Japan in Winter: Jan 12—24, 2013
A Crane & Sea Eagle Spectacle!
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Red-crowned Cranes, Kushiro, Japan— Photo: JNTO
Superb winter Asian birding on three of Japan’s main islands. Spectacular gatherings of majestic cranes and awe-inspiring sea-eagles; the unique, immense Blakiston’s Fish-Owl; and a diversity of other Asian and Japanese specialty birds across an array of memorable natural settings.
Japan in winter is an amazing experience. Majestic cranes and stupendous eagles lead the way in an exciting birding adventure in a culturally distinctive country.
From Tokyo we will fly to Kagoshima in the southern part of Kyushu to marvel at the amazing spectacle of over 13,000 cranes of various species in the paddy fields. We’ll watch thousands of Hooded and White-naped cranes, while searching for more rare visiting cranes among them. Common Crane and Sandhill Crane are regularly found, and even Demoiselle and Siberian Cranes put in an appearance some years.
After tearing ourselves away from the cranes, we’ll head northward to bird along a couple of rivers, in quest of such exciting birds as Black-faced Spoonbill and Saunders’s Gull—both global rarities.
In Miike we will search for woodland birds including such endemic and near-endemic species as Japanese Woodpecker, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Ryukyu Minivet, Varied Tit, and the scarce Gray Bunting. Then we will leave the rural, quaint feel of southern Kyushu for the wilds of eastern Hokkaido.
Winters are cold and white in beautiful Hokkaido. The beauty of this almost Siberian vista is complemented by some very exciting birds, notably Red-crowned Crane and Steller’s Sea-Eagle. We will visit the winter display grounds of Red-crowned Cranes near Kushiro. The graceful cranes perform their spring dance against a backdrop of snowy hills, providing outstanding photographic opportunities.
Then we will continue toward the coastal capes and wetlands of southeast Hokkaido. We will likely encounter dozens of sea-eagles in the area, where Steller’s outnumber White-tailed Sea-Eagles by ten to one. On a short boat trip from Ochiishi, we can appreciate the richness of the seabirds in the coastal waters of the region, with the likelihood of such species as Spectacled Guillemot and Ancient Murrelet.
We will also spend two nights at a restful ryokan—a traditional Japanese inn—nestled in the woods. This is one of the best sites in the world to see Blakiston’s Fish-Owl. In the whole of Hokkaido there may be less than 30 breeding pairs of this bird—one of the world’s largest and rarest owls. Although there is no guarantee, we have a good chance to see this amazing bird.
Two days in the vicinity of Karuizawa in the foothills of the Japanese Alps will add some superb possibilities among Japanese birds, such as Baikal Teal, Smew, Falcated Duck, Long-billed Plover, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Crested Kingfisher, Japanese Woodpecker, Japanese Wagtail, Elegant Bunting, Pallas’s Rosefinch, Long-tailed Rosefinch, Japanese Waxwing, and Brown Dipper.
Other birds possible include Eastern Spot-billed Duck; Whooper Swan; Eastern Water Rail; Oriental Turtle-Dove; Bull-headed Shrike; Brown-eared Bulbul; Daurian Redstart; Pale, Brown-headed, and Dusky thrushes; White-cheeked Starling; Japanese Grosbeak; Hawfinch; Eurasian Bullfinch; Oriental Greenfinch; Brambling; and Large-billed Crow, to mention a few.
Mix of nice hotel accommodations and several nights in restful, traditional Japanese inns; excellent Japanese cuisine; generally easy, non-strenuous walking, plus some walking on snowy trails; cool to cold weather.