Previous Walk Reports


The Ogasawara Maru exits Tokyo Bay and then makes a SSE bee-line for Chichijima 24 hours away. The ocean was pretty flat from Tokyo to Chichijima both days. I recorded numbers of seabirds over each hour or half-hour.

Tuesday, 2 May:

11:00 am: DEPART Takeshiba Port. Sunny, warm, calm. Ferry crowded with merrymakers, children, dogs. Only one other fellow with bins aboard. Oh my.

2:10 pm: leave Tokyo Bay for the open Pacific

2:15 pm: first Streaked Shearwaters, soon abundant

3:00 pm: 1 subadult Short-tailed Albatross

5:40 pm: single Sooty Shearwater close in

6:00 pm: single dark-rumped Black-footed Albatross

6:24 pm: sunset; time for tuna bowl dinner (¥1050) in crowded, noisy cafeteria

Wednesday, 3 May:

4:50 am: sunrise. On deck at 4:30 am after a night’s painful non-sleep in a tiny wooden box. Overcast, sea still pacific.

4:55 am: first Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and a Tristram’s Storm-petrel

7:00 am: tens of those plus about 30 Sooty Shearwaters

7:10 am: first 5 Brown Boobies

8:00 am: 500 Tristram’s Storm-petrels, mostly in one gigantic flock

9:00 am: 2 Black-footed Albatrosses, ongoing Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Brown Boobies

11:00 am: ARRIVE Chichijima Port. Abundant Blue Rock-thrushes, Japanese White-eyes, and Japanese Bush-warblers portside.

2:00 pm: DEPART Chichijima for Hahajima 2 hours away. Overcast, cooling, calmer. Most merrymakers stayed on Chichijima, which is a surfing bum / scuba-diving / whale-watcher kind of hangout with funky burger restaurants. Hahajima will be more genteel, more World Heritage-like.

2:30 pm: Wedge-tailed (6) and Sooty Shearwaters (2), and 3 Brown Boobies following the Hahajima Maru. A pod of 6 humpback whales.

3:00 pm: More Wedge-tailed and a few Sooty Shearwaters, and 3 Black-footed Albatrosses

4:00 pm: 50 Brown Boobies

4:15 pm: ARRIVE Hahajima Port.

All in all, those were the minimum seabird species expected en route; nothing special, certainly. All dark shearwaters seen well were clearly Sooties, and all storm-petrels seen closely were Tristram’s. We had no tantalizing ‘mystery birds’, thankfully. I took the scope but found it of very limited use: even with the flat water, it magnified the ship’s roll too much to follow a bird of interest. However, with large flocks, I could set it in position and watch the birds flying across the field.

Wednesday–Friday, 3–5 May:

The next three nights were spent on Hahajima. We hired a car, drove down side roads and hiked trails. It took the whole time to nail the endemic subspecies of Japanese Wood Pigeon and Oriental Greenfinch, so we took no boat trips, etc. Here’s the Hahajima list (number of sightings, many probably of the same individuals):

Black-crowned Night-heron (2), Cattle Egret (2), Great Egret (1), Little Egret (8), Japanese Buzzard (endemic ssp) (3), Eurasian Coot (2), Pacific Golden-plover (2), Little Ringed-plover (2), Common Sandpiper (5), Ruddy Turnstone (7), Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (1), Oriental Pratincole (5 birds), Barn Swallow (8), Asian House Martin (1), Brown-eared Bulbul (endemic ssp) (+), Japanese Bush-warbler (endemic ssp) (+), Japanese White-eye (++), Bonin White-eye (+), White’s Thrush (4), Pale Thrush (1), Blue Rock-thrush (+), Oriental Greenfinch (endemic ssp) (6, one flock).

The number of Japanese White-eyes is alarming. They are everywhere, in every niche.

The Japanese Wood Pigeon (endemic ssp) (1) is not on the list above because only Kazuko saw it, and I am still disgruntled. She was birding the trail 50 meters ahead of me and shooed it off before I could get there.

We also ticked the endemic Ogasawara Snake-eyed Skink (Cyptoblepharus nigropunctatus), which is abundant.

The island is utterly mountainous, and the trails in the heat are not for the faint of heart. I begrudge having lugged the scope all the way to the ‘Booby Rock’ at the south end of the island, as there weren’t many boobies, and good bins were sufficient to scan them. We might have seen tubenoses at burrows if we came at dawn or dusk...but then we’d have to manage the long trail in the dark.

Saturday, 6 May:

10:30 am: DEPART Hahajima Port. Hot, humid, dead calm and heavy fog. No other birder aboard, but merrymakers galore.

11:00 am: a rafted flock of 50 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters

12:00 noon: fog has lifted; still calm. One Tristram’s Storm-petrel, 13 Wedge-tails and 5 Brown Boobies

12:30 pm: ARRIVE Chichijima Port. A nasty burger in a nearby restaurant.

3:30 pm: DEPART for Tokyo. Sunny, humid, flat sea still. But we now meet on board Masato Nagai (author of Field Guide to Birds of Japan 670)—and he has his camera with its giant lens.

4:00 pm: Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (25), Brown Boobies (3) and the first Bonin Petrel

4:30 pm: Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (8), Bonin Petrels (2), Sooty Shearwaters (2)

5:00 pm: Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (40), Bonin Petrels (10), Tristram’s Storm-petrels (2)—and at last, with confirmation from Nagai-san’s camera, a Matsudaira’s Storm-petrel

6:00 pm: a few more of the first three species and then we retire from the railing.

Sunday, 7 May:

4:30 am: on deck after another sleepless night. Nary a wink, lying on a pallet athwart-ship, a victim of every pitch and roll. The parties went on all night, the children howled, the dogs barked. Truly a nightmare—what a shame, on what is otherwise a good ship.

5:00 am: heavy rain, fog

5:30 am: rain lets up. 50 Streaked Shearwaters

6:00 am: a Black-footed Albatross

6:30 am: 3 more Black-footed Albatrosses, lots of Streaked Shearwaters, and a final Tristram’s Storm-petrel

7:00 to 11:30 am: 3 more Black-footed Albatrosses, lots of Streaked Shearwaters

9:00 am: a Barn Swallow and a Pomarine Jaeger

9:30 am: two Short-tailed Shearwaters (with thanks to Nagai-san’s camera again)

12:00 noon: the mouth of Tokyo Bay. One Japanese Murrelet and one Red-throated Loon.

12:30 pm: done birding

3:30 pm: ARRIVE Takeshiba Port. Stumble home.

Both ships have good viewing places on board, though we cannot reach the prow. Next time we’ll carry folding stools, as deck seating is not always ideally located for birders.





Sunday–Tuesday, August 14–16th, 2016

Three rainy days in Hokkaido

We picked up our rental car Sunday at Kushiro Airport and headed for Akan National Park to see Lakes Mashu and Kusharo.  It was late morning, unusually warm and humid, and not a cheep in the woods when we checked at the Kushiro Marsh Observatory and Onnenai Visitors Center en route.  Light rain showers ahead of Typhoon #6 started at about 1:00 PM.  We saw two groups of Red-crowned Cranes, a couple and a threesome, along the highway, and in fact managed a couple of cranes at least each day.



Later in the day, Ochiishi Nature Cruise called to say our cruise was cancelled.

The typhoon struck in the night, and Monday morning revealed STRONG wind and rain.  Birding in the bush was useless, so we just headed straight back to the coast to see what the wind had blown in. But when we got to Ochiishi-misaki, the wind was just too strong to venture out the trail—everything was blowing sideways.  Instead we took the coastal highway back west toward Kushiro, stopping at those bays and inlets where we could park and peer through the windshield at the open water.  However, the only pelagic we managed to pick out was a lone Ancient Murrelet sheltering in a bay. We got back to Kushiro about 6 PM with a miserable trip list.

Tuesday morning it was still raining steadily, but the wind was gone and fog was setting in instead.  Our first stop was a pullover at some unnamed river where we found a nice little noisy collection of Eastern Crowned Warblers, Japanese Bush Warblers, Long-tailed Rosefinches, Black-faced Buntings and Oriental Greenfinches.

After that the rain and fog just worsened, so we threw up our hands in despair and headed back to the airport early, turning in our rental car at noon.  But our 3:00 flight was delayed and then cancelled and then rescheduled for 8:00 PM, so we enjoyed the amenities of the airport for 8 hours. We finally got back to Yokohama at 11:00 PM and slept till 10:00 the next morning.

Trip list—34 species, listed in descending order of frequency (#s in parentheses):

Black-tailed Gull (+), Slaty-backed Gull (+), Large-billed Crow (+), Carrion Crow (+), Pacific Swift (+), Temminck's Cormorant (40), Oriental Turtle Dove (25), Sand Martin (20), Stejneger's Stonechat (20), Oriental Greenfinch (18), Brown-eared Bulbul (16), White Wagtail (14), Eurasian Tree Sparrow (14), Pelagic Cormorant (10), Red-crowned Crane (9), Long-tailed Rosefinch (9), Eastern Crowned Warbler (8), Grey-tailed Tattler (6), Black-eared Kite (5), White-tailed Sea Eagle (4), Grey Heron (4), Japanese Bush Warbler (4), Marsh Tit (3), Eurasian Creeper (2), Asian Brown Flycatcher (2), Sakhalin Grasshopper Warbler (2), Black-faced Bunting (2), Ancient Murrelet (1), Eastern Buzzard (1), Eastern Marsh Harrier (1), Peregrine (1), Barn Swallow (1), Eurasian Nuthatch (1), and Hawfinch (1).

We also saw three red foxes, a herd of a dozen sika deer, and two sea otters.



Sunday, February 21st, 2016


Today we joined the unofficial 'foreign advisory committee' for the Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park (Oi Bird Park) in an interpretative walk around areas of the park normally inaccessible to the public.  We were led by the park's Chief Ranger, Mr Saigawa, and other staff members.  After lunch, we had a brainstorming meeting for attracting visitors, especially foreign tourists, to the park, in anticipation of the Olympic influx.  A good time was had by all.


Friday, January 1st — Monday, January 4th, 2016

We decided to avoid the U-turn traffic jam by staying out in Chiba and Ibaraki one day longer than usual this year.  We had two nights in Choshi and one night in Tsukuba, birding Edosaki, Ukishima, Hasaki, Choshi, Mt Tsukuba, and Tsuchiura during the days between.  However, our list (90 species) does not reflect well on the time put in.

One reason is that Mt Tsukuba netted us what the little boy shot at.  We'd been there once before about 20 years ago and been disappointed, but that lone mountain reared up from the Ibaraki plain looks enticing, so we thought we'd try it again...and were again disappointed, the mountain adding only a Pale Thrush to our list.  I don't know why it is not more bird-rich; perhaps it is not high enough at 1300 m to attract winterers, or perhaps it is just too isolated; I don't think it's all the shrine worshippers.  A few good birds have been seen there; past records do include Pallas's Rosefinch, Copper Pheasant and Elegant Bunting, for instance. But any such have certainly stayed out of our path.

We also used too much of our time seeking out the Yellow-bellied Tit instead of checking gulls and other seafowl, so we missed some loons, sea ducks and alcids, and only saw 7 gull species.

The first morning, after a two-hour wait at Shiosai Park, half the photographers and my wife (damn her eyes) saw the tit whiz through at 9:30 AM.  So I had to return on January 3rd, when it arrived earlier, at 8:45 AM,  and offered ample photo ops for all the cameramen.  There were about 20 cameras there both days, and a new low in professionalism may have been reached with the fellow who brought his dog along and tied it whimpering to a nearby tree for the duration.

Other birds of note:

— about 135 Taiga Bean Geese in the flock at Edosaki
— the easily seen Brent Goose at Iioka Port
— a personal high count of 4 Pacific Reef Egrets
— a single imm. Grey-headed Lapwing in Tsuchiura (I seldom see them so far west anymore)
— two cold Sand Martins at Choshi


Wednesday, December 31st, 2014 — Friday, January 2nd, 2015

We took our annual year-end trip to Edosaki, Ukishima, Hasaki and Choshi (and points between) on these dates, ending our 2014 year list with 173 species and beginning our 2015 year list with 84 species.  The weather was just dandy.  Some of the highlights were:

— Over 100 Taiga Bean Geese at Edosaki

— Two Whistling Swans among the Tundra and Whooper Swans at Motono, Inzai city

— Many Black Scoters and a few Stejneger's Scoters inside the breakwaters at Choshi; we were able to hear the thin, sad whistles of the males for the first time

— All five grebes, including Horned and Red-necked, at Choshi

And lowlights:

— Very few Northern Lapwings in the rice fields and very few uncommon gulls at Choshi; numbers of harriers and shorebirds also seemed low.


Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Our first return to Mikayejima since 1991.  The changes from the 2000 eruption are still much in evidence, especially the great monoliths of black lava that now form a stretch of the coastline, and all the erect pale skeletons of gassed trees.

Island birding was a delight on a delightful early morning.  We ticked virtually all the key birds and sub-birds in the first hour.  The Tazanowski's Grasshopper Warblers were abundant in the bamboo grass near the lighthouse and the Iijima's Warblers were superabundant everywhere else.  Everyone was in full song, including the Woodpigeons, who from the sound of them are anything but dwindling.  They were moaning from every hillside.

We witnessed a new behaviour:  two male Japanese Robins of the Izu persuasion facing off like a couple of birds-of-paradise.  Singing boldly, they perched on conspicuous tree branches about 5 meters up and 5 meters apart, rhythmically dipping their spread orange tails and rapidly fluttering their half-spread wings.  This consumed, however, no more than perhaps 30 or 45 seconds before they both dived back down into the forest undergrowth.

As for pelagic birding coming back: nothing but Streaked Shearwaters until 3 PM.  Between 3 PM and 4:30 PM, more Streaked Shearwaters, a lone Sooty Shearwater, two Black-footed Albatrosses and 10 Japanese Murrelets.  After 4:30 PM, we saw only Streaked Shearwaters again, and most of this species were seen during this section of the ferry ride, hundreds of them strewn along the Chiba coast before we headed into the bay.

TRIP LIST:  Black-footed Albatross, Streaked Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Striated Heron, Cattle Egret, Great Egret, Osprey, Chinese Bamboo Partridge, Black-tailed Gull, Japanese Murrelet, Japanese Woodpigeon, Rufous Turtle Dove, Little Cuckoo, Fork-tailed Swift, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Barn Swallow, Brown-eared Bulbul, Winter Wren, Japanese Robin, Blue Rock Thrush, Izu Islands Thrush, Japanese Bush Warbler, Iijima's Warbler, Pleske's Grasshopper Warbler, Owston's Varied Tit, Great Tit, Japanese White-eye, Bull-headed Shrike, Large-billed Crow, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Oriental Greenfinch, Meadow Bunting.

New Year's Eve & Day, 2013-14

We went out to Edosaki, Ukishima, Hasaki and Choshi and saw 87 species in the two + days.

The best birds:  8 Baikal Teal at Gonoike Pond, Ibaraki, seven males and a female. The reported Greater White-fronted Goose with the Taiga Bean Geese at Edosaki we did not see.  We saw only a flock of about 75 bean geese, but over 90 have been counted there this winter, so somewhere there was another smaller flock of 15 or 20 that presumably included the white-front.

Shorebirds in the Edosaki/Ukishima area included a Ruff and a Reeve, a Common Redshank and a flock of 200+ Dunlin, aside from the common waders.

At Hasaki/Choshi, it seems harder every year to pull unusual gulls out of the mass of Vegas.  This time, we located but a single adult Glaucous and two adult Glaucous-winged Gulls (and no younger birds of either), only one Thayer's, and very few Common Gulls and Black-legged Kittiwakes in evidence.  Couldn't pull another Herring-complex out of the hat.  Even the Slaty-backed Gulls seemed to be in low numbers.

Second Year Common Gull

Raptors were also few and far between, with an all-time low of only 3 Eastern Marsh Harriers (but with a nice view of a female Northern Harrier harassing one of them), only 5 or 6 Eastern Buzzards, and a miserable lone Eurasian Kestrel.  We did get to watch a female Peregrine devouring a Northern Lapwing while her mate hung around on a nearby utility pole.  And 4 ospreys perched on adjacent poles (the family?) in Lake Kasumigaura were a handsome sight.

Peregrine Pair dining on Northern Lapwing

We also discovered a place we had not been before, Tonosho Kenmin no Mori, Chiba, a wooded park with a pond that holds wintering Tundra and Whooper Swans along with  a full range of ducks.

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

Today we joined Ornitho (the Kamakura Bird Club) on a trip to Lake Miyagase in the Tanzawa Mountains, and we were lucky enough to spot a male Copper Pheasant and a Mountain Hawk Eagle.  It was a nice walk in the autumn sunshine, and the leaves were beautiful.

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

A Japanese Night Heron was reported in Ojima, Tokyo, so we went up early this morning to have a look at it.  There is some discussion about whether this second-year bird might be an escapee, but no conclusion has been reached.  In any case, it was a beautiful creature, and quite kind and forgiving to let so many thoughtless photographers hound it in the city park.

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

It was a beautiful spring day in Yokohama today, so we took a short morning trip to Futagoyama (the Morito River) near Zushi to check for Japanese Paradise Flycatchers.  There were several there and vocal, but they were heavily outnumbered by the photographers, who are eagerly watching the birds search for nest sites.  Up the trail from the photographic horde, we were lucky to get a close view of a fine male bird only two meters away from us in a low bush.  I admit that I take a mean pleasure in having such a nice view that all the cameramen missed.

Friday–Sunday, May 3rd–5th, 2013

We took advantage of the Golden Week holiday to go up to Togakushi in Nagano Prefecture this weekend.  The weather was beautiful, but it was still quite chilly at night, and pockets of old snow still lay beside the boardwalk and hiking trails.  We did see some nice spring birds—Japanese Thrushes, Ashy Minivets, Chestnut-cheeked Starlings, Blue-and-white, Asian Brown and Narcissus Flycatchers, and Japanese Yellow Buntings—as well as some exceptionally good looks at Eurasian Treecreepers and Goldcrests, but overall, the forest was relatively bereft of birdsong.  So we watched flowers as well.

Saturday–Tuesday, September 8th–10th, 2012

Much as with our earlier Sado trip, September 8th-10th was conducted in a spirit of experimentation: How many of the Taiwan endemics could we get in two days (one PM, one full day, and one AM) without killing ourselves? We knew of course that our time was far too short to do the island properly, so we would just see what we could see.

Well, it was far from killing ourselves: we enjoyed strictly roadside birding with an excellent, hardworking freelance guide, Kuan-Chieh Hung, who prepared all of the logistics for us as a package deal. After we arrived at Taipei from Haneda, all we had to do was take the magnificent High Speed Rail down to Taichung (50 minutes) and then K-C took over. Virtually all of our time was spent on the road between Taichung City (100 m) and Siaosyueshan (2600 m) at the end of the Dasyueshan National Forest Road, which, if driven without stopping, could be traversed in a couple of hours, I think. We spent the first night at 1000 m and the second night at the top. We went nowhere near any rice fields or the coast, so we saw only 66 bird species in total.

The extent of island speciation of many Taiwan birds is still under discussion, but we were working from a list of 21 endemic species and 67 near-endemic or endemic subspecies. We were able to see 12 of the 21 Taiwan endemics and 26 of the 67 near/endemic subspecies, or 57% and 39% respectively.

Here are the 12 endemic species we saw: Swinhoe's Pheasant, Mikado Pheasant, Taiwan Barbet, Yellow Tit, Taiwan Scimitar-Babbler, Taiwan Wren-Babbler, White-whiskered Laughingthrush, Steere's Liocichla, White-eared Sibia, Taiwan Yuhina, Flamecrest, and Collared Bush Robin. (We heard 2 more: Taiwan Hill Partridge and Taiwan Shortwing.)

As often happens, we got a few difficult ones and missed a few easy ones: the luck of the draw.

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

On this hot, hot day we went out to Ibaraki to look for migrant shorebirds. We saw 15 species, including Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Ruff, Long-toed Stint, Oriental Pratincole, Swinhoe's Snipe, and as a special treat, a Greater Painted Snipe nest with four eggs and the male snipe guardant. I took such a terribly unfocused photograph of the male & nest that I shall add here a photograph of a katydid instead:

Friday to Sunday, May 4th to 6th, 2012

During Golden Week, we visited Sado Island to find a Japanese Crested Ibis.  About 70 of the birds were re-introduced on the island in 2007 and just recently the first native-born young have hatched.  It was very rainy, and we found only four single birds in the rice fields over the three days.

However, we also saw some other nice birds in the mountains there: Japanese Grosbeak, Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Siberian Blue Robin, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Chestnut-cheeked Starling, Winter Wren, White's Thrush, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, and Oriental Cuckoo.

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Today we visited the Tama River mouth at the end of the Keihin Kyuko Daishi Line, near Haneda Airport.  Spring migration is just barely underway, with a number of Tufted Ducks and Greater Scaup still in flocks, and a large flock (perhaps 300) of Common Black-headed Gulls passing through.  Only a few Barn Swallows really heralded the spring, but the cherry blossoms along the embankment were spectacular. These are the birds we saw:

Great Cormorant (Kawa-u)
Little Egret (Ko-sagi)
Great Egret (Dai-sagi)
Gray Heron (Ao-sagi)
Eurasian Wigeon (Hidori-gamo)
Common Teal (Ko-gamo)
Northern Pintail (Onaga-gamo)
Mallard (Ma-gamo)
Spot-billed Duck (Karu-gamo)
Common Pochard (Hoshi-hajiro)
Tufted Duck (Kinkuro-hajiro)
Greater Scaup (Suzu-gamo)
Black Kite (Tobi)
Eurasian Coot (O-ban)
Little Ringed Plover (Ko-chidori)
Kentish Plover (Shiro-chidori)
Common Black-headed Gull (Yuri-kamome)
Vega Gull (Seguro-kamome)
Slaty-backed Gull (O-seguro-kamome)
Rock Pigeon (Dobato)
Japanese Skylark (Hibari)
Barn Swallow (Tsubame)
Black-backed (White) Wagtail (Haku-sekirei)
Brown-eared Bulbul (Hiyodori)
Dusky Thrush (Tsugumi)
Carrion Crow (Hashiboso-garasu)
Large-billed Crow (Hashibuto-garasu)
Gray Starling (Mukudori)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Suzume)
Oriental Greenfinch (Kawara-hiwa)
Common Reed Bunting (O-jurin)

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Today we ran out to Chiba to see the Siberian White Crane that is wintering near Sakura.  It was easy to find and feeding in a rice field quite oblivious of the photographers lining the roadside.  Chiba and Ibaraki prefectures along the Tone River are beautiful on a sunny day this time of year, and we got a good start to the year by seeing a flock of Rooks, a Brent Goose, and many Tundra and Whooper Swans as well.

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Today we took a quick trip down to the Sakawa River near Kayama to look at the male Scaly-sided or Chinese Merganser that we hope will winter there.  He was with a male and four female Goosanders, and it was a beautiful sunny autumn day, but they were quite far away in the middle of the river.

Sunday, October 9th — Tuesday, October 1th, 2011

We travelled to Irago-misaki in Aichi prefecture, the famous hawk migration site, but this long weekend fell at the end of the migration season. The Irago count had dropped off quickly in the last few days: October 9th (488 total raptors, according to the Hawk Migration Network of Japan website) was lower than for the previous day (October 8th — 589 total raptors), and it really plummeted on October 10th, with the HMNJ official numbers (and our personal count for 6 am – 10 am in brackets) as follows:

Japanese Sparrowhawk 51 (28)
Northern Sparrowhawk 1 (1)
Chinese Sparrowhawk 1 (0)
Northern Goshawk 6 (0)
Common Buzzard 15 (10)
Grey-faced Buzzard 31 (10)
Oriental Honey Buzzard 3 (1)
Northern Hobby 15 (2)
Eurasian Kestrel 1 (1)
Peregrine (2)
Osprey 1 (1)

— for a total of only 120 raptors on the official HMNJ list.

On the morning of the 11th, we watched only from 6 am to 8 am before having to head back to catch the shinkansen, and had to settle for 4 Grey-faced Buzzards and 1 Peregrine.

Passerines were still passing in very large numbers: Oriental Turtle Doves, Brown-eared Bulbuls, Black-backed Wagtails, and Barn Swallows. Single sightings: White-bellied Green Pigeon (3), Chestnut-cheeked Starling, and Asian Brown Flycatcher. Streaked Shearwaters were abundant both on the Pacific side and in Mikawa Bay.

We also found little at Shiokawa: 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Common Greenshank, 1 Grey Plover, 1 Little Ringed Plover. A measure of how hard we looked, though: 12 Common Sandpipers. Out in the fields, we added 11 Grey-headed Lapwings and an Intermediate Egret.

Tuesday, May 3rd - Thursday, May 5th, 2011

During Golden Week, we visited Tobishima, a small island in the Sea of Japan, off the coast of Yamagata. It is a migrant trap and we saw 112 species in just three days! Highlights were a Northern House Martin, a Yellow Wagtail, a Brown Shrike, a Dusky Warbler, and a Common Redpoll. A good time was had by all.

Black-tailed Gulls at Tobishima port

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

It was a clear and sunny day at Kasairinkaikoen, and there was another crowd of photographers around the Red-billed (Silky) Starling. We also saw a friendly White's Thrush, a Little Egret trying to ice-skate (or trying not to fall down), a lot of happy frogs mating in the sunshine, and a couple of Common Gulls, not so common at Kasairinkaikoen.

Red-billed Starling & White's Thrush

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Today we went out to look at the Golden-crowned Sparrow and the Red-breasted Flycatcher on the Edogawa River at Matsudo, Chiba. We got a brief look at the birds, but no photo. We did, however, get a photo of the photographers.

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Thursday night we received notice that the Desert Wheatear was still at Inbunuma after the rainstorms, so we drove out to Chiba very briefly this morning and easily located his particular rice paddy among a broad horizon of rice paddies by the cluster of cars and photographers around it. The little fellow (an immature male) seemed to be happily working his winter territory and paying very little attention to all the attention he was getting. The mob of photographers would slowly work in toward him until they eventually got within about 5 or 6 meters – and then he'd flip away to the other side of the paddy, and all the cameramen would trudge around to that side to try again. At least they have the sense to go around the field and not through it. Apparently, this has been going on for about a week now, so maybe he'll hang around and bask in the glory all winter.

We got great views for as long as we wanted. A very elegant little bird. It was a glorious sunny, windless day, and we got incredibly close scope views. It cost $60 in expressway tolls, but it was well worth it!

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Today we went out to the Ukishima and Edosaki area of Ibaraki. There was very little open water among the rice fields, where they are beginning to harvest what looks like a bumper crop this year, but we did find one busy pool in Kogabayashi, with a Green Sandpiper, 4 Common Greenshanks, 5 Little Ringed Plovers, a Grey-headed Lapwing, and five Oriental Pratincoles. Well worth the heat of the day!

Thursday, June 1st, 2010

After a long break (and a trip to Papua, Indonesia), we went to Futagoyama to see if the Japanese Paradise-flycatchers were there. We did see one female, and we also saw a male Narcissus Flycatcher and several male Blue-and-white Flycatchers. There were as usual more photographers than birds, so I hope the Paradise-flycatchers are able to keep their nests hidden and undisturbed this year.

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

This morning, we went over to Maioka Park near Totsuka to check on the wintering Solitary Snipes. There was only one in view, but there was the usual gaggle of photographers, who have become permanent denizens of that area since it became known that Solitary Snipe and Eurasian Woodcocks roost there.

Sunday, January 9th, 2010

We took a walk through Seya Citizens' Forest today. It is just a ten-minute walk from Mitsukyo station on the Sotetsu Line out of Yokohama. We saw most of the local wintering species, including two White's Thrushes, a Pale Thrush, a small flock of Olive-backed Pipits, a Japanese Green Woodpecker, three Red-flanked Bluetails and some Varied Tits. Also, a lot of Hawfinches, Meadow Buntings and Rustic Buntings. It was a bright, beautiful winter day.

Thursday & Friday, December 31st, 2009 & January 1st, 2010

These two days took us to Lake Kasumigaura, Ibaraki, and Choshi Port, Chiba, to start our 2010 Japan Year List. Both areas were relatively quiet birdwise this year. There were no Whooper or Tundra Swans at their usual location at Lake Kitaura, and very few waders in the rice fields. We did see an excellent range of raptors: Japanese Buzzard, Hen and Eastern Marsh Harriers, Northern Sparrowhawk, Goshawk, Eurasian Kestrel, Merlin and Peregrine.

At Choshi, the number of unusual gulls (that is, species other than Black-headed, Black-tailed and Vega Gulls) was low. We saw 2 Thayer's Gulls, 2 adult Glaucous-winged Gulls, and a single first-winter Glaucous Gull. There were several Common Gulls and Black-legged Kittiwakes. Two surprise birds were a Brent Goose and a Fork-tailed Storm-petrel.

Fork-tailed Storm-petrel and Black-legged Kittiwake

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

A bright winter's day found us on a brief trip to the Sagami River and Sagami Pond, both of which were very quiet. We saw few passerines and not many ducks. There were 7 Falcated drakes on the river, with their mates, and about 70 Mandarin Ducks on the reservoir.

A pair of Mandarin Ducks in Sagamihara Reservoir

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Today we went to Gongenyama in the Tanzawa Mountains for migrants.  It was a beautiful warm autumn day, and we were pretty successful.  Here are some of the birds we saw:  a mixed group of Pacific and House Swifts, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, with a single White-throated Needletail; Asian Brown, Grey-streaked, Narcissus and Blue-and-white Flycatchers, all bathing at a hide; and for raptors, a Peregrine, two Northern Goshawks, three Eurasian Kestrels, and four Grey-faced Buzzards.

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Shorebirding is still hot, and we went back to Sanbanze to see the Western Sandpiper that has shown up there!  We saw it and 13 other species of shorebirds, including a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and another Broad-billed Sandpiper.

Western Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper (L) and Red-necked Stint

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Today the weather was absolutely gorgeous: October is the best season in Japan. We went to the Ukishima Marsh area in Ibaraki prefecture to see if there were any shorebirds still coming through in this long fall migration we have been enjoying this year. Sure enough, we found a few: 20 Wood Sandpipers, 6 Spotted Redshanks, a Marsh Sandpiper, 2 Temminck's Stints, and a Whimbrel. The tone of the day, however, was set by the scores of Intermediate Egrets and hundreds of Sand Martins passing through. They were literally everywhere!

We went up to Sanbanze mudflats on n. Tokyo Bay at low tide today, and did pretty well with shorebirds. There were not great numbers, but a good range of species (numbers guessed after the fact in brackets):

Kentish Plover (10), Lesser Sandplover (20), Greater Sandplover (1), Grey Plover (20), Sanderling (30), Red-necked Stint (30), Little Stint (1), Dunlin (15), Broad-billed Sandpiper (1...or 2?), Bar-tailed Godwit (6), Terek Sandpiper (2), Common Sandpiper (1), Grey-tailed Tattler (20), Ruddy Turnstone (6).  Also a few Common and Little Terns, and an early Great Crested Grebe.

Broad-billed Sandpiper
Broad-billed Sandpiper

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Today we stopped by Yatsu-higata, an urban tidal mudflat off Tokyo Bay, and then went out to the ricefields around Lake Kasumigaura in Ibaraaki. Our targets were shorebirds returning from their Arctic breeding grounds. We had a very successful day, with some real rarities. We saw 16 species of shorebirds in all: Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Lesser Sandplover, Pacific Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Little Stint, Temminck's Stint, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Eastern Black-tailed Godwit, Common Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler, Common Sandpiper and Ruddy Turnstone. It was hot and sunny, and my tan deepened significantly.

Long-billed DowitcherBlack-tailed Godwit
Long-billed Dowitcher & Black-tailed Godwit (juveniles)

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

Hot and muggy, not a good time of the year for birdwatching in central Japan, but we went up to JR Ajiki station, then walked to where the Eurasian Bitterns are usually seen. The lake reedbeds must contain one of the densest populations of Yellow Bitterns in Japan, and just as every year, they were flying back and forth across the reeds as numerous as the Barn Swallows. It took about ten minutes before the first Eurasian Bittern flew slowly across, and then we headed back toward the station, which had been a one-hour stroll. Along the way, we saw all four species of white egrets in good numbers, but no shorebirds yet, and not much else.

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

Today we joined the Ornitho birding group from Kamakura on an expedition to Mount Fuji. It was a long birding day, but we saw a lot of special birds-- White-bellied Green Pigeon (at Oiso en route), Japanese Yellow Bunting, Northern Hawk-Cuckoo, Blue-and-white, Narcissus and Asian Brown Flycatchers, Black-browed Reed Warbler, Grey-headed Bunting, and at a hidden spring at last light, a gathering of thrushes: Brown-headed Thrush, Grey (Japanese) Thrush, Siberian Thrush, and Siberian Blue Robin.

Black-browed Reed WarblerGrey-headed Bunting
Black-browed Reed Warbler and Grey-headed Bunting

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

On this nice spring day, we travelled out to Ukishima Marsh in Ibaraki prefecture to see what was around. It was a little early in the year, but we got some good looks at Marsh Grassbirds and Japanese Reed Buntings, and the sky was full of Zitting Cisticolas. There was a lone Eastern Marsh Harrier remaining from the two dozen or so that roosted and hunted there this winter, and there were a few Pacific Golden Plovers and four Whimbrels in passage.

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

We visited the Sagami River and the Sagami Reservoir (near Sobudaishita) today-- and a miserable, rainy and windy day it was! It was very difficult to weather the conditions and look for birds, but we did admire five male Falcated Ducks on the river and as many male Mandarin Ducks at the reservoir.

Sunday, February 8th 2009

In the afternoon, we visited Maioka Park in Totsuka-ku (Yokohama) to see the two Eurasian Woodcocks that have been resting there in plain sight during the day. What beauties!

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

Today we went to three locations on Tokyo Bay: Kasairinkai Koen, Yatsu-higata, and Sanbanse. It was rather cold and windy on the bay. Lots of ducks and several wintering shorebird species, and we were able to have good looks at a Saunder's Gull, a female Red-breasted Merganser, and a beautiful male Common Goldeneye at Sanbanse.

Wednesday to Friday, December 31st, 2008 to January 2nd, 2009

Ukishima, Hasaki, and Choshi. New Year's 2009 was sunny, cold and windy.

Ukishima area: We counted 54 Taiga Bean Geese this year, where there have usually been 60-70. The rice and lotus fields yielded about 20 Common Snipe and 2 Latham's Snipe, 15 Wood Sandpipers, 5 Pacific Golden Plovers, 2 Black-winged Stilts, a Dunlin and a Temminck's Stint. Lots of Grey Herons (I counted 88) and Northern Lapwings. On Kitaura Lake, a flock of 40 Falcated Ducks and a Black Swan (no, this cannot be added to our native bird list). 15 sightings of Eastern Marsh Harriers, 2 Northern Harriers, 14 Common Buzzards.

Hasaki: There was a paucity of seabirds, with only a single alcid (Common Murre), no jaeger and relatively few seaducks sighted (some 100 Black Scoters and only 2 White-winged Scoters), with few individuals of 2 species of diver (Arctic Loon and Red-throated Diver). Very few shorebirds-- only 8 Sanderlings and 4 Kentish Plovers.

Glaucous-winged Gull (1st W)Slaty-backed and Glaucous Gulls (1st W)Thayer's Gull (Ad W)
L to R:  Glaucous-winged Gull (1st W), Slaty-backed and Glaucous Gulls (1st W), and Thayer's Gull (Ad W)

Choshi: Lots of gulls generally, but no adult Glaucous or Glaucous-winged seen, only a few first-winter birds. One adult Thayer's, several Common Gulls, and there seemed to be more Black-legged Kittiwakes than usual-- I counted 24. With all the gulls about, no doubt other observers have located other uncommon individuals. Other notable birds: 3 Eastern Reef Egrets and a male American Wigeon. Relatively few ducks (though 4 Harlequin Ducks is more than we have seen in the last few years).

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

A beautiful autumn day in the Ukishima Marsh area of Ibaraki, warm in the mellow sunshine, with the goldenrod and silver grass both fading from flower to fluff. There were very few ducks on the lake yet, but a number of wintering land birds have appeared. An Eastern Marsh Harrier, 80 Northern Lapwings, and five Wood Sandpipers were the most interesting-- except for the Japanese Quail that flushed from underfoot while we were crossing a narrow grassy path between rice paddies! It flew low for a short distance and then dropped into a more inaccessible strip of weeds, where it disappeared, but we got a good look at its boldly striped back: it looked like a small, bill-less snipe.

Sunday & Monday, October 12th & 13th, 2008

Warm and sunny at Irago-misaki, Aichi, where we did our semi-annual hawk watch. It was the dribble end of migration, so not the 1000s of raptors that birders saw in late September, but still a decent range of species in the mornings (7-11 am) as the land heated and the air rose. It's lots of fun (and very easy) just to stand in the autumn morning sunshine on the tip of a peninsula and wait for whatever might pass. The two numbers are the two mornings:

Osprey 5, 5
Grey-faced Buzzard 28, 18
Crested Honey Buzzard 3, 4
Common Buzzard 20, 9
Northern Sparrowhawk 3, 3
Japanese Sparrowhawk 10, 10
Goshawk 1, 0
Peregrine 4, 0
Eurasian Kestrel 4, 2

Also, lots of songbirds passing through. Every time we go, there seem to be different relative abundances (this time, for instance, hundreds of Oriental Turtle Doves and not a single Jay), but we've been to Irago-misagi now at several different stages during migration season, and no matter how the songbird migration varies, it seems that vast numbers of Brown-eared Bulbuls are always passing through. We guesstimated that flocks of from 100-500 individuals were flying through at about 50-60 flocks per hour, so that I was seeing 12,000-15,000 birds per hour, or anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000 bulbuls each morning. And that goes on for a month or so.

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

Hot, hot, hot, but we went over to the Sagami River at Sobudaishita just to see if any birds were about. There were a few, the regulars, but the river was too high to locate any Long-billed Plovers this time (when the government sets the level high, the gravel islands above the dam disappear beneath the surface). We were rewarded with a Striated Heron. It was more common here 15 years ago, but now only the occasional young bird (or post-breeding wanderer) appears down here from farther up the river; it is a more common summer species in the Hadano area.

Saturday & Sunday, July 5th & 6th, 2008

Hot sunny weather even up here at the higher altitude of Karuizawa. We saw a very nice range of summering species— Red-cheeked Mynas, Japanese Grosbeaks, a Siberian Blue Robin, Narcissus Flycatchers, Blue-&-white Flycatchers, Winter Wrens (singing lustily—actually, everything was still singing quite actively in the early morning), Grey Thrushes and a Siberian Thrush, Common and Oriental Cuckoos, and Japanese Robins, plus many species that we also find lower down around Yokohama and Tokyo.

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

We took a rare weekday morning to run down to Futagoyama (near Zushi) to get our annual look at a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, and this time we saw a gorgeous male! Also several Blue-&-white Flycatchers and Eastern Crowned Willow Warblers, and two Japanese Green Woodpeckers.

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

Today we went to see the Nordemann's Greenshank that appeared a day or two ago at Sanbanse (Funabashi KK, Chiba). He was easy to find, with a small and diverse group of shorebirds—both Great and Red Knots, a few Grey and Kentish Plovers, and a couple of Dunlin. Lucky that we arrived at 11 am and found the bird, because at noon the gates were opened and a horde of clam diggers swarmed onto the mudflats, spooking all the shorebirds, who disappeared down the coast.

Monday, May 5th, 2008

Perhaps my favorite annual trip: to Ukishima Marsh to hear the birdsong. Early in the morning it is a glorious symphony of Japanese Reed Buntings, Japanese Marsh Warblers, Fan-tailed Warblers, Oriental Reed Warblers (Black-browed Reed Warblers seem to be disappearing from this location—we saw none this time), Japanese Skylarks and Meadow Buntings. We also found two Spotted Redshanks in one of the rice fields.

Meadow BuntingOriental Reed Warbler
Meadow Bunting and Oriental Reed Warbler

Monday, April 28th, 2008

This morning we took a quick trip to Seya Ward Citizens' Forest to see what spring was bringing to this suburban area. Lots of the usual active, notably 3 Green Pheasants, a Green Woodpecker, 20 Hawfinches, a Great Reed Warbler (who won't stay around) and a surprise Grey-faced Buzzard-Eagle passing over.

Monday to Wednesday, December 31st to January 2nd, 2007/08

This was our traditional New Year's year-list-starter trip to Ukishima, Hasaki and Choshi. This year we saw 76 species—not as good as some years. Still, some great birds: Whooper Swans and Bean Geese (60 counted this year), Eastern Marsh & Northern Harriers, Common Buzzards, 3 Oystercatchers, a Pomerine Jaeger and some Ancient Murrelets, all five grebes (Little, Great Crested, Eared, Horned & Red-necked), two Eastern Reef Egrets and an American Herring Gull.

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

On this beautiful sunny and mild autumn morning—shirtsleeve weather!—we went over to the Sagami River near Sobudaishita and to Sagami Reservoir to check out the action. Few ducks have arrived yet, but there were several Tufted Ducks, Eurasian Wigeons, Mallards, Shovellers and Gadwall, and a good number of Common Teal. Most interesting was a large group of Long-billed Plovers (nine individuals) resting and preening on one of the small gravel islets above the weirs.

Friday, August 31st, 2007

We went to Sanbanze (Funabashi Keihin Koen) this morning from 10:00-11:30 and saw 17 species of shorebirds: Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Lesser Sandplover, Pacific Golden-Plover, Great Knot, Sanderling, Red-necked Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Ruff, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Terek Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler and Ruddy Turnstone.

I haven't had many birding days as glorious as this—what a great pleasure to lounge on the shore or wander over the mudflats searching among all the variety of shorebirds as they skitter about feeding, or pause to preen.

Friday, May 11th, 2007

A beautiful morning, cool and sunny, after last night's rainstorm, and we went to Futagoyama to see if we could find any Japanese Paradise-Flycatchers. We did find one female, singing actively close overhead. We also saw a singing male Blue-and-White Flycatcher, and watched an aggressive Eastern Crowned Willow Warbler chasing White-eyes. Far overhead, White-rumped Swifts circled. One of the greatest attractions today were the many brilliant red-and-turquoise tiger beetles that seem to love the sunny patches on the forest path.

Friday, April 13th, 2007

Today we went to the Tama River mouth, across from Haneda Airpost and where the Isuzu plant used to be. This property is now a parking lot. Last year, it was gravelled and empty, and supported nesting Little Terns, but this year, the terns may be out of luck.

It is too early for much migration, and there were still many wintering ducks, mostly Greater Scaup (about 300 of these). Other winter birds were Dusky Thrush, Vega Gull (20) and Spot-billed Duck (which will be moving to small streams or upriver for breeding). Signs of spring were the Barn Swallows and a flock of about 70 Mongolian Plovers approaching breeding plumage; there was also an unusual Greater Sandplover, ganglier and longer-nosed than the Mongolian Plovers, with long, yellowish legs.

Friday, January 19th, 2007

MM's English Birdwalks went to two sites today-- Kasairinkaikoen and Funabashi Keihinkoen. It was cold and windy, but the blue sky and sunshine made it a lovely day. At Kasairinkai, vast flocks of Eared Grebes and Greater Scaups were milling about in the open water, and we found the Saunders's Gull hunting along the inner waterway and a Slaty-backed Gull standing like a lord on the beach. The lack of distinctive white triangles on the upper wing (a Black-headed Gull characteristic) makes Saunders's Gull easy to identify at a distance. At Funabashi KK, the tide was out, and the mudflats were covered with shorebirds: Eurasian Curlew (6), Sanderling (+/- 50), Rufous-necked Stint (4), Dunlin (+/- 1500), Eurasian Oystercatcher (109), Grey Plover (+/- 50), and Kentish Plover (+/- 60). There was also a Saunders's Gull harassing the Dunlins. By mid-morning, the wind had died down, and it was a beautiful experience walking out among the shorebirds on the flats; there were only two or three clamdiggers to disturb the birds.

Friday, November 10th, 2006

Our inaugural bird walk to Oi Bird Park was on a beautiful Indian Summer day. Wintering ducks have started to arrive, and we saw 7 kinds. We also saw the first Dusky Thrush (Tsugumi) of the season and some migrating Jays (Kakesu). We missed the low tide, though, so there were no shorebirds. The goldenrod is just coming into bloom.

Japanese White-eye