Trip Report: Hokkaido, Honshu and Kyushu (Japan), November-December 1997

Barnaby Briggs, Energy and Transport Policy Officer, RSPB, The Lodge, Sandy Beds, SG19 2DL, UK;

The following places were visited:


Furen-ko and Nosappu, Rausu and the Shiretoko Peninsula, Kuwayu and Akan crane sanctuary. All via hire car from Kushiro Airport, and you need read no Japanese as all the signs are in English. All you need is a half decent road map and Brazil's excellent book A birder's guide to Japan has all the relevant site maps and accommodation details. I stayed on the outskirts of Nemuro and in Rausu (listen for owls in Rausu). Driving is easy, there is no traffic, and the mountains and sea mean you have to try quite hard to get lost.


I only visited Hino-shi, around the offices of WBSJ, and the river, which was very good for the 'common' species sometimes hard to find elsewhere.


The rice paddies between Sendai and the sea, said to be a Great Spotted Eagle site, and Arasaki crane sanctuary via hire car from Kagoshima. A good map is needed on Kyushu, as the roads are rather small, full and not very well signed.


Various forest walks around Kinkakuju Temple and the Kyoto International Conference Hall, and I recommend the river in the early morning.

Species List with Location Notes

  1. Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata) -- 1 at sea off Furen-ko
  2. Diver sp (Black-throated or Pacific) -- 1 in flight at Furen-ko
  3. Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) -- in rivers near Arasaki, in river and lakes in Kyoto
  4. Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena) -- 2 at sea between Notsuke and Rausu
  5. Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) -- 1 in Tokyo Bay, seen from monorail
  6. Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) -- 50 in very tightly packed flock moving and diving together offshore near Sendai
  7. Temminck's Cormorant (Phalacrocorax capillatus) -- commonly seen, best at Katano Kamoike WBSJ reserve
  8. Pelagic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus) -- common on Nosappu and Shiretoko Peninsulas
  9. Black-crowned Night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) -- common at Arasaki and in river in Kyoto
  10. Cattle Egret (Bulbulcus ibis) -- 1 seen near Sendai
  11. Green-backed Heron (Butorides striatus) -- 1 seen flying along river near Arasaki
  12. Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) -- very common everywhere except Hokkaido
  13. Great White Egret (Egretta alba) -- common, even on river in Kyoto
  14. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) -- common
  15. Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) -- 3 at the Kyoto International Conference Hall
  16. Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus) -- several thousand on Furen-ko
  17. Whistling Swan (Cygnus columbianus) -- 1 at Katano Kamoike
  18. Bean Goose (Anser fabalis) -- c2000 at Katano Kamoike, of large middendorffii race
  19. White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) -- c500 at Katano Kamoike
    Hybrid Snow/White-fronted Goose -- 1 at Katano Kamoike
  20. Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus) -- 1 at Katano Kamoike
  21. Wigeon (Anas penelope) -- common on all water
  22. Falcated Duck (Anas falcata) -- 1 male seen at Katano Kamoike
  23. Baikal Teal (Anas formosa) -- 2 males, probably more, at Katano Kamoike
  24. Teal (Anas crecca) -- common on lakes and rivers especially at Arasaki
  25. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) -- common on all water
  26. Spot-billed Duck (Anas poecilorhyncha) -- common on all water
  27. Pintail (Anas acuta) -- common, notably on river in central Kyoto
  28. Shoveler (Anas clypeata) -- fairly common
  29. Pochard (Aythya ferina) -- common on all water
  30. Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) -- Several on Tokyo Bay and at Furen-ko
  31. Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) -- common at sea off Hokkaido and at Furen-ko
  32. Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) -- common close inshore in NE Hokkaido
  33. Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) -- common at sea off NE Hokkaido
  34. Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra) -- common at sea off NE Hokkaido
  35. Velvet Scoter (Melanitta fusca) -- several small flocks at sea off NE Hokkaido
  36. Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) -- very common NE Hokkaido
  37. Smew (Mergellus albellus) -- 1 redhead seen at Kamo Kamoike
  38. Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) -- several in rivers in NE Hokkaido
  39. Goosander (Mergus merganser) -- 4 seen in river mouths in NE Hokkaido
  40. Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) -- 5 around Arasaki, most at sea, 1 at sea near Kamo Kamoike
  41. Black Kite (Milvus migrans) -- very common everywhere, with big roosts near fishing ports
  42. White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) -- 5, 1 at Fuen-ko viewpoint, 1 on road to Nosappu Cape, 1 in Furen-ko reserve, 1 near Furen-ko and 1 at end of road on Shiretoko
  43. Steller's Sea eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus) -- 4 or 5, 1 at Furen-ko reserve, 1 near Rausu (south), one going in to roost and coming out again next morning near Rausu, 1 immature far up Shiretoko
  44. Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) -- two at Sendai, Kyushu, one at Katano Kamoike
  45. Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) -- one ringtail hunting at Arasaki
  46. Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) -- one in tree at Katano Kamoike
  47. Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) -- one seen from train near Daishoji
  48. Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) -- two seen from roads in NE Hokkaido
  49. Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) -- one at Hino-shi, several around Arasaki
  50. Peregrine (Falco peregrinus) -- three on Shiretoko, two at Sendai, Kyushu and one at Arasaki
  51. Green Pheasant (Phasianus versicolor) -- one near coast at Katano Kamoike
  52. Crane (Grus grus) -- one found in flock of Hooded Crane at Arasaki
  53. Hooded Crane (Grus monacha) -- c6000 (80% of world population) at Arasaki, Kyushu
  54. Japanese Crane (Grus japonensis) -- several pairs on marshes in NE Hokkaido, 59 in field near Akan Crane Sanctuary
  55. White-necked Crane (Grus vipio) -- c2000 (40% of world population) at Arasaki, Kyushu
  56. Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) -- several around Arasaki
  57. Coot (Fulica atra) -- one at Katano Kamoike
  58. Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) -- flocks totalling some 300 near Sendai, Kyushu
  59. Long-billed Plover (Charadrius placidus) -- 1 in river bed at Hino-shi
  60. Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) -- 6 in river bed at Hino-shi
  61. Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) -- 3 in rivers near Arasaki
  62. Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) -- several in rivers near Arasaki
  63. Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) -- 1 in river in centre of Kyoto
  64. Dunlin (Calidris alpina) -- small flock at Arasaki
  65. Black-tailed Gull (Larus crassirostris) -- common in NE Hokkaido
  66. Common Gull (Larus canus) -- single in NE Hokkaido
  67. Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) -- common in NE Hokkaido
  68. Slaty-backed Gull (Larus schistisagus) -- common in NE Hokkaido
  69. Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens) -- first seen at Cape Nosappu, several others seen in NE Hokkaido
  70. Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus) -- fairly common in NE Hokkaido
  71. Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) -- only gull seen both in Hokkaido, Honshu and Kyushu
  72. Feral Pigeon (Columba livia 'feral') -- in cities
  73. Rufous Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) -- common everywhere
  74. Blakiston's Fish owl (Ketupa blakistoni) -- male heard calling at Rausu, outside Dai Ichi Hotel
  75. Greater Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle lugubris) -- on rivers at Rausu, Arasaki and hills near Kagoshima
  76. Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) -- 2 at Arasaki, and many more on the river in Kyoto
  77. Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker (Dendrocopos kizuki) -- common with tit flocks
  78. Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) -- common in all forests
  79. Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) -- heard near Kuwayu, Hokkaido
  80. Skylark (Alauda arvensis) -- common in rice paddies near Sendai and Arasaki
  81. Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) -- 1 seen at Hakatafudo Temple, Hino-shi, several on rivers near Arasaki
  82. Black-backed Wagtail (Motacilla lugens) -- common everywhere
  83. Japanese Pied Wagtail (Motacilla grandis) -- common on big rivers, and at Kyoto International Conference Centre
  84. Buff-bellied Pipit (Anthus rubescens) -- common in rice paddies near Sendai and Arasaki
  85. Chestnut-eared Bulbul (Hypsipetes amaurotis) -- common everywhere
  86. Bull-headed Shrike (Lanius bucephalus) -- usually one around edges of fields and woods
  87. Brown Dipper (Cinclus pallasii) -- lots on rivers on Shiretoko, often in loose groups
  88. Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) -- several seen in Hokkaido
  89. Red-flanked Bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus) -- several in forest around Kyoto
  90. Daurian Redstart (Phoenicurus auroreus) -- heard in Hino-shi, several seen near Arasaki
  91. Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) -- seen on shore at Arasaki and Katano Kamoike and at Narita airport Holiday Inn
  92. Brown-headed Thrush (Turdus chrysolaus) -- in temple grounds near Arasaki, and at Narita airport Holiday Inn
  93. Pale Thrush (Turdus pallidus) -- in temple grounds near Arasaki, flock seen near Kyoto International Conference Hall
  94. Dusky Thrush (Turdus naumanni) -- large flocks near Kuwayu, Hokkaido and Kyoto
  95. Japanese Bush-warbler (Cettia diphone) -- common in scrub and forest
  96. Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) -- one at eagle roost
  97. Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis) -- common at Sendai and Arasaki, Kyushu
  98. Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) -- flock of white-headed race with cranes at Akan, Hokkaido, 'normal' race seen in Kyoto
  99. Willow Tit (Parus montanus) -- common in NE Hokkaido
  100. Coal Tit (Parus ater) -- common in NE Hokkaido
  101. Great Tit (Parus major) -- common in woods and forests
  102. Varied Tit (Parus varius) -- first seen at WBSJ offices in Hino-shi, many seen in Kyoto
  103. Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) -- common in forests in Hokkaido
  104. Japanese White-eye (Zosterops japonica) -- common everywhere
  105. Meadow Bunting (Emberiza cioides) -- common on forest edges
  106. Rustic Bunting (Emberiza rustica) -- 2 seen briefly at Arasaki
  107. Yellow throated Bunting (Emberiza elegans) -- 1 with thrush flock near Kyoto International Conference Hall
  108. Black-faced Bunting (Emberiza spodocephala) -- common in scrub, reeds and forest edges
  109. Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) -- common in reeds at Arasaki
  110. Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) -- 1 with thrush flock near Kuwayu, Hokkaido
  111. Oriental Greenfinch (Carduelis sinica) -- common everywhere
  112. Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) -- common near Hino-shi and at Katano Kamoike
  113. Japanese Grosbeak (Coccothraustes personatus) -- flock of 40 in Simagamo Shrine in Kyoto -- thanks to Haynes Miller's notes!
  114. Russet Sparrow (Passer rutilans) -- many near Arasaki
  115. Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) -- common everywhere
  116. Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) -- 4 with Grey Starlings near Arasaki
  117. Grey Starling (Sturnus cineraceus) -- common everywhere
  118. Jay (Garrulus glandarius) -- 1 near Kyoto International Conference Hall
  119. Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes) -- 2 near Kuwayu, Hokkaido
  120. Daurian Jackdaw (Corvus dauricus) -- c30 with corvid flocks around Arasaki
  121. Rook (Corvus frugilegus) -- c200 in flocks around Arasaki
  122. Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) -- flocks in Hokkaido, singles seen in Honshu and around Arasaki
  123. Jungle Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos) -- common and noisy everywhere

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