Friday, May 24, 2019

Osaka Birding - Information

It was obviously a low season for birding when we arrived at Osaka on the third week of May. We did half-days birding from May 13 to 17 at two different places - the Osaka Castle and Osaka Nanko Bird Sanctuary. We saw a total of 30 species and got 7 lifers.

Birding Areas

Osaka Castle Park. The wooded area surrounding the castle is a good place for birding. The three times we went there we saw bird photographers hanging around. The month of May was the best time to see the Japanese Paradise Flycatcher. The Park is easily accessible via commuter train. It is within walking distance from the Morinomiya Station. There is a convenience store (Lawson's), Starbucks and R-Baker, a bakery/restaurant near the entrance to the park. Come early if you plan to go birding to avoid the crowd. Also it is recommended that you visit this place in early spring to see more birds.

Osaka Nanko Bird Sanctuary. This place is for bird photographers. It has a semi-circular concrete structure with windows facing the wetlands. Chairs are even provided for photographers. Again the best time to be here is during spring and autumn migration. It is within walking distance (less than a kilometre) from the Trade Centre train station. There aren't any stores/restaurants within the vicinity but there are vending machines. Restrooms are also available.


Quintessa Hotel - Osaka Bay. The main reason we chose this hotel was its proximity to the Osaka Nanko Bird Sanctuary. We highly recommend this hotel. The staff are very nice and helpful. The rooms huge and the amenities are plentiful. We only tried the in house restaurant, Aimable, once, for their breakfast buffet. Service was excellent and there was a great variety of food.


Throughout our stay, we used the local commuter trains. They were fast and efficient. The people at the information booth were very helpful and even accompanied us at the ticketing machines to show us how to operate them.

We did use a taxi once from the hotel to the bird sanctuary and I must say it was quite expensive: 1200 yen (about $11) for a little more than a kilometer's drive.  


We are budgetarians when it comes to dining. Most of our breakfast/dinner items were bought from the convenience stores such as Lawson's, 7-11, or Family Mart.

We did visit the downtown area and had lunch at the popular tourist spots such as Dontonburi Food Hall Blast where we had Mexican fare at Chronic Tacos, and at Kuromon-Ichiba Market where we enjoyed authentic Japanese food.

One of the places we tried was the popular Mos Burger at the ATC Mall which is also within walking distance from our hotel.

Another place we had lunch at the ATC Mall was Don Don Tei which is basically a fast food restaurant. Their rice toppings are very delicious!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Osaka Birding - Day 5

We had ample time to go birding on our last day in Osaka. Of course we had to go the place that is within walking distance from our hotel - the Osaka Nanko Bird Sanctuary. It was a beautiful sunny morning which is probably why the pesky insects we encountered three days ago were very, very few. The "hide" allowed visitors in earlier than its scheduled 9 am opening. Unfortunately, birds were even fewer this time. The good thing was we saw species that were not here the last time we came. Such as this Whimbrel.

The Great Cormorant was still at its usual place.

The Great Egrets were already in their breeding plumage.

The Eastern Spot-billed Ducks did some fly-by.

A Common Moorhen also did a short stop over.

We then tried the wooded area around the "hide". The only bird we saw was a male Narcissus Flycatcher.

The last photo of the day and of the trip is that of the bird we first saw in Osaka and for us, had become the avian symbol of this beautiful city, the White-cheeked Starling, which we saw as we were walking back to our hotel.

Time to pack and get ready for our return flight home.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Osaka Birding - Day 4

Once again we roamed the premises of the Osaka Castle. Not long after we arrived, we were greeted by a male Narcissus Flycatcher greeting the morning with song.

Just like yesterday, the Tits seemed friendlier giving us good looks. both the Japanese Tit and the Long-tailed Tit.

Then came the challenge. Identifying a particular species of Leaf-Warbler is really a test. They all look and act alike, the only distinguishing characteristic being in the way they sing. When we got back to the hotel, I played the songs of some of the possible suspects. Thanks to my wife's excellent hearing abilities, we concluded that the bird we saw was a Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, a lifer!

While we were hanging around the rock with a tiny pool of water on it, a Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker came and waited until the Tits were finished bathing before taking its turn.

Happy that we got much better photos of the woodpecker, we were preparing to leave when one of the local bird photographers waved at me. Cynthia and I both hurried to where he was. He pointed at the bottom of the tree, and since he doesn't speak English, gestured indicating that there was a bird behind a small bush. He then showed me from his camera the image that he got. It was a thrush of some kind. Then all of a sudden the said thrush came out and walked towards the other side. It was at some distance and we dared not come closer to avoid spooking it. Thankfully, I got a few good enough shots that helped identify it when I searched the internet later that day. It was a Siberian Thrush and another lifer.

We said goodbye to Osaka Castle and donned our tourist caps again.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Osaka Birding - Day 3

Without a lot of birding options, we decided to return to the Osaka Castle grounds since we were already getting familiar with using the local commuter train.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by the Japanese Tits. One of them surprisingly even flew down to the ground.

As we roamed to the other side of the castle, a place we did not go to the last time we were here, we came upon a small pond. There swimming leisurely were a pair of Eastern Spotted Ducks. They were so close that we got full frame shots.

A little farther, the local bird photographers were again trying to get a picture of the Japanese Paradise Flycatcher. We of course joined them. This time the bird was in a more open branch but still quite a distance away.

When it disappeared again from view, we moved on. As we were walking, a Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker flew by and alighted on a tree trunk. It was carrying something in its beak which we presumed to be some nesting materials.

Then there were some movement in a nearby tree. Finding what caused that, I was so glad that it was our fifth lifer, the Long-tailed Tit.

Happy that we added another species to our life list, we rejoined the paradise flycatcher enthusiasts. They looked very excited, and sure enough, the male star bird showed up again, this time even closer.

On the way out a Warbling White-eye bade us goodbye. 

Now it's time to put on our tourist cap.

Osaka Birding - Day 2

Having learned from yesterday's fiasco, we asked the concierge at our hotel to call a taxi for us to take us to the Osaka Nanko Bird Sanctuary. It took us about ten minutes to get to our destination. The fare was a bit steep though - $10 - for such a short distance. Nevertheless we were glad that we are now at the birding spot we so wanted to visit.

The "hide" if you would call it that, is a semi-circle concrete structure with windows overlooking the wetlands and chairs in front of those windows for photographers to sit while taking pictures of the birds. 

However, it doesn't open until 9 am and it was only a little before 8 when we arrived. So we decided to explore the surrounding wooded area. Apparently not a good idea. For one thing birds were sparse - only the ubiquitous White-cheeked Starlings, Eurasian Tree Sparrows and Brown-eared Bulbuls were there. Another thing was the presence of gnats and other flying insects that would swarm at our faces apparently attracted by our warm breaths and moist eyes, perhaps because it was gloomy and a bit cold that morning. We met another local bird photographer who was standing by the trail looking up obviously waiting for a bird and frantically shooing away the insects that kept attacking his face. He spoke a little English and showed us what he was looking for - a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher! Unfortunately the whole time we were there the star bird of Osaka never showed up.

Nine o'clock we entered the "hide". As if on cue a flock of shore birds flew in. The sad thing was they were at some distance, too far even for my 600mm lens. Even farther away was a Great Cormorant perched on a stump. 

Some of the better shots we got were interestingly enough, the "Grey" birds:

Grey Heron

Grey Plover

After almost an hour most of the shore birds flew away. Then in flew a few Eastern Spot-billed Ducks.

Half-past ten and there weren't any interesting new birds. Then I saw an "LBJ" (little brown job) feeding on a grass stalk. Hoping that it wasn't a Eurasian Tree Sparrow, I peered through my long lens and got excited! I couldn't identify it at that moment but I knew it would be something new for us. Searching the internet later that day I was so thrilled that I was right in claiming it as lifer number four - the Grey-capped Greenfinch.

The long walk back to the hotel wasn't as bad as we thought it would be, now knowing the route we had to take.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Osaka Birding - Day 1

We’ve been walking for more than an hour and we still hadn’t reached our destination. Our research said it was only about 20 minutes away on foot. And to think that not only did we get directions from the concierge at the hotel we were staying in but I also used Google Maps to guide us. We eventually gave up and returned to the hotel. 

It was not a good start to our birding trip to Osaka. Our plan was to go to the Osaka Nanko Bird Sanctuary - a walking distance from our hotel. (The very reason we chose the Quintessa Hotel was due to its proximity to this birding site). At first I thought things would  be going well. The moment we stepped out of the hotel I spotted our first lifer - the White-cheeked Starling - feeding by the roadside. 

Of course, I had to take a shot of the most common bird in Osaka - the Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

Then it happened. Since it was a disastrous beginning - one whole morning wasted due to my directional ineptitude - Cynthia and I worked on Plan B. Inasmuch as our hotel provides a free shuttle to the Osaka Castle, a famous tourist (and may I add, birding) spot in this city, we took that option. We left promptly at 11 am and were at our destination in about 45 minutes. After having a quick lunch at Lawsons - a local convenience store - we proceeded to area A. There we saw a bunch of bird photographers standing idly seemingly waiting for something. A few were even napping on the benches. They were unmindful of Large-billed Crows that were everywhere.

Nearby was a rock with a small pool of water where birds come to drink or take a bath. It was here that we got another common species - the Japanese Tit - which was waiting for its turn to a take a dip.

Oriental Turtle Doves were so used to humans that they would come so close we could almost step on them.

While we were observing the “bathing” area, Cynthia heard something. “Woodpecker!” She said while looking up at a nearby tree. It was our second lifer, the Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker.

Then the bird photographers excitedly rushed to an area not that far from where we were. One them, who was napping earlier, told us “flycatcher!” We joined the group and oddly enough it was I who first spotted what they were hoping to photograph. The male Japanese Paradise Flycatcher was high up in the tree tops. It would show up for a short while and then suddenly disappear. It was this “now you see it, now you don’t” game that got the local bird photographers all stirred up. And because of that we only got a few “documentary” shots of the star bird of Osaka Castle.

Strangely, after a few times of showing itself, the flycatcher seemed to evaporate into thin air and was not seen again. My wife and I decided to explore the surrounding areas and got a selfie with the famed castle in the background.

We returned to where the bird photographers were hanging out. The paradise flycatcher probably hadn’t reappeared yet as they were all lounging around. To pass the time we took photos of the Large-billed Crows and White-cheeked Starlings. Then one of the photographers told us to follow him. We did and as we reached the upper level of the castle grounds, there were already bird photographers there shooting at something. Our “angel” then pointed at a bird flitting from branch to branch. We joined the group in capturing images of the female Japanese Paradise Flycatcher which was more cooperative than the male.

Eventually she also disappeared from view. It was already close to three in the afternoon so we both agreed to call it day considering we still had to take the local commuter train back to our hotel.

Despite a bad start we were still thankful that we got three lifers on our first day of birding in Osaka. 

Sunday, May 05, 2019

U.P. Quick

The month of May is not the best time to go birding in the Philippines. The heat and humidity of summer are the biggest deterrents to that activity. When I thought of doing a quick sortie at the campus of the University of the Philippines (U.P.) in Diliman, my wife told me to bring only my camera as she wasn't really into a photographic mood. She will just act as my spotter, she said.

To get myself into the mood, I took an obligatory shot of the urban trash bird - the Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

Unfortunately, the only good shots I got was of that bird and one other species. The rest of the local avifauna were either too busy looking for food or strangely very skittish. The Black-naped Orioles were too busy foraging the tree tops and were always hidden from view. A pair of Olive-backed Sunbirds never stopped moving and despite my many attempts I wasn't able to get even one good shot. Same thing goes for the Golden-bellied Gerygones.

The Collared Kingfisher that we saw was so uber alert that even my slow movement of getting out of the car made it leave its perch.

Thankfully, and what saved our day, was the Long-tailed Shrike that posed for me.

8:30 am and the heat was getting unbearable. We called it quits and thus ended our quick birding at U.P.