Hokkaido – Pre Trip

February 16th, 2011

A few of us from NPSS will be on a 9-day trip to Hokkaido today for birding. All except me will be with spouse for the trip. Tina had to pull out from the trip the last minute due to work commitments and kids’ PSLE preparation. This trip is made possible with generous help from Yamane san in booking the hotels and planning for the trip.

We will be on ANA flight to Haneda Airport, a new airport at Tokyo that I have not been, and transfer to a domestic flight to Nakashibetsu. This will definitely be an interesting trip for me. Since I taken up Nature Photography 3 or 4 years ago, places that I travelled to for photography are usually nice and warm, the coldest for me was the recent trip to Nepal but that was about 10 degree Celsius. At Hokkaido, we are expecting -10 degree C or even colder without any wind chill factor. This really reminds me of my school days at Buffalo.

I have started to prepare for the trip many months ago, stocking up winter clothing, boots, heat pack, etc. Tina and I have visited all the known outdoor gears shops in Singapore and also have bought many items from China and the US. I managed to get my snow boots, which is difficult to find in tropical Singapore, in a business trip to the US in December. With so much winter gears in the luggage, my luggage weight is at about 24kg. Hopefully I will not run into any issue with the check-in counter. My main worry is actually the carry on. My GuraGear camera bag which has all my equipment is at about 16kg and I have another bag for jackets and my MacBook. Hand carrying camera equipment is always a concern on flight.

The main objective of this trip is to photograph winter birds. There are 2 main species on the targeted list – Red-crowned Crane, White-tailed Eagle and Blakiston’s Fish Owl. The first two are almost guaranteed, but the endangered Blakiston’s Fish Owl will need some luck and tips. Of course, other than these 3 species, I would also like to photograph the Whooper Swan, red fox, deer, etc. Winterscape is also high on my list, which will be interesting. Unfortunately, when we are there it will be full moon (15th day of Chinese Lunar |New Year), startrails will be very difficult with bright moon.

I have selected the following cameras and gears for the trip:

  • 1D MK IV
  • 5DMK II
  • 7D
  • 500mm f/4 IS
  • 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II
  • 24-70mm f/2.8
  • 16-35mm f/2.8 II
  • 1.4xTC & 2XTC

I will try to update whenever possible and hope to keep tab on the daily activities at Hokkaido.

Pulau Ubin Bird Census – September 6, 2009

September 6th, 2009

I signed up to help in the 6th Fall census on Migrating bird by NSS Birdgroup. I have been to the previous 2 census at Ubin West led by Willie Foo. Tina joined me in the previous 2, but this time she decided to sleep in. πŸ™‚ I was caught in the traffic jam as there was a Yellow Ribbon Run starting at 7:30am at Changi Village. Finally managed to get through and park my car at about 7:35am and Willie just finished his breakfast and we met at the car park.

Took a boat ride to Pulau Ubin, the weather was cloudy and a little drizzle. As sson as we arrived, a Common Sandpiper was sitting at a rock next to the jetty greeting us. That is our first migrant of the day. πŸ™‚

We took a van to the formal Thai Temple and walk back to the town covering the western part of Ubin. As soon as we got off the Van, the rain started to come. Β I forgot my rain caot but have a large garbage bag to protect my 40D and 100-400mm. Saw a pair of Brown Throated Sunbirds and many Asian Glossy Starling (mainly Juvenile). As we were about to move on, there were 2 wildboar piglet crossing the road. We suspect the adult may be nearby and were worried that it will charge at us. Willie has his tripod as “weapon” and he asked me to look for a tree branch just in case the adult charge at us. πŸ™‚ As we moved further down, the adult did show up on the trail, we stopped immediately and the adult was scared of us and quicly make a move into the forest. The trio was within the vicinity and we spotted them a few times after that.

Nothing too interesting for arinny Sunday morning. We saw 2 juvenile White Rumped Sharma, a few Oriental Magpie Robin, 6 Oriental Pied Hornbill stealing papaya from a Kampong house, Β a pair of Pied Fantail singing their heart out and a pair of Common Kingfishers. We also counted 57 Grey Heron at the quarry but there is no Night Heron. I am not sure if it was due to the construction/development at the quarry.

We walked back to the jetty at about 11:15am and waited for a boat for about 20 minutes. Β The species seen was less than the last few counts could be due to the poor weather.

NPSS will have an outing there the following Saturday on Spetember 12. Hopefully the weather will be good and with many photogrpahy opportunities.

Panti – September 5, 2009

September 5th, 2009

Loong Tat, PP and myself made a trip to Panti. We set off at about 5:30am after picking up Loong Tat and PP. Had Roti Prata for breakfast before proceeding to Panti Bird Sanctuary. The 2 birds greeted us when we arrived were the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo. The 2 were calling at each other about 100m from the carpark. Spent some times at Carpark but did not manage to see any interesting bird.Β  Move on to the swamp and spend a little more times there. However, most of the species seen are bulbuls. Feelinf a little disappointed, we moved on to the next spot where we met Dr. Wong KS from MNS Johor. He was after Lesser Green Leafbird. After chating with him a little, I saw a Crested Serpent Eagle perch infront of us and we decided to stop and set up our gears. As soon as we are ready with our set up, the CSE decided to take off and perch at a tree that make photography almost impossible. πŸ™ Since we have already set up we decide to spent some time there. There was a small bird wave with bulbuls (yes more bulbuls), Asian Fairy Blue Bird and Greater Green Leafbird. I have photos of most of those who came to the fruiting berries tree.

The next stop for us was at the Rufous Collared KF site as Loong Tat is after the Rufous Backed KF which we saw and teased us 2 weeks ago. However, we did not see or heard any kingfisher. πŸ™ However, we heard 2 Scarlet Rumped TRogon and 1 Red-naped trogon calling. One of the male Scarlet Rumped Trogon actually came quite close to us and I have a couple of shots, but when PP brought her gears over, it decided to take off. Actually I was hoping PP can get a shot of the trogon because she had not had any decent trogon in her collection. oh well, there is always next time.

The Rufous Collared Kingfisher site was not too productive, so we decide to move on. At about 100m or so before the Thai temple trail, at least 2 Ashy Bulbul were sighted, but I was in the car and do not have the gears ready. Anyway, I think Ashy Bulbul is quite good looking compare with most of the other bulbul at Panti. The next stop for us is the main stream. After parking the car we decided to walk towards the Sand quarry direction, however the whole forest seems really quite and that was at about 10:30am.

We met Kok Hui, Danny and Jia Sheng who came together with Con. They were also complaining about the quietness. They told us about a fruiting tree close to the place where the failed Whiskered Treeshift nest and attracted many species. Since our car is back at the main stream we decided to walk down the trail some more to try our luck. But the forest remain very quiet. Other than a couple of bulbuls, we only manage to see a Crimson Winged Woodpecker being harassed by 2 Cream Vented Bulbul.

At about 11:15am, we decide to walked back to the main stream and we met Con coming out of the forest. He was looking for Giant Pitta with his 600mm πŸ™‚ By about 11:30am we are already back at our car and decided to have an early lunch. While having lunch, there is a fruiting tree with only a few red berries left that attracted a few bulbuls nothing really worth mentioning, until PP saw a bird that she thought is Black Naped Monarh which was light blue colour, but Loong Tat shouted Nuthatch. I was really ecited as I have always wanted a Nuthatch photo. We quickly move our gears and the Velvet-Fronted Nuthatch stayed with us for very long allowing us to tried different settings. Loong Tat even used up his CF cards. πŸ™‚ I counted I took 152 shots of this bird alone. haha.

After getting this, we were so happy and decided to call it a day at about 1:15pm.

Canon EOS 7D

September 2nd, 2009

I have not been this excited about a new camera release from Canon in the last couple of years.Β  It has been disappointments after disappointments. As an amateur Nature Photographer, there are a couple of features that I look for :

  1. fps – I enjoyed my 1DMK2 8 fps and it let me captured many action shots. I really feel the different particularly at Fruger 2 years ago
  2. crop factor – Although many want a full frame camera, but for me a 1.6x suit me well. AS it gave me 60% longer in reach for free. πŸ™‚
  3. ISO performance – Light is always a challenge for those of us shooting bird in tropical forest. I would like to have a camera that have clean image at ISO1600 and above
  4. AF – This is important for action shots. My 1DMK2 perform really well in this and to certain extend 40D is quite good as well. However, 50D was a disappointment. I skipped 1DMK3 because of all the reported AF issues too.

Out of these 4 key features, I believe EOS 7D has at least the first 2. The last 2 will have to wait until I get my hands on 1. However, based on the review of non-production beta, the ISO at 800 seems clean but 1600 is a little questionable. Considering this is a 18MP camera, I think the noise performance is quite impressive. As to the AF, on paper the 19 cross-point AF should also improve the AF over 50D and possibly 1DMK2 as well. Other notable features include HD Video at 24fps, which is great. I will definitely be using this for feeding or action shots.

I called TK yesterday to book a camera, but they are not taking any pre-order yet as Canon Singapore has not set the retail price yet. I hope I can get one before my Australia trip in early October. One thing for sure, I need to get a few high density CF cards!

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve – August 30, 2009

August 30th, 2009

Received a tip from Con on Asian Dowitcher at Sungei Buloh Hide 1C. Decided to try my luck this morning. The weather in the early morning was nice, I saw the beautiful sunrise from my car’s rear mirror while driving towards Sungei Buloh. I arrived at Sungei Buloh at about 7:40am. Instead of making a dash to Hide 1C, I decided to turn to the left to check out the mudflat to the left of mainhide. There were quite a number of Common Redshanks, Common Greenshanks, Pacific Golden Plovers, Common Sandpipers and Whimbrels Β but did not see any Asian Dowitcher. After taking a couple photos of Greenshank and redshank, decided to walk towards 1C as the sky start to turn dark and the wind started to blow. Met up with Loong Tat and May at Hide 1C, but nothing much at 1C except a couple of Common Sandpiper and Redshank, most of the waders are at the mainhide. Rain started to pour for about 20 minutes and when the rain stopped we decided to walk back to the main hide. Met a number of birders there, but the star bird was nowhere to be seen.

According to Harry who spotted the bird on Saturday, the 29th at about 4:30pm, it was with a group of Common Redshank and was feeding continuously. I checked through the frock of redshank, but the Asian Dowitcher was nowhere in sight. As rain started to drop again at about 10:30am, decided to packed up and left. A little disappointed that I did not get to see this globally threaten species, hope will have a chance to see it soon.

Some of the shots from this morning:

Japanese Garden – August 29, 2009

August 29th, 2009

PP helped me ordered the new Mac OS – Snow Leopard using her company corporate rate. Decided to meet her at Japanese Garden to pick up the CD.

Arrived at about 7:30am and the sky was threatening. Walked around the garden looking for Common Kingfisher as at least 2 were seen and photographed by NPSS members on Friday. Saw the KF perched nicely at a rock next to the bridge and decided to set up my gears with remote. the Kingfisher came back about 30 minutes later, but perched at a rock next to where I prefocus. πŸ™

After getting the CD from PP, who was camping at the island waiting for the Common Kingfisher, I decided to take a walk to Chinese Garden. nothing much at Chinese Garden except seeing an active sunbird nest and a couple of common birds. After spending more than 1 hour walking around Chinese Garden, decided to go back to Japanese Garden, PP and Wong have left. I saw the Common Kingfisher at where PP and Wong were waiting earlier but still very skittish.Β  Just as I was walking out, met Rey who just came to look for CKF again. πŸ™‚ He managed to get a very good shot of the CKF, I probably should have waited together with him.

Not a great birding day, but that part of the fun as you never know what you will get.

Here is a list of birds from today:

  1. Ashy Tailorbird
  2. Scarlet backed Flowerpecker
  3. Pacific Swallow
  4. Yellow vented Bulbul
  5. Little Heron
  6. Grey Heron
  7. Purple Heron
  8. White Bellied Sea Eagle
  9. Brahminy Kite
  10. Yellow Rumped Flycatcher – Female
  11. Common Kingfisher
  12. Collared Kingfisher
  13. White Throated Kingfisher
  14. Stork Billed Kingfisher
  15. Olive backed Sunbird
  16. Plain Throated Sunbird
  17. White Breasted Waterhen
  18. Pink Necked Green Pigeon
  19. Spotted Dove
  20. Asian Glossy Starling
  21. Cattle Egrets
  22. Common Sandpiper
  23. Black Naped Oriole
  24. Common Flameback Woodpecker
  25. Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker
  26. Javan Myna
  27. Pied Fantail

A couple of photos from today:

Hello World

August 27th, 2009

I would like to use this space to blog about my experience and journey. I will try my best to write as often as I can and hope you will enjoy reading them.