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A Report from

Japan in winter, Honshu – Kyushu - Hokkaido, 7 to 24 February– 2013,

Henk Hendriks

other participants: Frans Hendriks, Antonio Mendoza, Hans Vrolijk


For years I was under the impression that visiting and birding Japan independently would be very difficult because first of all of the language barrier and also that a trip to Japan would be too expensive. But after reading some recent  trip reports I came to the conclusion that now was the time to go. Especially my brother Frans was eager to go and it did not take long before 2 birding friends Antonio Mendoza and Hans Vrolijk joined our team.

We visited Japan in winter time because we wanted to witness the spectacle of large numbers of Steller’s Eagles on the pack ice, some species of alcids,  several species of cranes, the display of Red-crowned Cranes in the snowy landscape of Hokkaido and some other most wanted winter visitors like Baikal Teal, Japanese Waxwing and Pallas’s Rosefinch to name a few.

Afterwards I can only conclude that we had a very enjoyable and succesfull trip. It took a lot of preparation but in the end we had a hassle free trip.

We used the services of Tommy Onita of to book our accommodation on Honshu and Kyushu and to book the ferry to Hachijyio-Jima.

For arranging this he charged us 105 GBP.

The total cost of this trip amounted to roughly 3200 €. pp. It proved that a carefully planned, independent trip to Japan with a team of 4 birders is, though not cheap, is both affordable and succesful.


No visa is required for Japan.

You definitely need an international driver’s license when hiring/driving a car in Japan.


The currency used in Japan is the Yen.

During our stay the exchange rate was: 1000 Yen = 8 €

We brought 1000 € a person cash with us, which we changed at the airport on arrival. We found out that it was easy enough the get money from ATM’s at 7- 11 stores along the road. Car hire and some hotels were paid by credit card.


We flew with KLM directly from Amsterdam to Tokyo. (Narita airport) We paid 800€ for a return ticket. Cheaper flights were available but these included stopovers which we wanted to avoid.


Domestic flights.

We used a Japanes airpass to fly between the different islands. This cost us 400 € for 4 flights:
Komatsu (Honshu) – Fukuoka (Kyushu)
Kagoshima (Kyushu) – Tokyo/Haneda (Honshu)
Tokyo/Haneda – Kushiro (Hokkaido)
Kushiro (Hokkaido) – Tokyo/Haneda (Honshu)
This airpass was arranged through my local travel agency.


We bought a 3-day railway pass for the train from Narita airport to Tokyo main station and from Tokyo main station with the Shinkansen (bullit train) to Karuizawa. This cost us 8000 Yen.

Car hire

I booked cars through the following website: We decided to use Nissan as our rental car agency.

We had excellent, new cars. We opted for a spacious MPV like car at Nissan because we had a lot of gear (winter gear, tripods etc) with us. On all locations we had a Nissan Serena with automatic transmission at our disposal which was a very spacious and convenient car. On Honshu and Hokkaido the car had winter tyres and 4x4 and on Kyushu only winter tyres. All cars had an excellent GPS system which is more or less essential to get around in Japan. You can enter the phone number of your next destination in the GPS and it will lead you without problems to it. We also frequently used the map on the GPS  to find our way around small roads.

The drop-off charges were rather steep and in total we paid 2000€ for all car hire

Gasoline prices are less than in europe but you have to pay toll on the expressways in Japan. Driving around in Japan (on the left side) is easy enough as the japanese drive in a very relaxed way.


We used the ferry from Tokyo to Hachijyo-Jima and back as a pelagic trip. This was a good choice as we recorded 3 species of albatrosses, including the rare Short-tailed Albatros. We left at 22.10 in the evening (booked a bunk bed in the dormitory) from Tokyo bay and arrived at 9.00 am the next morning at Hachijyo-Jima. From 10.00 am to dusk we birded from the deck during our journey back to Tokyo.

We paid 18.000 Yen a person for this trip. We asked Tommy Onita of to book the ferry for us but in retrospect  that was most likely not necessary as the boat was half empty. But we did not want to take any chances.


The accommodation on Honshu and Kyushu was booked through Tommy Onita of

Karuizawa Forest Lodge – Karuizawa (3 nights)            5300 Yen pp. Including breakfast

Hotel Arrowle – Kaga City (2 nights)                           11.400 Yen pp. Including breakfast & dinner

Minshuku Shin Tsurumi-tei – Arasaki (2 nights)             7000 Yen pp. Including breakfast & dinner

Verfort Hotel Hyuga – Hyuga city (1 night)                   4980 Yen pp. Including breakfast

Hotel Kirishima Castle – Kirishima (2 nights)                  first night 9300 Yen pp. Including breakfast & dinner, Second night 7800 Yen pp.including breakfast & dinner.

Narita Port Hotel was booked through the internet for 1 night. 42 € pp. Including breakfast

On Hokkaido I contacted Takeyoshi Matsuo of Furen Lodge by e-mail.

He speaks good english.

Booked a room at his minshuku for 3 nights ( 6200 Yen pp. Including breakfats & dinner) and he also arranged a visit/stay at minshuku Washino Yado (7000 Yen pp. Including breakfast & dinner) at Rausu for observing the fish owl. I cannot recommend him enough as he also arranged the eagle boat trip (9.000 Yen pp.), the trip for the alcids (7000 Yen pp.) and gave us more, useful info about the region and birds.

We really liked the atmosphere in the minshukus of Arasaki and especially at Lake Furen. At Arasaki the minshuku was a bit basic and rather cold in the restaurant area.

All other accommodation was good to excellent


Breakfast and dinner was often included in the price we paid for our accommodation. For lunch we opted for hot coffee/tea and sandwiches we bought at 7 eleven stores. Several times we had a nice dinner at a japanese restaurant and twice we entered a Mac Donald for food.

You have to like fish to really enjoy the food provided in the minshukus and hotels. I do.


I was surprised that only very few people speak some basic english but we had no real problem in explaining what we want from people. Generally the Japanese people are very friendly and always trying to help you out.

More importantly road signs are mostly displayed in both japanese and english.


I can only say that we were extremely lucky with the weather during our trip.

During our birding days on Honshu mostly cold (minus 6) and sunny with a little overcast weather from time to time. While driving from Karuizawa to the snow monkey site and on to the west coast near Kaga/Komatsu we had a severe snow storm. We barely made it over the pass and we had the impression that the pass had to be closed soon after we crossed over it.

The day before we arrived at Kaga/Komatsu and the day we left the area, it was windy, cold, rainy and snowing from time to time. But we encountered cold, overcast but dry weather during our birding day.

During our birding days on Kyushu we also had good, sunny weather (+10) but again as we left Kagoshima it was pouring with rain.

On Hokkaido we had cold (minus 10 to minus 17) but beautiful, sunny weather.

The day after we left Hokkaido, the area recieved extremely heavy snowfall. It was even on the news in the Netherlands and it must have been very difficult to get around.

During the boat trip to Hachijyo-Jima we had dry weather and it was not too windy.

All-in all we were lucky.


In retrospect I can only say that we had an excellent trip. Our itinerary worked out fine.

We were initially motivated by the trip reports of Ian Merrill, Nick Brickle and Eirik Gronningsaeter. (See section of usefull reports). The practical information written down in these reports were a great help for us in preparing this trip.

In the end we followed the itinerary used by Birdquest, including their extension.

The observed bird species exceeded our expectations.

Some of the best observed include the rare, endemic Copper Pheasant, Japanese Green Pheasant, 6 species of cranes, including Siberian Crane, Red-faced Cormorant, the impressive Steller’s Sea Eagle, an array of most wanted duck species like Baikal Teal (1000+ at Koda-Ike), Mandarin Duck, Harlequin Duck, Bufflehead, Falcated Duck and some succesfully twitched Scaly-sided Mergansers (thanks Gary and Mike). Also Laysan Albatros, Black-footed Albatros and the rare Short-tailed Albatros from the ferry to Hachijyio-Jima, Black-faced Spoonbill, Saunder’s Gull, alcids like Pigeon Guillemot, Spectacled Guillemot, Crested Auklet, Least Auklet, Ancient Murrelet, Japanese Murrelet and Rhinoceros Auklet, White-bellied Green Pigeon,  Japanese Wood Pigeon, the huge Blakiston’s Fish Owl, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Japanese Woodpecker, Ryuku Minivet, Daurian Jackdaw, Japanese Varied Tit, Japanese Bush Warbler, a flock of Japanese Waxwings, Japanese Accentor, Japanese Wagtail, Asian Rosy Finch, Long-tailed Rosefinch, Pallas’s Rosefinch, Grey-bellied Bullfinch, Japanese Grosbeak and Grey Bunting.

Additionally it was also nice that I added 7 west-palearctic species to my list


We brought 2 telescopes with us which were absolutely necessary for scoping out at sea and at lakes.

Also 3 Canon cameras with 300 mm lenses  with 1,4 extenders.



-Japan, A travel Survival Kit – Lonely Planet 2011

A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Japan – Mark Brazil 1987

Rather outdated but still useful -A Birder’s Guide to Japan – Jane Washburn Robinson 1987

Some additional info, Birds of East  Asia Mark Brazil

Trip Reports & Articles

-Japan 2007: Honshu, Kyushu and Hokkaido 18th of February to 4th March 2007 – Ian Merrill

-Japan – January 2009 by Nick Brickle

-Japan, 8 – 26 January 2010 by Eirik Gronningsaeter

These trip reports were found on and

-Japan in winter - 6th February - 22nd February 2011  by Dave Farrow (Birdquest)


Japan – International Travel Maps – 1 : 1.000.000

Useful but a detailed English road map would be much appreciated by future birders to Japan.

Bilungual Road Atlas to Japan.

Advised by birders but to be frankly we were disappointed.


First of all I would like to thank Takeyoshi Matsuo for his hospitality and all the help he gave us during the Hokkaido part of our trip.

Tommy Onita of BirdwatchingJapan for additional info and booking accommodation and the ferry to Hachijyo-Jima for us.

And Max Berlijn for lending me his copy of Mark Brazil’s guide and some practical advice.

Roel van de Heuvel for giving us details how to locate the exact site of the Scaly-sided Merganser on Kyushu, which we succesfully twitched.


-Tommy Onita:

You can arrange your car hire and accommodation yourself but if you want Tommy Onita to help you out on this he can do this for a reasonable price. The problem is that not all hotel contacts understand/speak English.

-Takeyoshi Matsuo: – phone: 0153-25-3919

Matsuo San understands/speaks reasonable good English. He is the owner of a very nice minshuku at Lake Furen (Furen Lodge) He can also book boat trips, accommodation etc. on Hokkaido. He is also a knowledgable birder, who can direct you to specific sites for birding on Hokkaido.

-For car rental I recommend the following site:

We opted for Nissan. The prices are actually very reasonable but drop-off charges often rather high.


Day 1: Thursday February 7 Geldrop – Amsterdam – Tokyo

At 10.10 am we took the train from Eindhoven to Schiphol Airport.

We left Schiphol Airport at 14.50 pm for the 11 ½ hour flight with KLM to Tokyo (Narita Airport).

Day 2: Friday February 8 Tokyo – Karuizawa

We arrived at Narita Airport at 9.00 am. After collecting our luggage we each changed 1000 € at the bank. We then went to the office to buy train tickets. They told us that I would be cheaper to buy a 3-day railway pass for 8000 Yen instead of buying separate tickets for the 2 legs.

Took the train to Tokyo main station and after a 15 minute wait we boarded the Shinkansen (bullit train) to Nagano. After 2 hours we got out at Karuizawa station. (elevation 1000m.)

We walked to the information counter to find out where the location was of Nissan Rent a Car. It turned out that it was just outside the building, a 2 minute walk. Within 20 minutes we drove of to our destination in Karuizawa, Karuizawa Forest Lodge. The GPS of the car leaded us directly to a 7 -11 store but no lodge.

The lodge is not signposted along the main road and it took a while before we found out that our accommodation was along a small dirt track just 100 meters before the 7 -11 store. When entering the minshuku we found a dozen pairs of slippers in the entrance hall. Don’t even think of entering a minshuku with your snow boots on. And when you visit the bath room facilities you have to change to another pair of slippers, which you only use for entering/using these. The heated toilet seats are also an experience in itself.

It was 15.00 and as we were eager to do some birding, we headed out to the scrub behind the 7-11 store.  We quickly scored our first endemic, Japanese Green Woodpecker. Other species seen included  Brown-eared Bulbul, Meadow Bunting and Rustic Bunting. Best species was undoubtedly the Japanese Accentor which gave great and close views. One of our main targets of Karuizawa seen within an hour of arrival. Later we checked the area close to the entrance of Oshino Onsen and here we were lucky to observe several Long-tailed Rosefinches and best of all 3 Grey-bellied Bullfinches. In the evening we had dinner at one of the restaurants close to Oshino Onsen. We ordered something with chicken but this was not a great success. In fact the worst dinner we had during our stay in Japan.

Day 3: Saturday February 9 Karuizawa

We had ordered breakfast at 9.30 am. We decided to first check the immediate area around our lodge and then to walk the first kilometer along the main track, along the Yukawa river  from Oshino Onsen.

We quickly found several Varied Tits and Nuthatches at the feeders of our lodge. It was cold and it snowed from time to time. We then continued along the main track and it turned out to be a very succesfull early morning stroll before breakfast.

First we found a flock of Japanese Waxwings, working their way through the mistle toes along the main track. A little further Hans discovered a male Copper Pheasant which was also briefly seen by Frans and me before it disappeared over the slope. We could not find the bird again and decided to walk back. Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker was also added to our list. Just along the stream near the main road we had excellent views of a small flock of Pallas’s Rosefinches, including some fabulous males. This was one of our target species. I knew that there was an influx in China and Korea of this species and that the species was seen recently at Kartuizawa. Grey-bellied Bullfinches were also briefly seen.

We arrived very satisfied back at our lodge, where we had our breakfast.

After breakfast we headed back to the area around the nature centre. We looked for Japanese Grosbeak but no luck. Dusky Thrush was regularly seen and Brown Dipper was particularly common along Yukawa river, where we also observed several Japanese Wagtails.

After lunch with tea/cofee and sandwiches at the 7-11 store we headed back for the main track at Oshino Onsen. Amazingly we found the same male Copper Pheasant again in the same small gulley. This time we all had good views of the bird. We also saw at least 3 Japanese Accentors along this trail. On our way back we met 2 British birders, Gary and Mike. We gave them directions of the Copper Pheasant, a species which had eluded them untill then and they gave us GPS coordinates of a site on Kyushu where they had observed Scaly-sided Merganser. We are very grateful to them as later on the trip we actually succeeded in finding the birds. Hans decided to bird along the main trail while Antonio, Frans and I birded along one of the smaller trails. Good views of several Red-flanked Bluetails but not much else.

Late afternoon we checked some feeders of a nearby hotel for Japanese Grosbeak but no luck.

In the evening we had an excellent dinner at one of the Japanese restaurants nearby. It was week-end so we had to wait a while, because we had not made a reservation.

Day 4: Sunday February 10 Karuizawa

Before breakfast we checked the feeders for Japanese Grosbeak and this time we succeeded. We saw at least 9 birds. A single Goldcrest and a single Coal Tit was also notable. On our way back to our accommodation we saw at least 2 Pallas’s Rosefinches and behind the 7-11 store Hans and I had good views of 2 males Japanese Green Pheasants.

During breakfast we discussed our programm for today. Actually we had found all our main targets at Karuizawa. We first checked the area at the back of the 7-11 again where we quickly located a nice male Japanese Green Pheasant. We continued along one of the smaller trails in the Oshino Onsen area to a large weedy clearing, which is supposed to hold Pallas’s Rosefinch. We spent some time there but we only observed Long-tailed Rosefinch. After lunch we decided to take the car and explore the surroundings beyond Karuizawa.

We drove first to a small lake within the boundaries of Karuizawa but besides some Little Grebes and Eurasian Wigeons we did not observe much. We then continued to an area near Yokokawa, south east of Karuizawa. We birded along lake Myogi-Ko and the fields near the river Usuigawa.

Some notable birds seen were our first Bull-headed Shrike, Japanese Wagtail and  on the lake a large flock of Eastern Spot-billed Ducks and at least 75 Northern Pintails.

In the evening again a nice dinner at the same Japanese restaurant as the evening before.

Day 5: Monday February 11         Karuizawa – Snow Monkeys – Kaga

A short stroll before breakfast did not ad anything new for us.

So after breakfast we said goodbye  to our friendly hosts and left for the drive to the snow monkeys site.  It took 1½ hour of mostly expressway driving to reach the site at Yudanake.

This site is known as the home of a group of some 200 Japanese macaques who live in and around the onsen bath. From the car park it is a gentle 2 km walk in the company of many tourists, through dense spruce forest before you reach a beautifully situated valley where the macaques live.

Though touristy, it is still worth to actually witness the spectacle of bathing macaques in the hot springs.

Around noon we decided to leave and head for the west coast near Kaga. But then it started to snow heavily and we had difficulties to ascend the pass. We drove through huge banks of  snow. Many cars put chains on their tyres but we made it over the pass in time, thanks to the 4x4 gear of our car.

At the other site of the road traffic had stopped and heavy shovelers were busy clearing the road.

We think that shortly after we crossed the pass, the entire road was closed for traffic, so we were lucky in this respect. Closer to the coast, the snow disappeared and we made good progress on the expressway to Kaga.

Just after dark we arrived at our hotel (Hotel Arrowle) at Kaga. This was a large, luxurious hotel.

After a well deserved shower we had dinner, which was ok but not very special.

Day 6: Tuesday February 12       Katano Kamo-ike – coast near Komatsu-Tojinbo headland.

After breakfast we first birded some 30 minutes along the shore of the big lake, Lake Shibayama, just outside our hotel. Large flock of Falcated Ducks, a few Bewick’s Swans, Japanese Buzzard, Japanese Green Pheasant and our first Black-faced Buntings.

We then continued to the nature sanctuary of Katano Kamo-ike where we hoped to observe the most wanted Baikal Teal. It took some time to locate the place but then we were not to be disappointed. From behind the glass window we observed a large flock of Baikal Teal. According to the wardens the flock contains around 1500 birds.

A family of Taiga Bean Goose of the ssp. Middendorfi (some authors splits this ssp.) was observed and could be compared with Tundra Bean Goose also present at the lake.

The wardens gave us some info about the whereabouts of a small flock of Mandarin Ducks nearby.

When we walked to the area we quickly found them but they turned out to be rather shy.

After this success we decided to drive through the country side towards the coast and just see what we could find. We found a single Grey-headed Lapwing and along the coast we found several Blue Rock Thrushes. Scoping from several vantage points along the coast gave us Red-throated Diver, Black-throated Diver, Temminck’s Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant, Ancient Murrelet and Rhinoceros Auklet. A single dark phase Pacific Reef Heron was also seen. We finally reached the Jojinbo headland, which is an island aconnected with the mainland by a bridge. On the island we observed several White’s Thrushes.

Late afternoon we drove back to our hotel. Most of the night it was snowing and the wind was picking up as well.

Day 7: Wednesday February 13             Komatsu – Fukuoka – Yatsushiro – Arasaki

When we got up it was cold, windy and snowing lightly. Later it started to rain.

After an early breakfast we drove the short distance to the airport and after delivering our car without problems, we took the 9.45 flight from Komatsu to Fukuoka, where we arrived at 11.10. in beautiful sunshine.

After collecting our luggage we quickly walked (5 minutes) to the Nissan office and within 15 minutes we were back on the road. The weather was fine, sunny and 12 degrees.

We took the expressway towards Izumi. Our plan was to make an extensive birding stop at the estuary near Yatsushiro to try for Black-faced Spoonbill and Saunder’s Gull.

We did not have any exact info/directions on how to reach the best area. So we just left the expressway and took the road towards the port of Yatsushiro. And we drove straight to the right spot, a concrete wall from where you could scan the mudflats. We probably did not bird the best area for the gull (most likely we were south of the best area) as we only had distant views in the scope of several Saunder’s Gull. Black-faced  Spoonbill gave great and close views. Notable were also several flocks of Daurian Jackdaws, including nice pied adult birds and a male Chestnut-eared Bunting.

After a couple of hours we left for our drive to Izuma and on to Arasaki. It was already dark when we arrived but unfortunately our GPS led us to a spot which was separated from our minshuku by a canal. As we were a bit confused we drove to a nearby house and explained to them that we wanted to drive to the Arasaki Nature Reserve. The friendly people jumped into their car and led us to our destination. (Shin tsurumitei)

It turned out that we were the only visitors of this minshuku. Rather basic and cold in the restaurant area. After a nice meal we crashed out.

Day 8: Thursday February 14      Arasaki

We woke up at dawn by the loud calls of large numbers of cranes just outside our minshuku and after opening our curtains we witnessed an astonishing spectacle of thousands of Hooded and White-naped Cranes.

After a quick breakfast we went outside and we spent the next couple of hours  photographing the coming and going of the cranes. It did not take long before we discovered the juvenile Siberian Crane which we knew was present in the crane flocks. We also observed at least 2 Common Cranes but it took a while before we finally located the fifth crane species present, a single Sandhill Crane.

The rest of the morning was spent slowly driving around the fields near the Arasaki Nature Centre.

Japanese Skylark and Buff-bellied Pipit were common and Japanese Bush Warbler  was also added to our list. An extensive stroll along a reedy canal to try for Chinese Penduline Tit was unfortunately fruitless. Japanese White-eye though was commonly observed.

After lunch we decided to bird on the other side of route 3 along the Takaono River. This is were most birders find Long-billed Plover and Crested Kingfisher. But we were not that lucky and we found the banks of the river rather overgrown. We saw our only Fan-tailed Warbler of the trip.

Meanwhile Antonio had sent a tekst message to a friend in the Netherlands to find out more specific details about the site of the Scaly-sided Merganser as we only had GPS coordinates.

In the evening he received good info from his friend and so we decided to try for the birds the next day, on our way to the east of Kyushu.

Day 9: Friday February 15           Arasaki – Satsuma – Mi-Ike – Hyuga

The first hour of daylight was spent along the banks of the river near the Arasaki Nature Centre. Only Little Ringed Plovers were found. It was cold, overcast and a bit rainy.

We then drove to the city of Satsuma and during the drive the weather improved a lot.

We decided to start searching from the bridge over the Sendai river in Satsuma in westerly direction. At one time Frans mentioned that the birds are sometimes sitting on rocks and as soon as Antonio put his bins on some ducks on a rock in the river he mentioned: “I think I see one”. Just next to a Spot-billed Duck and a little closer to the water front we observed a preening female Scaly-sided Merganser. It did not take long before another bird swam into view. We decided to cross over to the other side, via a bridge, to try for photos. Just when we arrived at the spot, one of the locals walked up to the wall next to the river and flushed the birds. We found them back a little further in some rapids of the river.  After a while they flew of and though we tried for another 30 minutes to relocate them we failed.

We realised that we were very lucky to find the birds within half an hour, knowing that it took Mike and Gary 10 hours and that they were about to give up on them.

In a very good mood we continued to lake Mi-ike where we arrived in the late afternoon. We birded for 2 hours around the campsite but no target species as Ryuku Minivet and/or Grey Bunting were found.

We drove further to Hyuga where we arrived at dusk. We visited Macdonalds for a quick meal before we drove to our hotel. In retrospect it would have been better to check the actual situation at Kadogawa harbour to locate the exact area where we had the best chance of finding Japanese Murrelet the next morning.

Day 10: Saturday February 16                Hyuga – Kadogawa – Mi-Ike – Kirishima

We had an early breakfast at 6.30 am. I would advice future birders to have a late breakfast or skip it altogether to be at the Kadogawa harbour at dawn, especially at the obvious pier at the north side of the harbour. In my opinion it increases your chances considerably of observing Japanese Murrelets, flying into the harbour in the early morning.

When we drove to the harbour we decided for no reason to drive first to the lighthouse area, south east of Hyuga to try for the murrelet. This is also advised on Mark Brazil’s website. But this  turned out to be the wrong decision and finally when we arrived at the north side of Kadogawa harbour it was already 10.00 am. Despite diligently scanning the harbour area we did not find any murrelet.

So we decided to work our way from the north around the harbour area to the south to try fort his species. At one time Frans was lucky enough to observe a Japanese Wood Pigeon but it flew of before we arrived at the exact spot.

So the next couple of hours we scanned the area from several vantage points. After 6 hours we finally arrived at a large concrete wall on the south side of the harbour. Here we got lucky as we all had scope views of a Japanese Wood Pigeon, again discovered by Frans, who saw the bird fly in.

Suddenly I discovered some small alcids with a lot of white at the sides of their heads. As soon as we put the scope on the birds it was confirmed: 2 Japanese Murrelets. Later another 2 birds flew in and landed near the first 2. This was just outside the actual harbour area.

We later heard from other birders that they had arranged for a small fishing boat and had very close views of the species. Also just outside the harbour.

We then decided to drive to Kirishima where we arrived at dusk. Our stay at hotel Kirishima Castle was quite an experience. This is a large spa resort and we were the only foreign tourists at this hotel. The Japanese buffet dinner was absolutely fabulous.

Day 11: Sunday February 17 Kirishima – Mi-Ike

After an early breakfast we drove to Mi-Ike lake. Our targets for today were Ryuku Minivet and Grey Bunting and it turned out that this was not achieved easily.

It took some 40 minutes to drive from our hotel to the camping area at the back side of the lake.  After checking the camping area itself we explored the lake side. Somehow we all went our separate ways and I was lucky enough to have great and close views of a White-backed Woodpecker ssp.namiyei

As I thought that the others went to the entrance road I walked in that direction were I bumped into Antonio. Together we walked along the entrance road where in a mixed flock we found at least 2 Ryuku Minivets. When walking back towards the campsite area we met Frans and Hans. Hans had briefly seen a Mountain Hawk Eagle.

Together we decided to go back to the entrance road to try to relocate the minivets. Though we did find the flock, no minivets. I had good flight views of a White-bellied Green Pigeon, but we never had one perched. We saw several Eurasian Wren, very dark looking birds and 2 Japanese Grosbeaks also showed briefly.

At noon we walked back to the car to get lunch at a nearby restaurant. Just as all the others were already in the car I discovered a pair of Ryuku Minivets, feeding unobtrusively in the canopy, just next to the car park. This time we all got good views.

After lunch we returned to the lake and we decided to bird along the lake trail, left of the main entrance. And here we finally found a small flock of Grey Buntings but unfortunately no males.

In the evening again a great meal at our hotel.

Day 12: Monday February 18      Kirishima – Kagoshima – Tokyo – Kushiro – Lake Furen Lodge

Today was mainly a travelling day. We intended to bird for an hour or so in the forest around our hotel but quickly abandoned this idea because it was pouring with rain.

After breakfast we drove through heavy rain to the airport of Kagoshima. We delivered the car and flew at  10.55 am from Kagoshima to Tokyo (Haneda). Here we received news that there was heavy snow on Hokkaido and that planes had to turn back to Tokyo and the flight Tokyo – Sapporo was cancelled.

Fortunately most of the snow fall was in the north west of the island and we were assured that the flight to Kushiro would leave on time.

And so we left Tokyo on time (at 15.00 pm) and landed at Kushiro airport at 16.30 pm. Our car was already waiting for us and within minutes we were on our way for the 2,5 hour drive to lake Furen. It took some time to cross Kushiro but with the help of our GPS we drove without problems straight to the mishuku of Takeyoshi Matsuo near Lake Furen. We arrived at his place at 19.30 pm and were warmly welcomed by Matsuo San. We were invited straight for dinner and together with 5  British birders and 3 American birders, staying at his place, we had a really enjoyable dinner as we had a lot to talk about with the other birders.

From them we received info about Hokkaido and we provided them of info of places they were going to on Honshu and Kyushu.

In the evening Matsuo San phoned to Washino Yado to try to book us for the next evening to observe the Bl.Fish Owl. He tried already 3 months ago but received info that it was already full. The british birders just phoned one week before their arrival and got permission. We were lucky as we got the message that we could stay at the lodge tomorrow night. We had also booked a boat trip out to the pack ice on February 18 at in the morning but Matsuo San advised us to rearrange that to 9.00 am. We agreed and it was confirmed by Matsuo San when he phoned the boat company.

Day 13: Tuesday February 19 Lake Furen Lodge – Notsuku peninsula – Rausu – Washino Yado.

We had breakfast at 7.00 am. Just outside the window  we observed Great Spotted Woodpecker, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Eurasian Nuthatch, Hawfinch and Marsh Tit on the feeders.

The British birders scored a White-backed Woodpecker, during a pre-breakfast stroll near the lodge.

After breakfast we drove towards Rausu and we made several stops at lakes, harbours and vantage points along the coast. Ofcourse great views of Steller’s Sea Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Slaty-backed Gull, Glaucous Gull and Glaucous-winged Gull .

We spent some time at the Notsuke peninsula to try for Asian Rosy Finch but no luck.

The weather was fine, cold but sunny.

After a lunch at a 7-11 store (or similar) we drove on to Rausu. In open water we observed a few Whooper Swans, Eurasian Wigeon, Harlequin Ducks, American Scoters,  Stejneger’s Scoter,  Long-tailed Duck, Greater Scaup, Goldeneye, 2 species of Merganser and best was a male Bufflehead in the harbour of Rausu.

Hans and I tried to get closer to a small patch of open water, close to the shore, to photograph some Harlequin Ducks. Suddenly I sank away in the deep snow untill my knees but right behind me was Hans, who is a little heavier than I am, and he sank into the snow almost to his waist. He really had to struggle to get out, but one has to make sacrifices to achieve some good shots.

At the end of the afternoon we checked in at the small minshuku Washino-Yado, just north of Rausu.

We were given 2 rooms at the ground floor. Unfortunately the best rooms (better views of the stream just in front of the minshuku) were given to a group of birders of Tropical Birding.

We briefly discussed if we should sit in the car instead of staying in our room but the freezing temperatures made the decision easy: in our warm room. It started to snow a bit and at 18.00 we had a nice dinner together with Keith Barnes and his group. After dinner the lady of the minshuku asked us to go to our room, put of the light and to stay inside.

Just after 19.00 an owl started to call, a deep hoot. Later we heard from one of the birders upstairs that the bird flew into a tree just to the left of the stream. Unfortunately another group of birders arrived at the lodge just as the bird was about to fly in. This group of birders did not stay overnight as they had booked at another hotel in Rausu, but they just visited the lodge to observe the owl. But instead of arriving in time (before dark), they arrived too late and they were also very noisy. They stayed in the restaurant building just next to our room, but as there were no toilet facilities in that building they kept walking up and down.

Meanwhile we had put up our photo equipment on tripods in our rooms and we constantly watched the stream just in front of us. I talked to the Japanese leader of the group if he would be so kind to minimise disturbance by his group. According to him it would not make any difference as the owls are used to human presence!

Anyway we were getting rather frustrated as by 10.00 pm there was still not a sniff of the owl. But at 10.45 just as Hans and Antonio were having a short break, I saw a huge shadow fly into the trees in front of us. There he was. Shortly afterwards it flew into the stream where it started to catch the fish, put there by the lady of the minshuku. The next half hour we had absolutely fabulous views of the bird.

Then it flew of and landed on a light pole just beside our cabin, where a few cars were parked. The visiting birding group started to leave the area and at one time 3 of them were standing right below the owl, just a few meters above their heads and just when the fourth person arrived to get into their vehicle the owl flew of. They never saw it though. After this success we had a few beers to celebrate this memorable evening.

But In my opinion the organisation around this site should be improved to prevent that in the future visiting birders possibly miss this species because of disturbance which can be avoided.

Day 14: Wednesday February 20 Washino Yado -  boat trip Rausu – Notsuke peninsula – Lake Furen Lodge

We were glad that we changed from the 5.00 am boat trip to the 9.00 am trip. After a nice breakfast we drove the short distance to the harbour of Rausu. After paying we boarded our vessel together with 2 Japanese photographers. So only 6 people on board, which meant that we had a lot of freedom to move around.

We could to go very far out of the harbour as we soon bumped into the solid pack ice. But the next couple of hours were unforgettable. As soon as our boatsman started to throw fish on the ice, both species of eagles started to arrive in numbers as well as several species of gulls. So we had very good photo opportunities. At 12.00 it was over and when we returned to the harbour area we drove back towards Nemuro.

We made an extensive stop on the peninsula again and this time we found 2 Asian Rosy Finches.

Along the coast we observed our first Spectacled Guillemots. Slowly we birded our way back to the Lake Furen Lodge. Late afternoon we made a short stroll in the nearby woods but nothing special. The hot shower at the lodge was much appreciated by all.

Again a great dinner and this time we were joined by the Tropical Birding group with leader Keith Barnes. In the evening Matsuo San advised us to book a boat trip from Ochisii the next morning. This trip is considered the best for alcids. So together with the Tropical Birding group we booked that trip.

Day 15: Thursday February 21 boat trip Ochiishi – Cape Nosappu – Lake Furen Lodge

After breakfast we drove together with the Tropical Birding group to the harbour of Ochisii. It was minus 17 but sunny and not much wind. At 9.00 am we left the harbour for an exciting 3 hours at sea. A large greyish falcon caused some confusion as a Gyrfalcon had been observed in the area lately. But it turned out to be a Peregrine, later followed by a second bird. Least Auklet was very common and during the course of the trip we observed at least 2 Ancient Murrelets, 3 Crested Auklets, Pigeon Guillemots, Spectacled Guillemots and Common Murre.

When we arrived back at the harbour area we decided to drive straight to the lighthouse of Cape Nosappu. The sea below the lighthouse was teeming with birds.

Later on we finally discovered our target species an immature Red-faced Cormorant but unfortunately no adult bird. When I wandered of on my own I discovered a Pacific Diver which we could not relocate after I had warned the others. We briefly visited the area (2 rocky islands) which should held a single Rock Sandpiper but no success. We also scoped a murrelet we could not positively identify up to now. It most closely resembled Long-billed Murrelet but without the obvious white patch along the scapulars.

We returned to the Furen Lodge in the late afternoon.

Day 16: Friday February 22         Lake Furen Lodge – Tancho no Sato – Kushiro –

Tokyo(Haneda) – Ferry to Hachijyo-Jima

Before breakfast we said goodbye to Matsuo San and we drove straight through Kushiro to Tancho no Sato, one of the sites for Red-crowned Crane, our last target species on Hokkaido. We intended to drive around Kushiro but we missed the turn-of. We arrived at Tancho no Sato and we witnessed the spectacle of more than 100 Japanese photographers, waiting for the cranes to arrive and show their display behaviour. A fortune of photographic equipment was displayed and I noticed that we were the only ones carrying binoculars. And sure enough at 10.30 the cranes started to arrive and we spent a full hour watching the spectacle.

As we had some spare time we decided to drive back and see what we could find along the road. We passed another site for Red-crowned Cranes ( Tsurui Mura) and as there were only a few people present  at this site we stopped and spent another hour, photographing cranes at this site. Just opposite we had a coffee and here we bumped accidently into Mark Brazil.

He knew a site for Ural Owl but we had run out of time. After a late lunch we continued to the airport of Kushiro,  delivered the car and at 17.00 pm we flew right on time to Tokyo (Haneda airport) where we arrived at 19.00 pm. At the airport we locked our main luggage in some lockers and had dinner at one of the restaurants.

We took the monorail to Hamamatsucho station and walked in 5 minutes to the ferry terminal. We reported ourselves with my booking form at the office and were given our tickets by a lady who spoke remarkably well english. At 21.45 we boarded the ferry and at 22.20 we left for the journey from Tokyo Bay to Hachijyo Jima.

It turned out that the ferry was half empty. We put our stuff in the dormitory and at 23.00 I was fast asleep.

Day 17: Saturday February 23    Hachijyo-Jima – Tokyo

Just after 7.00 I was on deck. It did not take long before I observed the first Streaked Shearwater.

A single Pomarine Skua also passed closeby. Later I was joined by the others but all we observed were Streaked Shearwaters. Our breakfast contained some fruit bars with tea, we took from the machine in the hall. We arrived at Hachijyo-Jima at 9.30 am and we had exactly 40 minutes on the island to try for the endemic Izu Thrush.

Keith Barnes had 3 birds in the nearby gardens, last week. As soon as we were allowed to disembark we rushed to the nearby coastal bushes and started frantically searching for the thrush. The only thrush we found was Dusky. As we did not want to take any chances we arrived back at the boat 10 minutes before departure. Frans was lucky enough to see yet another Japanese Wood Pigeon!

As soon as we had left the island we took position at one of the lower decks where we had good views, out of the wind. But it was after we passed the island of Miyakejima when the birding really was picking up. Meanwhile we had a not so good meal at the ship’s restaurant.

Besides large numbers of Streaked Shearwaters we started to observe our first albatrosses. Mostly Laysan Albatros and a few Black-footed. At one time Hans noticed a large whitish bird with a huge pinkish bill floating on the sea. An adult Short-tailed Albatros! Some time later we observed a second adult bird on the surface and during the next hour we observed no less than 12 Short-tailed Albatrosses, sometimes

passing closeby, giving great views. Mostly immature plumaged birds but also another adult and 3 juvenile plumaged birds. So all-in al this was a perfect end to another great birding adventure.

At dusk we entered Tokyo bay and at exactly 20.40 pm we arrived at the ferry terminal. We went to Hamamatsucho station where we took the monorail to Haneda Airport. After a meal at one of the restaurants we picked up our luggage from the lockers and went to the information stand to book our limousine coach from Haneda to Narita airport. It was already 22.00 pm.

But here we were in for a unpleasant surprise as the lady told us that the last bus had left at 21.00 pm! So after a hassle-free trip up to now, we experienced difficulties.

With the help of several people they arranged a limousine coach (40 minutes drive) to a certain train station ( forgot the name) and then we had 15 minutes to board the last train to Narita train station, where we had to take a taxi to our prebooked Narita Port hotel.

In the end we dashed through Tokyo and we made it. At Narita station we fitted 4 large guys with all their equipment in a taxi (this would never be accepted in the Netherlands) and drove in 10 minutes to our hotel, where we arrived at 01.00 am. After a quick shower we crashed out.

Day 18: Sunday February 24       Tokyo (Naritra Airport) – Amsterdam – Geldrop

After a nice, extensive breakfast at our hotel we took the free shuttle bus to Narita Airport at 9.00 am.

At 12.00 we left Tokyo and after 11 hours we touched down at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam at 16.00 pm. Took the train and arrived home at 18.30 pm.

Geldrop, The Netherlands  March 2013
Henk Hendriks


1.   Geldrop – Amsterdam – Tokyo
2.   Tokyo – Karuizawa
3.   Karuizawa
4.   Karuizawa
5.   Karuizawa – Snow Monkeys – Kaga
6.   Katano Kamo-ike – coast near Komatsu-Tojinbo headland.
7.   Komatsu – Fukuoka – Yatsushiro – Arasaki
8.   Arasaki
9.   Arasaki – Satsuma – Mi-Ike – Hyuga
10. Hyuga – Kadogawa – Mi-Ike – Kirishima
11. Kirishima – Mi-Ike
12. Kirishima – Kagoshima – Tokyo – Kushiro – Lake  Furen Lodge
13. Lake Furen Lodge – Notsuke peninsula – Rausu –   Washino Yado
14. Washino Yado -  boat trip Rausu – Notsuke peninsula – Lake Furen Lodge
15. boat trip Ochiishi – Cape Nosappu – Lake Furen Lodge
16. Lake Furen Lodge – Tancho no Sato – Kushiro –Tokyo(Haneda) – Ferry to Hachijyo-Jima
17. Hachijyo-Jima – Tokyo
18. Tokyo (Narita Airport) – Amsterdam – Geldrop



Copper Pheasant Syrmaticus soemmerringii
09-02: Twice a male in a gulley at Karuizawa. Good views the second time.

Japanese Green Pheasant Phasianus versicolor
10-02: 2 males and 3 females in the scrub behind the 7-11 store, Karuizawa
12-02: 1 male near our hotel at Kaga. At the edge of lake Shibayama.
14-02: 1 male at Arasaki   


Tundra Bean Goose Anser serrirostris
12-02: 30 exx at Katano Kamo-Ike

Taiga Bean Goose Anser fabalis ssp. Middendorffii
12-02: a family group of 5 at Katano Kamo-Ike
Sometimes split as Middendorff’s Bean Goose Anser middendorffii

Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons ssp. Frontalis
12-02: 10 exx at Katano Kamo-Ike

Mute Swan (introduces) Cygnus olor
15-02: 5 exx in the Arasaki area.

Bewick’s Swan Cygnus bewickii
12-02: A large group heard near our hotel at Kaga. 4 actually seen at dawn.
13-02: 1 seen near between Fukuoka - Arasaki

Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus
19-02: 5 + 2 + 4 seen between lake Furen and Rausu, Hokkaido.
22-02: 10 exx at Tancho no Sato, Hokkaido

Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata
12-02: 9 + 4 seen at Katano Kamo-Ike. The first group at the opposite lake of the nature     
Centre. Rather shy birds.

Gadwall Anas strepera
12-02: 3 exx at sea near Kaga.
13-02: 100+ at the eastuary of Yatsushiro.
14-02: 6 in the Arasaki area.

Falcated Duck Anas falcata
12-02: 170-180 at lake Shibayama, in front of our hotel in Kaga.
 10 exx at Katano Kamo-Ike.
13-02: 2 at the estuary of Yatsushiro.
15-02: 3 in the Arasaki area.
16-02: 1 pair at Kadogawa harbour.

Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope
10-02: 2 at pond in Karuizawa
12-02: 100+ at Katano Kamo-Ike + 4 at sea near Kaga.
13/14-02: 10 to 20 in the Arasaki area.
15/16/17-02: 100+ at lake Mi-ike
19-02: 10 along the coast near Rausu

Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
12-02: 15 exx at Katano Kamo-ike.

Mallard Anas platryrhynchos
Recorded on 8 dates.
100+ at Katano Kamo-ike, Arasaki area and lake Mi-ike
19-02: 20 near Rausu

Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha
Recorded on 8 dates.
Abundant in the estuary of Yatsushiro.

Northern Pintail Anas acuta
10-02: 75 exx on lake Myogi-ko near Yokokawa.
12-02: 100 + at Katano Kamo-ike.
13-02: 1000+ at the estuary of Yatsushiro.
15/16/17-02: up to 20 at lake Mi-ike.

Baikal Teal Anas formosa
12-02: 1000+ at Katano Kamo-ike.
According to the wardens the highest count was around 1500 birds.
Considered “vulnerable” by Birdlife International

Common Teal Anas crecca
10-02: 6 at pond Karuizawa
12-02: 600 at Katano Kamo-ike
13/14/15-02: 100 + Arasaki area.
15-02: 100 + at estuary of Yatsushiro.
16-02: 50 exx at harbour Kadogawa.

Common Pochard Aythya ferina
12-02: 10 exx at Katano Kamo-ike

Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
12-02: 30 exx at lake Shibayama in Kaga.
15/17-02: up to 15 exx at lake Mi-ike.

Greater Scaup Aythya marila
19-02: 12 exx along the coast near Rausu.
20-02:  15 exx. Between Rausu and Lake Furen

Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus
Up to 50 daily along the coast in Hokkaido

American Scoter Melanitta americana
19-02: 100+ near Rausu.
20-02: 50 between rausu – Lake Furen
21-02: 200+ between Ochiisi and Cape Nosappu, Hokkaido

Stejneger’s  Scoter Melanitta stejnegeri
19-02: 6 exx between Lake Furen – Rausu.
21-02: 20 exx during the boat trip from Ochiisi.
Note: Split from White-winged Scoter Melanitta deglandi

Long-tailed Duck Glangula hyemalis
A total of 52 exx recorded on 3 dates along the coast of Hokkaido.

Smew Mergellus albellus
12-02: 3 exx at Katano Kamo-ike.

Common Goldeneye Bucephala glangula
A total of150 exx on 3 dates along the coast of Hokkaido.

Bufflehead  Bucephala albeola
19-02: 1 male in the harbour of Rausu.

Goosander Mergus merganser
A total of 400 exx along the coast of Hokkaido.

Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator
A total of 200 exx along the coast of Hokkaido.

Scaly-sided Merganser Mergus squamatus
15-02: 2 females on the Sendai river near Satsuma.
Considered “endangered” by Birdlife International
Breeds only in NE China, Russia and North Korea

Red-throated Loon Gavia stellata
12-02: 2 exx at sea near Kaga.

Black-throated Loon Gavia arctica
12-02: 100+ at sea near Kaga.

Pacific Loon Gavia pacifica
21-02: 1 ex at Cape Nosappu.


Laysan Albatros Phoebastria immutabilis
23-02: 23 exx from the ferry between Miyakejima - Tokyo.

Black-footed Albatros Phoebastria nigripes
23-02: 10 exx. from the ferry between Miyakejima - Tokyo.
Considered “endangered” by Birdlife International.

Short-tailed Albatros Phoebastria albatrus
23-02: 12 exx. from the ferry between Miyakejima  – Tokyo.

Streaked Shearwater Calonectris leucomelas
23-02: 1000+ from the ferry Hachijyo-Jima - Tokyo


Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis ssp.poggei
10-02: 4 exx. Karuizawa
12-02: 6 exx. Kaga area.
13-02: 10 exx Yatsushiro estuary
14-02: 1 ex Arasaki
15/17-02 Up to 5 at lake Mi-ike

Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena ssp.holboellii
12-02: 6 exx at sea near Kaga.
21-02: 4 exx during boat trip from Ochiisi

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
12-02: 5 exx at sea near Kaga.
13-02: 3 exx Yatsushiro estuary
16-02: 10 exx Kadogawa harbour

Slavonian Grebe ( Horned Grebe) Podiceps auritus
21-02: 3 exx. Cape Nosappu

Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
12-02: 5 exx at lake Kitagata near Kaga.

Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
14-02: 1 ex at Arasaki

Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor
13-02: 14 exx Yatsushiro estuary.
14/15-02: a single bird at Arasaki
Considered “endangered” by Birdlife International

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea ssp. jouyi
09-02: a single bird Karuizawa
12-02: 4 exx Katano Kamo-ike.
13-02: 10+ at Yatsushioi estuary
14-02: 10 at Arasaki.
15-02: 1 at Sendai river, Satsuma
16-02: 6 at Kadogawa harbour.

Western Great Egret Casmerodius albus
09-02: a single bird at Karuizawa.
12-02: 2 exx Katano Kamo-ike.
13-02: 4 exx Yatsushiro estuary.
14-02: 10 at Arasaki.
16-02: 4 at Kadogawa harbour.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta
13-02: 6 exx at Yatsushiro estuary.
14-02: 6 exx at Arasaki
15-02: 10 exx at Arasaki.
16-02: 10 exx at Kadogawa harbour.

Pacific Reef Egret Egretta sacra
12-02: a single bird at the coast near Kaga.
16-02: a single bird at Kadogawa harbour.

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax Carbo ssp. hanedae
A total of 110 exx on 6 dates. Mostly inland lakes but also a few along the coast near Kaga.

Japanese Cormorant (Temminck’s Cormorant) Phalacrocorax capillatus
12-02: 6 exx along the coast near Kaga. Probably overlooked.

Pelagic Cormorant Phalacrocorax pelagicus
12-02: 40 exx along the coast near Kaga.
Common along the coast of Hokkaido.

Red-faced Cormorant Phalacrocorax urile
21-02: 1 juvenile bird observed at Cape Nosappu.

Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
13-02: 1 single bird seen near Yatsushiro.

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus ssp.japonicus
13-02: 1 ex near Yatsushiro.
16-02: 1 ex at Kadogawa harbour.
21-02: 1 pair during the Ochiishi boat trip + 1 juv.bird at Cape Nosappu.

Eurasian Osprey Pandion haliaetus
12-02: 2 exx near Kaga.
13-02: 5 exx at Yatsushiro estuary.
14-02: 10+ at the coast near Arasaki.
15-02: 1 at Arasaki and 1 along the Sendai river.
16-02: 5 exx at Kadogawa harbour.

Black-eared Kite Milvus lineatus
Observed on 11 dates.
20-02: 110+ between Rausu and lake Furen.

White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla
19-02: 100+ between lake Furen-Rausu.
20-02: 50+ between Rausu-lake Furen.
21-02: 20 Nosappu peninsula.
22-02: 10 on transit to Kushiro

Steller’s Sea Eagle Haliaeetus pelagicus
19-02: 200+ between lake Furen-Rausu
20-02: 100+ between Rausu-lake Furen.
21-02: 20 Nosappu peninsula.
22-02: 6 on transit to Kushiro.
Considered “vulnerable” by Birdlife International.
Estimated maximum of 5000 birds of which 1200 winter on Hokkaido.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
10-02: 1 ex near Karuizawa.
12-02: 1 ex at Katano Kamo-ike.
17-02: 2 exx at lake Mi-ike

Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis
10-02: 1 ex Karuizawa.
14-02: 1 ex Arasaki

Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus
Rather scarce.
A total of 8 exx on 6 dates observed on Kyushu and Honshu. Not recorded on Hokkaido.

Mountain Hawk Eagle Niosaetus nipalensis ssp.orientalis
17-02: 1 ex Mi-ike. Observed by Hans only.

Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
Observed Katani Kamo-ike, Yatsushiro and Mi-ike.
A total of 90 exx on 5 dates.

Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis ssp.canadensis
14-02: 1 ex at Arasaki.

Siberian Crane Grus leucogeranus
14-02: 1 juvenile bird at Arasaki.
Considered “endangered” by Birdlife International

White-naped Crane Grus vipio
14/15-02: 1000+ at Arasaki.
Considered”vulnerable” by Birdlife International.

Common Crane Grus grus ssp. lilfordi
14-02: 2 exx at Arasaki.

Hooded Crane Grus monacha
14/15-02: 5000+ at Arasaki.
Considered”vulnerable” by Birdlife International.

Red-crowned Crane (Japanese Crane) Grus japonensis
22-02: 200 near Kushiro. Tancho no Sato and Tsurui Mura
Considered “endangered” by Birdlife International

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
13-02: 2 exx Yatsushiro area.

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius ssp.curonicus
15-02: 3 exx at Arasaki + 1 ex along the Sendai river
16-02: 1 ex Kadogawa harbour.

Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus
12-02: 1 ex in a field near Kaga.

Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
12-02: 1 ex near Kaga.
13-02: 1 ex Yatsushiro area.
14-02: 6 exx Arasaki

Common Curlew Numenius arquata ssp.orientalis
16-02: 1 ex Kadogawa harbour.

Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
13-02: 1 ex Yatsushiro estruary.

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
14-02: 5 exx along river, Arasaki area.
15-02: 2 exx along the Sendai river.

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
14-02: 1 ex along the river, Arasaki area.
15-02: 2 exx along the Sendai river.
16-02: 2 exx. Kadogawa harbour.

Dunlin Calidris alpina
15-02: 1 ex. along the Sendai river.


Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris
13-02: 3 exx Yatsushiro estuary.
16-02: 30 exx. Kadogawa harbour.
23-02: 10 exx from the ferry Hachijyo Jima-Tokyo Bay.

Kamchatcha Gull Larus kamchatschensis
12-02: a single bird at the coast near Kaga.
14-02: 2 exx at Yatsushiro estuary.
19/21-02: a single bird near Rausu and Ochiishi.

Glaucous-winged Gull Larus glaucescens
Up to 50 exx daily along the Hokkaido coast.

Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus ssp.pallidissimus
Up to 100 exx daily along the Hokkaido coast.

Vega Gull Larus vegae
On 13-02: 100 + Yatsushiro estuary.
On 14-02 a single bird at Arasaki
On 16-02: 50 + at Kadogawa harbour.

Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistisagus
16-02: a single bird at Kadogawa harbour.
Up to 200 exx daily along the Hokkaido coast.

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
13-02: 100+ at Yatsushiro estuary.
16-02: 2 exx at Kadogawa harbour.
23-02: 10 exx from the ferry Hachijyo-Jima to Tokyo Bay.

Saunder’s Gull Saundersilarus saundersi
13-02: at least 4 exx at Yatsushiro estuary. Rather distant views.
Considered “vulnerable” by Birdlife International.

Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla
23-02: 2 exx from the ferry Hachijyo-Jima to Tokyo Bay.

Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus
23-02: 4 exx from the ferry Hachijyo-Jima to Tokyo Bay.

Common Murre Uria aalge
21-02: 4 exx during the boat trip from Ochiishi

Pigeon Guillemot Cepphus columba
21-02: 3 exx during the boat trip from Ochiishi.

Spectacled Guillemot Cepphus carbo
20-02: 10 exx on the peninsula of Notsuke.
21-02: 30 exx during the boat trip from Ochiishi + 20 exx Cape Nosappu

Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus
12-02: 20 exx on sea near Kaga.
21-02: 2 ex during the boat trip from Ochiishi

Japanese Murrelet Synthliboramphus wumizusume
16-02: 4 exx just outside the harbour of Kadogawa. It took us more than 6 hours to find this species.
Considered “vulnerable” by Birdlife International.

Least Auklet Aethia pusilla
21-02: 200+ from the boat during the boat trip from Ochiishi.
Regularly scoped from Cape Nosappu.

Crested Auklet Aethia cristatella
21-02: 1 ex during the boat trip from Ochiishi + 2 exx from Cape Nosappu.

Rhinoceros Auklet Cerorhinca monocerata
12-02: 5 exx at sea along the coast near Kaga.

Rock Dove ( introduced) Columba livia

Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis
Daily observed on Honshu and Kyushu.

White-bellied Green Pigeon Treron sieboldii
10-02: 2 birds flew over the forest behind the 7-11 store, Karuizawa
17-02: 3 exx seen in flight at Mi-ike. One of the birds was seen very well by me.

Japanese Wood Pigeon Columba janthina ssp.janthina
10-02: 2 single birds were seen near the harbour of Kadogawa. The first bird was only seen well by Frans. The second bird was also discovered by Frans who saw the bird fly in and then relocated perched by Antonio and observed in the scope.
23-02: 1 ex on Hachijyo-Jima during our short stay on the island, again by Frans only.

Blakiston’s Fish Owl Bubo blakistoni
19-02: fantastic views of a bird which came in at 10.45 pm at Washino Yado, Rausu.
Considered “endangered”  by Birdlife International.

Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus
12-02: 1 ex at dawn near Kaga by Frans.

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis ssp.bengalensis
13-02: heard in the Arasaki area.
14-02: 3 exx seen in the Arasaki area and along the Takaono river.
16-02: 1 ex at Kadogawa harbour.
17-02: 1 ex at lake Mi-ike.

Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker Yungipicus kizuki
9/10-02: up to 8 daily in the Karuizawa area.
12-02: 3 exx near Katano Kamo-ike.
17-02: 4 exx at lake Mi-ike area.
19/21-02: 1 to 2 exx on the feeders at Lake Furen Lodge.

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major ssp.japonicus
A few daily in the Karuizawa area.
12-02: 1 ex at Katano Kamo-ike.
A total of 10 exx on 3 dates lake Furen area.

White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos ssp.namiyei
17-02: great views of a foraging bird (male) on a log next to the track along lake Mi-ike.

Japanese Woodpecker Picus awokera
A total of 9 exx on 3 dates in the Karuizawa area.
15-02: 1 ex lake Mi-ike.

Black Woodpecker Dryocopos martius
22-02: heard near Tancho no Sato

Ryukyu Minivet Pericrocotus tegimae
17-02: twice 2 exx seen at lake Mi-ike. The first 2 along the entrance road to the campsite and the second pair at the car park of the camp site.

Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus
A total of 8 exx on 5 dates on Honshu and Kyushu


Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius ssp. japonicus
Daily 3 exx at Karuizawa.
12-02: 1 ex near Katano Kamo-ike.
Note: ssp.japonicus is sometimes split as Japanese Jay Garrulus japonicus
21-02: 1 ex near Lake Furen Lodge.
22-02: 1 ex at Tancho no Sato.
Note: On Hokkaido ssp.brandtii sometimes split as Brandt’s Jay Garrulus brandtii

Daurian Jackdaw Coloeus dauuricus
13-02: 15-18 exx at Yatsushiro estuary. Several pied adults were observed.

Oriental Rook Corvus pastinator
Commonly observed Arasaki area.

Oriental Crow Corvus orientalis

Large-billed Crow Corvus japonensis

Northern Raven Corvus corax
21-02: a few observed along the rocky coast during our boat trip from Ochiishi

Japanese Waxwing Bombycilla japonica
09-02: a small flock of 15 exx was observed twice at Karuizawa.
A pre-breakfast stroll was very succesful as we had great views of this flock, foraging in the mistle toes. Later that morning the same flock seen in flight.

Eastern Great Tit (Japanese Tit) Parus minor
Common in the Karuizawa area.
Also observed at Katano Kamo-ike, Arasaki and lake Mi-ike.
19-02: 10 exx around lake Furen Lodge.

Coal Tit Periparus ater ssp.insularis
10-02: a single bird at Karuizawa was our only observation.

Japanese Varied Tit Poecile varius
Up to 10 exx daily at Karuizawa.
12-02: a single bird at Katano Kamo-ike.
15/17-02: 2 + 10 exx at lake Mi-ike.

Marsh Tit Poecile palustris ssp.hensoni
A few seen on 2 dates on the feeders at lake Furen Lodge

Willow Tit Poecile montanus ssp. restrictus
Up to 10 exx daily at Karuizawa.

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
15-02: 10 exx along the Sendai river, Satsuma.
16-02: 2 exx at Kadogawa harbour.

Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus
15-02: 50+ along the Sendai river, Satsuma.

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus ssp.trivirgatus
Common on 3 dates in Karuizawa area.
10-02: 50+
Up to 10 exx at Lake Mi-ike on 2 dates. Ssp. kiusiuensis
19-02: 2 exx Lake Furen Lodge.
23-02: 2 exx at Hachijyo-Jima

Japanese Skylark Alauda japonica
14/15-02: common in the Arasaki area.

Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis ssp.brunniceps
14-02: 1 ex in reed bed along the Takaono river.

Brown-eared Bulbul Hypsipetes amaurotis
Recorded on 10 dates.
Only 4 exx on 2 dates on Hokkaido.
14-02: A huge flock of 100+ birds in a agriculture field along the Takaono river.

Japanese Bush Warbler Cettia diphone
14-02: 10 exx in the Arasaki area.
15/17-02: a total of 6 exx on 2 dates in the scrub surrounding lake Mi-ike.

Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus
15/17-02: 1 ex, most likely the same individual, observed at the campsite, at the back of lake Mi-ike.

Red-billed Leiothrix (introduced) Leiothrix lutea
15-02: 1 ex heard and seen at lake Mi-ike


Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus
09-02: 1 ex at Karuizawa.
12-02: 10 exx at coastal area near Kaga.
14-02: 100+ at Arasaki area.
Recorded on 3 dates at lake Mi-ike. Up to 10 exx daily.


Goldcrest Regulus regulus ssp.japonicus
10-02: A single bird at Karuizawa Forest Lodge.
17-02: 10 exx at lake Mi-ike.

Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes ssp. fumigatus
12-02: heard and 1 ex seen at coastal area near Kaga.
17-02: heard and 2 seen at lake Mi-ike
These birds made a very dark impression.

Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea ssp. amurensis
A total of 9 exx on 2 dates at Karuizawa.
A total of 5 exx on 2 dates at lake Mi-ike
A total of 5 exx on 2 dates at the feeders at lake Furen Lodge. This is ssp.asiatica

White-cheeked Starling Sturnus cineraceus
Small numbers recorded in the Kaga area and Arasaki.
Recorded on 4 dates with a maximum of 40 on 12-02 at our hotel at Kaga.

White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea
12-02: 3 exx in coastal area near Kaga, Tojinbo headland.

Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus
Regularly recorded on Honshu and Kyushu. Not on Hokkaido.
A total of 36 exx on 7 dates.

Dusky Thrush Turdus  eunomus
A total of 160 exx on 11 dates.
Up to 50 exx daily in the Arasaki area.

Red-flanked Bluetail Luscinia cyanura
09/10-02: 3 + 1 ex at Karuizawa
A total of 9 exx on 3 dates at lake Mi-ike.

Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus
A total of 30 exx on 8 dates on Honshu and Kyushu.
Most common around lake Mi-ike.

Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius ssp.philippensis
12-02: 3 exx coastal area near Kaga.
16-02: 3 exx at Kadogawa harbour.
Note: Sometimes split as Red-bellied Rock Thrush Monticola philippensis

Taiga Flycatcher Ficedula albicilla
15/17-02: a single bird seen at the camp site of lake Mi-ike

Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii
Daily up to 10 exx at Karuizawa.
19-02: 1 ex near Rausu.

Russet Sparrow Passer rutilans
14-02: 50+ at Arasaki. A large flock observed in some trees and nearby wires.
19-02: observed near lake Furen.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
Commonly observed on all islands

Japanese Accentor Prunella rubida
08-02: minutes after we arrived at Karuizawa and made our first stroll behind the 7-11 store we had excellent and close views of 1 ex. Some birders struggle with this one.
09-02: 3 different birds were seen during our walks in the Karuizawa area.

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
A total of 16 exx on 6 dates on Honshu and Kyushu.
One bird at lake Mi-ike had extensive white flashes in the wing.

Black-backed Wagtail Motacilla lugens
Commonly observed on 8 dates on Honshu and Kyushu

Japanese Wagtail Motacilla grandis
09-02: 2 exx along the stream, Karuizawa
10-02: 3 exx at Karuizawa and 3 exx along the river.

Olive-backed Pipit Anthuis hodgsoni
A flock of about 10 birds was present on 2 dates at the camp site of lake Mi-ike.

Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens ssp.japonicus
Only recorded on 2 dates in the Arasaki area. Maximum of 20 on 14-02.
Note: sometimes split as Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus japonicus

Brambling Fringilla montifringilla
14-02: 10 exx at Arasaki.

Oriental Greenfinch Carduelis sinica
Small numbers observed on 8 dates on Honshu and Kyushu.
Maximum of 200 in the fields around Arasaki on 14-02.

Asian Rosy Finch Leucosticte arctoa
20-02: 2 exx at the Notsuke peninsula

Long-tailed Rosefinch Uragus sibiricus
A total of 8 exx on 3 dates in the Karuizawa area.

Pallas’s Rosefinch Carpodacus roseus
A total of 6 exx including some gorgeous males on 2 dates in the Karuizawa area.
Both times in scrubby reed along the Yukawa stream, next to the main road.

Common Crossbill Loxia curvirostra
10-02: Heard by me at Karuizawa.

Grey-bellied Bullfinch Pyrrhula griseiventris
A total of 6 exx on 2 dates in the Karuizawa area. Neat bird.

Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes ssp.japonicus
A total of 10 exx on 3 dates in the Karuizawa area.
12-02: a single bird at coastal area near Kaga.
14-02: a single bird near Arasaki.
16/17-02: single birds at lake Mi-ike
21-02: a single bird at the feeders of Lodge Furen

Japanese Grosbeak Eophona personata
10-02: 10 exx at the feeders of a hotel at Karuizawa.
17-02: 3 exx near the camp site of lake Mi-ike.

Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides
A total of 85 exx on 6 dates on Honshu and Kyushu.
Observed Karuizawa, coastal area near Kaga and Arasaki.

Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata
13-02: 1 male in scrub, Yatsuhiro estuary.
14-02: 1 male at Arasaki

Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica
A total of 25 on 3 dates at Karuizawa.
12-02: 3 exx near Kaga.

Elegant Bunting (Yellow-throated Bunting) Emberiza elegans
15/17-02: 8 exx on the trail along lake Mi-ike

Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala ssp.personata
12-02: 3 exx along lake Shibayama near our hotel at Kaga.
12-02: 6 exx at coastal area, Kaga.
14-02: 50+ in the Arasaki area.
15/17-02: 10 exx at lake Mi-ike.
Note: sometimes split as Masked Bunting Emberiza personata

Grey Bunting Emberiza variabilis
17-02: a small flock of 5 exx along the lake side trail, Mi-ike.
Unfortunately no males in that flock.

Common Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus ssp.pyrrhulina
14-02: 20+ at Arasaki. Very pale birds.
A total of 166 species recorded.

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