Birding Hokkaido- Abashiri, Yoroushi, Cape Notsuke

Memanbetsu birding around Lake Abashiri, Cape Notoro and Saroma

A 20min bus ride from Memanbetsu airport took us to the lakeside hotel, Abashirikoso. Located just next to the frozen lake, we had our first views of Steller’s Sea Eagles, White-tailed Sea Eagles and a hungry fox! There is a trail across the hotel where we saw the Varied Tits, Marsh Tits, Black-eared Kites, Eurasian Nuthatch and the rare Mountain Hawk Eagle! The hotel is also famous for Onsen and they serve very nice dinner there! 🙂

dinner at lake abashiri hotel- yummy!

dinner at lake abashiri hotel- yummy!

Our two day stay at Memanbetsu yielded more foxes and quality birds including Smew, Grey-headed woodpecker, Goldeneye, Whooper Swans, Tundra Swans, Falcated ducks, Spot-billed ducks, Red-crowned Cranes, Long-tailed Rosefinches, Treecreeper, etc! Cape Notoro provided very good sea birding opportunities and the view was breathtaking, a place not to be missed!

white tailed sea eagle

white tailed sea eagle

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Birding at Lake Tofutsu, Lake Kusharo and Yoroushi Hotel Daiichi

We headed South towards Yoroushi Hotel Daiichi, an Onsen hotel that provides very good birding! We stopped at Lake Tofutsu and Lake Kusharo where we further saw birds including Ural Owl, Winter Wren, Eurasian Bullfinches, and Sea Eagles!

Ural owl at Lake Kusharo.

Ural owl at Lake Kusharo.

By 5pm, we were at Yoroushi hotel and immediately greeted by Japanese Sable! With a running creek outside and warm water pipes surrounding the hot-spring hotel, it provided a comfortable home for these cute mammals in winter! Looking thru the window in the lobby, we also saw lots of Eurasian Jays, Marsh tits, etc.

Hokkaido Sable at Yoroushi Hotel

Dinner starts at 6pm as we’re told the Blakiston fish owl usually appears around 6:45pm! Sure enough, the majestic owl appeared and we dropped our chopsticks and headed to the lobby where we already set up our gears! A couple currently lives along the creek and they came a few times to make sure we had great views of them! I find this style of birding very stressful- I couldn’t concentrate on my dinner and ended up having stomach cramps! :-/

According to Matsuo San, owner of Lode Furen, there are only 130 Blakiston’s fish owls in Hokkaido and their locations are being kept secret and are in the process of tagging as part of conservation strategy. Best views for this rare owl lies in Rausu and Yoroushi.

blakiston fish owl in Yoroushi hotel

lobby in Yoroushi hotel

lobby in Yoroushi hotel

Birding at Notsuke Peninsula and around Lodge Furen

At Notsuke Peninsula, we saw more Steller’s Sea Eagles waiting to head North, White-tailed sea-eagles, Black Scoters, White-winged Scoters, Harlequin duck, Pacific Cormorants, Asian Rosefinches, more foxes and also deers!

deers at Cape Notsuke

deers at Cape Notsuke

male black scoters after one female

male black scoters after one female

seller's sea eagle in flight

seller’s sea eagle in flight

harlequin duck at cape Notsuke

harlequin duck at cape Notsuke

Habomai cruise and more birding around Lodge Furen

It was a windy day and the waters was rough! While hanging on to our dear lives on the  boat, we were rewarded with good views of Spectacled Guillemots, Long-tailed Ducks, Rhinoceros Auklets, Black Scoters, Pigeon Guillemots, Greater Scaup, etc!

Some Long-tailed ducks in choppy waters

Some Long-tailed ducks in choppy waters

spectacled guillemot at Hobamai cruise

spectacled guillemot at Habomai cruise

rhino auklets are common here

rhino auklets are common here

A blurry pic of pigeon guillemot

A blurry pic of pigeon guillemot

wild and windy hobamai cruise

wild and windy habomai cruise

Back on land, we spent sometime looking at Glaucous-winged and Glaucous gulls!

Glaucous-winged gulls seen in most piers in Hokkaido

Glaucous-winged gulls seen in most piers in Hokkaido

glaucous gull in Hokkaido

glaucous gull in Hokkaido

Everyone wrote something for Matsuo san when we stayed at Lodge Furen.

Everyone wrote something for Matsuo san when we stayed at Lodge Furen.

It was a happy few days birding in Hokkaido! Our last bird of this section of the trip was Hazel Grouse. I lost count of how many times we saw foxes but its always exciting to see one and even more thrilled to see a pair!

The next day, we flew out from Kushiro to continue our journey to Miyakejima island!

Hazel grouse in Hokkaido

Hazel grouse in Hokkaido

Love is on the air!

Love is in the air!

fox4

Japan pelagic birding- Hokkaido- Miyakejima island Part 1/3

Late March is a good month to bird in Hokkaido- because we saw not only winter birds but also spring arrivals and cost was much lower! I also wanted to do a pelagic trip and also visit Miyakejima island, so I bundled them up and  came up with an itinerary and my friends- Low and Gim joined in. I couldn’t have asked for better company, Low is our chief spotter, Gim- our researcher, Terry, for bird I.D. and spotter; and me? I already came up with an itinerary and arranged everything- so I just chill and relax~ 😛

Itinerary

Nagoya to Tomakomai, Hokkaido (by ship) Click here for ship details!

From Tomakomai, Hokkaido, we flew to Memanbetsu, Hokkaido where we met Matsuo San (our guide and driver)

From Kushiro, Hokkaido, we flew to Tokyo and embarked night ferry to Miyakejima Island. Click here for ship booking.

*We’ve taken 2 domestic flights  and as we hold foreign passports, we could get cheap domestic tickets via ANA, and JAL 

At Nagoya Meitetsu Bus Terminal, we took the one and only bus to Nagoya Port- It leaves everyday at 5:20pm at level 4 (ticket counter at level 3). When we arrived at the Nagoya port, the big ship was awaiting for us and so were choppy waters with white caps! We’re in for a rough ride!

A 3 day ride from Nagoya to Hokkaido and we bagged a lot of pelagic birds- the most fruitful period was actually from Nagoya to Sendai section- after we’ve passed Sendai, things were a lot quieter but the scenery was breathtaking!

Some birds and mammals we saw: streaked shearwaters (tons of them), Ancient murrelets, Japanese murrelets, Short-tailed albatross, Black-legged kittiwakes, Red-throated loons, Black-throated loons, Pomarine Skuas, Rhino auklets, gulls, Dall’s porpoises, Northern fur seals, etc.

black legged kittiwakes are seen in flocks in Pacific Ocean

black legged kittiwakes are seen in flocks in Pacific Ocean

Pomarine Skua flew in and I was able to take a nice photo with my short lens.

Pomarine Skua flew in and I was able to take a nice photo with my short lens.

Small flocks of Ancient Murrelets seen on pelagic birding in Japan

Small flocks of Ancient Murrelets seen on pelagic birding in Japan

Lots of loons seen on Pelagic birding, from Nagoya to Tomakomai

Lots of loons seen on Pelagic birding, from Nagoya to Tomakomai

Lot's of Dall's porpoises in the Pacific Ocean!

Lot’s of Dall’s porpoises in the Pacific Ocean!

Northern fur seals floating in the Pacific Ocean.

Northern fur seals floating in the Pacific Ocean.

An unforgettable moment-

Saw a white wagtail making it way to Hokkaido! It didn’t hopped on the ship for a free ride, but kept on flying low to avoid headwinds..but waters were choppy in the Pacific Ocean.. I hoped it got to Hokkaido safely. To witness a migration like this brings a tear in my eye every time I think of it.

Migration across Pacific Ocean is not easy

Migration across Pacific Ocean is not easy

And here’s some great views as the ship made its way to Tomakomai port!

Snow-capped mountains seen as we got closer to Hokkaido.

Snow-capped mountains seen as we got closer to Hokkaido.

Arriving Tomakomai port

Arriving Tomakomai port

Lots of jellyfish in water, not sure if edible?

Lots of jellyfish in water, not sure if edible?

We arrived on time and headed out of the ferry terminal to catch our shuttle bus at 11:30 to the New Chitose airport for our flight to Memanbetsu! Everything went flawless, thank goodness!

Bus stop outside Tomakomai port

Bus stop outside Tomakomai port

End of part 1- zzz

Jay Birding around Kansai- Wakayama 和歌山赏鸟

Finally got to end of writing my Kansai Trip report! Phew!!!!!! To make it short, I did not go to the Wakayama Port but to the Wakayama city instead! It was a very very (I cannot stress enough) cold morning with high wind speed! When I exited the train station, that strong gust of wind nearly blew me off my feet! Walking against the wind wasn’t easy for me (cough)…but I was very determined to cross the street! Why?? It was because I saw my first ever Blue Rock Thrush! For many birders, its a common bird, but it was a lifer for me!

blue rock thrush

blue rock thrush

The blue rock thrush tried to fly in a trajectory path but with strong head wind, it was “blown” away..so far away that even if I had wings…I couldn’t even chase after it! XD

Wakayama is a great place for onsen (hot springs) but I had other plans…hehe! I went to the Wakayama Castle! There were some trails that lead up to the castle itself…!

Along the trails, I saw Japanese Grosbeaks, Spot Billed ducks, Japanese wagtail, Grey wagtail, Tufted ducks, etc… but what actually caught my attention was a warbler-The Japanese Bush Warbler! 😛

Japanese bush warbler!

Japanese bush warbler!

spot billed duck

spot billed duck

I was really hoping to see a Japanese bunting in Japan…but I only saw the black faced bunting when I crossed the historical wood bridge at the Wakayama Castle! Outside the castle, I saw also a common buzzard and a dusky thrush…!

black faced bunting

black faced bunting

common buzzard

common buzzard

dusky thrush

dusky thrush

Jay Birding around Kansai- Kyoto 京都赏鸟

I was told that there were many birding spots in Kyoto, but with my limited time, I could only make do with areas which were easily accessible! From the hotel where I stayed, I took an early morning stroll to the Imperial Palace Park, which was about 25 mins away!

map

the canal

the canal

As I walked along the canal, there were no shortage of mallards and black headed gulls and tufted ducks, who were happily taking their morning baths (brrr…!!). They were so close that I could almost touch them!!  It was a tough walk as the roads were iced and slippery…I made quite a few falls before I got the hang of it! >.< Anyway, that wasn’t the worst stunt I made that day…I saw some stepping stones that could get me across the canal, and without further looking, I headed for it…making huge strides for each stone. I managed to catch the attention of some locals, who watched my spectacular moves, and  pointed to me that there was a footbridge nearby…@_@” Embarrassing!!

Mallard

Mallard

black headed gull in canal

black headed gull in canal

When I arrived at the entrance of the park, I was greeted by a huge flock of Japanese Grosbeaks! I was taken by surprise by the quantity and their foraging behavior on leafy grounds! The Japanese grosbeak below obviously stayed away from its noisy friends and decided to roost on a tree! 😛

Japanese  grosbeak at Imperial palace park entrance

Japanese grosbeak at Imperial palace park entrance

In Winter, thrushes were no shortage here…!  I could easily see Scaly thrush, Pale Thrush and Dusky thrush…!

scaly thrush

scaly thrush

Apart from Imperial Palace Park, I also visited Arashimaya, where I saw more cormorants and also the Japanese Wagtail!  I was hoping to see some buntings there, but I failed to find any! It was a great walk nonetheless… 😛

Arashiyama

Arashiyama

comorants

comorants

japanese wagtail

japanese wagtail

Jay Birding around Kansai- Nara 奈良赏鸟

Waking up early on a cold cold morning was not easy at all for a birder! By 7 am, I was already waiting at the platform for the train heading towards Nara. My place of destination- The Nara Park! 😛

When I arrived at the park, I was quickly greeted by hungry deers-not one, but a huge number, all wanting a piece of the biscuit I bought! 😛 Perhaps it was a mistake to buy them biscuits as they followed me everywhere!

deers in Nara Park

deers in Nara Park

Well, no matter how cute these deers looked, I still had to look for my birds! There were more species here than in Osaka, and despite the cold weather they came out for their breakfast! As I walked towards Todaiji Temple in the park, a flock of tiny birds caught my eye. I tried to chase them down…while deers chased after me (still)! These Long Tailed Tits were fast moving, but I eventually took some photos of them..!

Long tailed tits

Long tailed tits

long tailed tit

long tailed tit

As the Long Tailed Tits roosted on a tall tree, I saw something on the tree trunk, slowly moving up. I held my breath and sneaked closer…its a Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker! I just can’t believe my luck! 😛

japanese pygmy woodpecker

japanese pygmy woodpecker

japanese pygmy woodpecker

japanese pygmy woodpecker

Some green backed tits and Varied tits soon came along to join the party! It was a lovely morning walk, and as I headed back to the main street for my tofu lunch, snowflakes came down and the view was a blanket of mist! That awesome moment felt like kisses sent down from the sky! hehe!

Varied tit

Varied tit

Nara park trees in winter

Nara park trees in winter