Box 9021, Wilmington, DE 19809, USA
Phone: Toll-free in USA 1-888-721-3555
A Focus On Nature Tour
Birds in the Winter
on 4 Islands
Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu,
(Amami is optional)
Sea-Eagles (2 species)
and Cranes (as many as 7 species),
Also with a visit to a river with hundreds
of wild Mandarin Ducks (maybe more).
And our quest for the massive, rare
Blakiston's Fish Owl.
(During all of our previous tours,
we've seen it.)
January 21 - February 2, 2016
With the optional extension to Amami:
(tour FON/JA-1a&b '16)
21 - February 6, 2016
has been doing
Japan birding & nature tours
for a more than a decade.
This to be our 40th tour in Japan!
Itinerary follows below
A List & Photo Gallery of Japan Birds, in 2 Parts:
Part 1: Pheasants to Pittas
Part 2: Minivets to Buntings
Birds during previous FONT Fall & Winter Japan Tours
Rare Birds during our Japan Tours
(with some photos)
Japan Past Tour Highlights
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 increased to over 900 birds in Hokkaido, during the 2004/05 winter, and about a thousand since then.
A flock of these cranes, or "tanchos" as they are known in Japanese, is one of the nicest wintertime spectacles, not just in Japan, but anywhere.
Thu, Jan. 21: 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).
Fri, Jan. 22: Travel from Narita to the area of Karuizawa (in the mountains of Honshu about 2 hours north of Tokyo), with some birding along the way. Our first of 2 overnights in the Karuizawa area.
Sat, Jan. 23:
A full-day of birding in the picturesque Karuizawa area, for birds such as the
endemic Copper Pheasant, Japanese Waxwing, and the Pallas' Rosefinch
(the last of these has been seen nicely during our winter tours in this region,
as have been Long-tailed Rosefinch, Japanese Accentor, Grey Bunting, and
Sometimes, during winter, in the Karuizawa area, Solitary Snipe can be found.
Another possibility is the Baikal Teal, a species that has been declining. Mandarin Ducks should be seen.
In the non-bird realm, we'll also have a good chance to see the Japanese Macaque.
Overnight again near Karuizawa.
Sun, Jan. 24:
morning of Karuizawa birding.
In the afternoon, travel to where the ferry will depart for Hokkaido, departing late at night from north of Tokyo. Sleeping accommodations at night onboard the ferry.
Mon, Jan. 25:
birding onboard the ferry from Honshu to Hokkaido, mostly off the coast of
northern Honshu. A full-day at sea as we travel north. A number of pelagic birds are
possible, including the Laysan Albatross (we've
seen as many as 500 to 1000 during previous tours, although recently, for some
reason, in the winter far less have been seen).
We've also seen been lucky to see on a couple occasions from the ferry the rare Short-tailed Albatross. More likely will be various alcids, including both murres, Ancient Murrelet, and Least Auklet. (During one ferry trip, we saw an estimated 25,000 Crested Auklets).
During one of our trips on this ferry, offshore from northern Honshu, a Gyrfalcon flew by the boat, then circled above us before heading toward the coast.
On another occasion, in that same area, a Short-eared Owl flew by the boat. So, as always, you never know what you'll see at sea.
After dark, we'll arrive at Tomakomai, in Hokkaido. Overnight there.
Tue, Jan. 26: After some morning birding in southwestern Hokkaido (in the area of a lake near Tomakomai), we'll travel east toward Kushiro, where we'll spend the night.
That will put us in position for our upcoming wonderful experience with the Japanese Cranes the next morning.
This day, as we travel from west to east, there could be a number of nice birds such as tits, including the Varied, finches including Asian Rosy and Bullfinches (both nice to see in the snow), and woodpeckers (such as the White-backed and the Black).
Young & adult Japanese Cranes photographed
during a FONT tour in Hokkaido
Wed, Jan. 27:
This day, as our birding in southeastern Hokkaido begins
- in the Kushiro
area, a time that we should always remember, as we enjoy the sights and sounds of the Red-crowned or Japanese
Cranes. Beautiful sights and sounds, as they dance and call, or even just
stand, in a flock on the snow.
(They're beautiful, it should be noted, even
Part of our experience, in the afternoon, at the crane site, is the feeding of small fish (eaten by the cranes, yes, but even more dramatic is the swooping in of either, or both, of the sea-eagles - the White-Tailed and Steller's). Our overnight to be at a hotel in nearby eastern Hokkaido coast.
Thu, Jan. 28:
From our hotel, our first morning objective will be, along the coast, the
renowned concentrations of two sea-eagles, Steller's and White-tailed.
During this day, we should have some tremendous coastal birding at various habitats including lofty cliffs and expansive dunes by the sea.
Our especially good birds could include, in addition the eagles, some alcids including the Spectacled Guillemot (endemic to the northwestern Pacific), and numerous waterfowl including Whooper Swans and some ducks quite attractive: Smews and Harlequins (the latter can be in large flocks).
We could, with luck, have a "steller time" with the likes of the Steller's Sea-Eagle, Steller's Eider, and Steller's Sea Lion.
And another tremendous bird this day should be the rare Blakiston's Fish-Owl, which is not only one of the rarest, but also one of the largest of all the owls in the world. We've seen it during all of our previous tours. And we intend to do so during this tour, as well - either this evening, or, if conditions warranted, the previous evening. (If we can, we go for the owl the first night possible, as one never knows what's ahead with the winter weather on Hokkaido.)
Our last night in Hokkaido, further inland, by a national park with volcanoes, hot springs, a large lake and wonderful forest.
A view of a volcano, forest, and large lake in Hokkaido, Japan
Fri, Jan. 29:
In the morning, firstly, a visit to the large lake normally mostly frozen, but
with a gathering of Whooper Swans where the water is open. The swans,
usually vocal and with a repertoire of motions, will be close to us, in the mist
rising from the lake.
This day, we'll travel to the airport for a flight to the Tokyo Haneda Airport. From there, we'll take a connecting flight south to the southernmost of the main Japanese islands, Kyushu.
Upon arrival there, at Kagoshima, we'll travel, about an hour west, so that the following morning, we'll be with the thousands of cranes, that come from mainland Asia to winter in that part of Japan. This to be our first overnight in southern Kyushu.
Sat & Sun, Jan.
30 & Jan. 31:
with what ordinarily has been for us, over the years, some extraordinary birding in
southern Kyushu, at various places including the
Arasaki Crane Reserve,
near Izumi, one of the most bird-rich locations in Japan during
More than 60 species have been routine for us in that area that time of year.
Among them, some of the more unusual birds can include: Chinese Penduline-Tit, Daurian Jackdaw, and the Pallas' Bunting.
However, the area is most renowned for it cranes - having one of the largest concentrations of wintering cranes in Asia - 8,000 birds, virtually all of them Hooded and White-naped Cranes.
Just about all of the world's Hooded Cranes (about 6,000 birds) winter in the area, and for the elegant White-naped Crane, it is their only wintering site in Japan (about 2,500 birds).
Other species of cranes, rare in that part of the world, are possible as well, such as the Common and the Sandhill (that the Japanese call "Kanada-zuru" - "zuru" means crane in Japanese).
Here, in the past, a few times, we've seen the very rare Siberian White Crane and we've also seen the attractive Demoiselle Crane. Virtually every winter some of the unusual cranes occur at Arasaki.
We've seen as many as 7 species of cranes in the area, as one time, in February 2005, we saw a single, rare, immature Red-crowned Crane (apparently from the population known as the "Manchurian Crane" - the first such occurrence there in 37 years).
Other notable bird species for us in southern Kyushu have included the Black-faced Spoonbill and Saunder's Gull, both rarities.
For us, once, another rarity was seen, the Oriental White Stork.
Both nights, January 30 & 31, will be in southern Kyushu.
White-naped Cranes photpgraphed
during a FONT tour in Kyushu, Japan
Mon, Feb. 1: More
day, in the forested highlands including and near the Ebino
Plateau (a volcanic
area with hot springs), in the Kirishima-yaki
One of our avian objectives will be the Copper Pheasant, a Japanese endemic not commonly seen (but we saw it well during some of our recent tours).
Our number of Mandarin Ducks for the day could reach the thousands. Many occur in a particular valley that we'll visit, where there would also be Brown Dipper and Crested Kingfisher.
In these hills, during one of our February tours, we had tremendous looks of the Mountain, or Hodgson's, Hawk-Eagle, 3 birds, in flight and perched.
There should also be a fine assortment of other woodland birds, among them the colorful male Red-flanked Bluetail, and a few species of buntings, including the attractive Yellow-throated.
During one of our previous tours in this area of southern Kyushu, we had a wonderful look, late in the day, at a Ural Owl. Our last overnight in southern Kyushu.
Tue, Feb. 2:
From the Kagoshima Airport
either departure for home, (or for those continuing on the tour to
Amami, a flight to
that more southerly, and smaller Japanese island).
Amami is a subtropical, hilly, forested island surrounded by coral reefs, with traditional culture, and a number of endemic and specialty birds. Our birding there will be begin when we arrive on the island mid-day. Our first of 3 nights on Amami.
Thu, Feb. 3 & 4:
Two full-days of
birding on Amami (with birding after dark as well for owls
& a woodcock).
On the island, among the endemic and rare birds to be found: the beautiful Lidth's Jay, the rare Amami Thrush, the dapper Ryukyu Robin, and the "Owston's" or Amami Woodpecker.
Among the owls: the Ryukyu Scops-Owl.
The woodcock, a declining species that's nearly endemic to the island, the Amami Woodcock.
As an island, Amami, with a strategic location, can have some interesting birds in addition to the endemic residents.
For example, once in January, Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Silky Starlings (from China) were present. During another one of our January tours: Bluethroat and Red-throated Pipits were just outside the door at the airport.
And yet during another January FONT tour on Amami, Greater Sand Plover and Saunder's Gull were seen.
So there is the potential for the unexpected.
Twice Focus On Nature Tours made the newspapers in Amami (for bringing bird-watchers from throughout the world.)
In January '98, for example, our tour participants were from England, Holland, Australia, and the USA.
We look forward again to visiting Amami in 2016. Our nights there at a hotel in Naze.
Two of the bird specialties of Amami Island,
the Lidth's Jay & Amami Woodcock.
Feb 5: After some final morning birding, a flight from Amami to
Kagoshima, Kyushu, where we'll connect to a flight to Tokyo. From there, a
transfer to Narita, where we'll spend our last night in Japan.
Sat, Feb 6: Departure for home from Japan.
US$ 4,795 - per person (from Narita-Tokyo airport), based upon double-occupancy (including Amami Island).
US$ 3,895 - per person (from Narita-Tokyo airport), based upon double-occupancy (not including Amami Island).
Single-supplement: $395 including Amami, $335 not including Amami.
(Single occupancy may not be available for the one night onboard the ferry from Honshu to Hokkaido.)
Prices beyond 2015, subject
to change. Price in effect at time of registration, guaranteed.
All overnight accommodations. (Most to be in "western-style" hotels.)
Meals (except those on Jan. 21 & Feb 2 or 6).
(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 and within
Please contact us regarding the best fares possible.
Participants can opt to do their own flights to/from Japan
(maybe with "frequent flyer miles").
But, FONT will handle Japanese domestic flights during the tour.
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.
Our Japan tours usually fill-up early, so you may wish to consider registering as soon as possible.