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Old Wednesday 6th December 2017, 13:47   #1
ger.thys
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Hokkaido in May

Hi all,
I am planning a trip to Hokkaido in May next year. I realize it is during Golden Week, but it can't be helped. Idea is to spend 10 days or so.
Ideas so far: Kushiro for cranes, Rausu for Blakiston fish-owl and Teuri Island for auks etc.

Would I be missing important birding spots? And also important, can I get to good spots by train and bus?

Advise appreciated!

Regards,

Ger
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Old Wednesday 6th December 2017, 14:07   #2
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If you are going to be in the direction of Kushiro, I came across this boat tour which might be of some use to you:
http://www.ochiishi-cruising.com/bird.html

Cape Nosappu is mentioned quite a bit in trip reports too, though I have no idea what would be there in May.

While I haven't personally been in May so things may be a bit different then, using public transport for me (at the very start of December on my visit) was a bit of a slog - probably doable I imagine in most cases, but you'll really need to e on the ball. From Kushiro we ended up taking several bus and train journeys and they were sporadic and slow even to fairly nearby places like Tsurui, Shiranuka and Akkeshi because they have to weave through the mountains and so never get much speed up. Also not helping is that unless you read and/or speak Japanese, even researching how to get from place to place can be challenging.

For a bit of reference, I just did a quick bit of research - it would be 2.5hrs from Kushiro to Shari and then upwards of another hour to get To Rausu from there. I'm not saying you shouldn't do it - it's a great experience - but you really need to nail down your plans before you go of you'll risk ending up doing what we did and risking not being able to do trips because you assumed a level of public transport greater than what is actually there because they looked like big towns connected by rail.
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Old Wednesday 6th December 2017, 15:25   #3
ger.thys
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Hi Alex,

Thanks for your quick reply. The cruising looks good, although I am not sure if there would be much overlap with Teuri Island.
Given the location, I guess renting a car might not be a bad idea. It would make Nemuro and Rausu much more feasible it seems.

Would harlequin duck and brown dipper be present in May?

Regards,

Ger
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Old Wednesday 6th December 2017, 16:29   #4
Tom Lawson
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Originally Posted by ger.thys View Post
Hi all,
I am planning a trip to Hokkaido in May next year. I realize it is during Golden Week, but it can't be helped. Idea is to spend 10 days or so.
Ideas so far: Kushiro for cranes, Rausu for Blakiston fish-owl and Teuri Island for auks etc.

Would I be missing important birding spots? And also important, can I get to good spots by train and bus?

Advise appreciated!

Regards,

Ger
I don't know when the Golden Week is next May,but my Wife and I had a week in the far east of Hokkaido several years ago. Spring comes very late here,and when we left on the 8th of May the first of the summer migrants,Siberian Rubythroats ,arrived that day.We hired a car and I would recommend this if you want to make the most of your time.The roads are excellent and the road signs are in both Japanese and English so its very easy to find your way around.The car hire company also programme the sat-nav in English.
The first birds we saw driving out of the airport at Kushiro were a pair of Red-crowned Cranes by the side of the road,and a Latham's Snipe on a post by the airport gate.Blakiston's Fish Owl was present at the well-known site just north of Rausu in May.
Mark Brazil's site guide-Birdwatching in Japan-although published some years ago is still very useful as most of the Hokkaido entries are still relevant. You should also consider staying with Take Matsue at Lake Furon near Nemuro.He and his Wife have a very nice guest house,and he is the local expert.He speaks excellent English so no problems with communication,and he will point you in the right direction for the best birding.The boat trips from Nemuro are primarily for the auks/murrelets in the winter.
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Old Wednesday 6th December 2017, 17:07   #5
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Originally Posted by ger.thys View Post
Hi Alex,

Thanks for your quick reply. The cruising looks good, although I am not sure if there would be much overlap with Teuri Island.
Given the location, I guess renting a car might not be a bad idea. It would make Nemuro and Rausu much more feasible it seems.

Would harlequin duck and brown dipper be present in May?

Regards,

Ger
Yeah, probably easier to drive I would think.

In regards to Harlequin Duck and Brown Dipper, my "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Japan and North East Asia" says that Harlequin are Winter visitors to Hokkaido while Brown Dipper are resident throughout Japan, although I would assume fairly local - didn't see them on either of my trips to Japan.
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Old Thursday 7th December 2017, 09:37   #6
ger.thys
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Originally Posted by Tom Lawson View Post
I don't know when the Golden Week is next May,but my Wife and I had a week in the far east of Hokkaido several years ago. Spring comes very late here,and when we left on the 8th of May the first of the summer migrants,Siberian Rubythroats ,arrived that day.We hired a car and I would recommend this if you want to make the most of your time.The roads are excellent and the road signs are in both Japanese and English so its very easy to find your way around.The car hire company also programme the sat-nav in English.
The first birds we saw driving out of the airport at Kushiro were a pair of Red-crowned Cranes by the side of the road,and a Latham's Snipe on a post by the airport gate.Blakiston's Fish Owl was present at the well-known site just north of Rausu in May.
Mark Brazil's site guide-Birdwatching in Japan-although published some years ago is still very useful as most of the Hokkaido entries are still relevant. You should also consider staying with Take Matsue at Lake Furon near Nemuro.He and his Wife have a very nice guest house,and he is the local expert.He speaks excellent English so no problems with communication,and he will point you in the right direction for the best birding.The boat trips from Nemuro are primarily for the auks/murrelets in the winter.
Tom Lawson.
Hi Tom,

Thanks for the reply. I would be in Hokkaido from May 1 to 12, so similar period. I will check the Mark Brazil site, didn't think of that earlier
The guesthouse at Lake Furen sounds good, do you know what it is called?

Regards,

Ger
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Old Thursday 7th December 2017, 10:04   #7
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Hi Ger,

It's called Minshuku Furen and it is a fantastic place at which to base yourself, with easy access to the headlands and harbours. My experience is winter-based but I'm sure you'll see some cracking stuff in spring. Try a seawatch from Shari harbour if you can - lots of stuff passing when we there, including a flock of 5 Ross's Gulls.

With reference to Brown Dipper, they were on the stream which runs underneath the road adjacent to Washi-no-yado, which is probably the easiest place for Blakiston's Fish Owl, or it certainly was. I'm sure Takeyoshi will be able to update you.

Takeyoshi's email address is matsuo-t@plum.plala.or.jp - please send him my regards.

Drop me a PM if you ned any further gen.

Stu
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Old Thursday 7th December 2017, 14:45   #8
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[quote=stuartelsom;3651972]Hi Ger,

It's called Minshuku Furen and it is a fantastic place at which to base yourself, with easy access to the headlands and harbours. My experience is winter-based but I'm sure you'll see some cracking stuff in spring. Try a seawatch from Shari harbour if you can - lots of stuff passing when we there, including a flock of 5 Ross's Gulls.

With reference to Brown Dipper, they were on the stream which runs underneath the road adjacent to Washi-no-yado, which is probably the easiest place for Blakiston's Fish Owl, or it certainly was. I'm sure Takeyoshi will be able to update you.

Takeyoshi's email address is matsuo-t@plum.plala.or.jp - please send him my regards.

Drop me a PM if you ned any further gen.

Stu[/QUOT

Stuart has beat me to it! I have twice stayed with Take in his minshuku and can highly recommend it both for the comfort,but also for the gen that he will give you. There is a woodland nature reserve just up the road,and the Lodge looks out over Lake Furen.He will also organise the Blakiston's Fish Owl visit for you. Its an ideal base to do the Nemuro Peninsula.If you contact him, like Stuart, give him my regards.
Both Brown Dipper and Blakiston's Fish Owl were on the stream at Rausu in May.Lots of Harlequin and other ducks are still along the coast in May.Migrating waders at a number of sites,but a little bit early for some of the passerine migrants.
I made a mistake with the title of Mark Brazil's book. Its 'A Birdwatcher's Guide to Japan' and was published in 1987. However I used it in Hokkaido two winters ago and most of the sites were unchanged.It is much more comprehensive than the information on his website.There is a second book called 'A Birder's Guide to Japan' by Jane Washburn Robinson,also published in 1987,but I didn't find this as good as the Brazil.There are also lots of trip reports on Cloudbirders,although most of them refer to the winter.
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Old Thursday 7th December 2017, 17:22   #9
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Below I've copy pasted a trip report from this June I submitted to kantori
Cheers
James

Hello all,

I have been back in England for over a week now, but wanted to let you know what I saw during my week (6 nights) in East Hokkaido. I stayed 3 nights at the famous Minshuku Furen near Nemuro, 2 nights at the equally famous Washi-no-yado near Rausu, and one night at the not at all famous but very nice Yado Hanafurari, near the south east corner of Kussharo-ko. Weather was mixed with some rain, fog and high winds but also some very hot and sunny spells.

The areas I visited with highlights as follows:-



Nosappu-misaki

close views of lots of rather scruffy (oiled?) Temminck's and Pelagic Cormorants (no Red-faced), Rhinoceros Auklets and Spectacled Guillemots offshore (not great views), large numbers of "Pac-throated" Divers passing, and rather luckily close views of individuals of both Pacific and Black-throated offshore. Incredible close views of Middendorf's Warbler and Siberian Rubythroat in the long grass and bushes.



Lakes and short grassland east of Nemuro

nothing too amazing (no Lanceolated Warblers), but good views of Common Reed Bunting (quite different from the birds that visit my garden in England) and obviously loads of Latham's Snipe displaying



Onneto-ko and the Onneto Rindo (main and side-tracks through the woodland to the west of the lake, joining up with the back road to Ochiishi)

daily close views of a group of 1 adult and 5 second year Red-crowned Cranes from the bridge across the seaward end of the lake, and a good variety of woodland species (not all seen), Eastern Crowned and Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, Brown-headed and White's Thrush, Japanese and Siberian Blue Robin, (Brandt's) Jay, White-backed Woodpecker, Hazel Grouse (actually by the roadside of the main back road to Ochiishi) etc. etc. Also a pack of feral dogs, and some colourful bear(?) scat full of metallic beetle wing cases.... scary.



Boat Trip from Ochiishi to Yuyuri and Moyuyuri islands

this was simultaneously a highlight and an enormous frustration, as although a lot of good birds were encountered the weather and viewing conditions were terrible, with constant fog varying from thick to very thick, and intermittent drizzle. By the end of the trip my binoculars were next to useless so all the good birds that appeared late on, were seen either poorly, or gave the dreaded untickable views. Nevertheless, the best birds encountered included lots of Rhinoceros Auklets and very close Spectacled Guillemots, 3 Tufted Puffins (that took a lot of searching for), a snowi Pigeon Guillemot, a close Pacific Diver, several dark-phase Northern Fulmars, some impossibly close (touching the boat!) Short-tailed Shearwaters, and one each of Fork-tailed Petrel, Laysan and (probably) Black-footed Albatross. The latter two were seen briefly off the tail of the boat as we cruised back to port (no time to stop and chase better looks) and although I'm certain of the Laysan at least (what else could it have been?..) views were not good enough to get it onto my list.

If I was planning my trip again I would try to build in two of these trips, as the previous day’s trip, along with better weather, produced several Ancient Murrelets and various mammals that we didn’t encounter.



Ochiishi-misaki (north east corner)

a seawatch from here (hoping to see the Albatrosses from the previous day) was pretty useless, with just lots of "Pac-throated" Divers, but I did get decent views of Spectacled Guillemots round the cliffs, plus Middendorf's Warbler and Olive-backed Pipit.



Shunkunitai nature reserve

nothing too unusual here, Sakhalin Grasshopper and Sakhalin Leaf Warblers, Grey-bellied Bullfinch, Chestnut-cheeked Starling etc. plus Black-browed Reed Warbler, Siberian Rubythroat and Long-tailed Rosefinch by the main road through the village



Furen-ko
lots of Red-crowned Cranes and White-tailed Eagles, big rafts of Black Scoter off shore, and a Red-throated Diver offshore at the north end (site of another unsuccessful attempt for Lanceolated Warbler)



Hattaushi Bridge

didn’t really try for the owls here as I figured I would wait for Washi-no-yado, but did hear a duetting pair an hour before sunset on one evening. Main target here was White-throated Needletail and got excellent views of 3-4 birds crusing up and down the river valley on two consecutive evenings (and another guest at Minshuku Furen saw them the previous evening also). Other highlights here included excellent close, prolonged views of Sakhalin Grasshopper Warbler, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Narcissus Flycatcher, Oriental Cuckoo.



Notsuke Hanto

hoped for Falcated Duck here but the best (visible) ducks on the landward side were some Pintail (A Japan tick). Offshore was better with several Black Scoter extremely close in, and a 2cy drake Stejneger’s Scoter a little further out. Also a Sea Otter. Saw my only Eastern Marsh Harrier on Hokkaido here also.



Shibetsu Harbour

was lured into an unplanned stop here after I spotted large numbers of “white-winged” gulls (probably just those weird bleached immature Slaty-backed). But it was worth it as I found 5 Glaucous (4 x 3cy, 1 x 4cy), a 2cy Black-headed and best of all an adult Glaucous-winged Gull.



Washi-no-yado

a single Blakiston’s Fish Owl appeared both nights at 22:30-23:00. I was too tired to wait up to see if any more appeared afterwards.



Whale-watching boat from Rausu

this was a real disappointment. Conditions were not great (very choppy with bright sunshine), but we seemed to be cruising at full speed into the wind (very bumpy) to the end of the Shiretoko Hanto for the entire first half of the trip. After spotting what I believed were one or more Killer Whales surfacing repeatedly, we moved slowly to within about 200m, and then, before half the boat had seen anything, and certainly before anyone had had reasonable views, we promptly turned around and cruised back to Rausu at full speed. Very perplexing. It was too bumpy to really watch birds during the trip, but there seemed to be reasonable numbers of immature Black-legged Kittiwake, and small numbers of Rhinoceros Auklet and Short-tailed Shearwater.



Kumanoyo Onsen

the gravel plain on the river just above the onsen near Rausu had a pair of Long-billed Plover (which I had missed on the Tamagawa), Brown Dipper, Common Sandpiper and a slightly scruffy male Mandarin. There was also a Grey-headed Woodpecker in the vicinity.



Shiretoko Pass

I spent one afternoon and one morning at the pass. Apart from the viewpoint itself I also walked the stretch of road immediately to the north west heading towards Utoro, and stretches around the laybys/bus stops 2.5 and 4.5 km back towards Rausu (these latter areas weren’t too productive). Although the early part of the first afternoon was quite windy I got lucky otherwise with sunny, calm weather, perfect for high altitude birding. I saw my main targets Grey Bunting and Pine Grosbeak at the viewpoint itself, and other highlights included lots of Oriental Cuckoo, Buff-bellied Pipit, Hawfinch, and of course loads of Pacific Swift.



Shari

I made an unscheduled stop at the south west corner of Shari (where the highway crosses the river) after spotting a Russet Sparrow perched on a wire. It had disappeared by the time I got parked, and after 45 mins of fruitless searching I was starting to think I had dreamt it or misidentified a Tree Sparrow, however eventually two males showed well. I also saw my first and only Hobby here.



Tofutso-ko

14 Falcated Duck (11 males) mixed in with some Gadwall were seen at the Eastern end. First picked up from the boat launching area 200m south of the main road junction (routes 244 and 467), but they were viewed closer (although looking into the light) from the coast road 200m west of the junction. There was also a female Russet Sparrow at the bridge on route 467 over the narrow stretch of water joining the main portion of the lake to the “side-lake” in the south east corner. Maybe this northern coastal plain is a particularly good area for this species?



Kussharo-ko

walked the trails around Wakoto peninsula and Kawayu Onsen but didn’t really see anything too unusual, apart from my only Great Egret on Hokkaido (at Wakoto). Also I heard a Goosander vocalising for the first time in my life, and got point blank range views of adult and juvenile Five-lined Skinks while enjoying the foot bath at Kawayu.
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Old Friday 8th December 2017, 05:30   #10
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To the original poster.................

Early May is a good time for birding in south Hokkaido but a lot of summer visitors will not have arrived yet in the north/east yet.

There will be still be the resident species of course as well as a lot of winter stuff still around. AFAIK the Blakistons Fish Owl will be easy to see at rausu. The Cranes will have moved to their breeding grounds: you won't be able to get so close to them as you can in winter but they are still easy to see.

I'm not sure if the auks will have reached Teuri yet (I may be wrong) but you may get some interesting migrants there, it could be a bit early in the season though.

Furen-ko is accessible by bus and the inn owner is also a birding guide. I'd think about hiring a car though.
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Old Saturday 9th December 2017, 07:40   #11
ger.thys
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Thanks all for your useful info on locations and accomodation, that really helps! I will rethink a bit and try to include Hakodate and surroundings.

Regards,

Ger
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