Friday, December 3, 2010

Two Greys together

I was trying to take the photo of the two together with no success. One day, I had an excellent idea! Why not take photos of them in shower? And it worked! Hoy (left) and Dee Dee (right) happily taking a shower together.

Our Greys (2)

This is Dee Dee, who came to our home 2 & a half months ago. After having lived with Hoy for almost 2 years, I wanted to have a companion for her (up to this time, we'd believed Hoy was a male). I had an opportunity to go to Tokyo area where there are several shops with desirable Greys. In one of the pet shops, I met Dee Dee. She was not in a good shape. Her plumage was so damaged from plucking and she looked so frightened. There was another female Grey looking very healthy and active. After thinking which to choose a while, I decided on Dee Dee. She is tame and really a nice girl. Only thing is that she still imitates the calls of Macaws and other large parrots at times and it can get VERY NOISY. Hoy tells Dee Dee to hush.
The pet shop clerk said that Dee Dee's feather plucking started after her flight feathers were clipped for safety. I am hoping the her plumage will grow back soon. By the way, she hasn't plucked feathers as she used to since she arrived in our home.

Our Greys

I am a ardent parrot lover. I have been one for all my life but hadn't have the chance to be an owner of them (or to be more precise, be owned by them) until 2 years ago. My husband and I happened to visit a pet shop in October, 2008 to find that the shop was closing down and a few parrots were left unsold. The woman at the shop told us that the parrots would be taken to another affiliated pet shop which was less spacious (to say the least). I felt really sorry for them but couldn't take all of them home. So, we decided to get the African Grey, who looked so bored and sleepy. This is how we encountered our first Grey, Hoy.
The pet shop clerk said to us, "He's pretty tame..." It turned out that he was tame so long as he was in the cage. It took him a while (almost a year) to get adjusted to our home and to become really tame and a member of our family in a true sense. (We had to go through quite a bit of bleeding incidents and other disasters.)
Now she (We found out it was a she recently, but I'll tell this whole story later on) is basically toilet-trained. She tells us when she wants to poo, or she goes to the certain spot in our kitchen to do so, where we spread newspaper for that purpose. How does she tell us when? By pulling our clothes or ears when she wants to "go to the bathroom."
It is said that you shouldn't put your parrots on your shoulders. However, our Greys do not seem to pose any problems by doing so. We do not clip her flight feathers so she can go wherever she wants when she's let out of the cage, of course, under our supervision.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fox and voles

But from time to time, it did turn around! After this quiet stare which lasted for several seconds, the fox trotted away from us and caught and gulped a vole.

Fox and voles

The fox was so absorbed with hunting it did not care about our presence, probably listening to the sound of voles running among grasses.

Fox and voles

Everytime I encounter a Fox, it is almost invariably hunting. During our survey, we came across this young Northern Fox (Velpus velpus). We observed the fox for about 5 minutes, during which it made 3 hunting attempts with 2 successful catches. As you can see, the tail of the vole is protruding from the mouth of the fox. 

Tobetsu Nature Restoration Area

I visit this area regularly, almost once a week, to survey birds and other animals. The photo is of the rivermouth of the Tobetsu, flowing into the Ishikari River. Extensive shortcuts were made to the rivers of Hokkaido, which resulted in the river water to flow rapidly downstream like rain water gushing straight through a gutter. This resulted in the degradation of the
biodiversity of both the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
To restore what had been lost in the "efficiency-centered era," parts of the rivershores (still a very small area), were dug to give them semi-natural undulations. This operation worked quite well and now we have river mudflats where various shorebirds utilize as a feeding/resting ground and fishes found only in mud- or silt-dominant riverbeds are coming back.
The landscape has improved as well.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The life of the lily, Cardiocrinum cordatum (5)

The seed cases in close-up. As seen in the photo, each seed has a "wing" which makes it easier to be carried by the winds.

It takes eight years for one individual lily to have flowers and thus to reproduce. The plant dies after that and the cycle of life is handed down to the next generation. The lily has to wait for another eight years to see its offspring complete their life cycles.

The life of the lily, Cardiocrinum cordatum (4)

By mid-October, the sheaths (or seed cases) turn brown. The sheath tissues gradually become dry , which makes them crack open from the top. This is the ingeneous part of the seed-cases. The seeds which are stacked in columns (like CDs in a "value-package") get blown off from the top in small numbers at a time.

The life of the lily, Cardiocrinum cordatum (3)

After having been pollinated by various insects, the flowers are slowly transformed into egg-shaped sheaths where seeds are stored and mature.

The life of the lily, Cardiocrinum cordatum (2)

This is the close-up of one of the flowers

The life of the lily, Cardiocrinum cordatum (1)

This lily is found in wooded areas. The long flower stalk begins to grow in May and the flowers usually bloom in Late June to July. This photo was taken around the first week of July 2010.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wind Turbines and the Sand Dune Ecosystem (8)

The wind turbines which had been built about 10 year ago, located several kilometers from the sand dunes. There are only three turbines in this area, but four years ago, a White-tailed Sea Eagle collided with one of them and was found dead.

The noise from the rotating blades was considerable. And to me, the gigantic structures do not seem to match the surroundings

Wind Turbines and the Sand Dune Ecosystem (7)

There are more than ten species of mushrooms found only on sand dunes. All of them are vulnerable to changes in their habitats.

Wind Turbines and the Sand Dune Ecosystem (6)

There are many fox dens along the dunes.

Wind Turbines and the Sand Dune Ecosystem (4)

We found a snail crawling on the sand!

Wind Turbines and the Sand Dune Ecosystem (3)

The view of the sandy beach and dunes.

Wind Turbines and the Sand Dune Ecosystem (2)

This photo is the base area of a wind turbine. The sand dunes will be lost and become a flat barren graveled area like this.

Wind Turbines and the Sand Dune Ecosystem (1)

A few days ago, we went to see the sand dunes in Otaru, where a wind farm company is planning to build 15 wind turbines. The turbines, according to their plan, are going to be built on the sand dunes which are only 100 to 150m from the shore. the widths of the dunes are very narrow - just 20 to 30m. The base area of each turbine, including the the concrete turbine base and the road and flat area for maintenance will be around 50 x 50m. This means that the entire sand dunes will be devastated almost completely if they are to be built.

There are only few stretches of natural shoreline sand dunes left in Hokkaido, which still hold ecosystems in fairly good condition. This place is one of them.

The wind farm companies as well as the governmental administrations tend to focus much on the collision deaths of birds, but do not look at the impact of wind farms on the frail sand beach ecosystems. They also tend to ignore the fact that breeding populations of birds and other animals decline considerably where wind turbines have been built.

Harvest Season (5)

So I made the salad. All organic ingredients, including the tomato and chopped parsley!

Harvest Season (4)

One of my friends picked edible crysanthemums for me. The photo is the flowers in full bloom in her garden. The petals are boiled and cooked in various ways. She also pulled out a huge daikon radish and gave it to me, telling me the radish and mums go very well together in salad.

Harvest Season (3)

Blueberry jam (above) and grape jam (bottom) I made from the havest. Too little? Yes, but I am quite satisfied and hoping I can harvest more next year. They tasted really good indeed.

Harvest Season (2)

I left some grapes for the birds!

The Harvest Season (1)

This is going to be our last grapes to pick. There are some blueberries at the bottom of the bowl, though hard to distinguish them from grapes.

This year, we did not pick much fruit from our garden, because a pair of Bulbuls nested in summer, which we did not want to disturb. We gave up on picking cherries and other summer fruit for them. After the Bulbul family were gone, we began to have unexpected visitors-several different species of wasps. They visited our willow trees to forage for small insects as well as to collect parts of leaves and barks, by chewing off with their big jaws. Even if I knew they wouldn't attack people when they were away from their nests, their presence made me feel reluctant to go pick grapes and blueberries.

Wasps' visits stopped 2 days ago all of the sudden, which probably meant that their wintering queens are now out and left the nests. It also means that all the workers didn't have to collect food and nest material any more. They are now.....quietly awaiting their time to depart, that is, one sudden cold night which will take away their lives.

Autumn is a cruel season, as well as it is the season of harvest and bounty.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The second day

DeeDee came out of the cage on her own. Smart kid!

Our Girl Grey

On the way back from a conference held in Chiba, I picked up a 2-yr old female African Grey. This photo was taken on the morning after her arrival in our house. As apparent from the appearance, she is a recovering feather-plucker. I had a choice between an untame but normal female and this one. I couldn't make up my mind for a while but finally decided to acquire the one in worse shape.
She began plucking feathers when she was about to board the airplane, which made me worry a great deal that she might not stop plucking after I took her home.
To my surprise, she hasn't plucked feathers since she settled in our house. She sometimes showed the urge of plucking when stressed. Everytime she began pulling her feather, I told her that there is nothing to be afraid of and tickled or patted her head. She's become calmer and less jumpy.

We named her DeeDee.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Nature Trail Day (6)

Each child with his/her masterpiece was photographed. A volunteer photographer kindly takes the photos of the participating children and their ornaments and gives them the prints free of charge, which we are really grateful for. The children were all so proud of their works.

Nature Trail Day (5)

Grown-ups as well as children enjoyed making ornaments.

Nature Trail Day (4)

On the way back to classroom, they collected acorns, berries, twigs, and leaves, with which to make nice ornaments.

Nature Trail Day (3)

When they found the right plant, they picked one leaf, scotch-taped it in their "Research Notebook," and copied the name of the plant from the posted photo.

Nature Trail Day (2)

This year's task was to find the 12 species of plants indicated in laminated photos, which were posted along the route. It isn't as easy as you think to find all 12 plants. Everyone was trying very hard.

Nature Trail Day for Children (1)

Every year, we hold the Nature Trail Day in mid-September. This was the 9th year. The local community, an elementary school and our college have collaborated to give children the opportunity to experience and learn about the natural habitats around us. Althougn the event is designed for grade school and kidergarten children, anyone interested can sign in and participate. This year, we had more than 70 participants including 38 children. That's why we needed so many mosquito coils. There were still quite a lot of moiquitoes and other small biting insects in the woods.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Bulbul Nest

The fledglings stayed in and around our garden for one full day, being fed by parent birds and sometimes resting in the trees. Their begging calls were heard just before dark, so they must have slept there overnight. But the Bulbul family was gone on the next day, the 14th. I could hear no vocalization in the vicinity. Hope they'll come back to nest in our place. It was fun watching their nesting and I learned a lot from it.

The Bulbul Nest

This is another fledgling. His tail is also still short unlike the long taile of their parents. One of the parents fed them with cicadas, which, I believe, were singing in our neighbors garden. And I don't hear cicadas from there any more after that. Such is the way of nature.

The Bulbul Nest

Then it happened the next day. But too bad I missed the very moment! When I peeked out to check the nest at 5:00 am, they were in the nest sound asleep. When my husband checked it at 8:20 am, they were still there. But at 10:20 when I came home, the nest was empty! All three fledglings were fine and able to fly perfectly, even with the short stumped tail!

The Bulbul Nest

This photo was taken in the afternoon on the 12th. There seemed to be only three nestlings. Two of them probably didn't make it, partly due to the heavy rain that fell for 2 consecutive days. The started to stand up on the rim of the nest to stretch. They should fledge very soon.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Bulbul Nest...Parents are busy.

Despite the heavy rain, the parents visit their nest about once every 10 minutes to feed their hungry children. Mom and Dad are both wet all over. " Hang on! Your efforts will pay off in a few days."

The Bulbul Nest in Rain still..

It is still raining hard. The nestlings have grown pretty much overnight, haven't they? At least their feathers have grown and opened to cover their bodies. It seems they aren't as wet as yesterday thanks to the plumage cover. They might fledge tomorrow or the day after. Now they are giving off short shriek-like begging calls.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Bulbul Nest

Because of a typhoon passing across Japan, it's been raining hard since early morning and pretty windy at times. The bulbul nestlings, tightly packed in the tiny nest, are all soaked. The parent birds are also quite wet. It is harder for the parents to find food on rainy days. I hope the storm will pass in a short while.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Bulbul Nest, Aug 10, 2010

This was taken just a few hours ago. They must be really hot with all five of them packed snugly in the small nest!

The Bulbul Nest, Tues Aug. 10, 2010

By the way, the spot indicated by the yellow arrow is where the nest is. right outside our kitchen window.

The Bulbul nest, Aug 9, 2010

There seem to be five nestlings in this roughly^built and tilted nest! They are asleep most of the time. But their eye lids are developing via the phenomenon called necrosis, in which part of the cells or tissues die or slothed away. At the same time the feathers lining the eyes, which are equivalent to our eyelashes, are forming.
My biggest concern is whether the frail nest would last till they fledge.....

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Bulbul Nest. Aug 8, 2010

The nestlings are doing great today. They've grown much over just one day. Now eye slits are forming. The eyelids should appear in a day or two. They sleep well, eat well and that's about all they do now. Interestingly, the nestlings hardly give begging calls. They are extremely quiet, although they shake their heads vigorously when a parent bird alights. This is probably an adaptation not to attract predators.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Just outside our window (2)

I knew the chicks hatched a few days ago, but waited until yesterday to remove the screen. There seem to be at least three nestlings, which are still naked and with their eyes closed.

Just outside the window (1)

Around mid July, I noticed a pair of Japanese Bulbuls started to build a nest in a tree just outside of our kitchen window. Overjoyed, I set up all the video equipment by the window. Then, I found out there was a BIG problem lying ahead of me. The screen window was stuck firmly to the window sill. It seemed impossible to get it out of the way without disturbing the nesting pair considerably.
We decided to wait until chicks hatched. By then, the pair should become tanacious enough and would not abandon their nest.
So, we waited.