tIt's natural to get excited about a photo of a bird you see online, and ask where the photo was taken. I’m pleased that you asked, as it shows that you’re interested in discovering more about at least one of the 11,121 species of birds on the planet. I have written this short explanation to address your question, with full respect for your love of birds.
Simply stated, I do not divulge the location of my bird photos. I follow the birding protocol of giving a general location, such as the name of the city, a township or an area such as “south-western Ontario”. I do so because over the years of taking bird photos, I’ve chosen to treat the birds that I meet as somewhat sacrosanct and I consider it a true privilege to be able to photograph and observe. On more occasions than I can remember, I’ve woken up very early and driven long distances in the dark to arrive at a habitat where a bird sighting is likely. I try to arrive before sunset, in all seasons. I know that some of the best photos are taken, serendipitously, just by being there at the right time, and this is something I strive to do. Sometimes I am lucky, many times I am not so lucky.
As a travel writer, I often cite Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous quote, “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.” In other words, travel adventures don’t begin when you arrive at a destination, they begin before you leave your home and during the process of reaching your chosen destination. For me, the same holds true with birding. The adventure begins by researching where a bird may be sighted and then actually arriving there.
The term 'Listers' often refers to birders who are only interested in adding another species to their life list. If the Black and Blue Gnatcatcher has already been checked off their list, and they see another one in the wild, they ignore it as a waste of their time. (similar to thinking 'been there…done that). They are only interested in “what’s next”. But the term Listers may also used to denote those birders who ignore the research and understanding of a bird’s habits and habitat and seem to be interested only in being directed to where the bird can be seen. Once found, they move on. Their task is complete.
Birders often refer to their activities in terms of a Treasure Hunt, where you never know what you are going to find, once you set out with your camera or binoculars or field scope. This is part of the thrill. Sometimes you are rewarded (such as the time we discovered a tree-imitating Potoo in a wooded area Mexico) and oftentimes, there is no specific reward other than a nice sunset and a calculation of 20,000 steps on your Fitbit or on your iPhone health app.
We are firm practitioners of the “7.8 Billion Syndrome” whereby we figure that out of the 7.8 billion people on the planet, we will attempt to be the only people (two of us), watching and listening to a bird in pristine silence. No horde of tripods with 800 mm lenses in sight. No loud talking people in the area. Just the sounds of silence as we commute with a Northern Saw-whet Owl in a Cedar tree in the woods. And we’ve been fortunate to have this “7.8” experience in many places around the world.
Flash back to the winter of 2019-2020 in the small city of Schomberg, just north of Toronto, in Ontario, Canada. News about a Northern Hawk-Owl spread like wildfire. When we arrived we found an army of photographers setting up their equipment and then with every rumour of the Hawk–Owl being sighted in a different area of the woods, the horde quickly re-located like a M.A.S.H Unit.
While I will be the first to admit that I have been part of the problem from time to time in the past, I choose not to contribute to this type of birding in the present time and for the future.
Now I am not suggesting in any way that you fit into any of the categories of birders listed above, as I don’t know you personally. I am only providing an answer with an explanation regarding the question “where did you take the photo”. I hope you appreciate my perspective.
We spent two days exploring Aizuwakamatsu in the Tohoku Region of Japan, in mid-November, 2013. Aizu is a great city at that time of year with the changing leaves but it's also a great city to explore Samurai houses, the traditional burial ground of the Matsudaira Clan and the sake breweries in the city. In fact, while we were at Tsurunoeh Brewery, we asked one of the owners where we should eat that night. She recommended Hairansho, an Izakaya in the downtown area-and it turned out to be an excellent suggestion.
When we arrived, the owner, Kazuhiro Matsuda was very welcoming and the evening was full of conversation and laughter--as well as delicious food. Kazuhiro knew alot about the local sakes so when we asked for something very dry, he brought out the Aizu Masume. Very oishii!
And from there it was one incredible dish after another including stir-fried squid. small fried fish, deep-fried fish with amadare (special sweet sauce) and daikon radish, an amazingly fresh plate of assorted sashimi, and tsukuneh--minced chicken meat on a skewer, Yakitori style, with a sweet terrikayi sauce.
It was a memorable evening and we've been waiting for the opportunity to return from the moment we left. Highly recommended.
Everyone was crying! Tears were literally streaming down the faces of the three businessmen at the table behind us as well as the woman who was sitting at the counter to my left. The izakaya owner’s wife was crying; her daughter was mopping away her own tears, and my two companions and I could hardly talk. The only thing that distinguished this scene from a sad movie or tragic event was the fact that we were also convulsed in laughter.
This was my sixth visit to Tsuzuku, a tiny 14-seat izakaya, located on a side street in one of the residential areas of Tokyo near the Ushigome Yanagicho Metro station.
In a lot of ways it is typical of an old-style izakaya, or restaurant/bar. In fact the name izakaya is derived from “i” meaning ‘to stay’ and “sakaya” meaning ‘sake shop’. Izakayas were originally way-stations for people to relax and enjoy a cup, or more, of sake. Today, most izakayas serve food - either a general menu of seafood and yakitori (grilled meat, fish or vegetables on a skewer) or they specialize in one type of food.
Tsuzuku is a seafood izakaya and finding fresher, better prepared seafood would be a challenge.
Tonight we savoured the assorted sashimi (raw seafood), enjoyed the ‘okara’ (a traditional dish made from soy beans) and indulged in the delicate flavour of ‘sake no harasu yaki’ (the fatty parts of grilled salmon). We tried ‘harmonica’, grilled back-fin of tuna – crispy and tasty. And then, as the sobbing reached a crescendo, we decided to try the house specialty, ‘Wasabi Meshi’.
This delicious treat consists of a bowl of steamed rice in which a lot (and I mean, a lot) of freshly grated wasabi root is mixed. Wasabi is often likened to horseradish. It is pungently hot.
The owner’s wife was crying because she was grilling the food. It was cold outside so the vents were closed and the smoky cloud arising from the grill was reaching cumulus proportions.
The daughter was crying because she was energetically grating the wasabi root to add to the rice and, just like peeling onions, the wasabi ‘fumes’ filled the air. The businessmen behind me were the first to taste the Wasabi Meshi. They immediately put down their chopsticks to wipe away the tears and the sweat rolling down their faces. When we looked at them, they burst out in laughter, which set the tone for the rest of the patrons, including the woman at the counter to my left, who was having difficulty seeing, because her eyes were so red from the rice dish. And my companions and I joined in the party - mostly because the rice is incredibly tasty, and if you can get through the first few bites, things begin to calm down a bit.
After my first tearful venture into the rice, the owner’s daughter told me to eat it with nori (seaweed) to absorb some of the heat. I delicately plucked some seaweed from a plastic container with my chopsticks and was quickly reprimanded with “No no! Take a handful like this” as she took a fistful of shredded seaweed and threw it on top of my rice. Of course more laughter ensued.
Then the owner’s wife started to hand out bananas, which also tend to mellow the piquant bite of the wasabi. So now we are all crying, laughing and eating bananas in a seafood izakaya. Ahhhtravel memories!
Tsuzuku is one of my favourite Izakayas. Great atmosphere, consistently excellent, fresh seafood, and super friendly owners and clients.
Roughly $60.00 US per person with lots of Kioizumi, a delicious sake from Niigata Prefecture.
It's sometimes hard to find a good place for dinner on a Sunday night in Tokyo so we consulted one of the online food/restaurant guides (Tabelog) and discovered Sushi no Darihan in the Yoyogi district. While Tabelog's reviews are not always reliable (there's no accounting for taste), this time it exceeded expectations. The Izakaya is right across the road from the JR station and has that nice 'izakaya feel' about it. When given a choice between sitting at the counter or a table, we always choose the counter as this is where the action is. It's known as 'counter intelligence' (or counter intuitive) and puts the diner in direct contact with the chefs preparing the food, the selection of possible food choices on display, as well as other clients looking to chat and share experiences.
We started with two different sakes, both clean and dry. Rincara from Niigata and Kyokukou from Tochigi. An assortment of really fresh seafood followed:
An appetizer of cod roe and seaweed
Assorted sashimi (horse mackeral, kohada, shrimp, sole, tuna belly, salmon)
Katsuo-grilled fish with garlic, ginger, wasabi, onion, watercress with pink Andes Mountain salt
A bit more sake!
All in all it was a great experience with friendly staff. Highly recommended!
Roughly $60.00 US for two, including 3 or 4 sakes each.
You've heard of 3-D, as in put on the special glasses and watch the movie, but how about 4-D? That's the dimension that Noboru Shibata describes as he carefully prepares a plate of assorted sashimi for our visit. He relates that he studied Ikebana (the Japanese art of flower arrangement) when he was starting out as a Chef some 50 years ago and he also studied the art of the tea ceremony with its special attention to detail. And with this background, every plate that is prepared for the guests includes that special attention to the presentation of the food.
But there are different versions of the presentation. The chef prepares the plate from his/her perspective. Then when the guest is served at the counter or at a table, they see the food arriving and their taste buds start to go into hyper-drive. Then the plate is laid on the counter or table and again the visual presentation stimulates the taste buds and the neurotransmitters in the brain to create a happiness expectation of what is about to happen!
And what happens at Wasuke is culinary bliss! We ordered Matabei, a delicious clear, dry sake from Fukushima prefecture, and then the food started to appear from the preparation table, over the glass display case and onto the counter in front of us. Our meal included:
We've eaten at Wasuke in Tokyo's Kappabashi district, probably 5 times over the past 2 years and if the true test of an izakaya is consistency in the freshness of the food and a friendly, happy atmosphere, then Wasuke is a winner, hands down.