Thursday 14 January 2016

Japan day one: Osaka Baer's & back to Tokyo

This is the first in a series of photo-heavy blog posts diarising a birding trip to Japan over the Christmas and New Year period. After each daily entry has been published on my blog I intend to conglomerate these to produce a PDF trip report, which will be available at a later date.

19 December 2015

After having arrived in Japan and travelled down to Osaka the previous afternoon, this was my first full day in Japan - and my intention was to spend as long as was necessary to see the drake Baer's Pochard, which I'd dipped in Suminoe Park in the ebbing light of the previous afternoon.

Happily, the bird was back on its favoured swimming pool at first light and I spent much of the morning watching this excellent duck before heading back to Tokyo at about lunchtime. This bird is notorious for coming out of eclipse quite late - when it turns up (usually mid to late November) it tends to look a real mess, gradually acquiring breeding plumage through December and looking more or less perfect by the end of the year. It was looking good today, although close views revealed that there were still a few mucky brown specks among the largely green sheen to the head. At first it remained quite distant and only briefly came close, spending much of its time asleep and in poor light to boot.

Leaving the duck I had a walk round the park to see what else was about. Highlights included a couple of Pale and several Dusky Thrushes as well as a number of quite tame Oriental Turtle Doves.

I returned to the swimming pool to find the pochard still fast asleep at the far end, so decided to grab some breakfast and my luggage from the hotel. Forty-five minutes later and I was back at the pool to find the sun shining and the bird, very much awake, motoring towards me! Of course as soon as I got the camera out it put its head away, swam to the near corner, hauled itself out and began to roost once more. The views were absolutely crippling - all I needed was for it to wake up!

Eventually it gave in to my wishes, woke up, had a preen and did a very close swim past on the near side of the pool. My opportunity was brief and I overexposed many of the images due to the dappled light caused by the trees behind, but some were thankfully salvageable. The difficulty in getting any sort of decent shots here is exacerbated by having to shoot through a chain link fence, which can cause a bit of havoc with auto-focus.

Soon enough the bird was asleep again, so I decided to pack up and jump on the Shinkansen back to Tokyo, arriving there mid-afternoon. The evening was spent exploring Asakusa and Ueno before I went to check in at a capsule hotel in Ginza. Tokyo is a fantastic city and I just wish I'd had more time to look round - though no doubt I'll be back at some point in the future.

Sensō-ji, Tokyo

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