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Susan Myers on her recently completed tour, Japan in Winter

March 28: Susan Myers on her recently completed tour, Japan in Winter

Our winter tour of Japan started off in the forests of the Japan Alps with some great birds including the scarce Japanese Waxwing as well as Japanese Accentor, Japanese Green Woodpecker, and Varied Tit. We then took a brief break from our birding to visit the so-called 'Snow Monkeys,' a.k.a. Japanese Macaque, which love to take to the hot springs of the Jigokudani or Hell Valley, due to the many steaming volcanic vents dotted throughout the area.

Japanese Accentor

Japanese Macaque a.k.a Snow Monkey

Continuing our journey over the Alps to the Japan Sea we visited the Katano area south of Kanazawa where our main target, the increasingly rare Baikal Teal loves to spend the winter. This area is particularly rich in avian life and we found many great birds including fabulous Taiga Bean Goose, Japanese Cormorant, Smew and many others. 

Flying south, we spent a couple of days in the Arasaki area to take in the amazing spectacle of over 14,000 cranes of four species, although the numbers are very much dominated by White-naped and Hooded Cranes. We picked out a single Sandhill and two Common Cranes from the many thousands of others, which was quite fun. A bonus prize was a wonderful vagrant Demoiselle Crane! We had a great day exploring the whole area with two particularly outstanding sightings, amongst many, being a collection of the very rare Black-faced Spoonbills and a small group of the often elusive and cute Chinese Penduline-Tit.

Hooded Crane

Black-faced Spoonbill

Chinese Penduline Tit

Demoiselle Crane

From the cranes, we headed east to the Kyushu coast for our meeting with the endemic and very cute Japanese Murrelet, said to be the world’s rarest Alcid. With my friend and expert skipper, Kurogi san at the helm, we headed out for the short boat trip into the harbour and soon found a small group, which we were able to watch at close range. On our return, we were met by some friendly representatives of the local tourism board who made us feel like a bunch of celebrities! And you our great delight, we were presented with gifts of Japanese Murrelet stuffed toys!

Japanse Murrelet


This year we enjoyed some superb weather in the north and our birding on Hokkaido was fun and productive - even if a little on the cold side. Spectacled Guillemots, with their startling red legs, showed well and the Big Three; Steller’s Sea-Eagle, Red-crowned Crane and Blakiston’s Fish Owl were, well, stellar!

Steller's Sea Eagle

Steller's Sea Eagle

Japanese Crane

Blakiston's Fish Owl

Without doubt the Northern Island is the highlight of this journey around Japan and not only did the birds not disappoint, but the scenery, food and friendly people made for some great memories.

Another remarkable meal...

Posted: March 28, 2020