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A Focus On Nature Tour
in the Fall
on the Islands of
Honshu & Hokkaido
and Red-crowned (or Japanese) Cranes,
And our quest for the massive, rare
Blakiston's Fish Owl.
(During all of our previous tours
in Hokkaido, we've found it.)
(tour: FON/JA-3' 15)
October 20 - November 4, 2015
FONT has been doing Japan birding tours for two decades.
This to be our 39th birding & nature tour in Japan!
A List & Photo Gallery of Japan Birds, in 2 Parts
Birds of: Hokkaido Honshu
Rare Birds during FONT Japan Tours
Some Highlights of Our Past Tours in Japan
A magnificent sight to
be enjoyed during this tour are dancing Red-crowned, or Japanese Cranes in the
snow. Only in Japan in Hokkaido, and there only locally.
At one time, back in 1924, there was just a very small population of this species - less than 20. From that brink of extinction, the number has increased to over 1200 birds in Hokkaido, during recent years.
Seeing these cranes, or "tanchos" as they are known in Japanese, is one of the most wonderful of birding experiences, not just in Japan, but anywhere.
Tue Oct 20: Arrival at Narita-Tokyo Int'l. Airport (about 2 hours north of Tokyo). Transfer to overnight in the area of Narita (at a western-style hotel).
21: Travel from Narita to the area of
Karuizawa (in the mountains of Honshu
about 2 hours north of Tokyo), with a shorebirding stop along the way. The first
of 2 overnights in the Karuizawa area.
Thu Oct 22: A full-day of birding in the picturesque Karuizawa area, for birds such as the Copper Pheasant and the Green Pheasant, both endemic to Japan, the Japanese Green Woodpecker, also endemic, the Azure-winged Magpie, Japanese Grosbeak, and possibly the Japanese Waxwing and Solitary Snipe, along with, for sure, an assortment of buntings and finches, and among waterfowl both Smew and Mandarin Duck.
Another duck that is possible is the Baikal Teal, a species that has been declining.
In the non-bird realm, we should also see the Japanese Macaque, also known as the "Snow Monkey".
Fri Oct 23: More birding, most of this day, in Honshu, in the mountains, and in open country and a river valley for a continued assortment of birds.
In the evening we'll board an overnight ferry (a large vessel) to go from Honshu to Hokkaido.
Laysan Albatross in flight
(photo courtesy of Cameron Rutt)
24: Pelagic birding onboard the ferry, for albatrosses,
shearwaters, alcids, and other oceanic birds. It will be a full-day
at sea as we travel north. During this trip in the past, we've seen a number of
pelagic birds, with sometimes hundreds of Laysan Albatross.
We've also been lucky to see on a couple occasions, from the ferry, the rare Short-tailed Albatross.
Sometimes in the fall and winter we've seen numerous and various alcids including both murres, Ancient Murrelet, Long-billed Murrelet, and the small Least Auklet.
During one ferry trip, we saw an estimated 25,000 Crested Auklets.
During one of our offshore trips on this ferry, a Gyrfalcon flew by the boat, and circled above us before heading toward the coast. Another time, a Short-eared Owl flew by us as we were offshore.
In the evening, we'll arrive at Tomakomai, in Hokkaido. Overnight there.
25: Our first Hokkaido birding will be in the area of the Shikotsu-Toya
National Park, with a visit to the nearby nature center by the Lake
Utonai-ko. Overnight at a hotel in the Shikotsu National Park.
In this area, during our previous tours, birds have included: Siberian Nuthatch (a new species, split from the Eurasian Nuthatch), the "Brandt's Jay" (a distinctive, vividly-colored form of the Eurasian Jay - it may be split), as well as both White-backed and Black Woodpeckers, Gray-headed Woodpecker, Varied Tit, Japanese Accentor, Eurasian Bullfinch (2 forms) and various other finches and buntings. Also in this area, we've seen, during past tours, the recently-split Oriental Magpie, that has recently established itself in the area.
26: This day we'll travel east, with some birding in central Hokkaido
in the Daisetsuzan
National Park. With high mountains, the area is called the "roof of
Hokkaido". (When we've been here before we've gone up in as cable car,
and had some good birding in the mountain forest.) Overnight at Daisetsuzan.
The Pine Grosbeak is one of the birds
in the highlands of Hokkaido.
Tue Oct 27: Travel north to the areas of Sarobetsu & Kucharo-ko, near the northern tip of Hokkaido. This is one of the best regions in the fall for migrants, with a variety of habitats. During 2 days, we'll have ample time for finding many birds & enjoying the area. Among the many birds should be our first sea-eagles, and other raptors. Overnight in Toyotomi.
Wed Oct 28: Some morning birding in the areas of Sarobetshu & Kucharo-ko. We'll go further north to Wakkanai. From there, we'll take a ferry-ride to the offshore Island of Rishiri. That island can be with good birds (notably migrants), and the boat-rides can be good for seabirds, especially alcids, such as the Spectacled Guillemot. Overnight in Wakkanai.
29: Travel south along the northeast coast of Hokkaido, to Abashiri,
with birding along the way.
The coastal birding should be excellent with White-tailed Eagles, other raptors, and various species of gulls, waterbirds, and landbirds.
The waterbirds would include an assortment of ducks, maybe some geese, certainly swans, and also loons (or divers), grebes, and probably more alcids. Overnight in Abashiri.
30: This morning we'll visit the wild Shiretoko
Peninsula (where there's a national park with the same name),
and the small fishing town of Rausu where birding can be quite good.
In the afternoon, we'll head to the Akan National Park.
Overnight will be in the town of Kawayu in the national park. (In the town, there are shops with some wonderful wood-carvings of birds, such as the Blakiston's Fish Owl by the Ainu people).
Near Kawayu in the past, at the end of the day, we've found both the Ural Owl and the Japanese Scops Owl.
A volcano, forest, & large lake in the Akan National Park
31: In the pm this day, after seeing yet more "new
birds" for us, we see one that should be on the highlights of the
tour, the Red-crowned, or Japanese, Crane.
Overnight again in Kawayu, a town also known for its hot springs & baths.
1: There may be more cranes, this day, and other birds
too, such as the Hazel Grouse, in southeastern Hokkaido, but our main
objective of the day will be as it is getting dark when we should see the real Blakiston's
Fish Owl (not just a wood carving). It is one of the biggest
and rarest owls in the world. We have seen it in this area during every tour
we've done in the past.
If we don't see it this day (for some unforeseen reason, weather or whatever), we'll also allocate the following evening for it. As noted, this spectacular species has been seen during over 20 FONT tours in almost that many years, but it is good to have a second evening as a back-up just in case.
Overnight in Nemuro, in far-eastern Hokkaido, near, in fact, the easternmost point in all of Japan.
Mon Nov 2: There will be some fine birding this day in the area of Nemuro, as we do nearly our final birding of the tour on a picturesque peninsula, with a coastline that can be filled with birds. Among them, there may be some rarities for Japan, including the Steller's Eider, Rock Sandpiper, Red-faced Cormorant, and Yellow-billed Loon, but there certainly will be birds to be enjoyed, and almost always for us there has been something unexpected.
Landbirds in the area can include the Asian Rosy Finch, other finches and buntings, including sometimes Snow Buntings and Lapland Buntings (also called, of course, Lapland Longspurs).
After our second go-at-it for the Blakiston's Fish Owl, if needed, we'll go a couple hours west to Kushiro, where we'll spend the night.
3: From Kushiro, this day,
we go further west in Hokkaido, with birding along the way, to the airport for
our flight to Tokyo. We'll spend this, our last night in Japan, back in the area
of the international airport at Narita.
Wed Nov 4: Those, whose international flights for home depart in the afternoon, would go this morning to a fishing port, where birds can abound. In the past there, we've seen as many as 9 species of gulls, shearwaters from shore, and once a rare Black-faced Spoonbill.
We'll certainly see something of note there this morning, before our departure from Japan, from the Narita International Airport.
US$ 3,795 - per person (from Narita-Tokyo airport), based upon double-occupancy
(Single occupancy may not be available for the one night onboard the ferry from Honshu to Hokkaido.)
All overnight accommodations. (Most to be in "western-style" hotels.)
Meals (except those on Oct. 20 & after breakfast on Nov. 4).
(Most meals can be "western" or "Japanese" as participants desire.)
All ground transportation in Japan.
Services of FONT birding leader and local guides.
Does not include:
Drinks and other items of a personal nature.
Air transportation (to/from & within Japan).
"Focus on Nature
Tours" can arrange economical fares for the flights to/from Japan.
Please contact us regarding the best fares possible.
The leader for this tour will be Armas Hill, who has birded in Japan
numerous times since 1984.
A deposit of US $500 is required to register for this tour.