Japan in Spring May 07—20, 2018

Posted by Kaz Shinoda


Kaz Shinoda

Kaz Shinoda has been integrally involved in the logistics and planning of VENT's Japan tours. He was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1957. From age 11 to 14 he lived in South A...

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On May 10, right after enjoying an excellent view of a flock of three Japanese Murrelets on our ferry trip to Tobishima, we found spring migration in full swing on this small islet in the Sea of Japan. Yellow-browed Warblers were seen and heard here and there as soon as we started birding on the plateau of the island, where we ambled along a path on the quest to find migrating birds amid lovely vegetable gardens and forests on either side. Believe it or not, Yellow-browed Warbler is a rare transient in Japan. If one of them showed up in Tokyo, hundreds of Japanese birders and photographers would rush to the venue!

Okinawa Woodpecker

Okinawa Woodpecker— Photo: Brad Schram


During our stay on the island, we saw seven species of warblers in all, most of which were leaf warblers (Phylloscopidae), including such rarities in Japan as Pallas’s Leaf Warbler and the vagrant Siberian Chiffchaff. Paula and Ann found the latter while we were having a picnic on May 11, which made even myself quite excited! The rarities that we saw on this island were not only warblers but also flycatchers, buntings, and some other passerines. Korean, Mugimaki, Taiga, and Red-breasted flycatchers are all uncommon or rare in Japan, and we saw them all. And unless you visit a small island in the Sea of Japan in migration, you hardly have a chance to see Yellow-browed, Little, Yellow-breasted, and Chestnut buntings in this country. As a matter of fact, on this magnet for trans-Sea of Japan migrants, rarities can occur anywhere. For example, a single Blyth’s Pipit, a vagrant to Japan, was found skulking in a grassy patch just in front of our inn!

In addition to the excitement of those bonus birds, Tobishima provided us with superb looks at regular Japanese birds, often at close range. Indeed, we enjoyed watching an array of birds, both wintering species and summer breeders, to Japan. The regular summer visitors that we saw included Ashy Minivet; Japanese Leaf, Sakhalin Leaf, and Eastern Crowned warblers; Dark-sided, Asian Brown, Blue-and-White, and Narcissus flycatchers; Siberian Stonechat; and so forth. On the other hand, we also saw wintering birds such as Daurian Redstart; Dusky Thrush; both Japanese and Bohemian waxwings; Chestnut-eared, Rustic, and Elegant buntings; Brambling; Hawfinch; and Eurasian Siskin, to mention but a few.

Read Kaz’s full report in his Field Report.