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WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Japan in Winter

2019 Narrative

Our winter tour of Japan started off with a quick detour to Lake Inbanuma near Narita where we took a walk along the reedy shore. Amongst the herons and harriers, we found a great selection of buntings – Meadow, Japanese Reed, Rustic and Black-faced all showed well.

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 fabulous Taiga Bean Goose, Japanese Cormorant, Smew and many others. A return trip turned up a rarity for Japan in the form of a Cackling Goose.

Flying south, we next 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! 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.

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! 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.

- Susan Myers


Created: 12 March 2019