Welcome to Birdquest
Sunday 8th February - Tuesday 24th February 2015
This year's winter tour to Japan was once again a truly wonderful trip around this enchanting country with its thrilling and spectacular avifauna. Visiting the three main islands, we began on Honshu where in the crisp snowy hills we saw five Copper Pheasant, swarms of Japanese Waxwings, Long-tailed Rosefinches and Japanese Accentors. We visited the Snow Monkeys of Nagano, and along the north coast we saw Baikal Teal, Tundra and Taiga Bean Geese, Rhinoceros Auklets, Grey-headed Lapwings and Japanese Cormorants. Shifting to the supposedly warmer climes of Kyushu, we enjoyed the spectacle of thousands of Hooded and White-naped Cranes at Arasaki, along with Black-faced Spoonbills, Long-billed Dowitcher and Long-toed Stint, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Daurian Jackdaw, Chinese Penduline Tits and Chestnut-eared Buntings. Elsewhere in Kyushu we saw Japanese Murrelets, Long-billed Plovers, Saunders’s and Heuglin’s Gulls, White-bellied Green Pigeon, a Greater Spotted Eagle, Crested Kingfisher, Forest Wagtail, Yellow-throated Buntings and Ryukyu Minivets. The third island as always was a thrill, in the snow and ice of Hokkaido we saw the dancing Red-crowned Cranes, plus our 'nature cruise' into the pack ice bringing us eyeball-to-eyeball with scores of Steller's Sea Eagles and White-tailed Eagles, squabbling over the fish thrown for them while legions of large Gulls picked up the scraps. Also around Hokkaido we saw Spectacled, Pigeon and Brunnich’s Guillemots, Ancient Murrelets and Least Auklets. A Blakiston's Fish Owl was watched catching his supper in a snowy streambed, and a fine pair of Ural Owls were seen at a daytime roost. We saw two groups of superb Pallas's Rosefinches, plus a flock of the equally pretty Asian Rosy Finches. Very importantly, we dodged some disruptive snowstorms, and coincided with the arrival of the pack ice. We had a splendid pelagic extension to the tour, and a great morning at sea provided good numbers of Short-tailed Albatross, plus Laysan and Black-footed Albatross and many Tristram’s Storm Petrels. Other mammals seen included Raccoon Dog, Japanese Giant Flying Squirrel, Japanese Serow and a couple of Sea Otter, in all it adds up to be a wonderful experience. As ever, this tour is often as much about the food as the birds (if that were actually ever possible!) and we dined very well on a very elegant cuisine.