Thursday, December 23, 2010

Best of 2010 & Merry Christmas

The end of the year is drawing near and it's quite the time for me to reflect on what I have photographed so far throughout the year 2010. For me, it has been very productive year in terms of bird photography as well as bird watching. I've been more active in birding than the past 2 years living in Japan, and have discovered many more interesting places and species. I've also become much closer to the city I've been living in for more than 3 years, Beppu. I learned a lot about many other birding spots from Furuso-san, whom I've become much more familiar with towards the end of the year. So here we go, starting from January 2010!
January 1, 2010 saw me enjoying this tamest Siberian Rubythroat (Luscinia calliope) at Nam Kham Nature Reserve in Chiang Rai, Thailand. I went back home for New Year and had a real good time with family and friends. A short visit to Nam Kham was really productive and I got my first Chestnut-crowned Bush-Warbler (Cettia major) there, although only in hand while ringing. More detail about the trip can be seen here and here.
After coming back to Beppu, January still treated me with a nice number of Red-breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator) in Rokushou-en and Spa Beach in front of my dorm. It's the first time for me to see these beautiful ducks and I've also got quite many photos of them in the evening light. More photos and story can be seen in this post.
Then February saw me packing my bags for the most highly anticipated trip to Eastern Hokkaido for the total length of 2 weeks. I visited Kushiro to see the Red-crowned Cranes (Grus japonensis) first. The cranes have always been one of my dreams since before coming to Japan. I've actually never thought about seeing them with my own eyes. These birds are just amazing and I love every single moment I spent over there. More photos and story of the cranes can be seen here.
After visiting Kushiro, I went further north to the very famous eagle-watching village, Rausu. I spent two and a half days there and it was just fantastic! I've got a chance to go out into the sea twice and it was the day I fired the most shots in my life. The Steller's Sea-Eagles (Haliaeetus pelagicus) were just magnificent, as well as the smaller White-tailed Eagles. It is one of those experiences I won't be able to forget. More about this can be seen here in this post.
Then March came pretty fast and I'm back again to Thailand. One good thing about coming from Thailand is that it's not too far away from Japan, so I can go back and forth pretty often. My family made a trip to Phuket, a province in southern Thailand. I could do a little bit of birding around the resort and surprisingly found that it was actually very good. Above is a colourful male Pink-necked Green-Pigeon (Treron vernans), a species of doves which doesn't exist in northern Thailand where I live. There was a fairly large flock of this bird coming to the fruiting fig tree in front of the resort, so I could go out and take photos of them quite easily. More photos can be seen in this post.
By the end of March, I came back to Beppu and got my first species of diver at the Spa Beach in front of my place. It was a Black-throated Diver (Gavia arctica) in a non-breeding plumage. The bird seemed heavily exhausted. I guess it was blown up to the beach by the storm. Few kids tried to catch it, but it quickly fled into the sea and swam to the harbour near by. The next day the bird has disappeared from the shore. More story of this poor diver can be read here.
April 2010 was another very productive month. I finally got some photos of the shy Japanese Grosbeak (Eophona personata) at Minami Tatte-Ishi Park. A flock of this seemed to be active in singing and feeding on various kinds of food in and around the park. These finches are never easy to get close, but luckily one of them came down to the lower branch in front of me, so I could fire some shots before it flew out. Here's some more shots of the grosbeak and many other birds in the park.
It was a really good month for waders as well. This beautiful breeding male Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) was found at the beach of Rokushou-en. The bird was very tame and nice. It didn't care much about me and many other kids running around the beach picking up sea shells. One thing I really like about waders in Japan is that they are not so shy like the ones in Thailand. Although we always get huge flocks of waders every winter, it's almost impossible to get close to any of them. More photos of this godwit can be seen here.
An influx of Buff-bellied Pipits (Anthus rubescens japonicus) also occurred in a small lawn next to the car park in front of my dorm for few days. Most of the birds were already in their nice breeding plumage with pinkish-buff underparts and plain greyish head and mantle. The tiny flowers in the lawn were also flowering, creating a really nice setting for photography. More photos and story can be seen in this post.
The forest of April was also filled with bird songs and liveliness. This first-year male Narcissus Flycatcher (Ficedula narcissina) was found singing in the forest near Beppu Ropeway station along with another Blue-And-White Flycatcher. These beautiful birds have always been my targets of photography, but I still haven't been so successful with them. Here's a post about this beautiful Narcissus.
May 2010 still proved to be a good month for birding. I visited the forest near Beppu Ropeway very often. The forest looked really green and beautiful and every single moment is filled with bird songs. I unexpectedly came across this male White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos) while I was walking uphill. It was chased by another male bird with another young bird drumming in the tree below. I could only grabbed a few shots before it realised that I was standing right there in front of it and flew away into the trees. Few more photos of this woody can be seen here.
At the sea, the number of waders reached its highest point in this month. Two Ruddy Turnstones (Arenaria interpres) were found at Rokushou-en among the flock of Grey-tailed Tattlers and Whimbrels. The birds were in their full breeding plumage showing the difference between male and female bird very nicely. The male has clean white crown with black streaks, while the female has brownish wash on its head. Photos of this turnstone couple can be seen in this post.
A lone Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus) was found joining a small group of Grey-tailed Tattlers in a small river near my dorm. The bird was in its full breeding plumage with black lines on its shoulders. It's the first time for me to see this bird in Beppu and I was really keen to photograph it, but I have to say that it's a really difficult bird to photograph. More photos of this Terek can be seen here and here.
The month also brought in the tragedy of this Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) family at Furui-chi. At first, I was so happy to find this Little Ringed Plover's nest in an abandoned car park. I went there to check the bird's nest almost everyday wanting to see some progress. The story didn't end up happily as I found out one day that the nest was destroyed. 3 of the 4 eggs disappeared, and there was no single parent bird in sight. It was the saddest thing for me this year. The full story of this tragedy can be read in this post, and more photos can be seen here.
Late May came with better news. I got a chance to talk with Furuso-san whom I first met at Furui-chi while photographing a tame pair of Ruddy-breasted Crakes. She showed me her photos albums of birds photographed solely within Beppu area and I was really surprised to see so many interesting species that I've always wished to see once. She also told me the place to see the Japanese Green Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus versicolor), which I really wanted to see as well. I went to the place called Asami 3 Chou-me to twitch the bird and came back with the shot above...well not exactly the shot above cos I photoshopped the background of it though lol More of this can be seen here.
Late of the month also brought in a big surprise to Beppu, a single Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida) showed up at Sekino-E for a few days. Although it is the commonest species of tern in Thailand, I learned that it's quite a rarity here in Japan. The bird was actually quite tame and stayed around in the same area all day. It was still on its way moulting into a breeding plumage with some sooty feathers showing up on its underparts and dark black cap. Here's some more photos and the story of this rarity in Beppu.
Another surprise was found right after the first one. A single Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus) was found right in the same place as the tern. The bird was also moulting into a breeding plumage showing its long pheasant-like tail and golden feathers on the nape. Another common species in Thailand but quite a rarity in Japan. So I was very pleased to find this bird. More photos of this jacana can be seen here.
As I've already said above, there was a tame pair of Ruddy-breasted Crake (Porzana fusca) in Furui-chi area. The pair seemed to be nesting in the thick reeds next to the lotus field where they always come out to find food. I enjoyed taking photos of them a lot. They even came out during midday and didn't care about the passersby at all. More photos of these two birds can be viewed here.
June kicked in with lots of newly fledged birds. A Blue Rockthrush (Monticola solitarius philippensis) family of 3 fledglings and 2 parents was found in Furui-chi area. The parent birds were so busy finding food for the chicks, which seemed to be begging for more all the time. More photos of this rockthrush family can be seen in this post.
The forest of June was still full of bird songs but the leaves have become much thicker, so it was really difficult to see where all those songs were coming from. Luckily, some birds were just friendly enough to show up, especially this tiny Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes). Few individuals were very aggressive in protecting their territory by coming out to sing loudly in the open. I was so impressed by how loud these tiny birds could sing. More photos of the wrens can be seen here.
Then July came in with slow time for birding. Not so many birds were still active in singing and raising chicks, but the Chestnut-eared Bunting (Emberiza fucata) in front of my campus seemed to be one of the few. Approximately 3 pairs were nesting in a small grassy area in front of the campus. The males always came out and sang their sweet songs on open perches, while the females tended to stay undercover. I really wanted to get some better shots of these birds, but they're so shy and most of the time the weather just sucked, so I couldn't even go out and take photos. Here's the post with more photos of this bunting.
I'm back to Thailand again in August having good time with friends and family. The above male Fire-breasted Flowerpecker (Dicaeum ignipectus) was photographed at Doi Angkang. I made several birding trips with my colleagues and was really enjoyed by the variety of bird species in Thailand. Although the birds are not as approachable as they are in Japan, we can see much more species over there. More photos of this flowerpecker and its interesting habit of spreading the seeds of mistletoes can be read here.
Another place where I visited quite often while staying in Thailand was Doi Inthanon National Park. At the summit of the mountain, I enjoyed photographing the exceedingly tame pair of Snowy-browed Flycatchers (Ficedula hyperythra). The birds were tamed by photographers who fed them with meal worms. The birds gradually became tamer and tamer and we could even watch them perching less than a foot away now. Whenever they hear the sound of people passing by, they just immediately fly out from the bush and wait there for food. I'm not sure if this seems right or not... More photos of this little bird can be seen here in this post.
I also got a chance to photograph the Crested Treeswifts (Hemiprocne coronata) in front of my father's work place nicely as well. These birds always perch on high treetops or electrical wire, which makes them almost impossible to get photographed at the eye-level. However, I found a few individuals that perched near the flyover bridge, so I could take photos of them easily from the flyover, and at the eye-level! More photos of the treeswifts can be seen here.
September came and I was still staying at home in Thailand photographing local birds around my house. The bird in the picture above is a male Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum) which was photographed at Cho Lae, a nice birding place near my house. The bird is very common and can be found almost everywhere even within the city, yet it's always nice to see its bright scarlet plumage flicking among the trees. Some more photos of this colourful common bird can be seen in this post.
Late September still saw me actively birding in my local patches in Thailand. I discovered a really nice grassland area on the river side near my house where many interesting species were surprisingly found. My most favourite species was this beautiful Chestnut-capped Babbler (Timalia pileata). It is an elusive bird that often hides among the grass and rarely comes out to the open. But at this newly discovered area, I found many pairs coming out to the treetops to sing their sweet songs at early morning, so I could take quite many photos of them. Read more about this beautiful babbler here.
I came back to Japan in October and this juvenile Far Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis) was one of the first birds I photographed after my arrival. It was pretty tame and spent its time walking around the lawn at Sekino-E beach. I have no idea why it was so interested in feeding in the lawn. Its bill was still strangely short because it's a juvenile bird. At first, I even thought it was a Whimbrel. Read the story and see more photos of it here.
Then late October treated me really nicely with my first Bean Goose. A single immature Tundra Bean Goose (Anser fabalis serrirostris) surprisingly showed up in a pond at Sekino-E. The bird was so tame that I was afraid it would be a domesticated goose, but it actually wasn't. The bird proved that by flying out strongly towards the sea, but still coming back to the same place on the next morning. At first, it always swam in the pond and rarely came up to the bank, just for resting. However, the bird later changed its habit and always walked around in the open track near the lotus fields. Read about the discovery of this Tundra Bean Goose here.
During November, big influx of Daurian Redstarts (Phoenicurus auroreus) spread all over Beppu city. It has become a tradition for me to photograph these colourful birds as late autumn comes. The individual above is a male bird at Sekino-E. It was really tame and often came picking insects near the farmers in the field. We also have this redstart in Thailand during winter as well, but they all inhabit in the forests, something really different from here. See more photos of the redstart at Sekino-E here.
Another big surprise of the year came when another individual of Bean Goose suddenly showed up in the same area as the first one. This time, the bird was Taiga Bean Goose (A.f.middendorffii) which has longer neck, head and bill and is slightly bigger than the Tundra BG. The two geese always stayed together in the fields of Sekino-E and Furui-chi. Both of them are still staying until now. I took lots of photos of them, since I don't know when I'll be able to see them again. Some of those photos can be seen in this post.
Then late November brought in another good news from Furuso-san. A big flock of Eurasian Siskins (Carduelis spinus) was found at Beppu Koen. About 50 birds were staying in the park for several weeks feeding on a specific kind of dried fruits and coming down to drink in the stream in the park. I've never seen siskin in Beppu before. Normally, Bramblings would be common in autumn, but this year I haven't seen any. More photos of the siskins can be seen in this post.
Late November and early December still saw me repeatedly visiting Beppu Koen for the siskins. After finishing the siskins, I always walked to Asami 3 Chou-me to photograph the super shy Brown Dipper (Cinclus pallasii). There are 2 individuals staying along the Oyukaeri River that flows through Asami area. The dipper is a very rare bird in Thailand, so I was very keen in photographing them. A series of photos can be seen here in this post.
So now we're almost at the end of the year and Christmas Eve is just a few hours to come. I want to end up this entry with this very cheerful photo of a male Pale Thrush (Turdus pallidus) I photographed at Asami 3 Chou-me a week ago. Hope you all enjoy Christmas and New Year vacation and come back again fresh and new in 2011. This year has been a really good year for my birding life and I really wish 2011 will continue to be like this. Wish every birder who comes and reads this blog a better year for birding as well. I'll be back in 2011. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Hawkeyes a.k.a Kiah said...


Indeed a very productive year. The shots are superb.
I just came back from a 4 days trip to Doi Inthanon. I managed to photographed about 40 species and about 18 species are lifer. The second check-point was really amazing, many birds came there.


Peng said...

You've really had a splendid bird-ful year. Merry X'mas and Happy New Year to you too. May 2011 be as good if not better for your birding! =)

Ayuwat Jearwattanakanok said...

Thanks a lot Kiah and Siew Peng! All the best wishes for you and yours too!
Really nice to hear that your trip was successful, Kiah. And yes, the second check point is just amazing!

Phil said...

Fabulous crane shot and the bill and feet on the eagle are awesome. I hope you have a very enjoyable 2011 - keep up the good blogging work and your excellent photography

Charounette said...

Wow, this blog, and your work is truly awe-inspiring!

Keep it up! :))

Stu said...

Some great photos there, have a great 2011 too!

Russell said...

Wow, you had a great year and got some superb shots! I hope you have a better 2011!