Barren

Great Egret

A Great Egret on the river near my apartment this morning. Nothing else around, the theme of this winter.

Further downstream the river has been ‘improved’. This means removal of trees in Japan. Yes, Japanese civild servants think a barren concrete garbage strewn river is better than riparian woodland. The stretch they destroyed was where I have seen Night Herons over the last 12 or so years. I will never see them there again. No more singing Oriental Reed Warblers this summer, no more migrants sheltering there in spring and autumn. To add insult to injury the workers who chopped down the trees have left all the garbage that people routinely throw there. Tyres, futons, plastic bottles, beer cans, rice cookers, old TVs etc. Piles of it everywhere. Not their ‘responsibility’ I suppose. I did hear the trees were removed because of fears of flooding (ie the uprooted trees could block the river). I’m not sure about this: I suspect it is just civil servants spending money at the end of the tax year.

The stretch closest to my apartment still has a few trees. I’m sure a civil servant in some office has his inkan poised ready to stamp his approval to remove those. I plan to move next year anyway, I hope I’m not around to see the final trees removed.

Dusky Thrush

Dusky Thrush

A Dusky Thrush near my apartment yesterday. Not many birds in town at all: Wren, Eastern Great Tit, Common Teal…………….only. In Kamiiso there were the usual common winter species with the addition of a couple of Smew. In the sky there were several groups of geese flying north. Bean Goose and White-fronted Goose, nothing rarer. At Onuma there were 3 White-tailed Eagles and a few Pintail in among the duck flock.

Bullfinches

Bullfinch

Yet another bird we usually see in town this time of year but is absent so far this winter.

Bullfinches appear in early February most years to nibble on the cherry blossom buds in the trees near my apartment.

The main race is Japan is very different to that in the UK, as you can see from this picture below.

Bullfinch

They breed in the high mountains in central Hokkaido and move to lower elevations in winter.

Birds with more red/pink on the breast are invaders from continental Asia and the 2 races form mixed flocks.

Bullfinch

There is still time for them to appear in 2019.

These photos were taken 2 years ago.

Hawfinch

Hawfinch

Another bird I usually see plenty of in winter is Hawfinch, They are common, even in the middle of town. This year is very slow however and I haven’t seen any in town since late autumn. Where have they all gone?

The above photo was taken in a local park a couple of years ago. This is generally a pretty shy species but occasionally some individuals, such as this one, show no fear………

Birdless

Daurian Redstart

A Daurian Redstart near my apartment from quite a few years ago. Some winters there are many small birds in town but not this year. I haven’t seen this species since November (it is usually a common winter visitor) and there are no Waxwings, winter finches or buntings.

No car last few days so I was stuck in town. There were 6 species of duck on the river at the weekend as well as Coot, Grey Heron and Great Egret but the only passerines of note were a handful of Dusky Thrush, several Eastern Great Tit and a lone Varied Tit. It is pretty cold (although not unusually so) and very icy underfoot: not ideal for walking around Hakodate looking to find any small birds.

Hoping for a red and green invasion

Common Crossbill

So it’s 2019. 5 years ago there was a big invasion of Common Crossbill into Hakodate. They were everywhere. 20014 was a Crossbill year when the above photo was taken. 5 years before that in 2009 we had another big Crossbill invasion when the following pic was taken.

Common Crossbill

5 years before that there was another big invasion. I didn’t have a camera in 2004 though. So do they erupt at 5 year intervals? In all those years flocks appeared in the local parks in mid February. I hope this year will be a repeat. There are precious few small birds around so far this winter ……….

Here’s another one from 5 years ago.

Common Crossbill

They occur most years in smallish numbers, I suspect those may be resident birds moving around Hokkaido and the big flocks in invasion years may be from the Asian mainland. But I may be wrong.

All quiet in Hakodate

Japanese Waxwing

A Japanese Waxwing from Hakodate last year. In early 2018 there was a huge invasion of Waxwings (of both species) right in the middle of town. It lasted about 3 weeks. This year however it’s very quiet near my apartment: Great Egret, a few Dusky Thrush, Daurian Redstart, a handful of Goosander and a lone Long-tailed Rosefinch have been all I’ve been able to find this week………….maybe some Waxwings will show up soon.