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Susan Myers on her recently completed tour, Japan in Winter

January 30: Susan Myers on her recently completed tour, Japan in Winter

We started off with a quick trip to a small park near Narita where we found a lovely gathering of the incomparable Mandarin Duck - a truly remarkable bird and a great way to kick off our birding. 

We then moved on to the forests of the Japan Alps where we took a brief break from our birding to visit the so-called 'Snow Monkeys,' aka Japanese Macaque, which love to take to the thermal hot springs of the Jigokudani area. Jigokudani translates to Hell Valley thanks to the many steaming volcanic vents dotted throughout the area.

Continuing our journey over the Alps to the Japan Sea we next 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 a fabulous Green Pheasant, Grey-headed Lapwings, Japanese Cormorant and many others. 

Green Pheasant

Grey-headed Lapwing

Flying south, we next spent a couple of days in the Arasaki/Izumi 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 three Common Cranes from the many thousands of others, which was quite fun! 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 flock of the often elusive and cute Chinese Penduline-Tit.

White-naped Crane

Black-faced Spoonbill

Chinese Penduline Tit

Despite some inclement weather on the coast, our birding in Hokkaido was fun and productive - even if a little on the cold side. Spectacled Guillemots, with their startling red legs, showed well but the rough seas ruled out a photograph. However, the Big Three; Steller’s Sea-Eagle, Red-crowned Crane and Blakiston’s Fish Owl were, well, stellar! 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.

The imposing Blakiston's Fish Owl - Image: Steve Hayashi

Red-crowned Crane

Hokkaido scene with Steller's Sea-Eagle...

...whose extraordinary character is more apparent on close view

Posted: January 30, 2018