Join for FREE
It only takes a minute!
Zeiss - Always on the lookout for something special – Shop now

Welcome to BirdForum.
BirdForum is the net's largest birding community, dedicated to wild birds and birding, and is absolutely FREE! You are most welcome to register for an account, which allows you to take part in lively discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.

Hokkaido - best time to visit?

Reply
 
Thread Tools Rate Thread
Old Saturday 27th July 2019, 14:04   #1
foresttwitcher
Registered User

 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: The Chilterns
Posts: 1,758
Hokkaido - best time to visit?

As per a thread I started in the Japan sub-forum:
Quote:
Originally Posted by foresttwitcher View Post
There is a very, very slim chance I may have the opportunity to visit Japan during winter 2019/20 and, if so, would be tempted to add a side trip to Hokkaido for Sea Eagle, Fish Owl and Cranes. It could either be around the first week in December 2019, or the first week in January 2020 or the last week in February 2020. Would any of these periods be a better option in terms of timing?

Thanks in anticipation.
__________________
Pete.

Can't see the birds for the trees!
foresttwitcher is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Tuesday 30th July 2019, 12:07   #2
kb57
Registered User

 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Durham, UK
Posts: 630
I visited Hokkaido in late February 2018, and it was pretty much optimum for all of your three target species.
With respect to Steller's sea-eagle, my understanding is if you want to see them on the sea ice off Rausu, later is better, to allow the sea-ice to drift southwards - we didn't get up there ourselves due to poor planning on my part, but others we met did, and got great views. We did go to the sea-eagle feeding station on Lake Furen, which was ice-covered, and got great views.
Blakiston's fish-owl is resident of course so less seasonal, but gave great views coming to take fish from a small pool outside Yoroushi Onsen. Although streams were running, I guess as other still waterbodies were frozen, they may be more reliable when snow and ice are guaranteed (as they will be Jan - Feb).
The Japanese cranes look great in the snow at the feeding station in Tsurui, and in the depths of winter you've also got the spectacle of the roost on the river at Otawa bridge nearby - again I'm sure January would be just as good, December maybe less so, as I'm not sure when numbers really build up.
As far as other attractions are concerned, I personally wouldn't have missed the whooper swans at Lake Kussharo - again dependent on ice cover for close views. An Asian rosy-finch flock was also hanging around near Ochiishi harbour. Notsuke peninsula was great for sea duck, including Stejneger's scoter offshore, and closer views of other species in Odaito harbour.
The only thing we really dipped on were auks, due to the pelagic we'd booked from Nemuro being cancelled due to bad weather.
If you're in Honshu late Feb, I'd strongly recommend doing the overnight ferry trip from Tokyo to Miyakejima (Izu ls.) - the daytime return was an albatross-fest, with short-tailed, black-footed and Laysan all in good numbers.
kb57 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Tuesday 30th July 2019, 12:17   #3
foresttwitcher
Registered User

 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: The Chilterns
Posts: 1,758
Thanks kb57, that is great information. I was already thinking the February date may be best and you've confirmed that nicely. Your other tips have also potentially added some time and cost to the trip if it happens!
__________________
Pete.

Can't see the birds for the trees!
foresttwitcher is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Tuesday 30th July 2019, 12:29   #4
kittykat23uk
Registered User

 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Norwich
Posts: 1,800
Yeah we went in feb and we got out into the sea ice for the eagles and it was absolutely fabulous! Here is my trip report:

http://www.safaritalk.net/topic/1858...ssey-feb-2018/

We did it all self driving/self-guiding at a fraction of the cost of the big tour companies.

Yoroushi Onsen was an experience and one not to be missed, we were very lucky to get sable as well as the owl but I am not sure of the fate of those sable since we left

The ferry is well worth doing, in addition to the albatrosses, we also got views of sperm whale and very brief glimpse of orcas.
kittykat23uk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Tuesday 30th July 2019, 13:10   #5
kb57
Registered User

 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Durham, UK
Posts: 630
Quote:
Originally Posted by foresttwitcher View Post
Thanks kb57, that is great information. I was already thinking the February date may be best and you've confirmed that nicely. Your other tips have also potentially added some time and cost to the trip if it happens!
Izu ferry isn't that costly as I recall - it isn't worth getting the 'posh' cabins as you're up before dawn to get off at Miyakejima.
As kittykat23uk says, its easy to get around self-drive - we hired a Subaru Impreza with winter tyres from Nippon rent-a-car opposite Kushiro station, they were doing a 'Hokkaido winter special'. Great car, and a better standard of service than I'm accustomed to here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kittykat23uk View Post
Yeah we went in feb and we got out into the sea ice for the eagles and it was absolutely fabulous! Here is my trip report:

http://www.safaritalk.net/topic/1858...ssey-feb-2018/

We did it all self driving/self-guiding at a fraction of the cost of the big tour companies.

Yoroushi Onsen was an experience and one not to be missed, we were very lucky to get sable as well as the owl but I am not sure of the fate of those sable since we left

The ferry is well worth doing, in addition to the albatrosses, we also got views of sperm whale and very brief glimpse of orcas.
Judging by your dates, we met on that trip, at Yoroushi Onsen and Furen Lodge, and we left Kushiro on the same flight...
kb57 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Tuesday 30th July 2019, 13:49   #6
kittykat23uk
Registered User

 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Norwich
Posts: 1,800
Really KB57? Who are you under that handle then
kittykat23uk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Tuesday 30th July 2019, 14:30   #7
albatross02
Registered User

 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Berlin
Posts: 1,701
Quote:
Originally Posted by kb57 View Post
I visited Hokkaido in late February 2018, and it was pretty much optimum for all of your three target species.
With respect to Steller's sea-eagle, my understanding is if you want to see them on the sea ice off Rausu, later is better, to allow the sea-ice to drift southwards - we didn't get up there ourselves due to poor planning on my part, but others we met did, and got great views. We did go to the sea-eagle feeding station on Lake Furen, which was ice-covered, and got great views.
Blakiston's fish-owl is resident of course so less seasonal, but gave great views coming to take fish from a small pool outside Yoroushi Onsen. Although streams were running, I guess as other still waterbodies were frozen, they may be more reliable when snow and ice are guaranteed (as they will be Jan - Feb).
The Japanese cranes look great in the snow at the feeding station in Tsurui, and in the depths of winter you've also got the spectacle of the roost on the river at Otawa bridge nearby - again I'm sure January would be just as good, December maybe less so, as I'm not sure when numbers really build up.
As far as other attractions are concerned, I personally wouldn't have missed the whooper swans at Lake Kussharo - again dependent on ice cover for close views. An Asian rosy-finch flock was also hanging around near Ochiishi harbour. Notsuke peninsula was great for sea duck, including Stejneger's scoter offshore, and closer views of other species in Odaito harbour.
The only thing we really dipped on were auks, due to the pelagic we'd booked from Nemuro being cancelled due to bad weather.
If you're in Honshu late Feb, I'd strongly recommend doing the overnight ferry trip from Tokyo to Miyakejima (Izu ls.) - the daytime return was an albatross-fest, with short-tailed, black-footed and Laysan all in good numbers.
How did you get accomodation in Rausu ?
albatross02 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Tuesday 30th July 2019, 15:53   #8
foresttwitcher
Registered User

 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: The Chilterns
Posts: 1,758
Thanks for the trip report kittykat23uk it looks good on a quick scan - I'll have a proper look soon. I hope you don't mind if I get back to you with any questions.

Thanks for the further info kb57 - I was going to ask if you hired a car on Hokkaido. I have no itinerary in mind yet just need to be in Fukuoka for 22nd February 2020 so will plan to travel north from there. Did you do a trip report? How long would you recommend in Hokkaido? Sorry for all the questions!
__________________
Pete.

Can't see the birds for the trees!
foresttwitcher is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Tuesday 30th July 2019, 18:30   #9
foresttwitcher
Registered User

 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: The Chilterns
Posts: 1,758
Just had a look at your trip report Jo, what a great trip and some fantastic photos. You've certainly whetted my apatite for a longer trip than I had initially anticipated - I'll have to have a close look at the budget!

I assume the roads in Hokkaido were OK in the snow (I've done Northern Finland / Norway in March on studded tyres).

I'm a bit daunted by the language issues, especially with the food, as I travel alone and often feel well out of my comfort zone with no-one as back-up.

Thanks again for the link.
__________________
Pete.

Can't see the birds for the trees!
foresttwitcher is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Tuesday 30th July 2019, 19:30   #10
birdboybowley
Registered User
BF Supporter 2019
 
birdboybowley's Avatar

 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: W Sussex, England
Posts: 8,483
Check my report here Pete:

https://www.birdforum.net/showthread...ighlight=Japan
__________________
"...Bureaucracy is a parasite that preys on free thought and suffocates free spirit..." Douglas Adams

www.adambowleyart.com
birdboybowley is online now  
Reply With Quote

BF Supporter 2016 2017 2018 2019 Support BirdForum With A Donation

Old Tuesday 30th July 2019, 19:35   #11
amears
Registered User

 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Bath, Somerset
Posts: 417
Julian Hough’s recent report is excellent. I fed him quite a lot of feedback from my trip in 2017 and he documented all the little hints and tips very nicely.

Andy
amears is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Tuesday 30th July 2019, 21:23   #12
foresttwitcher
Registered User

 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: The Chilterns
Posts: 1,758
Thanks Adam, I now remember reading you report at the time but never thought it would be on the cards for me - thanks for the link, I'll have another look.

Thanks Andy, it's appreciated, I'll search for his report.
__________________
Pete.

Can't see the birds for the trees!
foresttwitcher is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Wednesday 31st July 2019, 10:51   #13
kittykat23uk
Registered User

 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Norwich
Posts: 1,800
Yes the food was an experience! I am certainly more adventurous now. As for Hokkaido I believe we booked all accommodation via Take who owns Furen lodge. He also organised the booking on Rausu boat trip. I have contact details if you need them.
kittykat23uk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Wednesday 31st July 2019, 15:27   #14
foresttwitcher
Registered User

 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: The Chilterns
Posts: 1,758
Quote:
Originally Posted by kittykat23uk View Post
I have contact details if you need them.
That would be great, thank you - by PM if you want.
__________________
Pete.

Can't see the birds for the trees!
foresttwitcher is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Thursday 1st August 2019, 13:21   #15
kb57
Registered User

 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Durham, UK
Posts: 630
Quote:
Originally Posted by foresttwitcher View Post
Thanks for the further info kb57 - I was going to ask if you hired a car on Hokkaido. I have no itinerary in mind yet just need to be in Fukuoka for 22nd February 2020 so will plan to travel north from there. Did you do a trip report? How long would you recommend in Hokkaido? Sorry for all the questions!
Hi, sorry I didn't do a trip report - meant to at the time - there's a little more information on my 2018 year list thread.
Our itinerary was:
Day 1: Fly Hong Kong - Tokyo - Kushiro, arriving late so stayed in city centre near station (got airport bus to town)
Day 2: Picked up hire car, drove to Kushiro wetland centre (not much about in winter, would be good site in spring) then on to Tsurui for cranes. Stayed at Heart n'Tree guesthouse near Tsurui (via Booking.co, highly recommended!)
Day 3: Dawn at Otawa bridge for cranes, back to guesthouse for breakfast / birdtable, then drove to Yoroushi Onsen (fish owl & Ural owl) via Lake Kussharo (whoopers)
Day 4: Chilling at Yoroushi Onsen, finding solitary snipe further down river & more fish-owl action
Day 5: Drove to Furen Lodge via Notsuke Peninsula (sea duck, sea-eagles)
Day 6: Ochiishi (Asian rosy-finch, harlequin duck), day truncated by bad weather - Furen Lodge again
Day 7: Sea-eagle feeding at Lake Furen, drove back to Heart n'Tree via Lake Kussharo (my partner really likes whooper swans...) and another visit to cranes at Tsurui - this time checking ring numbers at visitor centre with scopes set up in centre, and looking up when / where they were fledged
Day 8: Drive Tsurui - Kushiro station, return car and bus to airport, flight to Tokyo

If I did it again I'd perhaps spend one less day at Yoroushi, which is expensive (but high quality) as we got the fish-owl first night, but we booked two as I wanted to maximise chance of success. Photographers prefer the set-up at the site near Rausu, as you are watching through glass in the hotel lounge at Yoroushi. I'd have done the boat trip from Rausu with the spare day, as kittykat32's party did - probably the main flaw in my itinerary.
The cancelled pelagic (organised through Take-san at Furen Lodge) couldn't be helped due to weather conditions, and resulted in one day where we didn't do that much apart from kerb-crawl past the well-known aggressive guy's house in Ochiishi looking at tree sparrows on his feeders (we found the rosy-finches eventually with the help of one of kittykat32's party nearer the harbour).
So, to answer your question, you could get the 'big three' in a week or less, cranes and sea-eagles are absolutely 100% nailed on certainties, but NE Hokkaido in winter is a magical place and deserving of a slightly slower pace if you can manage it.
Driving is fine on winter tyres, roads do get snow on them but are wide and lightly trafficked, and ploughed promptly. The bilingual instruction booklet that came with the hire car was the most comprehensive I have ever seen, enabling us to master the satnav controls (buttons in Japanese, but can give directions in English). Things like washing machine instructions are a bit more of a challenge, which is where Google Translate comes in handy. We were never seriously handicapped by language - few people speak English fluently, but most people understand more than they think, even if they are sometimes a little embarassed about using it.
As far as food is concerned, you can be as adventurous as you want - I dived in and bought plum-flavoured seaweed strips on arrival in Tokyo airport, but things like sandwiches are available in the 7-11s and other roadside stores.
kb57 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Thursday 1st August 2019, 13:26   #16
kb57
Registered User

 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Durham, UK
Posts: 630
Quote:
Originally Posted by kittykat23uk View Post
Really KB57? Who are you under that handle then
We were the couple from NE England with Irish / Swiss nationality...ring any bells yet?
kb57 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Thursday 1st August 2019, 13:29   #17
kb57
Registered User

 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Durham, UK
Posts: 630
Quote:
Originally Posted by birdboybowley View Post
I should've added that I found your report very useful in our planning too!

If you don't mind me quoting something you said at the outset, as I don't think I could've put it better myself:

'Japan must be the friendliest country I've travelled in, the people are wonderful, the place is pretty much spotless and I've never felt safer in a major capital at night anywhere. It's high-tec but with a traditional spin on it and is easy to bird for the independent traveller as it's well represented by trip reports and online site info'
kb57 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Thursday 1st August 2019, 17:19   #18
amears
Registered User

 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Bath, Somerset
Posts: 417
Here are some edited highlights from my post-trip notes in case of use - not all Hokkaido but I think no harm in posting:

Mates of mine ‘booked’ their accom as they went round, sometimes checking for cheapest prices on line and booking on the web - all while parked up outside the hotel!

We went mid-Jan and wished we'd gone later - the later you go, the more rarity gen there is and the longer the days. Need to consider a couple of sps like Baikal Teal for best season too. Early March could be great. We weren’t bothered about photographing eagles, which is another seasonal driver.

And non-Hokkaido:

We were confused on our first evening arrival at Tokyo by the first bus from the airport to our hotel not being til 10pm (or similar), and presumed that was a typo in our gen – but it was correct. Once you get the hang of the restricted timetable, the buses were great and the Haneda No1 hotel perfect for dropping in and out of Tokyo. You just need to go and have a beer sometimes at the airport while waiting for the start of the bus timetable. We also really struggled to find the bus stop first time so a map would be good for that if you can get one.

We asked thorough Qs about the advantages of a car over public transport at Karuizawa. We were gently persuaded that a car was unnecessary and expensive. Also told our hotel was a 20 min walk from the main trail. We had deep snow in the event and walking the main trail was hard work and a bit dispiriting. I mailed a mate while on site who told me they had taken a car (which I knew) and had simply driven the tracks at K until they found C Pheasant (which I didn't know!). We wouldn't have been able to drive the track cos of the snow but you might be able to... Also, our hotel was a hard 45 minute walk from the trail, not 20 mins - really really annoying and a car would have been great. Dipped the pheasant.

Unbeknown to me, some of our crew were nervous about our planned early morning flight to HachijoJima and only having an hour to transfer to the quay for boat back. Also, would we get tripods on as hand luggage? I preferred the flight-out / ferry-back option cos of potential sea sickness but this was flawed logic. The ferry is often cancelled due to weather so if it goes, the crossing will probably be ok, so fine to ferry out and back. I would also have pencilled in 2 separated windows for the ferry trip if I’d known it was cancelled so often.

If your seabird ferry is cancelled, just have a day on the tubes in Tokyo. Check gen for rarity hot spots and look for Baer's Ps. I was really fed up on that day cos the ferry was cancelled and not all our crew were prepared to change flights and car hires to allow us an early arrival on Kyushu. Our day out in Tokyo turned out to be great fun though and I then wished we'd been better prepared for the eventuality.

Got our cancelled Hachiojima flight cost back, which was cool.

If you can swing the cash, the Yoroushi fish owl experience was astonishing. Some might think it a bit artificial but the hotel was amazing, the food amazing and all with a massive fish owl sat a few feet outside by a tiny pond. Apparently, the place to see Sol Snipe there is outside the window on the river edge! We didn’t know til too late…
amears is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Thursday 1st August 2019, 18:41   #19
foresttwitcher
Registered User

 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: The Chilterns
Posts: 1,758
Thanks again kb57 & Andy for the amount of time and effort you have put into helping me with this it is very much appreciated.
__________________
Pete.

Can't see the birds for the trees!
foresttwitcher is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Friday 2nd August 2019, 12:48   #20
kb57
Registered User

 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Durham, UK
Posts: 630
Quote:
Originally Posted by amears View Post

If you can swing the cash, the Yoroushi fish owl experience was astonishing. Some might think it a bit artificial but the hotel was amazing, the food amazing and all with a massive fish owl sat a few feet outside by a tiny pond. Apparently, the place to see Sol Snipe there is outside the window on the river edge! We didn’t know til too late…
I had solitary snipe a very short distance further downstream, just below the road bridge near the hotel. I'd walked down to the water's edge by the bridge to get a 'scenic' photo. It flew past me along the stream and settled on shingle a short distance away.
Agree hotel, food etc. amazing. Staff are well versed in why westerners come there too - they interrupted our banquet to tell us the fish-owl had appeared so we could see it, then resumed service when it left.
kb57 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Advertisement
Reply


Thread Tools
Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Hokkaido - best time to visit? foresttwitcher Japan 2 Friday 19th July 2019 18:50
Best Time To Visit Sri Lanka Carol Baldock Sri Lanka 1 Tuesday 28th April 2015 19:18
Best Time To Visit Japan ronjax Japan 1 Tuesday 6th January 2009 12:32
Time to visit Texas Alf King Texas 1 Tuesday 27th January 2004 16:35
Best time ot visit Eilat ? Andy Thatcher Israel 2 Tuesday 4th February 2003 18:19

{googleads}

Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites

Help support BirdForum

Page generated in 0.16967893 seconds with 34 queries
All times are GMT. The time now is 14:34.