Spring Geese

Bean Goose

Lots of geese around this weekend: several hundred at Onuma. Mainly White-fronted Geese on Sunday and mainly Bean Geese (above) on Monday. They were very wary and stayed out in the middle of a big ice-free part of the lake. Not many photo opps……..

One thing I’ve been doing religiously with geese flocks over the years is check for rarities. Snow Goose, Lesser White-fronted Goose and Cacckling Goose are the 3 possibilities. Until yesterday I’d always drawn blanks but look what I found…………..

Cackling Goose

3 Cackling Goose in among all the Pintails. A totally crappy record shot but my first lifer in over 18 months!

A White-tailed Eagle flushed the wildfowl and the 3 birds disappeared and I couldn’t relocate them. At least I got a record shot. Also in among the wildfowl were several Baikal Teal, also too far off for any pics sadly.

Not Mallards

Falcated Duck

At Onuma a large flock of Mallard joins the Whooper Swan on a small ice free patch of the lake every year. Other species join too: there are usually a few Smew, Goosander and Goldeneye and for several winters a small group of Pintail. Bean and White-fronted Goose sometimes put in an appearance too.

3 years ago I noticed small numbers of Falcated Duck on the edge of the group, generally just out of camera range. And 2 years ago there were small numbers of Baikal Teal, again out of range.

Baikal Teal

Last year both species did come close enough for some pictures (but sadly not any Baikal drakes) So far this winter neither species has appeared……………….

Ring-necked Duck

Both the first 2 species are scarce but not especially rare in this part of the world. The female Ring-necked Duck came for 2 consecutive winters. Again, well out of camera range but a nice bird to see and a bona fide rarity.

Some Smew


Smew are regular winter visitors to Onuma (and also Yakumo). They tend to be a bit shy and difficult to photograph: they take flight very easily especially at Onuma.


These shots are from 2 years ago when a small group were often resting on a small unfrozen pond in late winter. It was next to the road and they often flew off and returned soon after providing lots of BIF chances.

This is one of many species that occur in the UK but are much commoner here. I only ever saw one in the UK actually.

Solitary Snipe

Solitary Snipe

A Solitary Snipe yesterday……………………

Solitary Snipe

I have a confession to make. These are my wife’s photos, not mine. She called me to say she’d found a strange bird standing in a half frozen stream. By the time I got there it wasn’t in full view, I couldn’t see its tail or its bill length. I decided it was a Woodcock. Last month I was showing a visiting birder from Hong Kong the local sights and he badly wanted to see Solitary Snipe. Amazingly the day I met him I thought I’d found 2 very close to where this photo was taken, We only got fleeting views but I thought it couldn’t be anything else (Woodcock are supposed to be summer visitors for a start), However he went back the next day, got a photo and the photo showed a Woodcock.

On a facebook group I’m a member of someone pointed out my ID error when I posted my ‘Woodcock’ photo. Now the exact opposite has happened. A double Solitary Snipe/ Woodcock ID fail………

My wife uses a 6D/100-400L combo and the high ISO (5000) looks OK on these photos, even after cropping. So thanks a lot to her………….

Three trees gone

Ural Owl

Ural Owls were a staple winter bird on my old blog over the years. There were a total of 4 roosting holes that regularly held birds throughout the winter.

Ural Owl

These 3 pictures were all from different trees, all 3 of them easy to see from the road that winds around Lake Onuma.

Ural Owl

These were all dead trees and the problem with dead trees is that they are, well, dead. All 3 of them have since been blown down by summer typhoons. There was aanother one that is still standing but I haven’t seen an Owl there for years.

The Owls must still be there of course but deeper in the snowbound forest and away from the road and undiscovered by birders………..