A report from a trip to Japan in February/March 2002 by Björn Anderson & Lars Davner
This is a report, written by Björn Anderson, from a two weeks birding trip to Japan in late February and early March 2002. Highlights from a birding perspective were; 70 Steller´s Sea-Eagles sitting on the ice at Furen-ko; unforgettable sight of dancing Japanese Cranes in the snow; 11 species of alcids and 9 of those from Nosappu Misaki in calm sunny weather with pack-ice in the background; a splendid male Copper Pheasant at Naka-Karuizawa; Falcated Ducks and Baikal Teals near Osaka; 8,500 cranes of six species at Arasaki; close-up views of Japanese Murrelets at Kadogawa, Kyushu; adult summer plumage Saunders´s Gull at Funabashi, Tokyo; duetting and day-roosting pairs of Blakiston´s Fish-Owls in Hokkaido; the flocks of Japanese Waxwings and Pallas´s Rosefinches at Naka-Karuizawa; the albatrosses, shearwaters, skuas and alcids from the ferry between Hokkaido and Oarai.
Following sites/areas were visited:
Honshu: Osaka - Kyoto - Kiso River; Naka-Karuizawa; Tokyo with Yoyogi Park, Yatsu Higata and Funabashi; Omigawa (Tonegawa)
Hokkaido: Nemuro Peninsula with Lake Furen, Nosappu Misaki, Ochiishi Misaki and Kiritappu; Area north of Kushiro with Setsurigawa, Tanch-no-Sato, etc
Feb 20th: Left Stockholm vith KLM flight via Amsterdam to Osaka Kansai international airport, where we arrived the following morning.
Feb 21st: Upon arrival at Osaka at 9.00 we were met by the local birder Koji Tagi, who swiftly put us in his car and drove north through Osaka. Started birding around lunch-time at a site near Kawanishi City looking for Solitary Snipe, which unfortunately was not at home. Birded a few sites north of Osaka, the best being a small lake at Ikejiri at Kameoka City where we saw our first Falcated Ducks. The day ended at Mount Myoken for some forest birds. Night at Ibaraki Central Hotel in Osaka.
Feb 22nd: Early start for the 2.5 hours drive to Kawashima Bridge at Kiso River in order to look for the Scaly-sided Merganser that had been present for more than a week. Spent several hours searching for the bird and then learned that it had not been seen for the last three days. We saw some other good birds though, like Grey-headed Lapwing, Long-billed Plover and Chinese Bamboo-Partridge, the latter introduced though. After some scrubland birding we drove towards Nagoya and looked for Baikal Teals at Tatsuta Bridge at Kiso River. Among the large flocks of ducks we quickly located good numbers of the teal. From here we drove past Kisen Dam without seeing the hoped for Crested Kingfisher. We were better off with the big flocks of corvids near Ogura, near Kyoto, where we found several Daurian Jackdaws including a couple of adult "pied" birds. We hurried back to Osaka in order to take the limousine bus to the airport for our flight to Kyushu.
At the airport we found out that we had gone to the wrong airport. Instead of Kansai international airport we were booked from the Osaka airport. Realizing within seconds that at least half a day of birding in Kyushu would be spoiled, but recovered quickly and sorted out new tickets and hotel near the airport in order to take the morning flight to Kagoshima instead. Luckily we got a heavily discounted fare, which was also compensated cost-wise by one day less with the rental car in Kyushu.
Feb 23rd: We took the first morning flight from Osaka/Kansai international airport to Kagoshima (8.35-9.55). After a swift pickup of the rental car we were on our way towards Arasaki. The drive was less than two hours and with a few brief birding stops and a quick lunch we arrived at Arasaki at 13.00. It took us some initial navigation efforts before we found out where the crane feeding areas were located. Some japanese birdwatchers provided us with guidance to a feeding site for the Siberian White Crane, which was an easy target. Spent all of the afternoon watching cranes and other open area birds, such as Black-faced Spoonbill and Green Pheasant, on both sides of the river. We also did a detour to a coastal site near Izumi, which did not produce the hoped for Pallas´s Reed Bunting. Before dusk we saw ourselves at the crane observatory where the cranes were fed. Night at the pre-booked minshuku in the building next to the observatory (and cranes). We had a delicious Japanese dinner, a traditional bath at the onsen (hot springs) nearby and then fell asleep on the tatami carpets with the cranes noise in the background and a large whisky down our throats. This was birding at its best!
Feb 24th: Up at dawn and started with the cranes at Higashi Kantaki which is situated on the other side of the river compared to the minshuku. We saw all six species of cranes from the same spot. After having spent much of the late morning at the pools, reed-beds and fields near the crane observatory and found the targets Chinese Penduline-Tit and Chestnut-eared Bunting. Around midday we followed the Takaono river upstream south from Route 3 in search of Crested Kingfisher but with no luck. We also tried to access another river along Route 328 but with the same poor result. Instead, we turned north to Yatsushiro in search of Saunders´s Gulls at Minami river mouth. Arrived the mudflats at 14.30 and spent about an hour watching gulls while the tide came in. We found at least four Saunders´s in immature plumage and two adult breeding plumage Great Black-headed Gulls as well as a couple of 'Heuglin´s' Gulls.
The late afternoon and early evening was spent driving across Kyushu to the east coast. It took us about 3 hours between Yatsushiro and Kadogawa, with a quick stop at river Oya where we were very fortunate to find both Brown Dipper and Crested Kingfisher before sunset.
We arrived at Kadogawa in the evening and scouted the area for next mornings search for murrelets. Later we checked in at the Onsen with the full setup of dinner, tatami carpets and a hot bath.
Feb 25th: Left the Onsen long before sunrise in order to position ourselves at the harbour. We did not have to wait long before a Japanese Murrelet flew in and started to feed just next to us. As we were uncertain about the driving time to Miyazaki airport, we left Kadogawa already at 7.30. As it turned out we had plenty of time for the driving south along the coast. Caught the flight from Miyazaki at 11.30 and arrived Tokyo Haneda at 13.00 and took another flight north to Kushiro on Hokkaido where we landed at 16.35. This transfer was quite a change as we basically left the palm-trees on Kyushu and saw a snow-covered landscape on Hokkaido. After a quick process at the car rental office we were soon heading east through Kushiro towards Nemuro Peninsula. It took us about two hours from the airport to Hattaushi Bridge at KM 100(which is the official spot to look for Blaksiton´s Fish-Owl). We spent some time looking and listening for the owls but eventually gave up and continued to the minshuku at Lake Furen where we were welcomed by Mr Matsuo.
Feb 26th: Started at Hattaushi Bridge with an excellent predawn duetting pair of Blakiston´s Fish-Owls as well as an Ural Owl. Dawn then saw us at the edge of Lake Furen where small numbers of both Sea-Eagles were roosting in the lakeside trees. The weather was clear, calm and cold, about -15 C as we walked out on the snow-covered lake. Adult Steller´s Sea-Eagles performed brilliantly, both perching and flying over as well as sitting on the ice. After this eagle fiesta we returned to the minshuku for a delicious breakfast before continuing east towards the tip of Nemuro Peninsula, i.e. Nosappu Misaki. This proved to be another highlight of the trip; completely calm, sunshine, masses of sea-ice that drifted past and created an about 1 km wide area of open water, which held loads of interesting species. Numerous Black and White-winged Scoters, Harlequin and Long-tailed Ducks, a Yellow-billed Loon and most fantastic 7 species of alcids!
Having enjoyed this spectacular sight, we headed back west along the south side of the peninsula and soon reached Ochiishi Misaki. This is another small peninsula pointing to the south with a lighthouse at the tip, requiring a short walk through a patch of forest. There was no sea-ice on this side and far fewer birds here, although a few Red-faced Cormorants were seen well. We also stopped twice at the earthy slope next to the harbour trying to find Rosy-Finches, but with no success.
Later in the afternoon we tried to find a couple of farms that hosted single wintering Red-crowned Cranes. In spite of communication problems we found the farms and got the information that yes, indeed they had the cranes in their backyard, but it was totally impossible to relay a message that we wanted to see the birds. We eventually gave up and went to Hattaushi Bridge for another go at the Fish-Owls where we were again rewarded with close by duetting, but alas no birds seen.
We had a splendid dinner at the minshuku and later in the evening we went back to the owl-site for another try, unfortunately with the same result again. Frustratingly we found fresh tracks in the snow just below the bridge clearly showing that the owl had been fishing there earlier in the evening at about the same time as we had dinner! Finally gave up and returned to the minshuku very satisfied with an all in all truly magic birding day.
Feb 27th: We woke up with typical Hokkaido spring weather; fog! Apparently a warm front had moved north and the visibility was down to 50 m, not much to hope for when it comes to alcids. We spent half an hour walking along the shoreline just north of the minshuku, but soon decided to try the southern side of Nemuro Peninsula and give the place for Rosy-Finches at Ochiishi a new chance. The fog was about the same and no finches were at home anyway. Returned for breakfast and soon after we were taken to a site where we had crippling views of a pair of day-roosting Blakiston´s Fish-Owls, which was a real treat. Significantly larger, but small-headed, than an Eagle Owl they sat like big sacks in the leaf-less trees.
Having received new information on a site for Rosy-Finches at Kiritappu, we headed west in the on-and-off fog. We soon found a small flock of finches at a feeding station and then went to Kiritappu Misaki only to find that we could hardly see the water from the cliffs due to the dense fog. Instead of waiting for the fog to clear up, we took a chance that Nosappu Misaki could be better. As it turned out it was sunny and clear as we passed Lake Furen, so we walked out on the ice and saw an amazing number of 70 Steller´s and 70 White-tailed Sea-Eagles sitting on the ice! Continuing our way east, the fog came back, but as soon as we arrived at Nosappu it took only a few minutes before the fog cleared again. In the clear afternoon light we then had another splendid time watching alcids (Tufted Puffin and Parakeet Auklet were a little unexpected), gulls and sea-ducks.
Satisfied with yet another good birding day, we returned to the minshuku and had our last dinner on Hokkaido.
Feb 28th: We had a very early departure in order to reach the roosting site for Red-crowned Cranes at Setsurigawa north of Kushiro at dawn. No problem to drive that distance in the dark in 2.5 hours. The fog was still much in evidence and it was a wonderful experience to see these huge cranes walking in the shallow river. Together with 50+ Japanese photographers, out of which none had bins, we watched the cranes for some time before we started to search for Solitary Snipes in small streams wherever we could find any. Later in the morning we went to the first out of three feeding areas for the cranes. At Watanabe we saw good numbers dancing in fog. At the second place, Tsuruimura, we found only small numbers so we drove to the reportedly best place, Tancho-no-Sato. Lucky we were! As the sun broke out we had truly fantastic views of the cranes dancing in full sunshine. This is certainly an experience not to be missed on any winter trip to Japan. Satisfied with this we restarted our search for Solitary Snipe, but alas with the same result as earlier. We eventually gave up and returned to Kushiro and had lunch before dropping off the rental car near the train station.
We then initiated our rail passes and at 16.15 we boarded the train to Tomakomai, which we after one change arrived at 20.15. We were kindly offered a lift with a Japanese businessman who dropped us off at the ferry terminal in Tomakomai. Spent quite some time waiting to board the ferry, but finally got on board and departed at 23.45. Had a bath in the onsen aboard and went straight to bed in order to be prepared for a long cold day watching pelagics.
March 1st: Up well before dawn and found that it was still foggy! Fortunately it cleared just at dawn and the rest of the day was all sunny (which is a problem as you are going south and want to look ahead of the boat). Spent the entire day on deck watching seabirds, except for a 15 minutes lunch break. Saw good numbers of birds most of the time apart from a three hours (!) dead period in the afternoon, before activity picked up again. Many white-sided dolphins and sea-lions were seen. Among all the Laysan Albatrosses there was also a large dark one, but it slipped away in too poor light.
At 19.00 we arrived Oarai and joined the other passengers on a bus that we had no idea where it was going. Finally realizing that we had arrived at Mitu, which was in fact a good move, we checked into a hotel near the train station. Had a nice dinner before falling to sleep.
March 2nd: A little bit of a lie-in before we took the train to Tokyo and changed to a shinkansen train to Karuizawa. Arriving there in mid-morning we then took a smaller train to the next village Naka-Karuizawa which would be our home town for a couple of days, or at least until we had found a Copper Pheasant.
Got a taxi from the station to Ariake Lodge (a minshuku-type accommodation) about 3 minutes drive away. We found no one at home so we just dropped our bags and went out birding in the forest opposite Hoshino Onsen about 10 minutes walk from the Lodge. Before going into the forest we stopped at Hoshino Onsen and talked to the nature guides that provided us with some very useful recent updates on birds. In the forest we found a small flock of stunning Pallas´s Rosefinches, called in a pair of Japanese Green Woodpeckers and started the search for Copper Pheasant. After midday we returned to the Lodge, but still no one at home so we decided to take a taxi to some rice-fields south of Naka-Karuizawa to look for Solitary Snipe. Found only dry rice-fields, but a local farmer understood our mission and kindly drove us further south to a larger area of rice-fields. Habitat looked good, but no snipes in sight. Late afternoon we gave up and tried to hitchhike back to Naka-Karuizawa. Hitchhiking is easier said than done, as it seemed that no one understood what we wanted even when we said "Naka-Karuizawa" and pointed to ourselves and in the wanted direction. Who said communication is easy? At last, a young lady with two kids in her minivan stopped and took us all the way to the Lodge, puh!
Still some light after we had checked in so we walked up to Hoshino Onsen and asked for some more precise gen on Japanese Waxwing and learned that some had been seen at some mistle-toes not far away. A quick rush and there they were, the third and most difficult of the waxwings. We celebrated with a dinner at a restaurant before buying some whisky and beer in the mini-market.
March 3rd: We woke up early for a day devoted to Copper Pheasant. Dawn saw us walking slowly the forest trails opposite Hoshino Onsen. Despite covering almost the entire area where pheasants usually are seen we draw a blank and at lunchtime we retreated for refuelling. Decided to check the area from another direction and look for waxwings along the way. We were caught by surprise when we heard something large moving in the leaf litter; a splendid male Copper Pheasant was feeding just across a small gully and provided lengthy scope and video views before it eventually made its way to the top of the hill and disappeared.
Very pleased with this much-desired endemic we spent the last part of the afternoon by checking the areas of mistle-toes for more waxwings, although without finding any.
Stayed another night at Ariake Lodge, but decided to leave next morning in order to do some birding in the Tokyo area.
March 4th: Somewhat adventurous we took one of the first trains from Karuizawa to Ueno Station in Tokyo in order to hit the rush-hour traffic just to find out if all the rumours about crammed trains were true or not. At Ueno station we left our luggage in lockers, which turned out to be a good move as we were not alone going on the circular line to Harajuku station. Harajuku is the station that is nearest to Yoyogi Park, which is a reliable site for Mandarin Ducks. These were easily found at the northern pool and after some skulking in the undergrowth we found two Grey Buntings, which was another target species. Though we failed to find any Brown Thrush amongst all the Pale Thrushes. Left Yoyogi Park at 14.30 and went by train to Narita where we checked in at a hotel next to the station.
March 5th: In the early morning we searched the park at Naritasan for Brown Thrush, but again without success. At 8.00 we were picked up by a local birder we had met in Hokkaido (thanks for a terrific day, Bob!) that took us to Omigawa along the Tone river. This is one of the best sites for Japanese Reed Buntings in the winter and soon we had good scope views of some singing males, whilst we draw a blank on Japanese Marsh Warbler (reportedly very difficult, if not singing).
Next was Yatsu Higata for shorebirds and we found two Long-billed Dowitchers before moving on to nearby Funabashi. Funabashi is a reclaimed land in the Tokyo Bay, completely surrounded by industries and roads apart from extensive mudflats. The area was absolutely boiling with shorebirds and ducks. Probably more Greater Scaups (10.000++) than I had ever seen in total in 30 years of birding. The target bird for this site was the Oystercatcher of which we found as many as 54. These are of the form osculans which is completely allopatric with the other forms. Late afternoon we took the train back to the hotel in Narita.
March 6th: Our last chance for birding was a couple of hours at Naritasan for a last chance on Brown Thrush. The only real rain on the trip did not increase the hopes, but suddenly we found one feeding in the open in front of us. Happily we returned to the hotel and then took the train to the airport in good time for our flight back to Amsterdam and Stockholm via an easterly route that brought us just over the North Pole.
Two myths about Japan could be eliminated:
1) "It is too expensive to visit Japan". Not really, prices were about as in Sweden and as can be seen in this report it is possible to find cheap domestic air-tickets, train pass, etc.
2) "It is impossible to travel independently in Japan due to language barriers". No, even though you cannot communicate, it is by no means impossible with two good maps, one in Japanese and one in English so you can compare, and a phrasebook. The last is invaluable as the language is very phonetical and you can easily read the phrases without knowing specific words.
Some tips and tricks:
1) As soon as you find someone that speaks a little bit of English (not that it is easy), take the chance and get the person to write directions, questions, etc in Japanese on paper so that you can show it to people along the way.
2) Credit cards are not used as widely as in Europe/NoAm so bring plenty of cash.
Following accommodations were used:
Ibaraki Central Hotel, ph +81-726-24-1600, JPY 13335/double
Minshuku Tsurumi-tei, ph +81-9968-3-3944, JPY 7000. It is strongly recommended to stay at this minshuku as you will have thousands of cranes within 50 m from your tamami-covered sleeping floor, which is an once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is also very likely that other birders will stay there for information exchange.
Onsen in Kadogawa, easily found on the obvious hill just above the harbour (see map). It is priceworthy at JPY 6000/double and has an excellent onsen and a restaurant in the same building as well as putting you in pole position for the murrelets.
Nature-Inn Lodge Furen, ph/fax 81-1532-5-3919, mail: email@example.com. The owner, Mr Takeyoshi Matsuo, is a birder and speaks English as well as having an up to date knowledge about the local birding sites. In addition, the food served is brilliant! JPY 6200/person incl breakfast/dinner.
Ariake Lodge, Naka-Karuizawa, ph +81-267-45-3096. Good place to stay as it is within walking distance (10 min) from the best forest.
We pre-booked cars from Sweden at two places, i.e. Kyushu and Hokkaido. Even though we booked through Hertz, it is Toyota Car Rental that will serve you as they collaborate. We found it necessary to have cars at both places. Driving is easy as traffic is slow. Even if you are used to cover 100 km/h in your home-country, do not count on more than 30-50 km/h on average. When looking at a map in advance you may do the mistake to believe that there is countryside in between the villages. Wrong, especially in Kyushu where every flat area is populated with people, houses, cars and traffic-lights.
Cost for rental cars were JPY 30000 for two days in Kyushu incl a drop-off charge at another site and JPY 23000 for three days in Hokkaido.
One thing to consider is that toll-roads can be very expensive, especially around Osaka and Tokyo. It is not unusual to pay several thousand JPY over a couple of birding days. Petrol is priced roughly as in Sweden at about 0,8 USD/litre.
Plan your travelling so that you will utilize trains for periods of roughly 7 or 14 days as you can purchase a Japan Rail Pass before entering Japan. Cost for 7 days is JPY 28300. It is well worth it as it seems expensive to buy separate tickets and not unimportantly you do not get the hazzle to buy tickets from non-english-speaking ticket-counters. More information at www.japanrail.com where you can find prices, time-schedules, rail pass info, etc.
We booked a kind of flight pass in Sweden with ANA. It turned out to be a very cost-efficent way of travelling at a cost of just above USD 100 per hop. More info on this opportunity at www.svc.ana.co.jp.
A must for a keen pelagic birder! Since 2001 it is no longer possible to go with the ferry between Tokyo and Kushiro. The choice therefore is to go between Tomakomai (south of Sapporo) and Oarai (northeast of Tokyo). We first found it a little bit difficult to get information, but eventually succeeded in booking in basic english at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org . Cost is JPY 6400/person one way for common tatami style accommodation or ca JPY 8000 for upgrading to beds in a cabin. It is not necessary to book in Feb/March, but we found it smooth to do anyway. You need to be at the ferry terminal 1.5 hours in advance. Taxi from Tomakomai train station to terminal is 15 min. Make sure that you go to the terminal for the Oarai ferry as there seems to be other options as well. The ferries from Tomakomai currently run at 09.45 and 23.45, except Sundays and Mondays. Which one to take is dependant on what birds you want to focus. The morning ferry gives daylight at the northern part and thus more alcids, while the evening ferry is the other way around and gives you more opportunities on shearwaters and potentially Short-tailed Albatross. Providing that you have been lucky with the ice-situation and spent enough time watching alcids in Hokkaido, I recommend the evening ferry. It arrives Oarai at 19.00 next day. We followed the small stream of people to a bus that took us to Mitu, which is a good place to continue by train to Tokyo.
It is strongly recommended to bring the book "A Birdwatchers Guide to Japan" by Mark Brazil. Even if it is written some years ago, it is essentially still very much valid and has lots of useful information.
Below are some maps of some of the more interesting areas that we visited. These maps are schematic and not always to scale.
Yatsushiro (Minami river mouth)
Best site for Saunders´s Gull if you are not going to Fukuoka. This site is best when the tide is mid-level. Check the tide at www.tides.info.
Kadogawa in eastern Kyushu is probably the best place to find Japanese Murrelet unless you are visiting Mijakijima. It is a 4-(5) hour drive from Arasaki or 2 hours from Miyazaki. More info on Murrelets can be found at the web run by Japan Alcid Society: http://www2.gol.com/users/kojiono/English.
Furen-ko (Lake Furen)
The epicentrum for a winter birding trip to Hokkaido with large numbers of Sea-Eagles. The eagles roost in the forests or edge of the lake and at dawn they fly out on the ice to feed on the scrap fish that the fishermen throw away. At midday they (i.e. the eagles) can be seen sitting on the ice and later in the afternoon they return to the roosting places. Both a dawn and a midday visit are strongly recommended. In the forest edge we also saw the local forms of Bullfinch and Marsh Tit.
Look and listen for Blakiston´s Fish-Owl and Ural Owl at Hattaushi Bridge. The Fish-Owls can sometimes be seen flying over the bridge and can be easily heard duetting, especially at dusk and dawn. Note that it can be freezing cold to wait for something to happen!
During our visit it was by far the best place for alcids with a total of nine species out of the 22 in the world! This may have been because the sea-ice was creating a 1 km wide strip of ice-free water, which held many ducks, gulls and alcids. Beware that fog seems to be a frequent phenomenon in the spring so it is worth having a spare day in your back-pocket. Earlier in the winter you could also be snowed in.
Red-faced Cormorant were seen just below the lighthouse, apparently a good site for this species.
Rosy-Finches are reportedly normally seen in the steep slope just east of the harbour (immediately east of the tunnel along the road that runs along the water). We failed to find any R-F in spite of two visits.
Just before reaching the top of the peninsula, there is a road to the right with a small one-storey house with a green roof. The owner is apparently a birdwatcher and feeds e.g. Asian Rosy-Finches.
Easy to get to from Tokyo with Shinkansen to Karuizawa and then local train one station to Naka-Karuizawa. Walk or take taxi from train station to Ariake Lodge and then do the area by foot. The forest opposite Hoshino Onsen seems best for Copper Pheasant and Pallas´s Rosefinches. We failed to find Japanese Accentor, but earlier in the winter it had been seen around the bridge near Hoshino Onsen. Check any area with mistle-toes for waxwings as they feed on the small white berries. For any birds, do check with the nature guides at Hoshino Onsen as they have good knowledge of the area.
Yoyogi Park, Tokyo
This is one of the most easily accessed sites for Mandarin Duck. The best place is the pool at the northern edge of the park. It also seems fairly reliable for Grey Buntings in the winter. We found two females skulking on the ground just inside the fence at the north end of the fenced-in area and other birders have seen it here too.
This site is most famous for its huge number of wintering Greater Scaups and shorebirds as well as being a reliable site for the osculans form of Oystercatcher. Some birds here like the Saunders´s Gulls commute between here and Yatsu Higata. Park along the road near the Recreational Park and walk to the shoreline and it should be obvious how to access the piers. This is probably not that easily visited without a car/taxi.
The temple park is worthwhile visiting if not for the typical Japanese style temple architecture, bonsai trees and flowering plum & cherry trees. As most European flights leave late morning, it is conveniently visited during a couple of hours in the morning. With train it then takes only 10 minutes to the airport.
Japanese Squirrel (Sciurus lis) - 1 at Naka-Karuizawa.
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) - 1 near Lake Furen.
Steller´s Sea-Lion (Eumetopias jubatus) - very common from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai.
Seal sp - several around Nemuro peninsula.
Sika deer (Cervus Nippon) - A few at Ochiishi.
Pacific White-sided Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) - common from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai.
Pacific LoonGavia pacifica, About 15 from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai.
Yellow-billed LoonGavia adamsii, One 2y at Nosauppu Misaki and one flying past Ochiishi Misaki.
Little GrebeTachybaptus ruficollis, Three at Osaka, one at Kiso River and three at Omigawa.
Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena, Two at Nosappu Misaki, one at Ochiishi Misaki and one from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai.
Great Crested GrebePodiceps cristatus, 20 at Kiso River, five near Izumi, three at Kadogawa and five at Funabashi. Eared Grebe Podiceps nigricollis, 10+ at Funabashi.
Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis, 70+ from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai. Many giving super views when flying alongside the ferry. One dark large albatross seen distantly may in fact have been a short-tailed...
Streaked ShearwaterCalonectris leucomelas, About 60 seen from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai. Most birds seen at the southern end of the journey.
Buller's ShearwaterPuffinus bulleri, One seen from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai.
Flesh-footed ShearwaterPuffinus carneipes, One seen from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai.
Sooty ShearwaterPuffinus griseus, One seen from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai. Also one unidentified Sooty/Short-tailed at the same ferry trip.
Great CormorantPhalacrocorax carbo, Common around Osaka, Kiso River, Arasaki, Omigawa and Yatsu Higata/Funabashi.
Japanese CormorantPhalacrocorax capillatus, Common around Kadogawa harbour and about five seen from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai.
Pelagic CormorantPhalacrocorax pelagicus, Common around Nemuro peninsula, with most birds seen at Nosappu Misaki.
Red-faced CormorantPhalacrocorax urile, Seven at Ochiishi Misaki, e.g. seen in company with a Pelagic Cormorant.
Gray HeronArdea cinerea, A few around Osaka and Kiso River, common at Arasaki and Kadogawa and a few at Omigawa and Yatsu Higata.
Great EgretArdea alba, Common at Kiso River, and a few seen around Arasaki, Omigawa, Yatsu Higata and Funabashi.
Little EgretEgretta garzetta, A few around Osaka, Kiso River, Arasaki, Kadogawa, Tokyo and Omigawa.
Pacific Reef-HeronEgretta sacra, One north of Izumi and common at Kadogawa harbour.
Cattle EgretBubulcus ibis, Three at Arasaki.
Black-crowned Night-HeronNycticorax nycticorax, 30+ at Arasaki.
Great BitternBotaurus stellaris, One heard at Omigawa.
Eurasian SpoonbillPlatalea leucorodia, One at Higashi-Kantaku at Arasaki.
Black-faced SpoonbillPlatalea minor, Two together with one Eurasian Spoonbill at Higashi-Kantaku at Arasaki.
Whooper SwanCygnus cygnus, A family party of seven in a river north of Kushiro.
Common ShelduckTadorna tadorna, Five at Arasaki.
Mandarin DuckAix galericulata, About 45 in the pool at the northern end of Yoyogi Park in Tokyo.
Eurasian WigeonAnas penelope, A few around Osaka, Kadogawa and Ochiishi, Misaki, common at Kiso River, Arasaki and Yatsu Higata/Funabashi.
Falcated DuckAnas falcata, Nine in small lakes north of Osaka and about 30 in Kiso/Nagara river near Nagoya. At the latter place a group of males were displaying.
GadwallAnas strepera, Common at Kiso River and Arasaki.
Baikal TealAnas formosa, About 50 in Kiso/Nagara river near Nagoya.
Eurasian TealAnas crecca, Common around Osaka, Kiso River, Arasaki, Yatsu, Higata and Funabashi.
MallardAnas platyrhynchos, Common around Osaka, Kiso River, Arasaki, Kadogawa and in the Tokyo area.
Spot-billed DuckAnas poecilorhyncha, About 30 north of Osaka, common in Kiso River, and at Arasaki and a few at Kadogawa, Naka-Karuizawa, and Yatsu Higata.
Northern PintailAnas acuta, Six at Osaka, common in Kiso River, Arasaki, Yatsu Higata and Funabashi.
Northern ShovelerAnas clypeata, 100+ in Kiso River and a few at Yatsu Higata, and Funabashi.
Common PochardAythya ferina, A few around Osaka and Kiso River and common at Funabashi.
Tufted DuckAythya fuligula, Three north of Osaka and fairly common in Kiso River.
Greater ScaupAythya marila, One of the amazing sights during the trip was the huge concentrations at Funabashi. Ten or even 20 thousand birds were seen in calm weather like mosquito swarms. No surprise we did not see any at other sites...
Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus, Common around Nemuro Peninsula where this species provided us with spectacular views among the packice in bright sunshine.
Long-tailed DuckClangula hyemalis, Common around Nemuro Peninsula and two from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai.
Black ScoterMelanitta nigra, Common around Nemuro Peninsula. Ssp americana.
White-winged ScoterMelanitta fusca, About 10 at Ochiishi Miskai and about 20 at Nosappu Misaki. All seen in flight but distinctive characters of ssp stejnegeri easily seen.
Common GoldeneyeBucephala clangula, Common around Nemuro Peninsula and at Funabashi.
Smew Mergellus albellus, 30+ in Kiso River.
Red-breasted MerganserMergus serrator, Five at Yatsushiro and a few at Nemuro Peninsula.
Common MerganserMergus merganser, 100+ in Kiso River. The Scaly-sided Merganser that had been present up till three days, earlier was however not to be seen.
OspreyPandion haliaetus, One at Oska, one at Kiso River, one at Kisen Dam, Osaka, five at Arasaki and three at Yatsushiro.
Black KiteMilvus migrans, Common at Osaka, Kiso River, Arasaki, Kadogawa, Nemuro Peninsula, Kushiro, Naka-Karuizawa and around Tokyo. Ssp lineatus.
White-tailed EagleHaliaeetus albicilla, 30+ in the morning at Furen-ko and 70+ sitting on the ice the day after at the same place. Also seen with two at Nosappu Misaki, two at Kiritappu, one north of Kushiro and one at Tancho-no-Sato.
Steller's Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus pelagicus, 30+ at Furen-ko giving absolutely crippling views in the morning when they perched in the trees by the lake and later flew out on the ice. Both adults and immature birds were seen. The day after at midday we saw about 70 sitting on the ice together with White-tailed Eagles. Many sightings involved close encounters in splendid sunshine. Definitely bird of the trip and the main reason for a winter visit to Japan. Also singletons riding the pack-ice at Nosappu Miaski and perched near Hattaushi Bridge.
Eastern Marsh-HarrierCircus spilonotus, Two at Kiso River and at least two at Omigawa.
Japanese SparrowhawkAccipiter gularis, One male circling above the forest at Naka-Karuizawa.
Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis, One at Kisen Dam, Osaka.
Eurasian BuzzardButeo buteo, Singles or a few at Osaka, Kiso River, Hattaushi Bridge, Nemuro Peninsula, Kushiro, Naka-Karuizawa and Omigawa.
Rough-legged HawkButeo lagopus, One north of Kushiro.
Eurasian KestrelFalco tinnunculus, Singles at Osaka, Kyoto, Arasaki, Yatsushiro and Yatsu Higata.
Chinese Bamboo-PartridgeBambusicola thoracica, One heard at Imo River, Kawanishi City, north Osaka, one plus twwo seen at Kiso River and one plus one heard at Naritasan. Introduced and well established in Japan from China.
Copper Pheasant Syrmaticus soemmerringii, After one and a half day of searching for "Yamadori" at Naka-Karuizawa, we were eventually rewarded in the afternoon with a splendid male that could be seen and videoed at length through the scope before it vanished over the top of the hill. Certainly one of the best birds of the trip.
Green PheasantPhasianus versicolor, Three females videoed in the reedy canal atArasaki and fleeting glimpses of another female in bamboo at Naka-Karuizawa.
Demoiselle CraneAnthropoides virgo, Two at Higashi Kantaku at Arasaki.
Siberian CraneGrus leucogeranus, One at Higashi Kantaku at Arasaki. Also seen at alternate feeding site south of Route 3.
Sandhill CraneGrus canadensis, One seen at Higashi Kantaku at Arasaki.
White-naped CraneGrus vipio, About 1500 at Arasaki.
Common CraneGrus grus, At least two at Arasaki.
Hooded CraneGrus monacha, About 7000 at Arasaki.
Red-crowned Crane Grus japonensis, Four in a river south of Setsurigawa, 18 at Setsurigawa, 78 at Watanabe, 15 at Tsuruimura, 95 at Tancho no Sato and two plus two south of Tancho no Sato. One of the more impressing sights of the trip was to see the dancing cranes in the snow-covered landscape.
Common MoorhenGallinula chloropus, 10 at Arasaki and a few at Yatsu Higata.
Eurasian CootFulica atra, One at Kiso River and two at Miyazaki.
Eurasian OystercatcherHaematopus ostralegus, 54 at Funabashi of the isolated ssp osculans which in fact may be considered a separate species.
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus, Five at Yatsu Higata.
Northern LapwingVanellus vanellus, Five north of Osaka, 10 at Kiso River, 20 at Arasaki and 15 at Omigawa.
Gray-headed LapwingVanellus cinereus, Five scattered individuals around Kiso River and about 10 at Ogura near Kyoto. This is one of few areas where this species is fairly frequent and easily seen.
Pacific Golden-PloverPluvialis fulva, Three at Arasaki.
Black-bellied PloverPluvialis squatarola, 30 at Yatsushiro, 20 at Yatsu Higata and common at Funabashi. Long-billed PloverCharadrius placidus, Seven at Kiso River. Easily found in the riverbed when displaying, but difficult when silent.
Snowy PloverCharadrius alexandrinus, 20 near Kiso River, common at Yatsu Higata and Funabashi.
Common SnipeGallinago gallinago, Four at Arasaki and five at Omigawa.
Long-billed DowitcherLimnodromus scolopaceus, Two at Yatsu Higata.
Eurasian CurlewNumenius arquata, 20 at Funabashi.
Common SandpiperActitis hypoleucos, Three at Kiso River, a few at Arasaki and Takaono River and two at Miyazaki.
SanderlingCalidris alba, Common at Funabashi.
Red-necked StintCalidris ruficollis, One at Yatsu Higata.
DunlinCalidris alpina, 15 at Arasaki, 100 at Yatsushiro, 100 at Yatsu Higata and 1000+ at Funabashi.
Red PhalaropePhalaropus fulicaria, 58+2+30+2 from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai.
South Polar SkuaStercorarius maccormicki, Two separate birds seen from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai. Both birds seen more or less in company with Pomarine Skuas.
Pomarine JaegerStercorarius pomarinus, Three dark and three pale morph seen from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai.
Black-tailed GullLarus crassirostris, 50+ at Izumi, 10 at Arasaki harbour, common at Kadogawa and from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai.
Mew GullLarus canus, A few at Kiso River, Ochiishi Misaki, Nosappu, Misaki and at Funabashi. Ssp kamtschatschensis which may be considered at separate species.
Glaucous-winged GullLarus glaucescens, Common at Nosappu Misaki and a few at Ochiishi Misaki and one at Funabashi.
Herring Gull Larus argentatus, Common around Osaka, a few at Kiso River and at Arasaki, 150+ at Yatsushiro, common at Kadogawa, two from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai and common at Funabashi. Ssp vegae sometimes considered at separate species.
Lesser Black-backed GullLarus fuscus, At least two at Yatsushiro seemed to belong to the heuglini complex.
Slaty-backed GullLarus schistisagus, A few at Yatsushiro and Kadogawa, common at Nemuro Peninsula and Kushiro and from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai and a few at Funabashi.
Black-headed GullLarus ridibundus, Common around Osaka, Yatsu Higata and Funabashi.
Saunders' Gull Larus saundersi, Four second-year birds at Yatsushiro and one second-year and one adult in summer plumage at Funabashi.
Black-legged KittiwakeRissa tridactyla, 10,000+ ? from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai.
Common Murre Uria aalge, One plus four at Nosappu Misaki and 100+ from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai.
Thick-billed Murre Uria lomvia, One at Nosappu Misaki and a few from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai.
Pigeon GuillemotCepphus columba, A total of three at Nosappu Misaki.
Spectacled GuillemotCepphus carbo, 30 + 50 at Nosappu Misaki and 20 at Ochiishi Misaki.
Long-billed MurreletBrachyramphus perdix, Two moulting into summer plumage seen on the water at 16.40 from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai.
Ancient MurreletSynthliboramphus antiquus, 30 + 40 at Nosappu Misaki and 500+ from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai.
Japanese MurreletSynthliboramphus wumizusume, Three at Kadogawa harbour early in the morning. One first seen as it came flying in towards the harbour and then seen fishing at close range inside the harbour. Two others seen fishing just outside of the harbour.
Parakeet Auklet Aethia psittacula, One at Nosappu Misaki and three from the ferry between Tomakomai and Oarai.
Crested Auklet Aethia cristatella, Five plus three at Nosappu Misaki and two at Ochiishi Misaki.
Least Auklet Aethia pusilla, 100 + 15 at Nosappu Misaki and two at Ochiishi Misaki.
Tufted PuffinFratercula cirrhata, One at Nosappu Misaki.
Rock Dove Columba livia, Tick...
Oriental Turtle-DoveStreptopelia orientalis, Common around Osaka, Kiso River, Arasaki, Naka-Karuizawa and the Tokyo area.
Blakiston's Fish-OwlKetupa blakistoni, One pair duetting nicely at Hattaushi Bridge at 04.50-05.15, 17.50-18.05 and 21.00. Fresh wing and footprints from a fishing bird seen just below the bridge. Also a pair seen nicely at a day-roost at another site.
Ural OwlStrix uralensis, One calling near Hattaushi Bridge.
Common KingfisherAlcedo atthis, Two at Kiso River and three between Kagoshima and Izumi.
Crested KingfisherMegaceryle lugubris, One female at Oya River (elevation 570 m) 40 km east of Matsubase/Route 3 on Kyushu.
Pygmy WoodpeckerDendrocopos kizuki, One north of Osaka, three at Kiso River, one at Furen-ko, common at Naka-Karuizawa and at Yoyogi Park and a few at Naritasan. Easily detected byits thin buzzing call. Ssp ijimae on Hokkaido, ssp seebohmii on central Honshu and ssp kizuki on Kyushu.
Great Spotted WoodpeckerDendrocopos major, One at Furen-ko and a few at Naka-Karuizawa.
Japanese WoodpeckerPicus awokera, One heard north of Osaka and one pair seen nicely at Naka-Karuizawa.
Japanese SkylarkAlauda japonica, Two north of Osaka, a few around Kiso River, common at Arasaki and at Omigawa.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica, A few around Miyazaki.
Black-backed WagtailMotacilla lugens, One at Osaka, common at Kiso River, Arasaki, a few at Kadogawa, one at Kiritappu, two at Mitu, two at Yoyogi Park and a few at Yatsu Higata.
Japanese WagtailMotacilla grandis, 10 around Osaka, several along Kiso River, one at Miyazaki, one at Setsurigawa and two at Naka-Karuizawa.
Gray Wagtail Motacilla cinerea, One north of Osaka, five at Arasaki, a few at Naka-Karuizawa and one at Yoyogi Park.
American Pipit Anthus rubescens, Three north of Osaka, one at Kiso River and common at Arasaki. Ssp japonicus.
Brown-eared BulbulIxos amaurotis, Common around Osaka, Kiso River, Arasaki, eastern Kyushu and around Tokyo and two at Furen.
Goldcrest Regulus regulus, One singing at Naka-Karuizawa.
Japanese WaxwingBombycilla japonica, At last a flock of 26 seen nicely feeding in mistle-toes and bathing in the stream just above the Onsen at Naka-Karuizawa.
Brown DipperCinclus pallasii, Two at Oya River 40 km east of Matsubase/Route 3 in Kyushu and four at Naka-Karuizawa.
Winter WrenTroglodytes troglodytes, Two at Osaka and a few at Naka-Karuizawa.
Pale ThrushTurdus pallidus, Four around Osaka, 30+ at Yoyogi Park and two at Naritasan.
Brown-headed ThrushTurdus chrysolaus, At last, one was seen at close range at Naritasan the last morning in the only rain of the trip.
Dusky Thrush Turdus naumanni, 20+ around Osaka, common at Kiso River, a few at Arasaki, one at Attoko (Hokkaido), one north of Kushiro, one at Naka-Karuizawa, one at Yoyogi Park and common at Omigawa and in eastern Tokyo area.
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis, Three at Omigawa.
Japanese Bush-Warbler Cettia diphone, One north of Osaka, one at Kiso River, 10 at Arasaki, a few at Yoyogi Park and four at Omigawa.
Red-flanked BluetailTarsiger cyanurus, One female-type at Yoyogi Park. Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus, Four around Osaka, one at Kiso River, two at Arasaki, one at Yatsushiro and two at Omigawa.
Long-tailed TitAegithalos caudatus, Two near Osaka, two at Kiso River, heard at Arasaki and Furen-ko, five north of Kushiro and common at Naka-Karuizawa. Ssp japonicus in Hokkaido, ssp magnus in Honshu and ssp kiusiuensis in Kyushu.
Marsh TitPoecile palustris, Two at Furen-ko and two at Furen. Ssp hensoni which belongs to a group in east Asia that is geographically completely separated fom the European group.
Willow Tit Poecile montana, One at Hattaushi Bridge and common at Naka-Karuizawa.
Coal TitPeriparus ater, One near Osaka and a few at Naka-Karuizawa.
Great Tit Parus major, A few around Osaka, Kiso River, Nemuro Peninsula, Naka-Karuizawa, Yoyogi Park and Naritasan.
Varied TitSittiparus varius, One at Mount Myoken north of Osaka, two at Kisen Dam north of Osaka, one east of Izumi, two at Naka-Karuizawa and five at Yoyogi Park.
Eurasian NuthatchSitta europaea, 10 at Furen-ko and a few at Naka-Karuizawa. Ssp asiatica in Hokkaido.
Chinese Penduline-Tit Remiz consobrinus, One male in the reedbed along the river at Arasaki.
Japanese White-eyeZosterops japonicus, A few around Osaka and Kiso River, two at Arasaki and a few at Yoyogi Park.
Bull-headed ShrikeLanius bucephalus, One north of Osaka, a few at Kiso River and between Kagoshima and Arasaki.
Eurasian JayGarrulus glandarius, One east of Izumi, one near Setsurigawa and five at Naka-Karuizawa. Ssp brandtii in Hokkaido, ssp japonicus in Honshu and ssp hiugaensis in Kyushu.
Azure-winged MagpieCyanopica cyana, One in the eastern parts of Tokyo.
Daurian JackdawCorvus dauuricus, About 15 near Ogura near Kyoto among large flocks of rooks. At least two adult birds included.
Rook Corvus frugilegus, One north of Osaka, 300+ at Ogura near Kyoto and 1000+ at Arasaki.
Carrion CrowCorvus corone, A few at Osaka, common at Kiso River, Kyoto, Arasaki and north of Kushiro.
Large-billed CrowCorvus macrorhynchos, Common in all areas visited.
White-cheeked StarlingSturnus cineraceus, Common in all areas visited in Kyushu and around Tokyo.
Eurasian Tree SparrowPasser montanus, Common in all areas visited.
BramblingFringilla montifringilla, 20 north of Osaka and a few at Naka-Karuizawa.
Asian Rosy-FinchLeucosticte arctoa, Six to seven at a feeder in a garden at Kriritappu.
Pallas' RosefinchCarpodacus roseus, Crippling views of five adult males, two subadult males and one female at Naka-Karuizawa. Both seen at the feeding place and in the forest. Calls very much like dunnocks.
Common RedpollCarduelis flammea, Three plus one in western Nemuro Peninsula.
Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus, One north of Osaka.
Oriental GreenfinchCarduelis sinica, 20+ at Mount Myoken north of Osaka, 10 at Kiso River, 10 + 10 at Arasaki and a few at Naka-Karuizawa.
Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula, Four at Furen-ko and a few at Naka-Karuizawa. Ssp griseiventris.
HawfinchCoccothraustes coccothraustes, 15+ at Kiso River, one ringed at breakfast at the minshuku in Furen, one at Naka-Karuizawa, three at Yoyogi Park and one in Tokyo.
Japanese GrosbeakEophona personata, Five just north of Miyazaki and eight fly-overs at Naka-Karuizawa.
Long-tailed RosefinchUragus sibiricus, One female at Mount Myoken north of Osaka, one male south of Tancho no Sato and four at Naka-Karuizawa.
Meadow BuntingEmberiza cioides, Common around Osaka, Kiso River, Kagoshima to Arasaki, one at Ochiishi, common at Naka-Karuizawa and 10 at Omigawa.
Ochre-rumped BuntingEmberiza yessoensis, at Omigawa. Most of them singing males in almost full breeding plumage.
Chestnut-eared BuntingEmberiza fucata, One at Arasaki near the crane observatory.
Rustic BuntingEmberiza rustica, Five around Osaka, 10 between Kagoshima and Arasaki and several at Naka-Karuizawa.
Black-faced BuntingEmberiza spodocephala, Five north of Osaka, common at Kiso River, Arasaki, 20+ at Yoyogi Park and a few at Omigawa.
Gray BuntingEmberiza variabilis, Two females at Yoyogi Park together with Black-faced Buntings just inside the north end of the fenced area.
Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus, Five north of Osaka, five at Kiso River, a few at Arasaki and 50+ at Omigawa. Ssp pyrrhulina.