Trip report: Japan in Winter Tour II: Birding on Ice (Jan-Feb 2019) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Charley Hesse. This was a set departure tour.

Our second Japan in Winter tour this year was just as spectacular as the first. One difference was that it was distinctly colder and snowier. This tour is particularly subject to changes caused by inclement weather, and unfortunately we had to cancel our trip to see the Snow Monkeys due to blizzard conditions. On the flip side, we had even better luck with rarities and picked up some unexpected species like Pallas’s Rosefich, Swan Goose & White-shouldered Starling. We saw all the big draw card birds from Hokkaido including breath-taking views of dozens of Steller’s Sea-Eagles at eye level, 2 separate feeding sites each with over 100 Japanese cranes on the snow, and of course our bird of the trip, Blakiston’s Fish-Owl that we saw spectacularly well at its floodlit feeding pond. Other birding highlights are almost too many to mention, but the thousands of cranes flying in at dawn to Arasaki, a stunning Ural Owl on a day roost on Hokkaido, our boat ride to see Japanese Murrelets, and of course the amazing extension to Miyakejima and the incredible sea-watching on the way back were especially memorable. We had particularly good mammals on this trip, with Japanese Hare, Steller’s Sea Lion and of course the amazing Racoon Dog. The scenery, culture, hot springs and food were of course all amazing and help make this, ‘hands down’ my favourite trip in the world.

FULL Japan TWO 2019 Report (2 MB file)