Guided by Charley Hesse. This was a set departure tour.
With the ever growing popularity of this classic tour, this year we laid on an extra departure to keep our group sizes small. In fact, we tend have smaller group sizes than most other companies, which is a decided advantage. January was a good deal milder than most February tours, and driving conditions better. We hit all the main targets with headliners like the Snow Monkeys of the Japanese Alps, displaying Red-crowned Cranes on the snow (pictured), dozens of White-tailed & Steller’s Sea-Eagles at feeding time on the frozen Lake Furen, and the behemoth Blakiston’s Fish-Owl coming in to feed on fish at a floodlit pond. Other lesser known but equally impressive spectacles included thousands of cranes of 4 species descending at dawn on a feeding site at Izumi, and hundreds of ducks, geese and swans in the Western Honshu wetlands with the stunning backdrop of the Japanese Alps behind. Other tour highlights included a close encounter with Japanese Murrelets on a boat ride off coastal Miyazaki, exploring the snow-dusted slopes of Asamayama Volcano at Karuizawa, descending into the forested volcanic crater lake of Miike on the southern island of Kyushu and finally a tremendously successful extension exploring the volcanic island of Miyakejima with its endemic species, then a killer pelagic ferry ride back to Tokyo through the famous Oshima Triangle with dozens of albatrosses including the rare Short-tailed Albatross. However, this is way more than just a birding tour, and we were immersed into Japanaese culture with some nights spent in traditional Japanese lodges, a huge array of beautifully prepared traditional food and dips in hot springs; the perfect way to finish a day of winter birding in Japan. Read more by clicking the link to the full trip report below.