa,’ rolling down from the towering skyscrapers in the city. This voice belonged to a huge black bird, a Large-Billed Crow, also know as a Jungle Crow, (Corvus macrorhynchos). They seemed common everywhere, adding extra decoration to the already ornate rooftops, a black statuesque finial.

Large-billed Crow, Jungle Crow, Corvus macrorhynchos, perched on top of ornate buildling, Tokyo Imperial Palace, Japan

 

Large-billed Crow, Jungle Crow, Corvus macrorhynchos, perched on top of buildling, Tokyo Imperial Palace, Japan

 

Large-billed Crow, Jungle Crow, Corvus macrorhynchos, perched in maple tree, Tokyo Imperial Palace, Japan

I suspect these clever birds may well be a nuisance, but I was taken with their extraordinary nature. As we sat admiring the gardens this individual came and had a closer look at us, a huge and powerful bird, with a magnificent bill.  As he inspected us closely he radiated intelligence and curiosity like all crows seem to. In the bright sun you could just make out the iridescent oil of green and purple in his plumage. Just look at that beak!

Large-billed Crow, Jungle Crow, Corvus macrorhynchos, close up, Tokyo Imperial Palace, Japan

 

Large-billed Crow, Jungle Crow, Corvus macrorhynchos, close up, Tokyo Imperial Palace, Japan

 

Large-billed Crow, Jungle Crow, Corvus macrorhynchos, close up, Tokyo Imperial Palace, Japan

 

Watch out for the next instalment, a cute, fluffy animal fond of harassing tourists!

 

 

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Exhibition

  • May 31, 2016 9:05 pm

I’m really pleased to announce a small selection of my photos will be on display at the wonderful Beehive Coffee Shop in Blo Norton, Norfolk. It’s a great place to relax with a coffee and slice of delicious home-made cake, so head on over during June to take a look!

Brown Hare, Norfolk

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Spring Bees

  • May 31, 2016 8:59 pm

Just a quick May update from me. You might remember last year, I was very happy to find wild Red Mason Bees using my solitary bee box, I was amazed that there were around 8 bees using it, I think I said ‘the most I’ve ever seen…’ Well, scratch that! This year I’ve counted over 30 bees, and I’ve even had to make and buy additional boxes for them! It’s really interesting to observe their whole lifecycle. In early May I discovered the much smaller males had hatched out, and were hanging around waiting for the females to emerge. When they did, it was incredible to watch the males pounce on the females, fighting with each other to grab her, and hold on to her to stop her getting away. Others tried to push the successful male off, but finally one suitor remained. He stayed with the female, until she was ready to mate, and so begin the whole cycle again.

Red Mason Bees, Osmia rufa, pair on edge of flowerpot, garden, Norfolk

 

Red Mason Bees, Osmia rufa, pair on edge of flowerpot, garden, Norfolk

Once the females had mated, they began clearing out the old nesting tubes, removing the debris and last years empty cocoons. I found one of these in a plant pot, a tiny bronze capsule, really interesting to find.

 

Red Mason Bee, Osmia rufa, empty cocoon, garden, Norfolk

 

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Spring Bluebells

  • May 2, 2016 2:29 pm

It’s been a few years since I last photographed Bluebells, they are such stunningly beautiful flowers, both en-mass and close up. Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Wayland Wood is a fantastic place to see them. Spring is my favourite time of year, and Spring in a woodland is simply glorious. The first thing that greets you is the perfume of Bluebells wafting through the trees, and a glimpse of the most intense blue. Blue like only Bluebells can be, in overcast conditions a deep cobalt blue, but in the sunshine, a softer, purpler shade. This woodland has much more to offer too, with magenta coloured Early Purple Orchids, shining white Wood Anemones, bird life in abundance, Blackcaps, Robins, Chiffchaffs, Woodpeckers and more, and butterflies like the Orange tip delicately fluttering between flowers.

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A Winter Visitor

  • January 18, 2016 8:27 pm

Fieldfares are another one of my favourite birds. These gorgeous winter visitors come here from Scandinavia, presumably to escape the harsh winter weather. They flock together, feeding on windfall apples in the old orchard, conversing noisily with scolding chattering calls, unmistakeable with their beautiful slaty blue grey head, brown back, and cream speckled chest. This weekend I was lucky enough to watch these lovely thrushes as they fed, pecking pieces of frosty fruit, and squabbling amongst themselves. They were joined by a large flock of Starlings and a couple of Carrion Crows too, all feasting on the fallen apples. Suddenly they all took flight, a single alarm call preceded the whoosh of wings as they fled into the sky, a Sparrowhawk glided silently through the trees, broad wings and long tail, directly above my head.

Fieldfare170116DM9396

 

 

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Happy New Year!

  • January 1, 2016 3:43 pm

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year!

It’s been a while since I last posted here, I’ve taken a sort of sabbatical from photography since September, work and life has been such a whirlwind. But, it’s a new year, and this year is my year. My time to enjoy doing what I love.

Last year I had the privilege of having a Turtle dove regularly visiting, and I really hope it comes back this summer. I also completed the Wildlife Trusts 30 days wild, what a fantastic way to reconnect with nature. Talking of the Wildlife Trusts I recently donated some images to their photo library, which I hope will be useful to them. Finally 2015 saw the finish of my ‘Big 30’ project, which really helped inspire me to get out with the camera.

So the new year needs a new challenge, I hope you’ll like what I have in store for you! Watch this space!

Here’s a lucky little Grasshopper making me think of Spring…

All the best to you all, and thank you all for your support over the last year.

Grasshopper200615DM8021

Turtle Dove

  • September 7, 2015 8:27 pm

What a privilege to have this bird visiting the garden. He was still around this weekend, and really feeding up before his long flight south. The slightly better weather meant I could get some more photos, although I’m yet to catch him in the sun. It’s not going to be long before he departs, but I’m already planning for next year. This year I planted a small native wildlflower meadow, which has been brilliant for the bees and other insects, but next year I’m going to make it more Turtle Dove friendly and add some more of their food plants like Red Clover, Common Vetch, and Black Medick, and continue to encourage the Fumitory which has grown rampantly this year.

Here’s the Turtle dove with a Collared dove in front, the Collared dove is actually the larger species, but this young one looks smaller as it crouches feeding in the grass.

TurtleDove050915DM9252

TurtleDove050915DM9285

TurtleDove050915DM9293

For an advisory sheet on how you could help Turtle doves in your garden, follow this link: http://operationturtledove.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Turtle-Dove-Advisory-Sheet-Gardens.pdf

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At Last

  • August 31, 2015 1:10 pm

As regular readers will know, the Turtle Dove is a bird very close to my heart. It was the bird that inspired my passion for all things wild, and an equal passion for it’s conservation.

Since June, I’ve had this remarkable bird visiting the garden, but have struggled with time and light to actually get a photo. Today, well it’s a typical rainy bank holiday Monday, but for once I’m glad. For some reason, the Turtle Dove visits more frequently in wet conditions, perhaps the garden is a more comfortable place to find food on days like today.

So at last, hunkered down under my hide in the rain, Robin singing from the hedge and all legs and arms completely numb, the Turtle Dove drops down from the neighbours Walnut tree to feed on the seed I’ve scattered for it. I almost feel relived to see this bird in the viewfinder, and despite the dire lighting, I manage to get a photo.

It’s behaviour is interesting too, associating with the slightly bolder Collared Doves, but not letting it’s diminutive size stop it from getting a good meal. Frequently it pushes the larger Collared Doves off the food with a softly scolding ‘Tchoo’ noise as it hops towards them, a noise I’ve never heard before.

Soon this dainty little dove will be on his way to Africa in an incredible 5,600km migration to where he’ll spend the winter, travelling at speeds up to 60km per hour, he’ll even cross the Sahara Desert. These beautiful birds are in real trouble. The population has declined by a massive 91% since the 1970’s, and we are in real danger of losing this wonderful bird, the sound of the Summer.

For more information, and a map following the route of a satelite tracked Turtle Dove click: HERE

And of course, lots of interesting things and how everyone can help over at the Operation Turtle Dove website: HERE

Turtle Dove, Streptopelia turtur, garden lawn, August, Summer, Norfolk

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