10th January to 25th January, 2003.
I travelled to Japan with Richard Fairbank and John King and we met up with Dave Sargeant in Toyko.
We had already arranged for most of the accommodation, the ferry to Hokkaido, the internal flights from Hokkaido to Okinawa, from Okinawa to Amami Oshima and from Amami Oshima to Kyushu and all the car hire before leaving the UK. I should like to thank Nigel Moorhouse of Sarus Tours for all these arrangements.
We were apprehensive firstly on travelling on the trains but with a little care, this proved not to be a problem as the trains ran exactly on time and as long as you knew when the trains were leaving and when they were arriving you could rely on these times being kept to the minute. Also on all the stations we passed through they had station names in English and also the previous station visited and the next station to be visited all in English.
We were also worried about driving on the roads in Japan but again our fears were completely unfounded. In fact, we found our way much easier than say driving in Ecuador or Thailand. On all the Islands we visited in Japan there appeared to be new road signs in English and all but one of the cars we hired had a GPS system which we found extremely useful especially when used with an English version motor atlas. The Expressways were very empty of cars but also very expensive toll system. The other roads took you through the middle of the towns, (no by-passes) with hundreds of traffic-lights and a very low speed limit therefore making a very slow journey. We used the Expressways whenever we could to speed up the journeys.
The following trip report follows Brazil’s (1991) The Birds of Japan order and Clements (2000) Birds of the World for splits etc.
We found the trip report by Anderson & Davner (per Surfbirds) to be extremely useful and informative and we also used Where to Watch Birds in Japan, by Mark Brazil and a Birders Guide to Japan, by Robinson both of which are slightly dated but still very useful.
10th January Left Heathrow to Narita Airport, Tokyo on Air France flight via Paris.
11th January Arrived Narita Airport, Tokyo mid-morning, met-up with Dave Sargeant. Caught train at the airport to Oarai Ferry Terminal. Birded from train and arrived at Oarai Ferry Terminal around 14.00 hours, in warm pleasant weather. We then birded around the docks, a local park and gardens until dark. Caught Ferry at 18.30 hours sailing to Tomakomai, Hokkaido.
12th January Sea-watched from Ferry from dawn until 13.30 hours when we arrived at Tomakomai, Hokkaido. Caught train to Chitose and then hired a car with 4-wheel drive (useful in the snow) and drove onto Kushiro (approx 7 hours drive). Overnight at Kushiro Station Hotel.
13th January Drove out to Crane Roosting site along river on Kushiro Marsh at dawn. Spent over three hours watching the Cranes. We then drove along the coastal route towards Lake Furnen stopping en route at harbours and also birded at Cape Kiritappu. We then drove to the Blakiston’s Fish Owl site just off Highway 44 and spent a couple of cold hours standing on Hattaushi Bridge some 10 kms. From Lake Furnen but no sign of any Owls! Overnight at Nature Inn, Lake Furnen.
Kushiro River, Hokkaido
Kushiro River with the Red-crowned Cranes
14th January Early morning birding around Lake Furnen. Rest of morning spent birding at Cape Ochiishi walking out to the lighthouse and back in thick snow. Afternoon drove to Cape Nosappu, sea-watched for an hour from the lighthouse and then birded around the Cape before driving back to Hattaushi Bridge for dusk again very cold but we heard the Fish-Owls calling several times. Overnight again Nature Inn, Lake Furnen.
Cape Ochiishi, Hokkaido.
15th January Early morning walk in woods around Lake Furnen. Mid-morning walked out onto the ice on Lake Furnen for the Sea-Eagles and spent several hours birding here. Afternoon again visited Cape Ochiishi and birded the harbour and bays before walking on the forest boardwalk out to the lighthouse and birded and sea-watched from the lighthouse. Then drove to Hattaushi Bridge and spent another cold boring 2 hours on the Bridge but again no sign of the Fish-Owls. Overnight again at Nature Inn, Lake Furnen.
Frozen Lake Furnen, Hokkaido with two species of Sea-eagles.
16th January Early breakfast and departed from Nature Inn. First birded on Cape Hadoshi and sea-watched from the lighthouse (poor birding). Drove to Cape Kiritappu and spent several hours birding here walking right out to the tip of the Cape beyond the lighthouse. Then long drive (approx. 6-7 hours) back to Chitose. Overnight Hotel Nikko, Chitose.
Cape Kiritappu, Hokkaido.
Frozen seas at Cape Kiritappu, Hokkaido.
17th January Early morning visit to Nopporo Forest Park, Utonai, some 20 minutes drive from our hotel. Caught internal flight from Chitose Airport at 10.40 hours to Okinawa Island. Picked up car-hire and drove to Northern end of the Island with birding from car. Drove to Fungawa Dam late afternoon and birded area until dark. Overnight at Okuma Resort Hotel.
18th January Additional day spent in the Fungawa Dam area from dawn to dusk. At the 8.6 km road marker from the Dam good track on left and spent hours birding on track. (Good for Robins at dawn and also saw Woodcock sp.). Also road at 7.5km marker (park in first lay-by) for Woodpecker. Overnight Okuma Resort Hotel.
19th January Left Resort early morning in the dark for drive back South and spent 2 hours birding Naha Estuary before returning car hire and took internal flight from Okinawa to Amami Oshima at 12.00 hours. Collected car-hire and visited Amami Forest Reserve during afternoon, (Excellent area) walking the forest trail and roads until dark. Looked for Owls after dark, without success. Overnight Caretta House Hotel.
View of the Amami Forest Reserve, Oshima
Amami Forest Reserve Notice.
Views of the Amami Forest Reserve.
Tree Fern in the Amami Forest Reserve.
20th January Early morning drive out to Kinsakubaru Virgin Forest Reserve, Near Naze and spent all day birding along the Supra-Rindo track and nearby forest roads. Excellent forest but very poor birding. Stayed until dusk and looked for Owls and Woodcocks without success. Overnight again Caretta House Hotel.
21st January Early morning again visited Amami Forest Reserve for 2 hours. Drove back to the airport and birded locally. Caught internal flight from Amami to Kagoshima Airport on Kyushu. Drove out to Lake Mi-ike and birded this area until dark. Overnight Kirishima Castle Hotel.
22nd January Early morning road-side birding on the drive out to Lake Mi-ike. Walked all round the lake before walking in the forests until mid-afternoon. Then drove to Izumi and overnight in Wing Hotel, near Izumi Station.
Views taken at Lake Mi-ike
23rd January Dawn visit to Arasaki Crane Reserve and spent 3 hours watching Cranes from Observation Tower (excellent). Then birded the Cranes feeding areas and nearby fields etc. Overnight Wing Hotel, Izumi.
Arasaki Crane Reserve
24th January Birded rice-paddies, fields and marshy-reedy areas close to Arasaki. Then longish drive out to Yatsushiro and birded the mudflats, bay and fields. Also twitched site for Japanese Waxwings but dipped! Overnight Wing Hotel, Izumi.
Japanese style house.
25th January Long drive through mountains to Kadogawa birding en-route. Spent 2
hours birding the harbour area before driving (approx. 700 kms) to Osaka.
26th January Arriving at 1.00 hours am on the 26th and slept in car in the Washington
Hotel car park. Caught Air France flight back from Osaka Kansai Airport at 12.30 hours to Paris and onto Heathrow arriving 2 hours late.
Pacific Diver – Gavia pacifica
Only seen at Cape Ochiishi, Hokkaido with one on the 14th and 3 on the 15th.
Little Grebe – Tachybaptus ruficollis
Only seen on Kyushu with up to 6 seen on Lake Mi-ike on the 21st and 22nd and 2 on the river near Araskai on the 23rd.
All were of the form capensis.
Red Necked Grebe – Podiceps grisegena
One seen at Cape Ochiishi on the 14th and 4 there on the 15th.
All belonged to the form holboellii.
Great Crested Grebe – Podiceps cristatus
Odd birds recorded on four dates.
Black Necked (Eared) Grebe – Podiceps nigricollis
Two seen at Oarai Ferry Terminal, Honshu on the 11th. Five seen on the 12th on the drive to Kushiro, Hokkaido. One on the 14th and one on the 24th at Yatsushiro, Kyushu.
Laysan Albatross – Phoebastria immutabilis
A superb adult seen close to the Ferry on the 12th as we approached Hokkaido and was an early highlight of the trip.
Streaked Shearwater – Calonectris leucomelas
Only two seen from the Ferry to Hokkaido on the 12th and only distant views obtained.
Brown Booby – Sula leucogaster
One seen on the 21st out to sea close to the airport from Amami Oshima.
Belonged to the form plotus.
Great Cormorant – Phalacrocorax carbo
The only ones positively identified from the next species were those seen on the rivers on Kyushu with 6 on the 23rd and 200 on the 24th around Arasaki.
Japanese (Temminck’s) Cormorant – Phalacrocorax capillatus
We found it difficult to identify from Great Cormorant. Twelve seen at the Ferry Terminal at Oakai were considered to be this species. One seen from the Ferry on the 12th and one on the 14th at Cape Nosappu, Hokkaido. Fifty in the harbour at Kadogawa, Kyushu, on the 25th.
Pelagic Cormorant – Phalacrocorax pelagicus
Upto 50 seen daily on Hokkaido chiefly at Cape Ochiishi.
Red Faced Cormorant – Phalacrocorax urile
Just two identified at Cape Ochiishi, Hokkaido on the 15th. Difficult to identify from Pelagic Cormorant although the larger pale bill and distinctive head shape and a more glossy body were the best pointers.
Black Crowned Night-Heron – Nycticorax nycticorax
Night Heron near Yatsushiro, Kyushu.
Cattle Egret – Bubulcus ibis
Just three seen at Yatsushiro, Kyushu on the 24th of the form coromandus.
Pacific (Eastern) Reef-Heron – Egretta Sacra
Singles seen on the 17th and 19th on Okinawa, with three on the 25th at Kadogawa, Kyushu.
Little Egret – Egretta garzetta
Recorded in small numbers on seven days with a daily maximum of ten on the 24th but not seen on Hokkaido.
Great Egret – Ardea alba
Recorded on five dates with a maximum of 4 on the 24th. Again not seen on Hokkaido.
Grey Heron – Ardea cinerea
Recorded on seven dates with a maximum of 20 on the 23rd. All belonged to the form jouyi.
Grey Heron with a Night Heron near Yatsushiro, Kyushu.
Black Faced Spoonbill – Platalea minor
One identified from the car as we drove over the Naha Estuary, Okinawa on the 17th and 4 seen along the sea-wall on the Cranes Feeding Grounds, Arasaki on the 23rd.
Considered Endangered by Collar (2000).
Mute Swan – Cygnus olor
Just two seen on the 23rd near Arasaki, Kyushu.
Whooper Swan – Cygnus cygnus
Forty seen on the 13th near Kiritappu, Hokkaido, 20 on the 16th on the drive and 4 on the 23rd at Arasaki, Kyushu.
Common Shelduck – Tadorna tadorna
Only seen on two dates on Kyushu with 8 on the 23rd and 15 on the 24th.
Eurasian Wigeon – Anas Penelope
Just 2 seen on Hokkaido on the 13th but good numbers seen on Kyushu with a maximum of 800 on the 23rd at Arasaki Crane Reserve.
Gadwall – Anas strepera
Small numbers recorded on three dates on Kyushu.
Baikal Teal – Anas Formosa
A party of five including three fine drakes were found on Lake Mi-ike, Kyushu on the 22nd and good views were obtained.
Eurasian Teal – Anas crecca
One seen on Amami Oshima on the 21st with 100 on the 23rd and 50 on the 24th at Arasaki, Kyushu.
Mallard – Anas platyrhynchos
Recorded on six dates with a maximum of 300 at Lake Mi-ike, Kyushu on the 22nd.
Spot-Billed Duck – Anas Poecilorhyncha
Spot-billed Ducks on Lake Mi-ike.
Northern Pintail – Anas Acuta
Recorded on six dates with impressive numbers at Arasaki Crane Reserve, Kyushu on the 23rd when 2000 were estimated.
Pintail and Wigeon at Arasaki Crane Reserve, Kyushu.
Northern Shoveler – Anas clypeata
Just a single bird seen near Arasaki, Kyushu on the 24th.
Common Pochard – Aythya farina
Fifty seen from the train on the journey to Oarai on the 11th and 10 seen on the 17th at Nopporo Forest Park Lake, Hokkaido.
Tufted Duck – Aythya fuligula
Just 4 seen on the 22nd at Lake Mi-ike, Kyushu.
Greater Scaup – Aythya marila
Surprisingly, only seen in very small numbers on four dates on Hokkaido.
Belongs to the form mariloides.
Harlequin Duck – Histrionicus histrionicus
Only seen on Hokkaido where it proved to be one of the commonest duck and drakes appeared to outnumber ducks. Daily maximum of 150 on the 14th. Superb!
Belongs to the form pacificus
Harlequin Ducks in a harbour on Hokkaido.
Long Tailed Duck – Clangula hyemalis
Only seen on Hokkaido and not as common as Harlequin with a maximum of 20 on the 14th.
Winter plumage Long-tailed Ducks in a Hokkaido harbour.
Black Scoter – Melanitta nigra
Only seen on Hokkaido where it was very common with a maximum of 150 on the 14th.
All belonged to the North American form Americana.
White Winged (Velvet) Scoter – Melanitta fusca
Small numbers recorded on three dates on Hokkaido with a maximum of 6 on the 14th.
All were of the form stejnegeri.
Common Goldeneye – Bucephala clangula
Recorded on four dates on Hokkaido with a maximum of 40 on the 13th.
Red Breasted Merganser – Mergus serrator
Recorded in small numbers on four dates on Hokkaido also 30 seen on the 24th at Yatsushiro, Kyushu.
Goosander (Common Merganser) – Mergus merganser
Recorded on three dates on Hokkaido with a maximum of 17 on the 13th.
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
Seen on Okinawa with 3 on the 17th and 5 on the 19th, also on Amami Oshima with 2 on the 19th and 2 on the 21st, and on Kyushu with 2 on the 21st, 1 on the 22nd, 5 on the 23rd and 1 on the 24th.
Black Kite – Milvus migrans
Very common on Hokkaido with up to 150 daily. Smaller numbers on Kyushu with up to 40 daily and also seen on Honsu. Not seen on Okinawa and Amami Oshima. Seems strange to see so many on Hokkaido in the thick snow and very cold weather.
All belonged to the form lineatus which many consider to be a distinct species known as Black Eared Kite.
Black-eared Kites with a Long-billed Crow near Lake Furnen, Hokkaido.
Immature Black-eared Kite.
Black-eared Kite near Lake Furnen, Hokkaido.
White Tailed Eagle – Haliaeetus albicilla
Recorded on three dates on Hokkaido with 8 on the 14th, an amazing 100 at the frozen Lake Furnen on the 15th and 4 on the 16th. This and the next species proved to be one of the great sights of the trip.
Considered by Collar (2000) as Near Threatened
White-tailed Sea-Eagles at Lake Furnen, Hokkiado.
Stellers Sea-Eagle – Haliaeetus pelagicus
Recorded on all four dates on Hokkaido with 6 on the 13th, 4 on the 14th an amazing 150 on the ice at Lake Furnen on the 15th and 2 on the 16th. Superb and has to be bird of the trip. Considered by Collar (2000) to be Vulnerable.
Various Immature and Adult Steller's Sea-Eagles at Lake Furnen, Hokkiado.
Japanese Sparrowhawk – Accipiter gularis
Just a single male was well seen on the 18th in the forest near Fungawa Dam, Okinawa.
Grey Faced Buzzard – Butastur indicus
Proved to be fairly common on both Okinawa and Amami Oshima with a daily maximum of 6 on the 17th but not seen on the other islands.
Common Buzzard – Buteo buteo
Recorded on six dates in small numbers on Honsu, Hokkaido and Kyushu but not seen on Okinawa and Amami Oshima.
All belonged to the distinctive form japonicus.
Rough Legged Buzzard – Buteo lagopus
Just a single bird seen on Cape Kiritappu, Hokkaido on the 13th. Probably belonged to the form menzbieri.
Eurasian Kestrel – Falco tinnunculus
Odd birds recorded on seven dates from all the islands visited other than Okinawa and belonged to the form interstinctus.
Merlin – Falco columbarius
Singles recorded on Hokkaido on the 13th and 14th and probably related to the form insignis.
Peregrine – Falco peregrinus
Recorded on five dates involving 7 birds including one flying around the Ferry to Hokkaido on the 12th. Probably the majority related to the form japonensis.
Green Pheasant – Phasianus versicolor
A fine adult male was seen well near Arasaki, Kyushu on the 23rd.
Okinawa Rail – Rallus Okinawae
One was heard calling before dawn at Fungawa Dam, Okinawa on the 18th. It was close to the road but we were unable to locate it with the flashlights.
Okinawa Rail-the one that got away from us.
Common Moorhen – Gallinula Chloropus
Odd birds recorded on three dates on Okinawa and Kyushu.
Eurasian Coot – Fulica atra
Recorded on three dates on Honsu and Kyushu.
Common Crane – Grus grus
Three were seen on the Crane Reserve at Arasaki, Kyushu on the 23rd. We also located a hybrid Crane probably Common x Hooded Crane also on the Reserve on the 23rd.
Hooded Crane – Grus monacha
7000+ were seen at Arasaki Crane Reserve on the 23rd and 1000+ were seen in the fields close to the Reserve on the 24th. One of the great sights of the trip when thousands of Hooded and White Naped Cranes came flying into the Reserve from roost on the 23rd.
Sandhill Crane – Grus canadensis
Just a single bird was found amongst all the thousands of Cranes at the Crane Reserve, Arasaki, Kyushu on the 23rd.
White-naped Crane – Grus vipio
3000+ were seen at Arasaki Crane Reserve, Kyushu on the 23rd, with 1000+ on the 24th. A beautiful, graceful Crane and without doubt one of the highlights of the trip.
Red Crowned (Japanese) Crane – Grus japonensis
At dawn on the 13th we visited a river valley on Kushiro Marsh, Hokkaido and watched for 3 hours at least 220 of these superb Cranes at their roost site standing in the unfrozen volcanic warm river with steam rising from the water surrounded by thick snow. Several of the Cranes were watched dancing and this was simply superb and unforgettable sight.
Considered by Collar (2000) to be Endanagered.
Red-crowned Cranes along the Kushiro river, Hokkaido.
Demoiselle Crane – Anthropoides virgo
Demosille Crane at the Arasaki Crane Reserve, Kyushu .
Black Winged Stilt – Himantopus himantopus
Two seen feeding on the Naha Estuary, Okinawa on the 17th.
Pied Avocet – Recurvirostra Avosetta
Five seen on the Naha Estuary, Okinawa on the 19th.
Long Billed Plover – Charadrius placidus
Two found on a gravel river close to Arasaki, Kyushu on the 23rd and gave excellent views.
Snowy (Kentish) Plover – Charadrius alexandrinus
Ten found roosting in rice paddies at Arasaki, Kyushu on the 23rd.
Pacific Golden Plover – Pluvialis fulva
Ten seen on the 17th on the Naha Estuary, Okinawa with four there on the 19th.
Black Bellied (Grey) Plover – Pluvialis squatarola
Thirty seen on the Naha Estuary, Okinawa on the 19th , and 100 on the mudflats at Yatsushiro, Kyushu on the 24th.
Northern Lapwing – Vanellus vanellus
Only seen on Kyushu with 7 on the 23rd and 30 on the 24th.
Sanderling – Calidris alba
Five seen on the 14th at Cape Nosappu, Hokkaido and 15 on the 16th at Cape Hadoshi, Hokkaido.
Long Toed Stint – Calidris subminuta
Eight seen on the Naha Estuary, Okinawa on the 19th with two on the 24th in a rice paddy at Yatsushiro, Kyushu.
Dunlin – Calidris alpina
Only seen on Kyushu with 50 on the 23rd and 5 on the 24th . All belonged to the form sakhalina.
Common Snipe – Gallinago gallinago
Only recorded on Kyushu with 3 on the 23rd and 2 on the 24th.
Woodcock Sp. – Scolopax rusticola / mira
A single bird seen twice in flight at dawn on the 18th in the forest at Fungawa Dam, Okinawa probably related to Amami Woodcock. It twice flew past us, just over the trees, almost as if it was roding but did not call. Unfortunately, no plumage details could be seen due to the very poor light at dawn.
Bar Tailed Godwit – Limosa lapponica
Three seen on the Naha Estuary, Okinawa on the 19th.
Whimbrel – Numenius phaeopus
Seen only on the Naha Estuary, Okinawa with four on the 17th and six on the 19th.
Eurasian Curlew – Numenius arquata
Twelve seen on the Naha Estuary, Okinawa on the 19th belonged to the very long billed form orientalis.
Common Redshank – Tringa tetanus
Four seen on the Naha Estuary, Okinawa on the 19th.
Marsh Sandpiper – Tringa stagnatilis
Two seen on the Naha Estuary, Okinawa on the 19th.
Common Greenshank – Tringa nebularia
Recorded on four dates with a maximum of 50 on the Naha Estuary, Okinawa on the 19th.
Green Sandpiper – Tringa ochropus
Two singles seen on Kyushu on the 23rd and 24th.
Common Sandpiper – Actitis hypoleucos
Recorded on four dates with a maximum of 8 on the 23rd on Kyushu.
Grey Tailed Tattler – Heteroscelus brevipes
One seen on the Naha Estuary, Okinawa on the 19th.
Great Black Headed Gull – Larus ichthyaetus
A fine adult in transitional summer plumage was found on the mudflats at Yatsushiro, Kyushu on the 24th.
Saunder’s Gull – Larus saundersi
2ndW. Saunders Gull at Yatsushiro, Kyushu.
Black Headed Gull – Larus ridibundus
Recorded in small numbers on three dates.
Black Tailed Gull – Larus crassirostris
One seen from the Ferry crossing to Hokkaido on the 12th. Two seen on the Naha Estuary, Okinawa on the 19th and 25 on the mudflats at Yatsushiro, Kyushu on the 24th.
Common (Mew) Gull – Larus canus
Fifty seen on the 13th on Hokkaido with 2 the next day, were the only ones positively identified. All related to the form kamtschatschensis.
Vegae Gull – Larus vegae
Good numbers recorded on 8 dates but not recorded on either Okinawa or Amami Oshima. Maximum count was 200 on the Yatsushiro mudflats, Kyushu on the 24th.
Heuglin’s Gull – Larus heuglini
A large yellow legged gull considered to be this species of the form taimyrensis was found standing with other gulls on the mudflats at Yatsushiro, Kyushu on the 24th.
Strangely this form is not included by Clements (2000). It was a large bulky Gull with long yellow legs with the mantle and wings not appearing as dark as nominate heuglini.
Slaty Backed Gull – Larus schistisagus
Good numbers seen from the Ferry and on Hokkaido with up to 300 daily but otherwise just a single bird seen at Arasaki, Kyushu on the 23rd.
Adult winter-plumage Slaty-backed Gull on Hokkaido.
Glaucous Winged Gull – Larus Glaucescens
Only seen on two dates on Hokkaido with 2 on the 13th and 30 on the 14th.
Glaucous Gull – Larus Hyperboreus
Recorded from the Ferry and on Hokkaido with 6 on the 12th, 4 on the 13th, 60 on the 14th and 50 on the 15th. Many fine adults were seen. All birds were of the form pallidissimus.
Glaucous and Slaty-backed Gulls at Lake Furnen, Hokkaido.
Black Legged Kittiwake – Rissa tridactyla
Twenty were seen on the Ferry crossing to Hokkaido on the 12th. All were of the form pollicams.
Whiskered Tern – Chlidonias hybridus
Two were seen feeding on the Naha Estuary, Okinawa on the 19th and were of the form javanicus. Brazil (1991), classifies them as a rare late summer and autumn migrant with the occasional winter record.
Common Guillemot – Uria aalge
Just three identified from the Ferry crossing to Hokkaido on the 12th.
Brunnich’s Guillemot – Uria lomvia
At least 30 identified from the Ferry crossing to Hokkaido on the 12th.
Long Billed Murrelet – Brachyramphus perdix
One seen on the 14th and three on the 15th from Cape Ochiishi. One on the 16th from Cape Kiritappu.
Ancient Murrelet – Synthliboramphus antiquus
At least two were identified from the Ferry crossing to Hokkaido on the 12th. Eight were seen on the sea-watch off Cape Nosappu on the 14th and good views of four on the sea off Cape Ochiishi on the 15th.
Japanese Murrelet – Synthliboramphus wumizusume
Seven of these fine Murrelets were located on the sea of Kadogawa Harbour, Kyushu on the 25th. It proved to be our final new species in Japan and was a fine ending to the trip.
Considered by Collar (2000) as Vulnerable.
Crested Auklet – Aethia cristatella
As we approached Tomakomai, Hokkaido on the Ferry on the 12th, one party of eight plus seven other birds flew alongside the Ferry giving reasonable views.
Least Auklet – Aethia pusilla
A few miles south of Tomakomai Harbour, Hokkaido on the 12th we came across 12 of these diminutive Auklets on the Ferry crossing and good views were obtained both in flight and two were seen well sitting on the sea, close to the Ferry. Up to another 15 small auklets were also seen further away from the Ferry which were also probably this species.
Japanese Woodpigeon – Columba janthina
Three seen in the Fungawa Dam area, Okinawa on the 18th. Ten seen on the 19th including several seen very well sat in the trees at the Amami Forest Reserve, Amami Oshima and four there on the 21st. Considered by Collar (2000) as Near Threatened.
Japanese Woodpigeon at the Amami Forest Reserve.
Oriental (Rufous) Turtle Dove – Streptopelia orientalis
Seen on all the islands visited except for Hokkaido and proved to be reasonable common both in the forests and the towns. Daily maximum was 10 on the 17th.
Whistling Green Pigeon – Treron formosae
Only singles seen on four dates on Okinawa and Amami Oshima. The first seen briefly perched and then in flight on the 18th near Fungawa Dam, one seen on the 19th in flight at the Amami Forest Reserve. One watched feeding on fresh leaf buds at close range for nearly 10 minutes on the 20th in the Kinsakubaru Virgin Forest Reserve and finally one on the 21st in the Amami Forest Reserve.
Blakiston’s Fish Owl – Ketupa Blakistoni
One heard calling several times from the Hattoushi Bridge near Lake Funen, Hokkaido.Very annoying that the owner of Nature Inn where we stayed for three nights didn’t seem to make any effort on our behalf to try to arrange a guide to show this species even thou we made an offer to contribute to the conservation fund. I would strongly advise birders who wish to see this huge owl to stay at other accommodation in this area where they may receive better co-operative in trying to see this species.
House Swift – Apus nipalensis
Six seen on the drive from Kadogawa, Kyushu on the 25th.
Common Kingfisher – Alcedo atthis
Crested Kingfisher – Megaceryle lugubris
One of these fine large kingfishers was seen well in flight along a gravel river near Arasaki, Kyushu on the 23rd.
Eurasian Wryneck – Jynx torquilla
A single bird was seen on the walk around Lake Mi-ike, Kyushu on the 22nd.
Okinawa (Pryer’s) Woodpecker – Sapheopipo noguchii
A male was briefly seen and heard along the 7.5km road near Fungawa Dam, Okinawa and a female showed well for ten minutes from the first lay-by on the left along this road, both on the 18th.
Considered by Collar (2000) as Critical with a world population of approx. 500 birds.
Great Spotted Woodpecker – Dendrocopos major
Odd birds seen on four dates on Hokkaido and all relate to the form japonicus.
White Backed Woodpecker – Dendrocopos leucotos
Only seen on Amami Oshima with one on the 19th at Amami Forest Reserve and three on the 20th at Kinsakubaru Virgin Forest Reserve. All four were seen extremely well and were watched for long periods and all belong to the very distinctive form owstoni which is endemic to Amami Oshima and on plumage, size etc must rank as a potential full species.
Pygmy Woodpecker- Dendrocopos kizuki
Two singles seen on Hokkaido on the 13th and 15th, one on the 20th on Amami Oshima and one on the 22nd on the drive out to Lake Mi-ike, Kyushu.
Japanese Skylark – Alauda japonica
Only seen on Kyushu where it was common in the fields around Arasaki with 40+ being seen on the 23rd and 70+ on the 24th. Although very similar in appearance to Eurasian Skylark, I consider it to appear darker with more black streaking on the back and the tail also appeared slightly shorter.
Pacific Swallow – Hirundo tahitica
Only seen in small numbers on both Okinawa and Amami Oshima Islands.
Asian Martin – Delichon dasypus
Up to 50 seen on the 22nd on the drive to Izumi, Kyushu and 40 seen on the drive from Yatsushiro, Kyushu on the 24th.
Australasian Pipit – Anthus novaeseelandiae
A large pipit considered to be this species was seen well on the field outside the airport on Amami Oshima on the 21st.
Olive Backed Pipit – Anthus hodgsoni
Two seen on the 21st and 3 on the 22nd on the camping ground at Lake Mi-ike, Kyushu.
American (Buff Bellied) Pipit – Anthus rubescens
Grey Wagtail – Motacilla cinerea
Small numbers seen on five dates on both Okinawa and Amami Oshima Islands.
Black Backed Wagtail – Motacilla lugens
Japanese Wagtail – Motacilla grandis
Just a single bird seen well of this fine looking wagtail on the 13th on the side of the warm volcanic river on Kushiro Marsh, Hokkaido.
Ryukyu Minivet – Pericrocotus tegimae
Three seen well on the 18th near Fungawa Dam, Okinawa and one seen briefly around Lake Mi-ike, Kyushu on the 22nd.
Light Vented (Chinese) Bulbul – Pycnonotus sinensis
Three seen in the mangroves along the Naha Estuary, Okinawa on the 19th.
Brown Eared Bulbul – Hypsipetes amaurotis
Brown Dipper – Cinclus pallasii
Just one pair seen along a river on the drive through the mountains to Kadogawa, Kyushu on the 25th. Belonged to the form pallasii.
Japanese Accentor – Prunella rubida
A good find was a single bird found on rocks around the edge of Lake Mi-ike, Kyushu on the 22nd. After showing well for a couple of minutes it quickly departed into the forest.
Ryukyu Robin – Erithacus komadori
Eleven of these delightful Robins including 3 adult males were seen very well on the forest paths near Fungawa Dam, Okinawa on the 18th and they belonged to the distinctive form namiyei. The males had a more extensive black breast, greyer belly and lacked the black flank patch. On Amami Oshima, two were seen on the 19th and a fine male showed very well on the 21st at Amami Forest Reserve and these belonged to the form komadori.
A male Ryukyu Robin with the black flank patch at Amami Forest Reserve
and belonged to the form komadori.
and belonged to the form komadori.
Red Flanked Bluetail – Tarsiger cyanurus
Two seen on the 18th near Fungawa Dam, Okinawa, six on the 20th in the Kinsakubaru Virgin Forest, Amami Oshima, 2 at Amami Forest Reserve, Amami Oshima and 3 at Lake Mi-ike, Kyushu on the 21st. Five on the drive and around Lake Mi-ike, Kyushu on the 22nd.
Daurian Redstart – Phoenicurus auroreus
Male Daurian Redstarts.
Blue Rock Thrush – Monticola solitarius
Recorded on four dates with a total of 15 different birds being logged. Seen on Okinawa, Amami Oshima and Honsu Islands, with a maximum of 9 on the 19th.
All belonged to the chestnut bellied form philippensis.
Scaly (White’s) Thrush – Zoothera dauma
One flushed and seen well in flight on the 23rd at the Green Pheasant site near Arasaki, Kyushu.
Brown Thrush – Turdus chrysolaus
A male seen outside the Ferry Terminal at Oarai, Honsu on the 11th. It was watched feeding on the ground and in a berry bush and excellent views obtained. A second male was seen on the drive to Izumi, Kyushu on the 22nd.
Male Brown Thrush feeding outside the Ferry Terminal at Oarai, Honsu
Pale Thrush – Turdus Pallidus
Not seen on Hokkaido but proved to be common on Okinawa and Amami Oshima with smaller numbers seen on Kyushu. 100 were seen mainly on the track at dawn leading to Kinsakubaru Virgin Forest, Ashima Oshima on the 20th.
Pale Thrushes photos taken at dawn, 100 were seen mainly on the track at dawn leading
to Kinsakubaru Virgin Forest, Ashima Oshima on the 20th.
Dusky Thrush – Turdus naumanni
Eight were seen on the 11th on Honsu and one flew several times around the Ferry heading towards Hokkaido on the 12th. Was not recorded on either Hokkaido or Okinawa. Eight seen outside the airport on Amami Oshima on the 19th with ten there on the 21st. It was commonest on Kyushu with 50 on the 23rd, 100 on the 24th and 10 on the 25th. Majority were of the form evnomus although one bird seen had some red on the underparts and was probably an intermediate phase.
Asian Stubtail – Urosphena squameiceps
Only seen on Amami Oshima when one showed very well at Amami Forest Reserve on the 19th and then three were seen in the Kinsakubaru Virgin Forest on the 20th.
Japanese Bush Warbler – Cettia diphone
Recorded on Okinawa, Amami Oshima and Kyushu Islands. In total 27 different birds were seen on four dates with many more heard calling. Maximum of 20 seen on the 18th in the Fungawa Dam area. Several behaved in a strange manner for a Bush Warbler being seen quite high up in the trees and no where near as secretive as other species of Bush Warblers.
Yellow Browed (Inornate) Warbler – Phylloscopus inornatus
Two seen on the 18th near Fungawa Dam, Okinawa and three on the 20th in Kinsakubaru Virgin Forest, Amami Oshima.
Goldcrest – Regulus regulus
Just one seen on the 18th at Fungawa Dam, Okinawa and belonged to the form japonensis.
Long Tailed Tit – Aegithalos caudatus
Only seen on Kyushu with 16 on the 21st and 15 on the 22nd. No white headed forms seen and all belonged to the form kiusiuensis.
Marsh Tit – Poecile palustris
Only seen on Hokkaido with 25 birds logged on four dates mostly at bird feeders.
All belonged to the form hensoni.
Willow Tit – Poecile montanus
Just recorded on two dates on Hokkaido with 6 on the 13th and 3 on the 15th.
Varied Tit – Sittiparus varius
Ten seen in the Fungawa Dam area, Okinawa on the 18th, two seen on Amami Oshima on the 19th with three there on the 20th. Four seen at Lake Mi-ike, Kyushu on the 21st and
Varied Tit in the Fungawa Dam area, Okinawa.
Coal Tit – Parus ater
Two seen on the 15th on Hokkaido, two on the 18th at Fungawa Dam, Okinawa and six on the 22nd at Lake Mi-ike, Kyushu. All were of the form insularis.
Great Tit – Parus major
Recorded in fair numbers.
Eurasian Nuthatch – Sitta europaea
Only seen on Hokkaido and Amami Oshima, with a total of 10 birds seen over 5 days. Nine were seen on Hokkaido and were of a very cold white plumage and belonged to the form asiatica. The single bird seen on Amami Oshima was much darker with more chestnut underparts and belonged to the form roseilia.
Eurasian Treecreeper – Certhia familiaris
Just a single bird seen on Hokkaido on the 13th was of the pale form daurica.
Chinese Penduline Tit – Remiz consobrinus
A party of ten were located in a reed-bed close to the Arasaki Crane Reserve, Kyushu on the 24th.
Japanese White Eye – Zosterops japonicus
Japanese White-eye belonging to the race loochooensis at
Amami Forest Reserve, Oshima.
Bull Headed Shrike – Lanius bucephalus
18 different birds were logged over 5 dates but was only seen on Honsu and Kyushu with a maximum of six on the 25th.
Great Grey (Northern) Shrike – Lanius excubitor
A single bird was found on the 13th on Kushiro Marsh, Hokkaido. It was of the form bianchii.
Eurasian Jay – Garrulus glandarius
Just a single bird seen near Chitose Airport, Hokkaido on the 17th and was of the form bambergi.
Lidth’s Jay – Garrulus lidthi
A party of five seen on the drive up to Amami Forest Reserve, Amami Oshima on the 19th and five were also seen at the Forest Reserve in the early morning of the 21st and superb views obtained. Well worth the effort in going to Amami Oshima.
Considered by Collar (2000) as Vulnerable.
Record shot of Lidth's Jay in the Amami Forest Reserve, Oshima.
Daurian Jackdaw – Corvus dauuricus
Eight dark phase birds were seen with the Rooks at the Arasaki Crane Reserve, Kyushu on the 23rd, so we were somewhat relieved to find a pied phase bird near Arasaki the following morning.
Rook – Corvus frugilegus
At least 500 present around the Arasaki Crane Reserve, Kyushu on the 23rd with 250 seen in this area on the 24th and 50 on the 25th when we were passing close by.
Large Billed Crow – Corvus macrorhynchos
Very common and widespread with good numbers being seen daily on all the islands.
Carrion Crow – Corvus corone
Small numbers identified on Hokkaido and Kyushu.
White Cheeked (Grey) Starling – Sturnus cineraceus
Forty seen on Honsu, chiefly from the train, on the 11th and proved to be my first tick of the trip. Not seen on Hokkaido, Okinawa or Amami Oshima but seen on Kyushu with 30 on the 23rd, 100 on the 24th and 20 on the 25th.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow – Passer montanus
Recorded in very good numbers on Honsu, Hokkaido and Kyushu but not recorded on Okinawa and Amami Oshima. A flock of 500 in the fields at Yatsushiro, Kyushu on the 24th was the largest flock seen.
Brambling – Fringilla montifringilla
Forty seen on the 21st on Amami Oshima with 5 on the 23rd on Kyushu and then a huge flock of approx. 2000 feeding in the fields at Yatsushiro, Kyushu on the 24th.
Oriental Greenfinch – Carduelis sinica
Fifteen feeding outside the Oarai Ferry Terminal, Honsu on the 11th. Not seen on Hokkaido, Okinawa or Amami Oshima. Common on Kyushu and seen in good numbers daily including 500+ feeding in the fields at Yatsushiro on the 24th.
Oriental Greenfinch outside the Oarai Ferry Terminal
Eurasian Siskin – Carduelis spinus
Eight seen on the 18th at Fungawa Dam Okinawa with six being seen on Kyushu on the 24th.
Asian Rosy-finch – Leucosticte arctoa
A superb flock of 120 came to a bird feeder at Cape Kiritappu, Hokkaido on the 13th but only 12 were seen here on the 16th.
Belonged to the form brunneonucha.
Eurasian Bullfinch – Pyrrhula pyrrhula
Unfortunately, just two seen and only in flight on Kyushu on the 22nd.
Hawfinch – Coccothraustes coccothraustes
Odd birds recorded on six dates on Honsu, Hokkaido and Kyushu. Belonged to the form japonicus. A duller less gingery bird than ours in the UK.
Japanese Grosbeak – Eophona personata
Seen only on the 22nd when at least 25 were found. Firstly on the drive to Lake Mi-ike, Kyushu when a party of 10 were feeding along the road-side and we then found a flock of 15 feeding on the ground behind the Administration Building in the car-park at Lake Mi-ike.
Black Faced Bunting – Emberiza spodocephala
Not seen on |Hokkaido or Okinawa. Small numbers seen on Amami Oshima and good numbers seen on Kyushu with 40 on the 22nd, 30 on the 23rd and 50 on the 24th.
Meadow Bunting – Emberiza cioides
Only seen on Kyushu, with the first being a singing male on the drive to Lake Mi-ike on the 22nd. Four seen on the 23rd in the fields around Arasaki and a flock of six on the 24th at the Green Pheasant site.
Chestnut Eared Bunting – Emberiza fucata
Yellow Throated Bunting – Emberiza elegans
Reed Bunting – Emberiza schoeniclus
Only seen in reedy areas around Arasaki, Kyushu and generally poor views obtained so the odd rarer type Reed Bunting could have easily been missed. Ten were seen on the 23rd with 4 on the 24th.
Red Billed Leiothrix – Leiothrix lutea
Two seen feeding on a track as we were leaving Kadogawa, Kyushu on the 25th. Not included in The Birds of Japan by Brazil (1991) and so probably relates to an escape.