Japan in Summer + Bonin extension
24th May - 8th June 2020
Leader: Carlos Bocos and Chikara Otani
Max group size: 8
Please note: this itinerary is designed to maximise our chances of the Japan's summer specialities in a condensed time, though covering more islands than any other itinerary offered. As the majority of birders have, or intend to visit Japan in winter, we do not spend additional time in search of birds typically found easier in the winter, most notably Copper Pheasant and Blakiston's Fish Owl. The latter is possible as a post-dusk extension on Hokkaido however, along a remote river rather than the well-known feeding site further afield, in the winter. For those wishing to including these two species, extensions can be arranged, please contact us for details.
Arrivals into Narita International Airport. Night in Narita.
We start the tour at at nearby Inbanuma and Omigawa in search of Green Pheasant, Japanese Marsh Warbler and Japanese Reed Bunting, all of which breed in-and-around the remaining pockets of Phragmites. Other birds include Eurasian and Yellow Bittern, Eastern Marsh Harrier, japonica Eurasian Skylark and Oriental Reed Warbler. In the late morning we drive further afield, to Mount Fuji for Japanese Accentor and Japanese Leaf Warbler. Other birds are Eastern Crowned Warbler, ‘Grey-bellied Bullfinch’ and Siberian Bluetail. Night near Mount Fuji.
Full day around Mount Fuji, visiting both the base and the higher reaches of the mountain, towards the treeline. We search for a wealth of summer migrants including Northern Hawk Cuckoo, Siberian Thrush, Japanese Thrush, Brown-headed Thrush, Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Narcissus Flycatcher, Siberian Blue Robin, Eastern-crowned Leaf Warbler and, most importantly, Japanese Yellow Bunting. If time, we drive into the countryside for Chestnut-cheeked Starling and Japanese Grosbeak. Night near Mount Fuji.
After a final morning around Mount Fuji we any species we are still missing we drive across Tokyo to catch a ferry to Miyake-jima. Overnight on ferry.
Morning arrival to Miyake-jima. Our targets on this small island out of Tokyo is short on quantity but very high on quality - Japanese Wood Pigeon, Owston’s (Izu) Tit, Ijima’s Leaf Warbler, Styan’s Grasshopper Warbler, Izu Thrush and Izu Robin – the latter a split from Japanese Robin. Other birds include Japanese Cormorant, Lesser Cuckoo, Pacific Swift and Black-tailed Gull. Night at Miyake-jima.
Morning at Miyake-jima once again before catching the ferry back to Tokyo. From the ferry we have a few seabird possibilities, including Streaked, Short-tailed, Sooty and Flesh-footed Shearwaters, Bulwer’s Petrel, Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses, Brown Booby and even Japanese Murrelet. Night at Haneda.
Morning flight to Ishigaki-jima. This tropical island, in the Southern Nansai-shoto islands, is closer to Taipei than to even Okinawa, is home to a number of resident and summer breeders, our targets here are Ryukyu Green Pigeon, Ryukyu Serpent Eagle, Ryukyu Scops Owl, Ryukyu Minivet, Japanese Paradise-flycatcher, ‘Yaeyama Crow’ – a small-billed race of Large-billed, Ishigaki Tit (a very distinctive form of Japanese Tit) and Ryukyu (Owston’s) Flycatcher – the latter a recent split from Narcissus Flycatcher. Other birds include Cinnamon Bittern, Malayan Night Heron, Slaty-legged and Ruddy-breasted Crakes, Japanese Sparrowhawk, Northern Boobook and Ruddy Kingfisher – occasionally an over-summering Chinese Egret is present along the coastline. Night on Ishigaki-jima.
Depending on ferry time, we should have some time for early morning birding on Ishigaki-jima, before heading across to Iriomote-jima. Iriomote-jima has a single island near-endemic, Iriomote Tit (there are a few records from Ishigaki), which will obviously be our main target here. Other species include much of what we will have seen on Ishigaki, along with better chances of Ryukyu Serpent Eagle. At night, there is always a chance of the rarely-seen Iriomote Cat. Night on Iriomote-jima.
After final morning at Iriomote, we fly to Okinawa Island and drive to the north side of the island from the islands capital, Nara. Night at Yambaru, Okinawa.
A full, and exciting day on Okinawa. Targets are the flightless Okinawa Rail, Ryukyu Scops Owl (northern form), Japanese Scops Owl (endemic race), Okinawa Woodpecker, Brown-eared Bulbul (genetically distinct central Ryukyu form), Japanese Bush Warbler and the boldly plumaged Okinawa Robin. Sometimes Mandarin Duck is also possible. Night at Yambaru, Okinawa.
Morning flight across to Amami-jima. Depending on the flight time depends exactly on our birding plans, but it will certainly finish with us driving along the forests hill roads in search of Amami Woodcock, a species that is usually found (eventuall!) sat on the roadside, or even on the road! In addition, at night we could also come across the nocturnal Amami Black Rabbit and Habu – an impressive venomous snake, and Ryukyu Pit-viper and an array of cool frogs and toads! Night on Amami.
Full day birding on Amami. The targets are the difficult Amami Thrush, Amami (White-backed) Woodpecker, Lidth’s Jay and Ryukyu Robin. Also we have chance for catch up with Ryukyu Green Pigeon, Japanese Wood Pigeon, Ryukyu Scops Owl (northern form), Northern Boobook, Ruddy Kingfisher, Ryukyu Minivet and Japanese Paradise-flycatcher. Once again at night, we go in search of Amami Woodcock. Night on Amami.
Today is largely a travel day – first we fly to Haneda Airport, in Tokyo to connect with our onward flight to Hokkaido, arriving at Kushiro at some point in the afternoon. Night near Kushiro.
Our first morning on Hokkaido will be spent in an area of forest close to Kushiro. Mainly summering migrants, with a few resident birds, where we hope to bump into Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, Northern Hawk Cuckoo and Japanese Robin. An array of other, more widespread possibilities include Hazel Grouse, Japanese Pygmy, White-backed, Black and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Brandt’s Jay, White’s Thrush and Asian Brown, Blue-and-white and Narcissus Flycatchers. Sometimes Kamchatka Leaf Warbler is also possible. Later we drive to Kiritappu for a two-night stay.
Full day birding around Kiritappu, northern Hokkaido. Targets are Latham’s Snipe, Lanceolated, Middendorff’s and Sakhalin Grasshopper Warblers. Other birds include Red-crowned Crane, White-tailed Eagle, Black-browed Reed Warbler, Siberian Rubythroat,and Siberian Stonechat. We also have chance to catch-up with some of the forest species once again.
Depending on the weather, and our success, we may take the Ochiishi boat cruise for half a morning, we have a good chance for Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses, Spectacled Guillemot, Rhinoceros Auklet and Tufted Puffin, while rarities in the past have included Horned Puffin and Ancient Murrelet.
We have a final mornings birding – where we visit depends on our previous two-days successes. Following lunch we fly back to Tokyo for dinner and toast to what should have been a wonderful tour.
Departures from Tokyo, either Narita or Haneda International Airports.
Bonin (Ogasawara) Islands post-tour extension
If the ferry timetable allows, we will run a post-tour extension to the Bonin Islands. The single endemic here, Bonin White-eye, is easy to see, and we will also look for the endemic subspecies still found on the islands, including Japanese Woodpigeon. In addition, the seabirding could be rewarding, with possibilities including Bonin Petrel, Bannerman's and Bryan's Shearwaters - birds rarely seen away from these islands.