Birding Tour Japan: Spectacular Winter Birds

Dates and Costs


19 February – 04 March 2025

Spaces Available: 8

Price: US$7,980 / £6,615 / €7,820  per person sharing,based on 6 – 10 participants, which includes the domestic flights occurring within the tour

Single Supplement: US$650 / £539 / €637


* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.
* In the event of fewer than six participants signing up to the tour there will be the option of a surcharge to guarantee departure. The amount of the surcharge will depend on how many participants are signed up to the tour and will occur if all participants agree.


21 February – 06 March 2026

Price: US$8,890  / £7,369 / €8,713  per person sharing, based on 6 – 10 participants, which includes the domestic flights occurring within the tour

Single Supplement: US$700 / £581 / €686

Recommended Field Guide

(Please also read our blogs about recommended field guides for the seven continents here)

Tour Details

Duration: 14 days
Group Size: 6 – 10
Tour Start: Kagoshima
Tour End: Tokyo

Price includes:

All accommodation (Day 1 until Day 13 as described above, or similar)

Domestic flights during tour (Miyazaki to Kushiro via Tokyo and Kushiro to Tokyo)
Meals (from dinner on Day 1 until breakfast on Day 14)
Drinking water – please bring a refillable water bottle
Expert tour leader
Local bird and wildlife guide fees
Birdwatching site entrance fees (including all national park fees) and travel permits

Boat trips as referred to in itinerary
All ground transport and tolls/taxes while on tour, including airport pick-up and drop-off

Price excludes:

International flights to Kagoshima (Kyushu) and from Tokyo (Honshu)
Expenditures due to flight cancellations/delays or other causes beyond our control (force majeure) 
Visa fees if visa required
Departure tax
Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts, laundry, internet access, phone calls etc.
Any pre- or post-tour accommodation, meals, or birding/sightseeing excursions
Soft/alcoholic drinks
Personal travel insurance
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)

Download Itinerary

Japan: Spectacular Winter Birds
February 2025/2026


Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands covering a huge area of 145,937 square miles (377,975 square kilometers) along the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’, offering some world class birding. We will visit three of the five main islands (Honshu, Kyushu, and Hokkaido) on this exciting winter birding tour of Japan. This Japanese bird tour will start in Kagoshima and end in Tokyo, Japan’s high-tech capital and largest city (though which also offers great birding along the edge of Toyko Bay). Although one of the most populous countries in the world, around 75% of Japan is mountainous, with much of that area uninhabitable, so the population is crammed into multiple mega-cities. Japan has a fascinating cultural history and is unlike anywhere else in the world, and we will get a great sample of this as we travel around on our Japanese birdwatching tour.

Japan Winter BirdsSteller’s Sea Eagle is one of the many spectacular highlights of this Japanese winter birding tour (photo Richard Campey).


This Japanese winter birding tour is designed around the spectacular gatherings of cranes and sea eagles which make Japan their winter home, as well as a range of Japanese endemic birds on offer. The first leg of this Japan bird tour will be around the island of Kyushu, this will be the furtherest southwest we venture, and here we will search for the localized Japanese Murrelet and the wintering hordes of Hooded Cranes and White-naped Cranes, with an accompanying cast of other winter visitors, which may include tough world birds like Black-faced Spoonbill and Saunders’s Gull.

Japan Winter BirdsWhite-naped Crane will be enjoyed on our Japan birding tour.


The second leg of this bird tour in Japan will be to the winter wonderland of Hokkaido, this will be the furthest northeast we go. Here, in a landscape dominated by dramatic volcanoes, calderas, coastal plains, and rugged peninsulas, species numbers are low, but quality is extremely high! We visit the feeding and roosting grounds of Red-crowned Crane, seeing them at close range where they are easily photographed, perhaps with a White-tailed Eagle overhead. We see flocks of wintering Whooper Swans and other waterfowl, look for Crested Kingfisher, seek out winter roosts of Ural Owl, and visit a feeding site of the rare and Endangered (BirdLife International) Blakiston’s Fish Owl. During our time on the Shiretoko and Nemuro Peninsulas we spend time watching arguably the world’s largest and most spectacular raptor – Steller’s Sea Eagle. Coastal sea-watching and offshore boat trips will allow us to search for an array of exciting wintering seabirds, including sea ducks, loons (divers), grebes, and an assortment of alcids.

The final leg of this Japanese birding trip will be on and around the island of Honshu, home to Tokyo. We will meander through the forests, hills, and lakes of central Honshu to seek out specials such as Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Japanese Green Woodpecker, Varied Tit, and perhaps, if we are lucky, the shy and endemic Copper Pheasant. We include visits to lakes to look for Baikal Teal and Mandarin Duck, and to a valley where endemic Japanese Macaque and Japanese Serow (a goat-antelope) make their winter home. We will end our tour with a birding trip to Miyake-Jima (Miyake Island), a volcanic island in the Izu Archipelago, located approximately 110 miles (180 kilometers) southeast of Tokyo. This trip will give us opportunities for Izu Thrush, Owston’s Tit, and Japanese Robin on the island, as well as Black-footed Albatross, Laysan Albatross, Short-tailed Albatross, and Tristram’s Storm Petrel out at sea.

Japan Winter BirdsBlack-footed Albatross is one of three albatross species possible on this Japanese birding tour.


Itinerary (15 days/14 nights)


Day 1. Arrival in Kagoshima

After your afternoon arrival in Kagoshima on the southern island of Kyushu, you will be met at the airport and transferred to a hotel near the airport, with the rest of the day at your leisure. We will meet for a group welcome dinner in the evening.

Overnight: Kagoshima


Days 2 – 3.  Kagoshima to Izumi (Arasaki)

We will depart from Kagoshima and travel north for approximately two hours to the city of Izumi, located in Kagoshima Prefecture, our base for the next two nights. The coastal roads and harbors along the route offer opportunities for observing seabirds like Japanese Murrelet, Japanese Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant, Black-tailed Gull, Vega Gull, Slaty-backed Gull, Pacific Reef Heron, Brown Booby, and Streaked Shearwater.

Izumi is home to the famed Izumi Crane Observation Centre, and this is one of the main reasons for our visit to the area and we will spend some time birding from the observation tower. This part of Japan is famous worldwide for its winter flock of almost 15,000 cranes! Most of the flock is made up of Hooded Cranes, with White-naped Cranes being the next most abundant. Annually the flock also occasionally holds low numbers of Common Crane, Demoiselle Crane, Sandhill Crane, or even the Critically Endangered (BirdLife International) Siberian Crane, so we will carefully scan through the vast flocks to see what  may be lurking among the masses!

Japan Winter BirdsThe striking Hooded Crane will be enjoyed in huge numbers.


There is plenty besides the cranes to look out for in the area (and time permitting, we will also visit the Izumi City Crane Museum.). Wildfowl here might include Greater White-fronted Goose, Taiga Bean Goose, Tundra Bean Goose, Tundra (Bewick’s) Swan, Whooper Swan, Ruddy Shelduck, Common Shelduck, Northern Shoveler, Falcated Duck, Eurasian Wigeon, Eastern Spot-billed Duck, Northern Pintail, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Greater Scaup, Common Merganser (Goosander), and Red-breasted Merganser.

Shorebirds here could include Northern Lapwing, Kentish Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Long-billed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Common Snipe, Common Greenshank, and an assortment of stints and sandpipers. Gulls could include Black-tailed Gull, Vega Gull, Slaty-backed Gull, and might also include the Vulnerable (BirdLife International) Saunders’s Gull. Large wading birds might include Eurasian Spoonbill and if we are lucky, the Endangered (BirdLife International) Black-faced Spoonbill. Raptors in the area could include Osprey, Eastern Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Black Kite, Eastern Buzzard, Eurasian Goshawk, Common Kestrel, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcon.

We often see interesting passerines in the area too, such as Bull-headed Shrike, Brown Shrike, Rook, Daurian Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Varied Tit, Chinese Penduline Tit, Eurasian Skylark, Zitting Cisticola, Asian House Martin, White-cheeked Starling, Red-billed Starling, Russet Sparrow, Red-flanked Bluetail, Brown-headed Thrush, Pale Thrush, Olive-backed Pipit, Red-throated Pipit, (Japanese) Buff-bellied Pipit, and almost a dozen bunting species, including Yellow-throated Bunting, Rustic Bunting, Common Reed Bunting, and Japanese Reed Bunting.

Japan Winter BirdsSightings of the beautiful Red-flanked Bluetail are always a highlight.


During the day here we will visit Kogawa Reservoir (Kogawa Dam) just outside of the city. The reservoir is great for waterbirds and the nearby river holds an interesting range of species too. Woodland surrounding the reservoir is mixed and features evergreen broadleaf trees and bamboo. An interesting range of birds are possible on the reservoir here including Mandarin Duck, Baikal Teal, Falcated Duck, Eurasian Wigeon, Eastern Spot-billed Duck, Eurasian Teal, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, and Greater Scaup.

Other possibilities in the area could include Oriental Turtle Dove, White-bellied Green Pigeon, Long-billed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Great Cormorant, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Eurasian Goshawk, Common Kingfisher, Crested Kingfisher, Japanese Green Woodpecker, Brown Dipper, Ryukyu Minivet, Warbling White-eye, Red-flanked Bluetail, Daurian Redstart, Blue Rock Thrush, (Japanese) Buff-bellied Pipit, Japanese Wagtail, Yellow-throated Bunting, Black-faced Bunting, and Grey Bunting.

Overnight (two nights): Izumi

Japan Winter BirdsThe rather spectacular Falcated Duck can be found at several sites we will visit while birding in Japan.


Day 4.  Izumi to Hyuga

We will travel from Izumi to Hyuga City. On arrival in the Hyuga area we have a range of sites to check, depending on what we are still targeting after the previous few days birding, such as Cape Hyuga, Hyuga Port, Kadogawa Harbor, and Tomi Peninsula. One of the main target species in this area is Japanese Murrelet. They breed nearby on Birojima Islet during the summer, an Important Bird Area (IBA) (BirdLife International) and can often be observed from the areas we will visit during our time here. Their numbers increase in the late winter and early spring as they return to the area to prepare for the onset of the breeding season.

Other species we will look for in the area include Chinese Bamboo Partridge, Japanese Wood Pigeon, Japanese Cormorant, Japanese Green Woodpecker, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Japanese Bush Warbler, Ryukyu Minivet, Warbling White-eye, Red-billed Leiothrix, Daurian Redstart, White-cheeked Starling, Brown-eared Bulbul, and Black-faced Bunting. We will potentially have time to drive inland through some beech forests, where with luck, Copper Pheasant can occasionally be found.

Overnight: Hyuga

Japan Winter BirdsDaurian Redstart adds a splash of color to the Japanese woodlands.


Day 5. Travel from Hyuga to Miyazaki, fly to Tokyo, and travel to Kushiro

We will leave Hyuga and drive back to Miyazaki, where we will connect with a flight to Tokyo. From Tokyo we will pick up another flight to Kushiro on the incredible island of Hokkaido. We will arrive in the evening and head to our hotel for the night.

Overnight: Tsurui


Day 6.  Kushiro to Yoroushi

We will begin the day with sunrise over a Red-crowned Crane roosting site, where they emerge from the mist. After breakfast we will visit Tsurui-Ito Tancho Sanctuary, the world famous Red-crowned Crane site, and what a spectacular sight they are! Though the cranes will be the main targets here, there are a few other interesting birds to look out for in the local area, such as Whooper Swan, Common Crane, Hazel Grouse, Ural Owl (with luck we might find a roosting bird), White-tailed Eagle, Crested Kingfisher, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Northern Raven, Marsh Tit, Willow Tit, Eurasian Nuthatch, Bohemian Waxwing, Grey-capped Greenfinch, Common Redpoll, Pallas’s Rosefinch, and Asian Rosy Finch. We will also hope to see Japanese Wagtail. Today we could also see the magnificent Steller’s Sea Eagle for the first time on the tour, certain to be a tour highlight.

Japan Winter BirdsRed-crowned Crane, one of the most elegant birds to be enjoyed while birding in Hokkaido, surely one of the most graceful birds in the world too?


As we travel north from Tsurui towards the Shiretoko Peninsula (our base for the next couple of nights), we will pass by Lake Kussharo and Lake Mashū and we will look out along the way for the ginormous duo of both Steller’s Sea Eagle and White-tailed Eagle (along with anything else that grabs our attention).

In the evening, we will try to find another one of our big tour targets, the huge and Endangered (BirdLife International) Blakiston’s Fish Owl. They inhabit mature boreal forest close to rivers and streams within which they forage, mainly on fish, occasionally in the ponds outside our lodging (but it can be a long wait). There is often a Solitary Snipe in the area too.

Overnight: Yoroushi


Day 7. Yoroushi / Rausu (Shiretoko Peninsula)

We have a full day birding the fascinating Shiretoko Peninsula and nearby area, and it promises to be an exciting experience. We will take a boat cruise for a couple of hours along the picturesque Rausu Coast and within the Nemuro Strait (it is really magnificent scenery). During the winter, drift ice is usually present, this ice brings with it plankton which in turn attracts fish, which further attracts a range of amazing birds (and whales later in the year). During the winter, the area becomes the best place in the world for observing the magnificent Steller’s Sea Eagle, one of the main targets of the day.

This trip could well be one of the tour highlights (and that is quite something, given what we will have already experienced!). Along with the sea eagles, we could find other exciting species like White-tailed Eagle, Harlequin Duck, Long-tailed Duck, Stejneger’s Scoter, Black Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Common Murre (Common Guillemot), Thick-billed Murre (Brünnich’s Guillemot), Spectacled Guillemot, Long-billed Murrelet, Ancient Murrelet, Least Auklet, Crested Auklet, Rhinoceros Auklet, Black-tailed Gull, Vega Gull, Slaty-backed Gull, Glaucous Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Common (Kamchatka) Gull, Red-throated Loon (Red-throated Diver), Black-throated Loon (Black-throated Diver), Pacific Loon (Pacific Diver), Pelagic Cormorant, and Japanese Cormorant.


Japan Winter BirdsThe list of spectacular birds in Japan is long and Steller’s Sea Eagle is normally right at the top of this list.


We will also spend time birding from land, and will visit the excellent Notsuke Peninsula, where we will call in to the Notsuke Peninsula Nature Center. Here we are likely to see several species already enjoyed during the morning or earlier in the tour, but others may include (Black) Brant Goose, Harlequin Duck, Stejneger’s Scoter, Smew, several alcids, gulls, loons (divers), and cormorants, Steller’s Sea Eagle, Short-eared Owl, Asian Rosy Finch, and Snow Bunting.

In the evening we will again try for Blakiston’s Fish Owl at our accommodation, where we hope again to get good views of this mega bird.

Overnight: Yoroushi

Japan Winter BirdsBlakiston’s Fish Owl is one of the special targets on this tour (photo Richard Campey).


Day 8. Yoroushi to Nemuro 

In the morning we will head to Nemuro on the scenically spectacular Nemuro Peninsula jutting out into the Okhotsk Sea, another excellent birding area. If weather conditions allow, we will take an exciting boat trip from Habomai Harbor, where we may again see a range of most-wanted sea ducks, grebes, loons (divers), gulls, and alcids.

Possibilities in the harbor and on the boat trip include Harlequin Duck, Stejneger’s Scoter, Black Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-necked Grebe, Horned (Slavonian) Grebe, Pigeon Guillemot, Spectacled Guillemot, Ancient Murrelet, Least Auklet, Crested Auklet, Slaty-backed Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Pacific Loon (Pacific Diver), Red-faced Cormorant, and Pelagic Cormorant.

We will also spend time birding on land around the Nemuro Peninsula looking for a range of birds, including the rare Rock Sandpiper, Common (Kamchatka) Gull, Red-faced Cormorant, White-tailed Eagle, Steller’s Sea Eagle, Rough-legged Buzzard, Lapland Longspur (Bunting), Pine Bunting, and the elusive Asian Rosy Finch. Additional sites that we will likely check during the day (and potentially the following morning) include Lake Furen, Nemuro Harbor, and the Shunkunitai Wild Bird Sanctuary, it is another great birding area.

Overnight: Nemuro


Day 9. Nemuro and Furen to Kushiro and fly to Tokyo, then travel to Chiba

We will have some additional time in the Nemuro area and gradually make our way back to Kushiro before flying to Tokyo. Around Nemuro we might pick up some of the birds listed above and we may (depending on our flight time) call in at Hamanaka Port, Cape Kiritappu, and Kiritappu Wetlands Center along the way, where we could find more of the birds listed above.

Once we reach Kushiro, we will take a flight back to Tokyo. On arrival in Tokyo, we will drive to Chiba Prefecture where we will spend the night.

Overnight: Narita

Japan Winter BirdsGulls abound in Japan, such as this Glaucous-winged Gull.


Day 10. Chiba to Karuizawa

This morning we will head out to some great wetland areas close to Narita. Here we can look for species hard to find elsewhere on the tour, including Japanese Reed Bunting, Green Pheasant, and Brown-headed Thrush. Lakes in the area often have large flocks of the stunning Baikal Teal which are sure to impress, and we might also see Mandarin Duck, Falcated Duck, and Eastern Spot-billed Duck.

In the mid-afternoon, we will head towards the town of Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture, our base for the next couple of nights. Along the way we will make some stops, including at a regular site for Mountain Hawk-Eagle.

At Karuizawa we will visit the Karuizawa Wild Bird Sanctuary (Karuizawa Yacho no Mori). The sanctuary was established in 1974 and is an area of mixed woodland including beautiful Japanese chestnut and larch trees. The sanctuary is covered by a network of paths that provide great access to this excellent and “birdy” forest. We will enjoy a range of exciting birds here during our birding sessions, and some of the highlights could include Copper Pheasant, Green Pheasant, Oriental Turtle Dove, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, Japanese Green Woodpecker, Japanese Tit, Varied Tit, Willow Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Eurasian Nuthatch, Eurasian Treecreeper, Eurasian Wren, Brown Dipper, Brown-eared Bulbul, Eurasian Jay, Carrion Crow, Large-billed Crow, Dusky Thrush, Pale Thrush, Daurian Redstart, Japanese Waxwing, Bohemian Waxwing, Chinese Hwamei, Goldcrest, Japanese Accentor, Japanese Wagtail, Japanese Grosbeak, Rustic Bunting, Meadow Bunting, Yellow-throated Bunting, Brambling, Pallas’s Rosefinch, and Long-tailed Rosefinch.

Overnight: Karuizawa

Japan Winter BirdsThe highly camouflaged Dusky Thrush foraging on the ground.


Day 11. Karuizawa and snow monkeys

We will visit the famous snow monkeys at Jigokudani Yaen Koen (Monkey Park), here we can watch the endemic Japanese Macaques frolic in the snow and soak in the hot springs. We will also be looking here for Japanese Serow (a goat-antelope).

While the focus at the site will be on the amazing spectacle of the monkeys, we should also keep our eyes peeled for a range of birds that might be moving through the area, such as Golden Eagle, Eurasian Jay, Varied Tit, Willow Tit, Japanese Tit, Brown-eared Bulbul, Brown Dipper, Alpine Accentor, Japanese Accentor, and Eurasian Siskin. Nearby ponds can hold Baikal Teal, Japanese Wagtail, and Long-billed Plover, so we will check those out as needed.

After finishing up with the monkeys and birds around Jigokudani Yaen Koen, we will head back to Karuizawa to look for more of the birds mentioned in Day 10.

Overnight: Karuizawa

Japan Winter BirdsWe will seek out Brown Dipper in suitable rivers during this tour.

Japan Winter BirdsThe gorgeous Varied Tit will be searched for in woodland areas.


Day 12: Birding Karuizawa to Tokyo then overnight ferry from Tokyo to Miyake-Jima

We will spend the day around Karuizawa looking for the birds mentioned above, before heading back to Tokyo. After transferring to the ferry port in Tokyo we will depart on a late evening ferry for Miyake-Jima (Miyake Island). We will spend the night in cabins on the ferry.

Overnight: Ferry between Tokyo and Miyake-Jima


Day 13. Miyake-Jima endemic birding, then afternoon ferry departure to Tokyo (pelagic birding from ferry)

We will arrive at Sabigahama Port in Miyake-Jima in the early morning where we may spot a range of gulls and other species, like Japanese Cormorant, Blue Rock Thrush, and Meadow Bunting. We will then have until around lunchtime on the island looking for the special birds found here. Top of the list will be Izu Thrush, Owston’s Tit, Japanese Robin, Japanese Wood Pigeon, and Grey Bunting. One of the best sites on the island is the area surrounding Tairo-ike in the south of the island (this is an important breeding ground for the rare Ijima’s Leaf Warbler during the summer, but they won’t be present during our stay, they will likely be overwintering further south in Taiwan or the Philippines).

Other species we could discover during our time on the island include Oriental Turtle Dove, Japanese Scops Owl, Northern Boobook, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Bull-headed Shrike, Japanese Tit, Brown-eared Bulbul, Japanese Bush Warbler, Warbling White-eye, Eurasian Wren, Pale Thrush, Red-flanked Bluetail, Eurasian Bullfinch, Grey-capped Greenfinch, Eurasian Siskin, Meadow Bunting, and Black-faced Bunting.

Japan Winter BirdsPale Thrush (above) is one of several thrush species we will be looking for on Miyake-Jima, the others being Izu Thrush and Brown-headed Thrush.


In the early afternoon we will depart Sabigahama Port on Miyake-Jima for our return ferry trip back to Tokyo. The first part of this pelagic trip will be during daylight hours through a good area for pelagic species. During this section of the crossing, we will look for Black-footed Albatross, Short-tailed Albatross, and Laysan Albatross. At this time of year, we also have a good chance of seeing Tristram’s Storm Petrel (this is a winter-breeding seabird species). Other pelagic species we might encounter include Japanese Murrelet, Streaked Shearwater, Northern Fulmar, Pomarine Jaeger (Skua), and Pelagic Cormorant. A wide range of gulls are also possible in this section of water so we will grill those, as opportunities arise, though our prime focus will be on observing the three species of albatross and other truly pelagic species, as this is a great opportunity to see them. We will arrive in Tokyo in the evening and have a final group dinner together.

Overnight: Tokyo

Japan Winter BirdsLaysan Albatross can be found on the sea around Miyake-Jima (photo Mollee Brown).


Day 14. Departure from Tokyo

Time at leisure prior to your international departure from Tokyo (please see the important note below regarding your international departure).

Overnight: Not included


 Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes must use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.

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Birding Tour Japan: Spectacular Winter Birds Custom Tour Trip Report, February 2024


By Andrew Walker

27 FEBRUARY – 03 MARCH 2024


Japan Birding Tours

We enjoyed exceptional views of Red-crowned Crane while birding in Hokkaido.


This short, six-day, custom birdwatching tour of Japan started and ended in Tokyo on Honshu Island, but our birding was focused on the islands of Hokkaido to the north and Kyushu to the south. This trip was a shortened version of our set departure Japan bird tour. The tour ran from the 27th of February to the 3rd of March 2024. Our birding targeted as many species of cranes as possible, as these were the most highly desired bird family, though we also saw many other simply breathtaking birds that birding Japan in the winter is so well known for.

Japan Birding Tours

The magnificent Steller’s Sea Eagle was a sight to behold while birding in Hokkaido.


We recorded 140 bird species on this Japanese birdwatching tour (one of these was heard only) which included six crane species; Siberian CraneRed-crowned CraneWhite-naped CraneHooded CraneCommon Crane, and Sandhill Crane.

Japan Birding Tours

We saw lots of waterfowl during our Japan winter birding tour, and one of the best-looking was this simply spectacular Falcated Duck, other gorgeous ducks included Mandarin DuckHarlequin DuckLong-tailed DuckNorthern PintailGarganey, and Baikal Teal.


Other highlight birds seen during our Japan winter bird tour included Steller’s Sea EagleWhite-tailed EagleMountain (Japanese) Hawk-EagleRough-legged BuzzardBlakiston’s Fish OwlUral OwlFalcated DuckBaikal TealMandarin DuckHarlequin DuckStejneger’s ScoterLong-tailed DuckBlack-faced SpoonbillPelagic CormorantJapanese CormorantSolitary SnipeLong-billed PloverSaunders’s GullSlaty-backed GullBlack-tailed GullGlaucous-winged Gull, Vega GullCrested AukletLeast AukletSpectacled AukletCrested KingfisherJapanese Green WoodpeckerJapanese Pygmy WoodpeckerRyukyu MinivetPale ThrushDusky ThrushRed-flanked BluetailDaurian RedstartJapanese Bush WarblerVaried TitChinese Penduline TitBull-headed ShrikeDaurian JackdawBrown DipperJapanese WagtailWhite-cheeked StarlingAsian Rosy FinchSiberian Long-tailed Rosefinch, Meadow BuntingMasked Bunting, and Yellow-throated Bunting.

Japan Birding Tours

Numerous attractive passerines were enjoyed while birding in Japan and one of those was Varied Tit (above), others included Red-flanked BluetailDaurian RedstartLong-tailed TitSiberian Long-tailed RosefinchHawfinch, and Meadow Bunting.



Detailed Report

Day 1, 27th February 2024. Tokyo to Kushiro and Yoroushi

We all met up with our local guide, Nigel, at Tokyo Haneda Airport for our early morning flight to Kushiro on the northern island of Hokkaido. After our short flight we arrived at a snow-covered and rather windy Kushiro and set about sorting out our optics, vehicle, and thermal layers!

We had been driving for about 20 minutes when the first raptors were seen, with brief views of Steller’s Sea EagleWhite-tailed Eagle, and Eastern Buzzard from the vehicle, though none were really suitable for stopping and admiring. We progressed onwards and soon reached the incredible Tsurui-Ito Tancho Sanctuary, where we were to spend most of the remainder of the day exploring.

Our main target was waiting to welcome us. As we pulled into the parking lot, we were greeted by the sight of almost one hundred Red-crowned Cranes! The sight and sound of these birds – at a very close distance, temporarily allowed us to forget about the chilling (freezing!) wind howling across the snow-covered fields, as we marveled at their incredible beauty. We watched them feeding and interacting with each other, with males and females in dance courtship and juvenile birds practicing their moves too. Birds were flying in and out the whole time, so we also got to watch these huge birds maneuver so gracefully in the air – a very impressive sight, especially given the increasing wind. It would be accurate to say we got distracted briefly whilst watching the Red-crowned Cranes once though, and that was for a good reason, a Steller’s Sea Eagle. A ginormous adult bird flew low overhead as everyone’s gaze was temporarily lifted to the sky right above us as this magnificent creature put on quite the show.

Japan Birding Tours

We couldn’t get enough of our views of the Red-crowned Cranes on Hokkaido!


Once we’d had our fill of this particular field full of Red-crowned Cranes, we went and got some lunch and then moved to a different field, this time with over 120 Red-crowned Cranes in attendance. Hidden in amongst these was a vagrant (for this part of Japan), White-naped Crane. While this bird was often hanging around in amongst the trees at the back of the flock of cranes, we were still able to enjoy some good views of this very pretty bird and certainly whetted our appetite for our trip to the south of the country later in the week, where more sightings were likely.

The wind made finding passerines almost impossible, and our focus was, unsurprisingly, on the cranes. However, we did manage to find a few good passerines, though sightings were often fleeting due to the weather! During the day we found Siberian Long-tailed RosefinchEurasian (Grey-bellied) BullfinchHawfinchCommon RedpollBrown Dippercaudatus Long-tailed Tit, and Marsh Tit. One further non-passerine highlight of the day was a pair of roosting Ural Owls, that showed very nicely for us.

We arrived at our traditional Japanese accommodation in time for a short rest before a wonderful dinner and a reflection on the incredible birds we’d seen during the day.

Japan Birding Tours

This pair of Ural Owls looked at home in a huge tree hollow.


Day 2, 28th February 2024. Yoroushi to Rausu to Nemuro

Those that stayed up late last night failed to see much, apart from a pair of very interesting Sables (uncommon mustelids) and a blizzard, however those that got up early were rewarded by an incredible sighting of the rare and highly desired Blakiston’s Fish Owl. During breakfast we were constantly distracted by birds, which is always fun, and these included Solitary SnipeBrown DipperCrested KingfisherEurasian Wren, and Japanese Wagtail. The bird feeders at our hotel also pulled in several species for us to get great views of, such as Brown-eared BulbulGreat Spotted WoodpeckerJapanese Pygmy WoodpeckerEurasian NuthatchMarsh TitWillow TitCoal TitLong-tailed Tit, and Hawfinch.

After checking out of our accommodation we attempted to make our way northeast, to the coast, however the overnight snow, which was continuing during the day, aided and abetted by the continuing gale force wind, had resulted in several road closures. This meant a fair bit of detouring before we eventually managed to hit the coastal sites where we wanted to bird. We then spent the rest of the day working south along the coast, eventually reaching Nemuro at dusk. The wind didn’t let up at all during the day, but at least the snow sort of stopped, for the most part. The weather conditions made birding very tough, with the windchill during the day making it feel like 1.5oF (-17oC)! We therefore spent most of the day trying to view birds from the vehicle.

Huge areas of the coast were covered in sea ice – which was a spectacular sight, but some of the harbors and larger river mouths still had some areas of unfrozen water and these were providing foraging opportunities for a range of species, such as Pelagic CormorantWhooper SwanHarlequin DuckLong-tailed DuckBlack ScoterStejneger’s ScoterGreater ScaupCommon GoldeneyeCommon MerganserRed-breasted MerganserSlaty-backed GullBlack-tailed GullVega GullGlaucous-winged GullGlaucous GullCommon (Kamchatka) Gull, and Black-legged Kittiwake. We had some very nice looks at several perched and flying White-tailed Eagles and Steller’s Sea Eagle, as well as several Black Kites. Small passerines were in very limited supply, and we didn’t see too many, though a flock of Asian Rosy Finches were a highlight (both Grey-capped Greenfinch and Common Redpoll were seen all too briefly with rather rapid wind-assisted disappearances!). It was a tough day of birding, but we enjoyed some very good species, all things considered.

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Numerous Glaucous-winged Gulls were noted in the harbors we explored.


Day 3, 29th February 2024. Nemuro to Kushiro to Tokyo

We awoke to a bright and sunny (but still rather windy) morning. After a late breakfast we drove to Cape Nosappu, where we spent the morning birding at a couple of sites. As we headed towards our main birding site, a brief stop yielded a roadside Hen Harrier, followed by several flocks of Harlequin DucksNorthern PintailsLong-tailed Ducks, and Black Scoters, a single Stejneger’s Scoter, a lone Spectacled Guillemot, and our first Large-billed (Japanese) Crows of the tour.

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The harbors allowed great close views of many sea ducks, such as this male Long-tailed Duck.


Once we reached the cape it was clear something special was happening, even from the parking lot! We walked to a welcome sheltered spot out of the wind and started birding. A constant stream of large flocks of Crested Auklets were flying low and close by in a northeasterly direction. We stood in awe watching these tiny alcids that were clearly making a big movement. We estimated around 100,000 birds were involved, though if it was more than that it wouldn’t be a surprise. As we were scanning the flocks, we soon started picking up other species, including Spectacled GuillemotLeast AukletPigeon Guillemot (two subspecies), Common Murre (Common Guillemot), and Thick-billed Murre (Brünnich’s Guillemot). Sea ducks were out in force too, with big flocks of Harlequin DuckLong-tailed Duck, and smaller numbers of Black Scoter noted amongst the other more widespread species we’d seen previously. Also on the water, we noted Pacific Loon (Diver), Black-throated Loon (Diver), Red-throated Loon (Diver), and Pelagic Cormorant. Gulls gave frequent close flybys, and we enjoyed excellent looks at Black-tailed GullSlaty-backed GullGlaucous-winged GullGlaucous GullVega Gull, and Common (Kamchatka) Gull. Overhead we noted Steller’s Sea EagleWhite-tailed EagleRough-legged BuzzardBlack Kite, and Common Kestrel. A single Dusky Thrush kept us company at the watchpoint for a while too, our first of the trip.

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Just a small portion of the incredible sight of a constant stream of Crested Auklets that we witnessed passing by at Cape Nosappu.


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We enjoyed great views of Black-tailed Gulls flying past the headland at Cape Nosappu.


After lunch we commenced our journey back to Kushiro to catch our evening flight back to Tokyo. Along the way we stopped at several harbors, lakes, and rivers, where we had some wonderful sightings of Whooper Swans (hundreds of them), a few elegant Red-crowned Cranes, a relatively close perched Steller’s Sea Eagle, and lots more ducks and gulls. We arrived back at the airport just as the sun set and took our flight back to Tokyo for the night, ending what had been a short but enjoyable winter birding adventure in Hokkaido.

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One of the most impressive eagles on the planet, the highly sought after Steller’s Sea Eagle.


Day 4, 1st March 2024. Tokyo to Kumamoto to Izumi                                    

An early start at Haneda Airport in Tokyo had us on a flight south to Kumamoto, on the island of Kyushu. After sorting out our vehicle and a welcome breakfast and caffeine hit, we visited a wonderful little park on the outskirts of Kumamoto (seeing the first Masked Bunting of the tour while sitting at some traffic lights just outside the airport!). Here we had a very relaxed birding session but picked up numerous new species and improved our looks at several we had seen previously. It was also nice to not have to fight to stand up, with no gale force wind to deal with, or freezing conditions. It was actually a rather pleasant morning. Some of the highlights of our parkland birding session included Pale ThrushDaurian Redstart (gorgeous male at very close range), White-cheeked StarlingBrown-eared BulbulGrey-capped GreenfinchBull-headed ShrikeCommon Reed BuntingGrey WagtailWhite (Black-backed) WagtailOriental Turtle DoveEurasian SparrowhawkEurasian TealFalcated DuckGadwallLittle GrebeLittle EgretGreat EgretGrey Heron, and prolonged perched views of a stunning Common Kingfisher.

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This gorgeous Daurian Redstart gave us incredible close and prolonged views.


We had a picnic lunch on the side of an estuary where we enjoyed seeing three great species, Black-faced SpoonbillSaunders’s Gull, and Baikal Teal. The area was totally rammed with birds and as the tidal conditions changed, we saw a number of other birds, including Eurasian SpoonbillHen HarrierCommon ShelduckGarganeyEurasian WigeonEurasian TealEastern Spot-billed DuckPacific Golden PloverCommon Greenshank, and lots more.

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The attractive Baikal Teal was one of several stunning ducks we saw while birding in Japan.


After driving south for an hour or so we reached the “main event” for the day, and wow, what an incredible last hour of light we had. Driving round the Izumi and Arasaki area we saw somewhere in the region of 10,000 Hooded Cranes – 90% of the global population overwinter in this area – and we enjoyed some really close views of many of these. We had far fewer White-naped Cranes, but these beautiful birds stood out against their smaller cousins. A couple of Common Cranes were noted amongst the huge Hooded Crane flocks and one of these gave close views too. However, the star of the show was a single overwintering Siberian Crane. A Critically Endangered (BirdLife International) species, along with the other cranes seen today, that the International Crane Foundation are working hard to conserve. It’s hard to put into words just how incredible the sight of all these cranes was, and the great views we had of them all. A really big lifetime birding highlight for all of us. The supporting cast included MerlinCommon KestrelBlack KiteHen HarrierEastern BuzzardEurasian SkylarkBuff-bellied (Siberian) Pipit, and Common Starling! It had been a very long day, but one that will live long in our memories.

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The sight of somewhere in the region of 10,000 Hooded Cranes was quite special!


Day 5, 2nd March 2024. Birding Kogawa Dam, Akune, Izumi, and Arasaki

After a relaxed breakfast we departed our accommodation for a day trip around the local area. Our first stop occurred when we noted a pair of Asian House Martins flying overhead, which then resulted in us observing Barn SwallowHouse SwiftCommon Reed Bunting, and best of all, a flock of Chinese Penduline Tits. As we continued towards Kogawa Dam, we stopped at a river and found Japanese WagtailBrown Dipper, and Common Kingfisher.

It was another cold day with a biting wind (though thankfully nowhere near as cold as earlier in the week up in Hokkaido!), so it was nice to be in a relatively sheltered area at Kogawa Dam – a really picturesque area. We made our way around the dam, making frequent stops and short walks and scans of nearby areas. In doing so, over the course of the morning we found some exciting species, including Mountain (Japanese) Hawk-EagleVaried TitJapanese TitLong-tailed TitRed-flanked BluetailDaurian RedstartWarbling White-eyeBull-headed ShrikeMasked Bunting, and Yellow-throated Bunting. Unfortunately, Japanese Green Woodpecker was only heard.

By now it was lunchtime, so we grabbed some food from a local store and had a picnic lunch in the car overlooking a river, where we found a single Long-billed PloverGrey Wagtail, and two more Japanese Wagtails. During the middle of the afternoon, we drove along some coastal roads near Akune, where we found Japanese CormorantPelagic Cormorant, and Brown Booby on the sea, with a sheltered harbor giving great views of Masked BuntingJapanese Bush Warbler, and Blue Rock Thrush.

Of course, in the late afternoon the lure of the cranes was too much to ignore, so we again spent a couple of hours up until dusk exploring the same ground as the previous day, where we again found the Siberian Crane, along with White-naped CranesHooded CranesCommon Crane, and new for our trip, a pair of Sandhill Cranes, our sixth and final crane species of this short tour. We were much in awe of these beautiful birds, with frequent gasps of delight ringing out from around the vehicle! Today the Siberian Crane was much closer than the previous day, and we were treated to prolonged views of this world-rarity going about foraging. Our views of White-naped Cranes were probably the best of the tour too, and all seen in the glorious late afternoon glow of the setting sun. Just magical.

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The majestic White-naped Crane looked glorious in the late afternoon sunlight.


We did of course pay due attention to the other birds of the area, and we found Black-faced SpoonbillEurasian SpoonbillNorthern LapwingHen Harrier, (Eastern) RookDaurian JackdawBull-headed ShrikeEurasian SkylarkBuff-bellied (Siberian) Pipit, and a large flock of Russet Sparrows. This ended what had been another great day of birding in Japan.

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The Endangered (BirdLife InternationalBlack-faced Spoonbill showed well.


Day 6, 3rd March 2024. Izumi to Kagoshima to Tokyo

The final day of the tour had come around and we decided to make the most of what time we had left by a return visit to Kogawa Dam and surrounds as we had enjoyed our visit there the previous day, and still had plenty of birds to try and see. Along the way we stopped off at a few river viewpoints, where we found one of our main targets for the morning, Crested Kingfisher. While looking for the kingfisher we found almost a dozen Meadow Buntings and had brief views of distant Ryukyu Minivet and Eurasian (Japanese) Jay. An Asian Stubtail was heard calling here but was not seen.

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A gorgeous male Red-flanked Bluetail gave us a great showing.


We covered the dam in the opposite direction to the previous morning and our first stop yielded a gorgeous male Red-flanked Bluetail and here we again heard a Japanese Green Woodpecker. The bird was on the opposite side of the reservoir, so we drove directly to this area and within a few moments we were watching a gorgeous Japanese Green Woodpecker at close range. After enjoying prolonged views of the woodpecker, we also had better views of a pair of Ryukyu Minivets and a short while later, a gorgeous pair of Mandarin Ducks and a pair of Crested Kingfishers. Leaving the reservoir area, we found White-bellied Green PigeonVaried TitPale Thrush, and Masked Bunting.

We took our lunch in the town of Satsuma, where the river held Japanese WagtailMeadow Bunting, and nearby, a Eurasian Goshawk. An additional river stop gave us Daurian RedstartJapanese WagtailGrey WagtailWhite (Black-backed) WagtailEastern Buzzard, and another (our fourth for the day), Crested Kingfisher!

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Masked Buntings showed well while we were birding in Kyushu.


Our final birding of the tour was in a pretty, forested area just outside of Kagoshima. We drove an almost-deserted forest road, where we had two brief sightings of the rare Copper Pheasant, first a male bird, and second two female/young birds. Here we also saw White-bellied Green PigeonJapanese Green WoodpeckerEurasian (Japanese) JayVaried TitPale Thrush, and Red-flanked Bluetail.

We took the short drive to Kagoshima airport, where we had a final dinner and boarded our flight back to Tokyo, where this short, fun, and highly productive tour ended. A huge thanks must go to Nigel, our local guide for all the driving and local guiding as they were both invaluable to the success of the tour. “Bird of the trip” was the Critically Endangered (BirdLife InternationalSiberian Crane, with the stunning Mandarin Duck, amazing Crested Auklet spectacle, and the majestic dancing and bugling (in a blizzard) Red-crowned Cranes all getting honorable mentions. There really could easily have been another dozen ‘top birds’, as the quality of what had been seen in under a week was very high indeed!

We enjoyed fantastic, prolonged looks at Siberian Crane, a global rarity and “bird of the trip”!


Bird List – Following IOC (14.1)

Birds ‘heard only’ are marked with (H) after the common name, all other species were seen. The following notation after species names is used to show conservation status following BirdLife International: CR = Critically Endangered, EN = Endangered, VU = Vulnerable.

Common Name Scientific Name
Ducks, Geese, Swans (Anatidae)
Brant Goose Branta bernicla
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata
Baikal Teal Sibirionetta formosa
Garganey Spatula querquedula
Northern Shoveler Spatula clypeata
Gadwall Mareca strepera
Falcated Duck Mareca falcata
Eurasian Wigeon Mareca penelope
Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Northern Pintail Anas acuta
Eurasian Teal Anas crecca
Common Pochard – VU Aythya ferina
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
Greater Scaup Aythya marila
Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus
Stejneger’s Scoter Melanitta stejnegeri
Black Scoter Melanitta americana
Long-tailed Duck – VU Clangula hyemalis
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula
Common Merganser Mergus merganser
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator
Pheasants & Allies (Phasianidae)
Copper Pheasant Syrmaticus soemmerringii
Swifts (Apodidae)
House Swift Apus nipalensis
Pigeons, Doves (Columbidae)
Rock Dove Columba livia
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis
White-bellied Green Pigeon Treron sieboldii
Rails, Crakes & Coots (Rallidae)
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
Cranes (Gruidae)
Siberian Crane – CR Leucogeranus leucogeranus
Sandhill Crane Antigone canadensis
White-naped Crane – VU Antigone vipio
Red-crowned Crane – VU Grus japonensis
Common Crane Grus grus
Hooded Crane – VU Grus monacha
Grebes (Podicipedidae)
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Plovers (Charadriidae)
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Long-billed Plover Charadrius placidus
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
Sandpipers, Snipes (Scolopacidae)
Solitary Snipe Gallinago solitaria
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Dunlin Calidris alpina
Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)
Black-legged Kittiwake – VU Rissa tridactyla
Saunders’s Gull – VU Saundersilarus saundersi
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris
Common Gull Larus canus
Vega Gull Larus vegae
Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus
Glaucous-winged Gull Larus glaucescens
Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistisagus
Auks (Alcidae)
Least Auklet Aethia pusilla
Crested Auklet Aethia cristatella
Spectacled Guillemot Cepphus carbo
Pigeon Guillemot Cepphus columba
Thick-billed Murre Uria lomvia
Common Murre Uria aalge
Loons (Gaviidae)
Red-throated Loon Gavia stellata
Black-throated Loon Gavia arctica
Pacific Loon Gavia pacifica
Gannets, Boobies (Sulidae)
Brown Booby Sula leucogaster
Cormorants, Shags (Phalacrocoracidae)
Pelagic Cormorant Urile pelagicus
Japanese Cormorant Phalacrocorax capillatus
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Ibises, Spoonbills (Threskiornithidae)
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Black-faced Spoonbill – EN Platalea minor
Herons, Bitterns (Ardeidae)
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Great Egret Ardea alba
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Ospreys (Pandionidae)
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Kites, Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)
Mountain Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus nipalensis
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Eurasian Goshawk Accipiter gentilis
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Steller’s Sea Eagle – VU Haliaeetus pelagicus
White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla
Rough-legged Buzzard Buteo lagopus
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus
Owls (Strigidae)
Blakiston’s Fish Owl Ketupa blakistoni
Ural Owl Strix uralensis
Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Crested Kingfisher Megaceryle lugubris
Woodpeckers (Picidae)
Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker Yungipicus kizuki
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
Japanese Green Woodpecker Picus awokera
Caracaras, Falcons (Falconidae)
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Merlin Falco columbarius
Cuckooshrikes (Campephagidae)
Ryukyu Minivet Pericrocotus tegimae
Shrikes (Laniidae)
Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus
Crows, Jays (Corvidae)
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
Daurian Jackdaw Coloeus dauuricus
Rook Corvus frugilegus
Carrion Crow Corvus corone
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos
Tits, Chickadees (Paridae)
Coal Tit Periparus ater
Varied Tit Sittiparus varius
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris
Willow Tit Poecile montanus
Japanese Tit Parus minor
Penduline Tits (Remizidae)
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus
Larks (Alaudidae)
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis
Bulbuls (Pycnonotidae)
Brown-eared Bulbul Hypsipetes amaurotis
Swallows, Martins (Hirundinidae)
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus
Cettia Bush Warblers & Allies (Cettiidae)
Japanese Bush Warbler Horornis diphone
Asian Stubtail (H) Urosphena squameiceps
Bushtits (Aegithalidae)
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
White-eyes (Zosteropidae)
Warbling White-eye Zosterops japonicus
Wrens (Troglodytidae)
Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
Nuthatches (Sittidae)
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea
Starlings, Rhabdornises (Sturnidae)
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Thrushes (Turdidae)
Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus
Dusky Thrush Turdus eunomus
Chats, Old World Flycatchers (Muscicapidae)
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius
Dippers (Cinclidae)
Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii
Old World Sparrows, Snowfinches (Passeridae)
Russet Sparrow Passer cinnamomeus
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
Wagtails, Pipits (Motacillidae)
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Japanese Wagtail Motacilla grandis
Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens
Finches, Euphonias (Fringillidae)
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes
Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula
Asian Rosy Finch Leucosticte arctoa
Siberian Long-tailed Rosefinch Carpodacus sibiricus
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica
Common Redpoll Acanthis flammea
Buntings (Emberizidae)
Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans
Masked Bunting Emberiza personata
Common Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus
Total seen 139
Total heard only 1
Total recorded 140


Mammal List

Common Name Scientific Name
Canids (Canidae)
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes
Deer (Cervidae)
Sika Deer Cervus nippon
Mustelids (Mustelidae)
Sable Martes zibellina
Sea Otter Enhydra lutris
Squirrels (Sciuridae)
Eurasian Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris
Earless Seals (Phocidae)
Spotted Seal Phoca largha
Total 6



This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.

Where else but Japan in winter can you see six species of cranes? The Red-crowned Cranes dancing in the blowing snow in Hokkaido were magical. The lone Siberian Crane in Kyushu was an unexpected delight. We can recommend this tour unreservedly. Andy is a companionable, knowledgeable guide intent on finding great birds for us  - and highly successful.

Urban and Nancy - On Andy and Japan

The boat usually (and currently) leaves Tokyo at 22:30 hrs. and arrives in Miyake-Jima at 05:00 hrs. The ferry then leaves Miyake-Jima at 13:35 hrs. arriving back in Tokyo at 19:40 hrs.

During the winter there is a moderate chance that the ferry service might get cancelled due to poor weather. If that happens, we have an alternative plan that will involve some birding in the Tokyo area. We will only have the one chance for the pelagic and island birding trip. If the weather prevents the trip, we will be unable to go and we are unable to reschedule the trip.

There is a small chance that if the weather deteriorates while we are on the island, we may need to spend a night on the island unexpectedly. In this rare scenario, we might not get back to Tokyo at the time/date planned in the itinerary. It would therefore be prudent to book an extra night in Tokyo for the night of Day 14 (not included in the tour cost) and then have an international flight booked for the following day (i.e.: 24 hrs, later than in this itinerary, so what would be “Day 15”). We can help book that extra ‘security’ night if you wish, in the same hotel, and we can also arrange additional birding or sightseeing excursions in Tokyo, if you should wish to explore this fascinating city, or just relax after an exciting couple weeks’ winter birding in Japan.

You could also opt to fly out of Tokyo on Day 14, if you wish, as indicted in the itinerary. It is impossible to predict if the weather will cause any issues with this pelagic trip until the day before/day of this trip. We will of course monitor the situation and check with the ferry operator ahead of time to try and reduce any chance of issues due to cancellations and delays, though those factors are clearly out of our hands.

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