Japan in Spring
This 22 day birding tour takes you travelling from the subtropical Ryukyu Islands in the south west to Hokkaido in the north east with its strong Siberian influences, this is a great chance to explore Japan and its birds with an experienced and knowledgeable speaking guide. We visit many small islands each with its own endemics and also search for the many Palearctic migrants that visit Japan at this time of year.
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Tour Duration22 Days
Difficulty Level Leisurely
Group Size Small Group
This 22 day tour takes you travelling from the subtropical Ryukyu Islands in the south west to Hokkaido in the north east with its strong Siberian influences, this is a great chance to explore Japan and its birds with an experienced and knowledgeable speaking guide. We visit many small islands each with its own endemics and also search for the many Palearctic migrants that visit Japan at this time of year.
There are some great seabirds to be seen and for true seabird enthusiasts we offer the Bonin Islands extension. The tour can be broken into 3 parts Honshu and the Ryukyus, Hokkaido and also the Bonin Islands.
- Meals as per itinerary
- Accommodation as per itinerary
- Guide services of tour leader
- Group tips & gratuities
- Transfers once tour has started
- Travel insurance and other emergencies
- Visa fees and entry clearing fees
- Flights (Domestic & International)
- Items of a personal nature
Make own way to hotel and meet with guide at hotel for a welcome dinner at 1830.
Tokyo to Karuzawa
Travel from Tokyo to Karuizawa.
Full day birding Karuizawa.
Mt Fuji area birding
Today we travel to the area around Mt Fuji where we will start our exploration of the of the different altitudinal levels. Japanese Wagtail, Japanese Grosbeak, Brown Dipper, Japanese and Pygmy Woodpeckers are amongst the target birds.
Mt Fuji and Lake Yamanakako
A full day exploring the forested slopes around Mt Fuji and Lake Yamanakako. Raptors such as Japanese Sparrowhawk, Grey-faced Buzzard and Oriental Honey Buzzard plus passerines such as Japanese Stubtail Warbler, Eurasian Nutcracker, Red-flanked Bluetail, and Siberian Blue Robin will be amongst our targets today.
Boat trip to Miyake-jima
Today we make our way to Tokyo birding along the way in order to catch our late afternoon boat trip from Takeshiba Pier to Miyake-jima.
Disembark from boat and explore Miyake-jima. We will be looking for the endemic Izu Island Thrush plus Ijima;s Leaf Warbler, Pieske’s Grasshopper Warbler, Chinese Bamboo Partridge and more. The return crossing to Tokyo is in daylight and we will be looking for Streaked and Short-tailed Shearwaters and perhaps Tristram’s Storm Petrel and more.
Fly Amami, Ryukyu Islands
Today we fly to Amami in the subtropical Ryukyu Islands where there is a very different avifauna and some interesting endemics. These include the stunning Lidth’s Jay, the secretive Amami Woodcock plus the Amami Thrush. There is also a number of endemic subspecies including one for Ryukyu Robin and for the White-backed Woodpecker. A night drive may help us fine the Japanese Scops Owl and an endemic mammal – the Amami Black Rabbit.
The day will be spent exploring Amami for Scaly Thrush, Ruddy Kingfisher, Ryukyu Flycatcher, Whistling Green Pigeon, Japanese Paradise Flycatcher and more.
Amami to Ishigaki
Today we fly from Amami to Ishigaki in search of the local endemics such as Iriomote Serpent Eagle.
Full day birding Ishigaki island.
Ishigaki to Okinawa
An early start to catch the flight over to Okinawa and transfer to our hotel where the shy Okinawa Rail, one of our target birds, can be found, with luck, in the hotel grounds. They can sometimes be found roosting in exposed bare branches out of reach of predators during a night drive on which we would also hope to see Ryukyu Scops Owl and Northern Boobook.
Birding Okinawa (1)
Okinawa Rail and Okinawa Woodpecker will be target species here. Neither are easy birds but there is plenty more to see as we look for them. These include Ryukyu Minivet and an endemic subspecies of Varied Tit. We will also be checking the shoreline for Greater Painted Snipe, Oriental Pratincole and White-breasted Waterhen as well as seabirds.
Birding Okinawan (2)
A second full day on Okinawa.
Okinawa to Kochi
Today we have an early start and fly from Okinawa to Tokyo Haneda Airport and onto Kochi where we will pick up our hire car and start to explore the Shikoku region paying special attention to the Fairy Pitta habitat. Rules about searching for the birds are quite strict as they do not react well to disturbance so we will not be able to crash off into the bush but will need to stick to the trails.
Birding Kochi area
Full day walking the tracks in the protected area looking for Fairy Pitta and other migrants.
Kochi to Kushiro
Morning around Kochi and then fly to Kushiro.
Kushiro is the least populated of the major Japanese islands. Hokkaido has large areas of forest, a windswept coast and is an important agricultural area. During the winter large flocks of Red-crowned Cranes gather but these, like the flocks of Steller’s Sea-Eagles at Rausu will now have dispersed. We still hope to see some of these impressive birds at the north end of the island.
Full day exploring northern Hokkaido. This is the breeding season for e the impressive Blakiston’s Fish Owl and they are not as easy to see at this time of year however they are well worth spending time on and we will visit some sites where we see them regularly.
Birding north eastern Hokkaido
Full day exploring north eastern Hokkaido. We will be concentrating on finding Palearctic migrants.
Ochiishi boat trip (weather permitting)
The Ochiishi boat trip is a must for Auks and weather permitting we will take ut. We will be looking for Ancient Murrelet, Rhinoceros Auklet, Tufted Puffin and more. Later in the day we will visit gassy coastal headlands, home to large colonies of Red-faced Cormorants and other seabirds. The patches of dwarf bamboo found on them are also often a good place to see migrants such as Lanceolated Warbler and Middendof’s Grasshopper Warbler.
Kushiro to Tokyo and onward flights
Today we finish our birding around Kushiro and take our early afternoon flight back to Tokyo Haneda Airport and onward connections.
Accommodation will vary from western style hotels as in Tokyo,to a more traditional Japanese guest-house or minshuku, at Lake Furen. Japanese culture is also a feature of the trip and we will be careful to observe the local etiquette. The food is also very distinct, with a fantastic selection of sauces for the fish, rice, and vegetable dishes which make up the traditional cuisine.
This is not a difficult tour and is suitable for anyone with a moderate standard of fitness.
The Ryukyus are subtropical while Hokkaido though not reaching the subzero temperatures of our winter trip can still be very cold by comparison. Rain is possible anywhere.