Raptor Wednesday: Justice Edition

Backyard and Beyond

For the last two weeks I’ve been serving on a jury in a murder trial. This was the view from the jury room: downtown Brooklyn, with the dwarfed tower of Borough Hall just visible to the left of the long Supreme Court building in the foreground. The row of buildings from the center to the left in the middle distance are on the appropriately named Court Street.

Forgive the noir lighting, but there are eight million stories in the naked city, and the one I heard about in the jury box was a doozy. But this, of course, is a nature blog. And these Court St. buildings are all Peregrine falcon perches.

I spotted Peregrines on eight of the nine days I reported for my civic duty, either from the 18th floor itself; or walking in Columbus Plaza, which is on the other side of the Supreme Court building; or…

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9 Species to the Western Palearctic 500: What can 2019 bring?

SzimiStyle Birding

With just 9 species to reach my Western Palearctic 500 milestone, I summarized the potential resident species to be added to my WP list, some of them, hopefully, in 2019. I have not had many birding trips within the Western Palearctic ever since I started travelling for birds, but a comprehensive trip to Turkey/Georgia and another one to Finland and northeast Norway contributed a lot to my WP list. Since I have lived in Hungary until 2012 most of the WP birds are from my home country. My Hungarian list is at 345 but I have not added any new bird species in the last 6 years. Since 2012 I have been birding in the United Kingdom what also produced some new species to the WP list. I have had quite a few short trips to Austria, Croatia, Romania, Greece, Italy and France with a few WP new birds.


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Iceland Gull for Christmas

SzimiStyle Birding

Yesterday a 2nd winter Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides) was found by a local birder at the Newton Leys small lake near the landfill. My health challenges didn’t allow to do my usual birding routine in the last few weeks, but the Christmas shopping at the local ASDA superstore was a good excuse to grab a camera as well and visit the site where the bird had been relocated earlier this morning. The gull roosting site was almost the backyard of ASDA so didn’t have to go far.

Characteristic Iceland Gull among other gulls at the Newton Leys narrow lake. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

The Iceland Gull is a rarity in our area so it was a real treat to see it just two miles from my home. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

At my arrival, half of the gulls were roosting on the pasture(?), the rest…

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2018 6thWinter Silhouette Bonsai Expo

Valavanis Bonsai Blog


The 6th Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo was held on December 1-2, 2018 at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, North Carolina. This unique venue is an elegant building, marble lined with a four story atrium, the tallest south of Washington, DC, even taller than the state capital of Georgia. All six of these events have been sponsored and well organized by Steve Zeisel who wants to promote bonsai in the region. Everything is free, admission, bonsai entries and even the vendor fees. He only tries to break even with the event, and he does with the generous donations from the vendors and friends during a benefit auction.


I’ve been fortunate and honored to participate in all six of the Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expos and have carefully studied all the bonsai, especially since I’ve been the judge for all of the shows. Each year the quality of the individual bonsai…

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Discovering Japan Endlessly – Tokyo Part

Read My Passion

True to the country’s tourism slogan, Japan is a place where time would never be enough to visit all the good places this country has to offer.  We have been to 3 cities starting off with Tokyo, then Osaka, then Nagoya.  This post will be divided into 3 parts to capture the stories behind the best cities of Japan.

If you selected Tokyo to be your first city in Japan to visit, it can get overwhelming specially if you are doing the DIY.  Starting off with taking the trains from Narita to the city, figuring out the correct platform to take as there can be several trains leaving the airport going to different places, narrowing down your itineraries based on the number of days you wanted to stay, the places you can eat the best sushi to ensuring that your budget is going to be enough as Tokyo can get…

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Japanese Temples

I am Hakone

Japanese Temples

by Kevin R Burns
(Kanagawa, Japan)

Japanese Temples and Religion, what religions are practiced in Japan and how are they practiced?

The two most popular religions in Japan are Shinto and Buddhism. There are other religions followed by a smaller proportion of the population including Christianity.

It is estimated that around 2,000 people in Japan practice Judaism.

Small minorities of people follow Islam, Sikhism and the native religion of Okinawa, Ryukyuan.

Japanese will often state they are not religious but nevertheless be married by a Shinto priest and be cremated before a Buddhist monk.

What Are The Beliefs Of Japanese Buddhism?

Japanese Buddhism is but one branch of a world-wide movement that originates from Asia. In plain words, the history, beliefs, and symbols of Buddhism.

Japanese Temples

Japanese temples range from being interesting to absolutely beautiful. Stunning in fact! I enjoy going to see them, or spending time…

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Site 85: Kyoto’s Takenaka Inari Shrine

stone and dust

Generally speaking, most cemeteries in Japan are attached to Buddhist temples, as most people have a Buddhist funeral after they die. I never really think of shrines, which usually deal with “new” things (birth, marriage, new year, etc) as places where one might find a cemetery, but I

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