Our winter birding tour of Japan begins on the central island of Honshu where we will search for a fine array of Japanese endemics and specialties, including Japanese Accentor, the stunning endemic Copper and Green Pheasants, Japanese Green and Japanese Pygmy Woodpeckers and dainty Japanese Waxwing. We will also spend time with endearing families of Japanese Macaques, better known as Snow Monkeys, at their hotspring hangouts.
Hokkaido to the far north of Japan’s long chain of islands will open the curtain to a wonderland of snow, frozen lakes and pine forests. This is the land of the Red-crowned Crane, which dance these snowfields with grace and elegance. The world’s biggest raptor, Steller’s Sea Eagle, and White-tailed Eagles cavort on the icy coastline, while vast numbers of sea-dwelling ducks, gulls and smaller numbers of loons and alcids forage in the frigid Pacific Ocean. A highlight of this region is the magnificent Blakiston’s Fish Owl.
To the south, on the island of Kyushu, over 10,000 cranes congregate during these winter months to escape the blizzards of the Siberian steppes. The majority of this gathering consists of White-naped and Hooded Cranes, but a remarkable seven crane species have been recorded! Large stands of temperate broad-leaved forests harbor Japanese Grosbeak, the secretive and endemic Grey Bunting, and Japanese Wood and Whistling Green Pigeons, whilst Baikal Teal is regular on small water-bodies. Here we will also search for the near-endemic and highly desirable Japanese Murrelet.