• BirdForum is the net's largest birding community dedicated to wild birds and birding, and is absolutely FREE!

    Register for an account to take part in lively discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.

Ice Birds and Palms, Winter in Japan. (1 Viewer)

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Dawn at Nosappa-misaki, Black Scoters and Harlequins, Black-eared Kite...
 

Attachments

  • Nosappa-misaki jap 1.jpg
    Nosappa-misaki jap 1.jpg
    103.6 KB · Views: 123
  • Black Scoter jap 2.jpg
    Black Scoter jap 2.jpg
    53.5 KB · Views: 108
  • Harlequin jap 1.jpg
    Harlequin jap 1.jpg
    49.6 KB · Views: 121
  • Black-eared Kite (perched) jap 2.jpg
    Black-eared Kite (perched) jap 2.jpg
    70.3 KB · Views: 97

chris butterworth

aka The Person Named Above
Glad you enjoyed your trip Jos. You do tend to get a bit blase about Stellers after a while ( although they never stop being stunning birds ) and the sight of Red-crowned Crane displaying in a snowy landscape is something that burns itself permanently into your memory. There's quite a few potential armchair ticks on your list so far ( dunno about Pacific Kittiwake though ).


p.s. The Fieldfare is a brilliant find. You've just got to submit a description in Japanese now. ;)
 

dandsblair

David and Sarah
Supporter
Great birds so far

We are just firming up our plans for Japan next Feb so will be paying close attention to best spots.
We were considering ferry trip to Hachijojima and back then flying to Kushiro but we might think again.
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Sika Deer in their absolute hundreds ...
 

Attachments

  • Sika Deer jap 1.jpg
    Sika Deer jap 1.jpg
    92.5 KB · Views: 99
  • Sika Deer jap 4.jpg
    Sika Deer jap 4.jpg
    71.1 KB · Views: 95

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
10 March. The Nemuro Peninsula.

Overnight rain had stopped by dawn, but in its place dark leaden skies and a humongous wind whipping in off the Pacific. With thoughts of potential seawatching, and hopes of a Red-faced Cormorant, my first destination for the day was Ochiishi-misaki, a lighthouse a few kilometres south of Ochiishi town and, critically for the weather, situated on a south-facing headland. The direct route to this point requires a walk of about a kilometre through pine forest, but with snow piled up rather deeply in the cover of the forest, I had to take the longer more circular route across the windswept headland – and with temperatures near zero and a chill blast ripping through, it was not exactly the most pleasant of ambles! Lots of Sika Deer however and fortunately the roofed shelter of the lighthouse provided a little haven to watch the sea (this, as I was to find out the next day, would not be applicable for winds with a westerly bite). Still, there I was, recovering somewhat from the battering that the elements had just thrown at me, when I did my first scan of the sea. Glorious it was, Harlequins and Black Scoters riding the considerable surf, a flock of Long-tailed Ducks battling to make headway against the wind, a lone Red-necked Grebe bobbing up and down. Of even more interest however, funnelling through the great troughs in the turbulent sea, a light but steady passage of birds moving east – Ancient Murrelets in the main, small flocks passing every now and then, perhaps 60 birds or so over a couple of hours. Also six Brunnich’s Guillemots, three Spectacled Guillemots, three Least Auklets and a minimum of 16 Pacific Divers and three Red-throated Divers, several more distant divers remaining unidentified. Punctuated by regular eye-to-eyes with passing Steller’s Sea Eagles and White-tailed Eagles, both hanging in the wind just metres away at the cliff edge, it truly made for a stunning seawatch! Also Slaty-backed Gulls and Glaucous Gulls drifting by almost continuously, a pod of nine Black-necked Grebes on the sea and no shortage of Pelagic Cormorants. Scan and squint as much as I could however, not a hint of a Red-faced Cormorant did I find!

Given the prevailing south-easterlies, I thought seawatching off Nossapa-misaki might be even better, so at about 10 a.m., I again struck out from cover and made a bolt for the car, a rather speedier return with the wind directly behind me! One Peregrine scooted by. A quick stop at Ochiishi Bay was rewarded with mass ranks of Black Scoters and 12 White-winged Scoters, plus a lot of Glaucous Gulls. Then I drove to Nossapa-misaki. Hmm, the wind was absolutely battering the headland – the seawatching hide was (probably rather wisely) locked and so I angled my car to watch the bay as well as I could. What a change from the day before, the sea ice had been pushed far to the north and in its place a maelstrom of unfriendly looking waters. My car was rocking back and fro and I wondered for a while whether it might actually tip over. A flag pole that the day before had had a Japanese flag proudly flapping away, a symbol against the Russian-occupied Kuril Islands just offshore, was now bare – torn little withers all that was left, this was a mighty wind indeed! Needless to say, I didn’t see very much and in an hour or so, I successfully managed to identify just one Ancient Murrelet, four Spectacled Guillemots and one Crested Auklet! A pair of Smew also flew past.

By early afternoon, heavy rain joined the cocktail, so I hightailed it out and embarked on the 160 km drive to Rasau, conditions worsening steadily as I progressed north, finally the rain turning to snow and beginning to accumulate. Arriving at Washinoyado, the locality famous for Blakiston’s Fish Owl, the adjacent sea was solid pack ice, snow was piled two metres deep along the roads from earlier falls and a considerable fresh carpet was adding to it! I seriously wondered (a) what chance there would be of seeing an owl in such conditions and (b) would I be able to get out again? However, the owner of the owl area had the answer – I couldn’t stay! With the forecast promising the road blocked by morning, I had to leave. No owls! Well, that was a bit of a spanner in the works, Washinoyado is the key site for Blakiston’s Fish Owl, the birds come to take strategically placed fish and are near guaranteed! Or usually so, clearly not on this day! It was now getting dark, but with no better plan I decided to drive all the way back to the Nemuro Peninsula. And what a drive it was! Some dodgy moments in the snow early on, but it wasn’t the wind and snow, later switching back to rain, that worried me so much, but the mighty waves crashing in from the sea – for long stretches the road runs parallel to the coast and howling great waves were smashing down on my car with regularity, each time reducing visibility to zero and pushing the car shudderingly to the side. Phew, I was rather relieved when I eventually got back to the Nemuro Peninsula! Finding a sheltered spot, I rolled the car seat back and called it a day, one Red Fox trotted past.
 
Last edited:

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
One more little tale from this day of the wind - stopping in a parking area atop one cliff midway between Ochiishi Bay and Nossapa-misaki, I stepped from the car without due regard to the wind. As I struggled to keep the car door on its hinges, a wicked blast hit me straight in the face, off flew my glasses, hitting the snow then accelerating off from 0 - 60 like The Stig from Top Gear! My last ever view of them was hurtling across a snow field, skipping across the road and zooming off into the distance!!! Fortunately I had another pair in my backpack, a perfectly nice pair now resides somewhere in middle Hokkaido!
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
On a rather gloomy day, lumps that adorn electricity posts ...
 

Attachments

  • Stellers Sea Eagle jap 1.jpg
    Stellers Sea Eagle jap 1.jpg
    67 KB · Views: 78
  • White-tailed Eagle jap 2.jpg
    White-tailed Eagle jap 2.jpg
    62.5 KB · Views: 66

Ian Hay

Well-known member
I've been banned from future stay. By not finding the place, he said I broke 'honour' by cancelling without giving advance notice :-C

Sounds like a great trip

Stayed at the lodge a few years ago. Very hard to find but to be fair, (if it is still the standard it was then) the owner had probably spent 3+hours working on your evening meal.

Looking forward to the next instalment.

Ian
 

jurek

Well-known member
Great read, Jos! Could you put also approximate prices - Japan is on my list of places to visit, I know it is good for independent birding but terribly expensive, and wonder how low/high I can aim. And what about independent driving.
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Great read, Jos! Could you put also approximate prices - Japan is on my list of places to visit, I know it is good for independent birding but terribly expensive, and wonder how low/high I can aim. And what about independent driving.

I'll put complete round-up of prices at the end, but (at least in my style of travelling) I would not classify it as very expensive ...even with the euro at the rubbish rates of the current day!

Driving is a simplicity, just get in the car and go :) Road signs are in English (as well as Japanese) everywhere and it really was very straightforward - for city centre stuff, I used a sat nav on my mobile phone (downloaded Japan map in Europe, then could use without connection in Japan). Both car rentals had sat nav integrated, but programming of destinations was in Japanese, so didn't even try to suss that!
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
11 March. The Nemuro Peninsula.


Blizzard over, mostly sun and high cloud throughout the day ...but exceptionally windy, a south-westerly gale battering the headlands. My plan for this day had been to wake up and have a celebratory breakfast at Washinoyado, patting myself on the back for such grippling views of the owls, then spent the day exploring Rausu Harbour and perhaps the Notsuke Peninsula. Of course however, the reality was I now far to the south with an unexpected extra day on the Nemuro Peninsula!

Arriving at Hattaushi Bridge at 5 a.m., I still managed to miss dawn, so saw a Hazel Grouse pattering alongside the stream instead of any owls. I then decided to spend the better part of the day looking for Red-faced Cormorants. The search began with a return to Ochiishi-misaki ...but gee, with a change in the wind, the previously excellent shelter was now in the full blast of the wind, the lea of the building offering slight respite but not a great deal. Rough seas, almost no notable passage. There was however a large gathering of cormorants on a cliff face just to the east, there just had to be a Red-faced Cormorant amongst them I thought! On a nice calm day, viewing this cliff would have been a simplicity, I would merely needed to have sat on the nice grassy slope and scope across to them. In this buffeting wind however I was rather concerned that I would simply get blown off! Try as I might – standing, sitting, lying flat on my stomach, I simply could not get an angle where I could both see the cliff and keep my scope still enough to scan though them! A flock of about 30 cormorants departed from the cliff an hour or so later, one possible Red-faced Cormorant seemed to be in their midst. However, with the sun angle and wind not conducive to better chances to observe, I decided to depart and return later in the day.

After a stint in Ochiishi harbour, photographing the gulls, I moved round to Nossapa-misaki for another try there. Also very little movement on the very rough sea, but again a large gathering of cormorants, this time on a rock pinnacle just north of the lighthouse. Here, and across all the sites visited today, a massive influx of Bramblings had occurred, many thousands pouring in, flocks feeding on this exposed headlands and aside roads wherever the snow had retreated a few centimetres. So, as the car rocked about, I sat and waited ...photographing Bramblings sheltering beneath tussocks, watching the cormorants come and go on the pinnacle. Two hours on, a scan across the birds gathered and there he was, a solitary Red-faced Cormorant amongst the many Pelagics! Ah success, the last of my remaining targets on Hokkaido had fallen ...bar the owl of course!

For much the rest of the day I pottered about, visiting various bays and harbours and struggling out to the lighthouse at Ochiishi again where the cliff certainly held no Red-faced Cormorants in the end. Concluding the day, I returned to the now familiar Hattaushi Bridge. Still windy, I didn't expect very much ...and surprise surprise, didn't see very much either! As darkness fell, I left the area, driving to the hinterlands of Kushiro. At dawn, wind, rain or blizzard permitting, a treat would await me.
 

temmie

Well-known member
I found it very easy to use a GPS in Japan: let the car rental company switch the thing to English, and enter the phone number of your next location. This way, it should have been very easy to find Furen lodge...
Here is the lodge (the only? brown wooden building in a row of houses, and usually the one with most cars parked in front if they have other visitors: http://goo.gl/maps/6Aw2P )
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Re...6-Reviews-Minshuku_Furen-Nemuro_Hokkaido.html
phone: 0153253919

great reading this report, by the way!
 

lewis20126

Well-known member
Sounds like a great trip

Stayed at the lodge a few years ago. Very hard to find but to be fair, (if it is still the standard it was then) the owner had probably spent 3+hours working on your evening meal.

Looking forward to the next instalment.

Ian

Loved the lodge but couldn't eat the meal on the first evening. The centrepiece was a fish soup with the eyeball bobbing centrestage in the bowl!

cheers, alan
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Loved the lodge but couldn't eat the meal on the first evening. The centrepiece was a fish soup with the eyeball bobbing centrestage in the bowl!

On that grounds, I am quite happy I didn't find the place ;)

In reality, I was not too fussed either way, waking to see four Steller's Eagles on the ice flows crunching up against Nossap-misaki from the comfort of my sleeping bag was really quite a magical moment, all to a stunning backdrop of Harlequins galore :t:
 
Last edited:

etudiant

Registered User
Supporter
Loved the lodge but couldn't eat the meal on the first evening. The centrepiece was a fish soup with the eyeball bobbing centrestage in the bowl!

cheers, alan

If memory serves, the tell tale for fresh fish at a fishmonger was that their eyes were not sunken. So the lodge was flaunting its quality.
This wonderful report really kicks up Japan's priority in my birding itinerary.
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
12 March. Setsurigawa River, Tsuri-itoh Sanctuary & Akin.

Picture perfect at dawn, not a cloud in the sky, not a breath of wind. A little after 5 a.m. at Setsurigawa Bridge, the skies a delicious orange, the cool waters of the river flowing beneath ... in front of me, in a land still bedecked in snow, a quite wonderful sight – decorating islands mid-channel, little groups of Red-crowned Cranes wakening up. Preening, engaging in a little display, plodding out into the shallows to silhouette against the gathering light of day, this is one of the iconic setting of northern Japan. Alongside, several photographers were happily clicking away, directly up the channel and over the bridge, one smart Crested Kingfisher came, calling loudly as it went. After a couple of days of storms and wind, this was really a nice way to conclude my Hokkaido experience.

As the cranes roused and began to depart, so too did I, driving the few kilometres to Tsuri-itoh Sanctuary to await the morning feeding of the cranes. Toured the village while waiting, garden feeders attracting Brown-eared Bulbuls, plenty of Marsh Tits and a few Great Spotted Woodpeckers, then I settle down for the second crane treat of the morning. Flying in from several sides, a treat against the stunning blue skies, Red-crowned Cranes dropped down on the open meadow, masses of dance bouts breaking out, a little concern amongst them when a Red Fox came trotting through. At 9 a.m., a guy arrived pushing a sledge, across the field he zigzagged, dumping grain as he went – breakfast time for the cranes! Only 18 cranes here, but most picturesque it was. Also saw a very nice male Daurian Redstart nearby.

I did not have a massive amount of time at my disposal today – at 1.30 p.m., I was due to fly out. However, looking at the weather, it seemed a real shame not to squeeze in another visit to the Akin Crane Centre, the possibilities for photography excellent at this sight. So off I went, my last couple of hours on Hokkaido were spent gazing into the eyes of Red-crowned Cranes at Akin, superb birds on sparkling snow. Magic.

And with that, I zipped off to Kushiro Airport, dumped my rental car and smiled at the massive sculpture of Blakiston's Fish Owls that greet you at departures ...quite obviously the Japanese authorities are sympathetic to wannabe owl-spotters and unsuccessful twitchers! From Kushiro, it was a two-hour flight to Tokyo, then another two hours to Kagoshima, a city at the southern end of Kyushu island. Arrived at 18.40, picked up another hire car and set off into the night.
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Sparklers...
 

Attachments

  • Red-crowned Crane jap 2.jpg
    Red-crowned Crane jap 2.jpg
    51.8 KB · Views: 36
  • Red-crowned Crane jap 4.jpg
    Red-crowned Crane jap 4.jpg
    77.2 KB · Views: 46
  • Red-crowned Crane jap 7.jpg
    Red-crowned Crane jap 7.jpg
    55.8 KB · Views: 37
  • Red-crowned Crane jap 11.jpg
    Red-crowned Crane jap 11.jpg
    65.7 KB · Views: 45

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Sparklers in action...
 

Attachments

  • Red-crowned Crane jap 9.jpg
    Red-crowned Crane jap 9.jpg
    49.6 KB · Views: 44
  • Dancing Crane jap 2.jpg
    Dancing Crane jap 2.jpg
    82.4 KB · Views: 64
  • Dancing Crane jap 3.jpg
    Dancing Crane jap 3.jpg
    71.6 KB · Views: 48

Users who are viewing this thread

Top