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Japan in May 2019

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Old Thursday 28th June 2018, 10:59   #1
Tony Knight
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Japan in May 2019

Hi

My wife and I are planning a 2 week trip to Japan in May 2019. It will be for a mix of culture, scenery and birds (my wife isn't a birder). The working assumptions at the moment are;

3 nights in Tokyo
2 nights near Mt Fuji
2 nights at Kyoto
4 nights at Hokkaido (yes I know a pain as it's back past Tokyo!)

Where do you think we should spend the other 3 nights ?
Where is/are the best place(s) to stay in Hokkaida ?
Will Sib Rubythroats, RF Bluetails, Steller's sea-eagle and cranes still be at Hokkaido in May or are they excusively winter visitors ?
I guess a car would be needed in Hokkaido but not elsewhere ?

Any help gratefully received !

Thanks
Tony
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Old Thursday 5th July 2018, 07:27   #2
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Hi

Is this your first trip to Japan?

If it were me, I would personally put those extra days into Kyoto, or maybe a daytrip to Kamakura from Tokyo. Kyoto is a really beautiful city, and when we did our trip there a few years back 6 nights wasn't enough. I'm not saying that you necessarily need to spend that much time, but you'll be really missing out on a lot at only 2.

Cranes are resident but disperse to breed, and my understanding is that they are most abundant in the Kushiro Marsh area, which would mean flying into Kushiro. You'll probably need some more local advice on where to look.
RF Bluetails are according to my book resident on Honshu and a Summer visitor to Hokkaido, but it's more that they move into human environments in Winter,
The Rubythroats are a Summer visitor to Hokkaido only, so the right time of the year probably.
The Eagles however are Winter visitors, and while not impossible that there might be one or two around, it seems unlikely.
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Old Thursday 5th July 2018, 08:17   #3
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Originally Posted by Alexjh1 View Post
Hi

Is this your first trip to Japan?

If it were me, I would personally put those extra days into Kyoto, or maybe a daytrip to Kamakura from Tokyo. Kyoto is a really beautiful city, and when we did our trip there a few years back 6 nights wasn't enough. I'm not saying that you necessarily need to spend that much time, but you'll be really missing out on a lot at only 2.

Cranes are resident but disperse to breed, and my understanding is that they are most abundant in the Kushiro Marsh area, which would mean flying into Kushiro. You'll probably need some more local advice on where to look.
RF Bluetails are according to my book resident on Honshu and a Summer visitor to Hokkaido, but it's more that they move into human environments in Winter,
The Rubythroats are a Summer visitor to Hokkaido only, so the right time of the year probably.
The Eagles however are Winter visitors, and while not impossible that there might be one or two around, it seems unlikely.
Thanks for your advice Alex, much appreciated.
Yes its the first time to Japan (and possibly "only" at least for a while) and its a question of trying to get the right balance of time between scenery, culture and birds. Extra days at Kyoto would need to come out of time at Fuji or Hokkaido.
Yes I thought I might miss out on the eagles :-(.
Do you think that c20th of May would count as summer on Hokkaido and therefore be ok for the Rubythroats and Bluetails ? I know it stays colder on Hokkaido for longer than the rest of Japan due to its position.
We had planned to get to Hokk by bullet train as my wife hates flying and that would leave us at the wrong end of the island for Kushiro....

thanks
Tony
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Old Thursday 5th July 2018, 10:32   #4
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I was in Japan summer of 2015, and spent a day halfway up Fuji - Bluetails were one of the commonest birds there. Don't miss the Meiji Shrine gardens in Tokyo - Varied Tit, White-eye and Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker all common, and eye level views of a perched Goshawk only 15 yards away!
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Old Thursday 5th July 2018, 12:14   #5
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I was in Japan summer of 2015, and spent a day halfway up Fuji - Bluetails were one of the commonest birds there. Don't miss the Meiji Shrine gardens in Tokyo - Varied Tit, White-eye and Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker all common, and eye level views of a perched Goshawk only 15 yards away!
Thanks - sounds good. What time were you there ? I'm planning on mid-late May which may be too early ?
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Old Thursday 5th July 2018, 12:40   #6
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Mid August.
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Old Thursday 5th July 2018, 17:28   #7
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I am normally at Tokyo area for end of May, start of June. (There are some trip reports I did for the Tokyo area on here (still to do my last trip). For Meiji Shrine Garden, I was able to see Varied Tit, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker and Long Tailed Tit at that time.

If you are heading towards Kanagawa region (to go to the suggested Kamakura region), I would recommend starting early and heading to Terugasaki (15 minute walk from Oiso train station) for White Bellied Green Pigeon which come to the sea to drink the sea water (I think they should have started by then). It is an experience.

This year, I used the Japan-Birding site to look at places to visit and trip reports to see what species expected. This allowed me to see Ural Owl, Long-eared Owl and Northern Boobook.

In the past, I used Mark Brazil's website, which had some good directions. I was able to get to a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher nesting area following the directions.

Another site I could recommend is Hyperdia, which is useful for train directions and costs. You can get a JR RailPass, although need to purchase before you arrive. I have never used it, as only birding at weekend between work meetings, so travel locally. There is a hyperdia app for for trains (I find google maps sometimes said it was unable to find route if it involved some walking). If you want to stay connected and not use roaming, you can get visitor sim cards/wifi units aimed at tourists.

Speaking of phones, if you do have a camera phone, and see a dish outside a restaurant, take a picture of it. If inside, they do not have a picture menu, you can show it to the server. If no phone, then take the server outside and point to the dish (I have done this in the past).
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Old Thursday 5th July 2018, 23:16   #8
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Thanks for your advice Alex, much appreciated.
Yes its the first time to Japan (and possibly "only" at least for a while) and its a question of trying to get the right balance of time between scenery, culture and birds. Extra days at Kyoto would need to come out of time at Fuji or Hokkaido.
Yes I thought I might miss out on the eagles :-(.
Do you think that c20th of May would count as summer on Hokkaido and therefore be ok for the Rubythroats and Bluetails ? I know it stays colder on Hokkaido for longer than the rest of Japan due to its position.
We had planned to get to Hokk by bullet train as my wife hates flying and that would leave us at the wrong end of the island for Kushiro....

thanks
Tony
I'm afraid I can't help with the bluetail/rubythroat question, my book (A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Japan) doesn't really cover specific dates and my trips were in July and November/December respectively so don't really help to know what's about at your dates.

If you aren't flying in, I would kind of suggest you ponder what your priorities in Hokkaido are - there should certainly be some good stuff around, but Summer in the West of the Island is probably going to be difficult-impossible to pick up many of the big name headliners. A "birdier" alternative to the train might be to get a ferry up there, which (I must admit, I'm not clear on the time of year for this) has a reputation for albatross and auks, but don't take my word on that without further research.

I would say that in terms of culture Kyoto is really your best bet - given how extensively most other larger cities were bombed in WW2, they tend to have fairly limited fragments of the original stuff left. Kyoto wasn't bombed and so historic stuff is far more easy to come by than in Tokyo or Osaka. Although it isn't exactly a great birding destination compared to other options, on a trip there in July I picked up Northern Boobook, Varied Tit, Japanese Wagtail, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker as specific East Asia specialties.

I'd advise also prep for Tokyo and working what you actually want to do there; it's an enormous city but depending on the kind of stuff you like doing it can be kind of overwhelming.
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Old Wednesday 11th July 2018, 08:49   #9
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I'm afraid I can't help with the bluetail/rubythroat question, my book (A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Japan) doesn't really cover specific dates and my trips were in July and November/December respectively so don't really help to know what's about at your dates.

If you aren't flying in, I would kind of suggest you ponder what your priorities in Hokkaido are - there should certainly be some good stuff around, but Summer in the West of the Island is probably going to be difficult-impossible to pick up many of the big name headliners. A "birdier" alternative to the train might be to get a ferry up there, which (I must admit, I'm not clear on the time of year for this) has a reputation for albatross and auks, but don't take my word on that without further research.

I would say that in terms of culture Kyoto is really your best bet - given how extensively most other larger cities were bombed in WW2, they tend to have fairly limited fragments of the original stuff left. Kyoto wasn't bombed and so historic stuff is far more easy to come by than in Tokyo or Osaka. Although it isn't exactly a great birding destination compared to other options, on a trip there in July I picked up Northern Boobook, Varied Tit, Japanese Wagtail, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker as specific East Asia specialties.

I'd advise also prep for Tokyo and working what you actually want to do there; it's an enormous city but depending on the kind of stuff you like doing it can be kind of overwhelming.
Thanks. Hokkaido was really purely to see birds/wildlife that I wouldn't see elsewhere in Japan. I guess with the mid May timing, that would probably only add the rubythroat (which may not have arrived yet anyway) and cranes. Perhaps there is somewhere better I should aim for travelling further west from Kyoto instead ?
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Old Monday 16th July 2018, 10:44   #10
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Apologies for seeing this late, but I think there are a few other things in Hokkaido that if you could research enough, might well be worth going there for, even without the eagles:

Blakiston's Fish Owl would be the obvious headliner

But other Hokkaido specialities of note would include: Red Faced Cormorant, Hazel Grouse, Slaty-backed Gull, a number of auk species, black woodpecker, grey headed woodpecker and a few others that are also found in Northern Honshu that you'd be able to pick up in Hokkaido.
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Old Tuesday 17th July 2018, 15:10   #11
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Originally Posted by Tony Knight View Post
Where is/are the best place(s) to stay in Hokkaida ?
Will Sib Rubythroats, RF Bluetails, Steller's sea-eagle and cranes still be at Hokkaido in May or are they excusively winter visitors ?
I guess a car would be needed in Hokkaido but not elsewhere ?

Any help gratefully received !

Thanks
Tony

Can only speak about Hokkaido.

Rubythroats don't arrive on their breeding grounds until late May. Bluetails arrive in mid to late April in Hokkaido but are easy to see elsewhere in Japan. The Cranes are resident and easy to see. The Stellers will be long gone (although you may get lucky with a straggler) but White-tailed Eagles are easy enough to see.

The Furen-ko area is a good place to stay and yes hiring a car would make things much easier.
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Old Thursday 26th July 2018, 12:17   #12
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Apologies for seeing this late, but I think there are a few other things in Hokkaido that if you could research enough, might well be worth going there for, even without the eagles:

Blakiston's Fish Owl would be the obvious headliner

But other Hokkaido specialities of note would include: Red Faced Cormorant, Hazel Grouse, Slaty-backed Gull, a number of auk species, black woodpecker, grey headed woodpecker and a few others that are also found in Northern Honshu that you'd be able to pick up in Hokkaido.
Alex: Most of what you say is simply not the case.

Slaty-backed Gull is common in Japan in general in the winter, and I think the Blakiston's Fishing Owl can be got at Rausu any time (but the lodge there is very uncomfortable, and would require quite a lot of preparation if you don't have a Japanese speaker with you).

But this is not true of any of the other birds you mention. I live in Japan, and have been to Hokkaido four or five times, but I have still not seen Black Woodpecker even though I have been in exactly the right habitat and 'people' claimed they had seen the birds the day before.

You might get Pelagic Cormorant (which has a red face at the right season) , but Red-faced is spectacularly unlikely. Grey-headed Woodpecker might be extinct in Japan. Hazel Grouse would also require a guide plus good luck.
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Old Thursday 26th July 2018, 12:36   #13
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The Furen-ko area is a good place to stay and yes hiring a car would make things much easier.
Hi Stu.

The boardwalk at Shunkunitai (Furen) had fallen down after a typhoon when we went there three years ago, and there appeared to be no plan to replace it. As this was our main objective, it made Furen pointless. If you have information that the boardwalk has been fixed that would be interesting.

(There are a few resident cranes in the area.)

The pelagic cruise from Ochiishi near Furen was cancelled at the last minute when we were there.

And the three times we've been to Notstuke have produced a couple of species each time, but no great mass of stuff.

At Rausu, the Blakiston's Fishing Owl is easy to see, but the accomodation is very uncomfortable. I think there is an inn somewhere else which is more comfortable and with better food where the owls are also certain, but I've never stayed there.

I have the impression that Hokkaido is good in the winter, and in June (my friend makes an annual trip to Wakkanai on the west coast every June), but that April and May are dead months for visiting birders.
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Old Thursday 26th July 2018, 14:57   #14
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I live in Japan, and have been to Hokkaido four or five times, but I have still not seen Black Woodpecker even though I have been in exactly the right habitat and 'people' claimed they had seen the birds the day before.

Grey-headed Woodpecker might be extinct in Japan.
Black Woodpecker are not so difficult; I've seen them in many locations.

I saw a Grey-headed Woodpecker last week. They are quite common in Hokkaido.


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Hi Stu.

The boardwalk at Shunkunitai (Furen) had fallen down after a typhoon when we went there three years ago, and there appeared to be no plan to replace it. As this was our main objective, it made Furen pointless. If you have information that the boardwalk has been fixed that would be interesting.

(There are a few resident cranes in the area.)

The pelagic cruise from Ochiishi near Furen was cancelled at the last minute when we were there.

And the three times we've been to Notstuke have produced a couple of species each time, but no great mass of stuff.

At Rausu, the Blakiston's Fishing Owl is easy to see, but the accomodation is very uncomfortable. I think there is an inn somewhere else which is more comfortable and with better food where the owls are also certain, but I've never stayed there.

I have the impression that Hokkaido is good in the winter, and in June (my friend makes an annual trip to Wakkanai on the west coast every June), but that April and May are dead months for visiting birders.
Hi MacNara. I haven't been to Fuen-ko for a while so I don't know about the boardwalk. It is however a good base for the general area. I've seen Black Woodpecker near there in May.

Pelagic cruises are always a bit of a gamble. I think July is supposed to be the best month for that particular one.

I haven't been to Notsuke for a while either but I always got good birds there.

Washi-no-yado (the Owl place) is pretty basic but bearable (at least to someone with my low standards!).

Hokkaido in April and May is fantastic: May is definitely my favourite month of the year. However the eagles have gone and some summer migrants haven't arrived in force yet.
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Old Friday 27th July 2018, 00:08   #15
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Black Woodpecker are not so difficult; I've seen them in many locations.

I saw a Grey-headed Woodpecker last week. They are quite common in Hokkaido.
Hi Stuart. I guess I'm just grumpy with the heat.

I haven't had much luck with woodpeckers in Hokkaido is all. On four visits, we have failed with Black Woodpecker. One time, we went to a place you mention on your blog, and it looked like a likely location. But after a couple of hours, we had nothing, and then some guy came up and showed us a load of pictures on his iPad he had taken the day before of a pair on the exact tree we were looking at.

I must have been mistaken about the Grey, but I had the impression that a lot of habitat where they could once be easlily found was not in such good condition. There is a spot which Brazil mentions in his 'Birdwatcher's Guide to Japan' where he says you can get all the Hokkaido woodpeckers, but a trip report I saw said that this spot has gone.

As for the pelagic cruise from Ochiishi, I heard they very often don't run in July because of fog, and at other times if they decide they need the boats for fishing.

Looking again at Brazil's location guide, for eastern Hokkaido (Furen, Kiritapppu, Ochiishi, Kawayu), he gives best birding months as Jan-March, and June, although Notsuke and Shiretoko get Jan-March, June-Sept/Oct. But April-May are left out for all of eastern Hokkaido, as far as I can see.

Your area of southwest Hokkaido does indeed get a better press from Brazil in those months. Nopporo Shinrin Park (April-July), Shikotsu-ko (May-June) and Utonaiko (right next to Sapporo Chitose AP; March-June) are recommended. (I personally found Shikotsu to be disappointing in general; and you would have to stay there to start at 3 AM as Brazil recommends, not just for the birds but to avoid crowds.)

The friend I mentioned goes to Sarobetsu (Wakkanai) in June and Brazil recommends it for June-Aug. We really liked Shikaribetsu-ko (May-October for Brazil), but I think it's too far off the beaten track for a casual visitor with a couple of days - it takes most of a day to get there from Sapporo.

As you say, interesting winter visitors will have gone, and summer birds may not have arrived (or not in numbers), so the variety may not be there for a visiting birder. So I wonder if the OP will feel the travel time and expense for a couple of days in Hokkaido was worth it? I would think using the time for a visits to the parks or hills around Kyoto, or the lower slopes of Mount Fuji would be a better use of time - much less travel and more birding, and his wife can skip the birding and do culture instead which isn't the case in Hokkaido.

Our first visit to Hokkaido was at Golden Week (end April, first week of May) and there was still snow on the ground in many places, and bitter wind in some places. It snowed in Otaru on our last day. We definitely needed our winter gear.
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Old Friday 27th July 2018, 00:32   #16
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I think there are a few other things in Hokkaido that if you could research enough, might well be worth going there for, even without the eagles: Blakiston's Fish Owl would be the obvious headliner.
Hi Alex, I strongly apologise for my very intemperate reply. It's very hot here and it gets my brain (it's the nights never getting below 25ºC as much as the days getting up to 37ºC).

Anyway, as Stuart's post says, I was wrong in some respects. But it's still the case that you can't just pop in to Hokkaido for a day and tick off these birds. I've tried. Of course, you might get lucky. I think your reply ignored the time and distance constraints that the OP mentioned.

As the OP says, they would go to Hokkaido by Bullet Train. This is four hours to Hakodate, but then another three hours to Sapporo (and the same on the way back). But the Fish Eagle is at Rausu, which is a full day's drive across the island. The auks may be seasonal - I don't know, but you'd have to do a pelagic trip, again on the east of the island, and this could easily be cancelled after you have made the effort to get there. If you can get to the east of the island, Rausu - Notsuke -Furen - Nosappu is a day's driving, without even getting out to look at the birds, and for the forest birds you need to get out your hiking boots, have a recommended spot, get walking and hope to be lucky.

Anyway, apologies again for the grumpiness, but I still don't think that Hokkaido, especially at that season will likely be a good use of the OP's limited time in Japan.

However, Stuart lives near Hakodate, and he says it's good at that season. Hakodate is only four hours from Tokyo by Bullet train, and it's fairly far south on Hokkaido, so I guess spring and summer things start earlier, so maybe Stuart could suggest a plan for the OP to get to Hakodate and spend a night or two there, with locations easily drivable from Hakodate where the OP might find some interesting birds?
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Old Friday 27th July 2018, 00:41   #17
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Hokkaido in April and May is fantastic: May is definitely my favourite month of the year. However the eagles have gone and some summer migrants haven't arrived in force yet.
Hi Stuart. Looking back, I've noticed that the OP would be going to Hokkaido by Shinkansen, which is only four hours to Hakodate. Since that's your patch, maybe you could suggest an itinerary for the OP and his wife to spend a night or two in Hakodate, and drive around to locations where they might find some interesting birds.

If they carry on to Sapporo, that's another three hours, thus making it effectively a day each way. And the east coast locations are out of the question.

But if they limit themselves to the Hakodate area, leave Tokyo early and go back late, then they could get most of two (or three) days in Hakodate and drive around to some likely spots. And they will get to see a lot of lovely Japanese scenery on the way also, I imagine.
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Old Monday 30th July 2018, 08:29   #18
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Hi Alex, I strongly apologise for my very intemperate reply. It's very hot here and it gets my brain (it's the nights never getting below 25ºC as much as the days getting up to 37ºC).

Anyway, as Stuart's post says, I was wrong in some respects. But it's still the case that you can't just pop in to Hokkaido for a day and tick off these birds. I've tried. Of course, you might get lucky. I think your reply ignored the time and distance constraints that the OP mentioned.

As the OP says, they would go to Hokkaido by Bullet Train. This is four hours to Hakodate, but then another three hours to Sapporo (and the same on the way back). But the Fish Eagle is at Rausu, which is a full day's drive across the island. The auks may be seasonal - I don't know, but you'd have to do a pelagic trip, again on the east of the island, and this could easily be cancelled after you have made the effort to get there. If you can get to the east of the island, Rausu - Notsuke -Furen - Nosappu is a day's driving, without even getting out to look at the birds, and for the forest birds you need to get out your hiking boots, have a recommended spot, get walking and hope to be lucky.

Anyway, apologies again for the grumpiness, but I still don't think that Hokkaido, especially at that season will likely be a good use of the OP's limited time in Japan.

However, Stuart lives near Hakodate, and he says it's good at that season. Hakodate is only four hours from Tokyo by Bullet train, and it's fairly far south on Hokkaido, so I guess spring and summer things start earlier, so maybe Stuart could suggest a plan for the OP to get to Hakodate and spend a night or two there, with locations easily drivable from Hakodate where the OP might find some interesting birds?
That's no problem at all, no offense taken - I'm not a hot weather person myself either.

I perhaps should have further emphasised the "research enough" bit. Without having some very solid leads on the species you want I'd tend to agree, but it also depends on the OPs preferences - for me for instance the owl and auks are a big draw, but if someone prefered different groups or a larger variety then there are for sure other options.
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Old Monday 30th July 2018, 12:27   #19
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Hi Tony,

for what it is worth:
https://japan.observation.org/user/lifelist/40215

I spent something like 72 hours birding in Hokkaido between 13-15 of June 2014. It was a mad dash, starting in Kushiro after flight London-Tokyo-Kushiro.

We arrived in Kushiro in the rain in the evening of June 12.
We picked up a car from Toyota-rent-a-car (or was it Nissan?) around 9AM the next day (only available there during office hours), so june 13.
We drove towards Furen and picked up Red-crowned Crane along the road (this is a bit hit-or-miss but there should be cranes around Kushiro and maybe Furen Lake.
After checking in at Furen, we birded the forest South of Furen with Japanese Robin, Eurasian (Grey-bellied) Bullfinch (ssp. griseiventris), Sakhalin's Leaf-warbler, Bluetail and almost next to the lodge Middendorff’s and Sakhalin Grasshopper Warblers. In the small park east of the lodge we saw Black-faced bunting and Japanese Pygmy-woodpecker but not much else.
We tried to do some birdwachting towards cape Nosappu but there was not much to be seen there in the afternoon.
At night we tried to see Blakiston's Fish-owl in a small forested valley a bit West of Furen Lodge, and we succeeded. While waiting we saw many Latham's snipe (they are everywhere in June, above your head displaying, just like common snipe in the breeding areas in Europe).

The next morning (June 14) we tried cape Nosappu once again, very windy but the wind was a bit too much from the North-west so no close bird. The waves were the most spectacular I have ever seen though. Best birds were many Harlequin ducks, some gulls, both cormorants, Japanese Wagtail and Rhinoceros Auklet. I would have hoped for more Auklets but it was not the best day.

We still had a long way to go (heading to Rausu were be booked the Washi-no-yado) with not much birding on the way as it was quite rainy. Still plenty of White-tailed eagles (roadside bird!). I was accompagnied by a non-birding friend (we had a congres in Sapporo starting 16th of June), so we spent some time along the road stopping here and there and took time for lunch in Rausu. We didn's see much in Rausu harbor and on the road towards the pass, but we had a fine Pine Grosbeak up on the Shiretoko pass itself after a well-needed power nap in the car. We checked in early afternoon in the Washi-no-yado. We duly saw the Fish-owls perform half an hour after dark. Needles to say, we enjoyed our self-found bird from a day earlier much more!

Next morning (June 15th). We had our last day birding and had to be in Sapporo the same evening! So we got up very early, hoping for Grey Bunting and Brown bear. On the way up the pass, we saw Long-billed Plover but not much else and I searched for the bunting without any clue. On the other side of the pass where Bear sightings are most frequently, no sign of bear but still some nice flycatchers singing (Narcissus, Blue-and-white), an obliging Grey-headed Woodpecker, Short-tailed shearwater along the coast and a lovely little fox.

We didn't have any more time left so we drove across the island (with White-cheeked Starling and Bull-headed Shrike roadside), but not before trying to see some more forest birds near Akan Lake. Maybe not the best forest or stop, but the most convenient on our route. The best bird we saw here was a Scaly Thrush.

Unfortunately, there was no time to do any more birding in or near Sapporo with the congress going, social activities and a World cup going on (and lack of sleep!).

I hope this gives you an idea of what is possible in 3 days in Hokkaido. This itinerary would be significantly more efficient you can start and finish near Kushiro...

Biggest misses were Ural Owl near Furen (no stake outs with some info this should be possible), Siberian Blue Robin, Rubythroat (both robins no lifer though), Auklets and Red-faced Cormorant around Cape Nosappu, Grey Bunting and Japanese accentor at Shiretoko pass, Long-tailed Rosefinch along the road, Varied Tit , Japanese Thrush, Oriental Scops-owl in better forested areas,... Many of those birds could probably be seen without even searching hard, if you just have that little bit more time.
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Old Tuesday 31st July 2018, 17:23   #20
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Black Woodpecker are not so difficult; I've seen them in many locations.

I saw a Grey-headed Woodpecker last week. They are quite common in Hokkaido.




Hi MacNara. I haven't been to Fuen-ko for a while so I don't know about the boardwalk. It is however a good base for the general area. I've seen Black Woodpecker near there in May.

Pelagic cruises are always a bit of a gamble. I think July is supposed to be the best month for that particular one.

I haven't been to Notsuke for a while either but I always got good birds there.

Washi-no-yado (the Owl place) is pretty basic but bearable (at least to someone with my low standards!).

Hokkaido in April and May is fantastic: May is definitely my favourite month of the year. However the eagles have gone and some summer migrants haven't arrived in force yet.
Hi Stu

Can I ask why it's your favourite month if the winter specials have left and the summer migrants not yet arrived ? :-).

The issue I have is that my wife is a non-birder but we both love scenery and wildlife in general. We are told that May is the best month to visit Japan, not too hot , not too cold, the flowers/blossoms etc. We would definitely want to spend time at Tokyo, Fuji and Kyoto so its really a question of where to spend the remaining time. It may be that Hokkaido is a long way to go, for a relatively short time, when the birds are at their minimum. I would have loved to have seen a rubythroat ! RF Bluetails are great but have seen those in UK, Finland and Hong Kong so less special.

Tony
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Old Wednesday 1st August 2018, 09:23   #21
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Hi Stu

Can I ask why it's your favourite month if the winter specials have left and the summer migrants not yet arrived ? :-).
Well a lot of stuff is passing through, everything is in summer plumage, the days are getting longer, rarities pop up etc etc. May is one of the best months in the UK too, no?

If time is tight and you want to stay in central Japan the forests at the foot of Fujui are supposed to be good (I've never been) or you could go to one of the Izu Islands by ferry from Tokyo (island endemics, good seawatching and scenic enough for the wife). Again, never been but it is a very popular trip for birders.

I've seen Rubythroats in early May in south Hokkaido (where I live). But they are only passing through..........

Don't know if you use facebook but the kantori group on there is a group for English speaking birders in Japan. You may get some good tips from those folk.
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Old Sunday 5th August 2018, 14:49   #22
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Well a lot of stuff is passing through, everything is in summer plumage, the days are getting longer, rarities pop up etc etc. May is one of the best months in the UK too, no?

If time is tight and you want to stay in central Japan the forests at the foot of Fujui are supposed to be good (I've never been) or you could go to one of the Izu Islands by ferry from Tokyo (island endemics, good seawatching and scenic enough for the wife). Again, never been but it is a very popular trip for birders.

I've seen Rubythroats in early May in south Hokkaido (where I live). But they are only passing through..........

Don't know if you use facebook but the kantori group on there is a group for English speaking birders in Japan. You may get some good tips from those folk.
Hi Stu

For 4-5 days in total on Hokkaido would it be best to base ourselves near Hakodate and do 3-4 day trips by car out from there. I accept we wouldn't see the fishing owls or probably the rubythroats but would the cranes be in range from there ? I guess these are your suggestions on this website but would they be the best in May ? http://www.japannatureguides.com/southwest-hokkaido/

Or better to spend those days somewhere south of Kyoto after our 3-4 days there ?

thanks
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Old Monday 6th August 2018, 09:51   #23
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Hi Tony.

The Cranes are a long way from Hakodate. If you want to see them (and the Owl) you need to base yourself in east Hokkaido.

SW Hokkaido has its charms though but for a visiting birder lokking for some Japanese specialties there are probably better places. If you look on my blog (which I've been doing for a long time now) you can check the archives in early May over the last 12 years or so to get an idea of what is around in SW Hokkaido at that time. If you do end up coming to Hakodate of course I can give me plenty of tips.

If I were you I'd either go to east Hokkaido (the usual well-known places) or to one of the smaller islands (like the Izu Islands, which I suggested above, or Okinawa). With the right planning you could see a lot in 4 or 5 days plus those places are interesting enough for a non birding spouse.
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Old Monday 10th September 2018, 13:02   #24
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So....the plan now is to visit
Tokyo 2 nights
Mt Fuji area 3 nights
Kyoto 4 nights
Hokkaido 4 nights (Flying Tokyo - Kushiro - Tokyo)

Biggest question now is where to stay in Hokkoido. The company we will probably use had suggested 4 nights at Akan Lake but that won't work for coastal birds and the Owls, so I'm tempted to split the stay between Akan and the coast. The Minshuku Lodge lodge looks and sounds very basic (and shared toilets which isn't great fun in the night !) but like others I'm attracted by the idea of a local guide who speaks english and can help with the owl trip. Are there any other hotels in the area which can help on the birding front or a combination of a decent hotel and a local guide ?

Other posts had mentioned a wooded local reserve very lose to the property - would that be the same "Shunkunitai boardwalk through the 'taiga forest'" mentioned above and on another thread and if so does anyone know if it has been rebuilt ?

As an alternative to Rausu, "..I think there is an inn somewhere else which is more comfortable and with better food where the owls are also certain, but I've never stayed there..." - does anyone have any idea where this is ? Yoroushi Onsen ??

thanks
Tony
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Old Tuesday 11th September 2018, 00:21   #25
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So....the plan now is to visit
Tokyo 2 nights
Mt Fuji area 3 nights
Kyoto 4 nights
Hokkaido 4 nights (Flying Tokyo - Kushiro - Tokyo)

As an alternative to Rausu, "..I think there is an inn somewhere else which is more comfortable and with better food where the owls are also certain, but I've never stayed there..." - does anyone have any idea where this is ? Yoroushi Onsen ??

thanks
Tony
Sounds like Youroshi Onsen to me...................

There are business hotels in Nemuro if you don't fancy Furen-ko but honestly Furen-ko isn't that bad to stay, it depends on your standards I guess. If you have a non birding spouse it may be a bit basic I guess.

Akan-ko (Lake Akan, not Akan village) has some nice hotels but it is too far away from the main spots. Akan Village isn't so far but the main draw there is the winter Cranes which will of course be gone when you come.
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