The unsound approach



(ED: Dan and Hannah are professional holidaymakers, having been on holiday for about three years now, in this time there have seen most of the world’s birds and succeeded in procuring some amazing images. Following in the footsteps of the Mahood they are recently returned from Japan…..) 

9th January  - arrive late pm Tokyo

10th January - two cancelled flights due to snow, eventually connected with flight to Sapporo, Hokkaido. Landed 1700, hired car and drove to Obihiro

11th January - Drive to Akan Crane Sanctuary, most of day around this area, night at Ryokan Fujio

12th January - Rausu and associated harbours, night at Ryokan Fujio

13th January - Shibetsu, Notsuke, Odaito and Nakashibetsu, night at Minshuku Furen

14th January - Cape Nossapu and harbours inc Hanasaki and Ochiishi, night Minshuku Furen

15th January - Flight to Tokyo, pm Tokyo

16th January - Morning Meiji Jingu Shrine, pm Imperial Palace Moat, Tokyo

17th January - Flight to UK




Nearly all the sites featured below are covered in Brazil’s A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Japan 1987



Akan Crane Sanctuary

A superb site complete with visitors centre and mini café. Up to 200Red-crowned Cranes gather on the snowy field outside the centre and are fed live fish at 0900 and 1400. The feeding predominantly attracts a plethora of White-tailed Eagles and the odd Stellar’s Sea Eagle, all in all an awesome sight.

Species: Whooper & Bewick’s Swan, Stellars Sea Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Black-eared Kite, Japanese Buzzard, Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, Goshawk, Red-crowned Crane (177), Tree Sparrow




Ryokan Fujio

A beautiful hotel situated close to the Youroshi Hot springs in the foothills of the Akan Mountains. A great site to catch up with Blakiston’s Fish Owl whilst enjoying a feast of Japanese delicacies.

Species: Blakiston’s Fish & Ural Owls, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Dusky Thrush, Willow, Marsh, Coal & Japanese Tits, Asiatic Nuthatch, Hawfinch, Jay,


Shibetsu Harbour

One of the best sites for gulls that I found. The river mouth just to the north of the port is good for small gulls, bathing large gulls and duck. The waste ground on the seaward side of the harbour held 200 Rosy Finches. At least 300 Glaucous Gulls were loafing on the beach and offshore.

Species: Stejneger’s and Black Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Harlequin, Stellars Sea Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Black-eared Kite, Glaucous, Glaucous-winged, Slaty-backed, Vega, Kamchatka, and Black-headed Gulls, Rosy Finch

Hannah always wanted to try falconry....



The main harbour is good for gulls and seaduck. Check the river just to the south of the harbour for duck, swans, and bathing gulls. The road continues north along the coast. This entire area is good for seaduck, grebes and divers. The large bay 4km to the north of Rausu held a White-billed Diver as well as a mixed flock of Pacific and Black-throateds.

Species: White-billed, Pacific, & Black-throated Divers, Slavonian Grebe,  Whooper Swan, Harlequin, Black Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Goldeneye, Smew, Stellars Sea Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Black-eared Kite, Glaucous, Glaucous-winged, Slaty-backed, Vega, Kamchatka, and Black-headed Gulls Brunnich’s & Common Guillemots, Ancient Murrelet. Also Kuril & Harbour Seal, Stellars Sealion.


Notsuke Peninsula

Its possible to bird anywhere along the spit and is worth checking all flocks of gulls, finches and wildfowl. A few Dusky Thrushes were foraging along the shoreline and apparently the Wildlife Centre at the tip held Rosy Finches at the feeders although we had had excellent views of Rosy Finches at a number of sites. Just beyond the wildlife centre local fishermen launch and retrieve boats off the beach. This site is phenomenal for eagles and gulls as most of the discards are deposited on the beach. As a result there were over 160 Stellars Eagles in this area giving fantastic views. Offshore there’s plenty of time for scanning the large flocks of seaduck.

Species: Whooper Swan, Stejnegers & Black Scoter, Greater Scaup, Long-tailed Duck, Harlequin, Stellars Sea Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Black-eared Kite, Goshawk, Glaucous, Glaucous-winged, Slaty-backed, Vega, Kamchatka, and Black-headed Gulls, Dusky Thrush, Rosy Finch



A major town just inland of Shibetsu. The high street is lined with Rowan trees and great for berry loving birds. An adult White-tailed Eagle along the high street was also pretty good.

Species: White-tailed Eagle, Brown-eared Bulbul, Waxwing (7), Dusky Thrush, Pine Grosbeak (15-20).



A well known feeding site for wildfowl. By the time we arrived it was getting late and most birds had departed. Those that remained were suitably obliging. The day after a male Pine Bunting was present in the trees behind the feeding station.

Species: Red-throated Diver, Red-necked Grebe, Whooper Swan, Pintail, Tufted Duck, Greater Scaup, Goldeneye, Stellars and White-tailed Eagles, Ancient Murrelet, Buff-bellied Pipit, Snow Bunting


Cape Nosappu

A low-lying peninsula with superb seawatching opportunities and many harbours. We worked the western harbours from just east of Nemuro City moving in a clock-wise direction (due to light) finishing at Hanasaki and Ochiishi harbour.

Species: Pacific & Red-throated Divers, Red-necked & Slavonian Grebes, Pintail, Falcated Duck, Teal, Wigeon, Greater Scaup, Tufted Duck, Bufflehead, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganer, Goosander, Harlequin, Black & Stejnegers Scoters, Stellars Sea Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Black-eared Kite, Japanese Buzzard, Peregrine, Kestrel, Glaucous, Glaucous-winged, Slaty-backed, Vega, Kamchatka, and Black-headed Gulls, Spectacled, Brunnich’s & Common Guillemots, Ancient Murrelet, Rosy Finch.



Meiji Jingu Shrine

Superb mature woodland surrounding a stunning shrine as well as cultivated gardens and a couple of ponds. The gardens and southern ponds cost to enter so we birded the free bits. Try the northern pond for Mandarin and the western tracks are the least disturbed.

Species: Mandarin, Japanese Buzzard, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, Pale Thrush, Brown-headed Thrush, Japanese Bush Warbler,  Red-flanked Bluetail, Varied Tit, Great Tit, Eurasian Treecreeper, Japanese White-eye,  Hawfinch, Brambling, Black-faced Bunting, Grey Bunting.


Imperial Palace Moat

Like Meiju Jingu Shrine, an area of mature grounds however the moat surrounding the Palace is also a superb area for wildfowl.

Species: Little Grebe, Gadwall, Falcated Duck, Eurasian Wigeon, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Smew, Goosander, Grey Wagtail




White-billed Diver

A single in the first large bay north of Rausu


Pacific Diver

4+ with Black-throated Divers in the first large bay north of Rausu. Also recorded along Cape Nosappu


Black-throated Diver

A flock of 8 in the first large bay north of Rausu


Red-throated Diver

A single just south of Odaitou


Little Grebe


Red-necked Grebe

Common along Cape Nosappu


Slavonian Grebe

1 in first large bay north of Rausu and ?? along Cape Nosappu


Great Cormorant


Japanese Cormorant

2 just south of Odaitou


Pelagic Shag


Red-faced Shag

2 on small stack just off the tip of Cape Nosappu


Whooper Swan

Flocks at Akan Crane centre and Odaitou, two on river at Rausu


Bewick’s Swan

A single with Whoopers at Akan



7 on the northern pond at M





2 in harbour south of Nemuro and several in Imperial Palace moat


Eurasian Teal


Eurasian Wigeon


Falcated Duck

A single with other wildfowl in the harbour at Hanasaki, south east of Nemuro, 4 on Imperial Palace moat.




Tutfed Duck


Greater Scaup

Common in every harbour





Abundant in every harbour and all coastal bays


Long-tailed Duck

Common in all shallow coastal bays as well as some harbours


Common Scoter


Stejneger’s Scoter

Found frequently along the coast including Notsuke and Cape Nosappu



A drake in with other seaduck in the first bay south of Cape Nosappu




Red-breasted Merganser




Stellars Sea Eagle

Widespread and abundant on Hokkaido. Up to 160 on Notsuke Peninsula.



White-tailed Eagle

Abundant on Hokkaido


Black-eared Kite


Eurasian Sparrowhawk



Seen at Akan and Notsuke


Japanese Buzzard

Widespread on Hokkaido and also at Menjiju Shrine


Rough-legged Buzzard

A single west of Kushiro and another south west of Rausu



A single at Ochiishi




Red-crowned Crane

177 at the Akan Crane Centre


Black-headed Gull


Kamchatka Gull

Abundant along the coast including 1000+ along the Notsuke Peninsula


Vega Gull

Several first winters on Hokkaido and a number of adults on the Imperial Palace Moat.


Slaty-backed Gull

Abundant on Hokkaido plus many hybrids


Glaucous-winged Gull

As above


Glaucous Gull

Common on Hokkaido, 300 on the beach side of Shibetsu Harbour and 200+ on Cape Nosappu


Spectacled Guillemot

1000 off Cape Nosappu plus another 170 between Nemuro and Cape Nosappu


Brunnich’s Guillemot

20 Cape Nosappu, 10 in Rausu Harbour, 4 Shibetsu Harbour, and singles recorded north of Rausu and other sites along Cape Nosappu


Common Guillemot

50 off Cape Nosappu plus many unid alcids almost certainly this species


Ancient Murrelet

100+ off Rausu harbour plus smaller numbers of nearly every other coastal point


Oriental Turtle Dove

Akan and Menju


Blakiston’s Fish Owl

Ryokan Fujio



Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker

Youroshi area and Meiju Jingu


Great Spotted Woodpecker


Black-backed Wagtail


Buff-bellied Pipit

2 just north of Odaitou on the lake shore


Brown-eared Bulbul




7 in Nemashibetsu


Brown Dipper

1 near Youroshi and 1 on Rausu River


Red-flanked Bluetail

2 at Meiju Jinga Shrine


Dusky Thrush

Widespread and common


Pale Thrush

Common at Meiju Jingu


Brown-headed Thrush

2 at Meiju Jingu


Japanese Bush Warbler

Common at


Varied Tit

Common at


Japanese Tit

Common on Hokkaido and in Tokyo


Willow Tit

Several at Ryokan Fujio


Marsh Tit

Common on Hokkaido


Coal Tit


Long-tailed Tit


Asiatic Nuthatch

Several at Ryokan Fujio


White-cheeked Starling

Several at Nemashibetsu


Carrion Crow


Japanese/Large-billed Crow




Several at Ryokan Fujio



Several large flocks at Meiju Jingu


Oriental Greenfinch

Several large flocks on Hokkaido



Widespread and common



6 at Ryokan Fujio


Pine Grosbeak



Asian Rosyfinch

A number of flocks on Hokkaido inc 200 in Shibetsu Harbour, 50 Notsuke Peninsula, 60 Cape Nosappu


Grey Bunting

A single male with Black-faced Buntings at


Black-faced Bunting

This very distinctive race was common at


Snow Bunting

A single fly-over just south of Odaitou




never a frown with Golden Brown.....