More Cranes And A Boat Trip To Look For A Very Special Seabird Japan February 2020

A very special seabird was high on our wanted list of birds in Japan.

On the 6th of February we were again out before dawn and visited the spectacular crane flocks feeing behind the seawall, a breath-taking scene with so many birds flying in, calling and feeding all so close. We were so lucky the day before as on this second visit we “only” enjoyed three species of crane – Hooded, White-naped and Sandhill, not picking out either Common or Demoiselle Cranes. But the spectacle was still the same cranes on mass are just fantastic. We also enjoyed Black-faced Spoonbills and Eurasian Spoonbills here and a host of other birds including Daurian Redstarts, Meadow Buntings, Dusky Thrushes and great views of Osprey. Amongst a flock of Eurasian Tree Sparrows we enjoyed watching a pair of Russet Sparrows a new species for all of us.

We then drove up into the mountains enjoying some spectacular views as the road climbed higher and higher. With the change of altitude and habitat came a host of new species and some we had not seen for some days. Nice views of Pale Thrush, our first Red-flanked Bluetails of the trip always a thrill to see, Olive-backed Pipits, amazing Japanese Grosbeaks in the grounds of beautiful temple great birds kept coming! In some scrub near a mountain lake, where we encountered real wild Mandarin Ducks, we found our only Yellow-throated Buntings of the trip – superb birds! Another major highlight was seeing Ryukyu Minivet in road side woodland but always on the move so sadly didn’t manage any photographs of these smart birds. By a river we watched our only Asian House Martins skimming over the water and hawking for insects above us.

On the 7th of February we headed back down to the coast but we still have one target bird to find and Charley had a plan. The road wound down from the mountains following a fast flowing river and each time a bridge crossed the river we stopped and scanned. Brown Dipper were enjoyed along with more Mandarin Ducks and eventually we found the bird we had scanned so hard for – Crested Kingfisher! Not one but two, a pair of the striped funky crested large kingfishers we were very happy!

Japanese Murrelets on the calm grey sea - wonderful birds poor photos.

Boarding the boat for our search for the Japanese Murrelet.

Down at the coast it was grey with low clouds but calm so at least the sea was flat a boat trip was our next adventure. We had another most wanted bird in our sights and this one we really did not want to miss. At the harbour it really was gloomy with very poor light but I was very pleased to see the mill pond like ocean. We went to an office to meet the captain of our boat and his family that were all involved in the business and we were joined by a lovely man from the local tourist board. The gentleman had heard the tourists were coming to look for the special bird and wanted to join us on the adventure and take lots of photos to help promote the area to birdwatchers, we of course were thrilled and happy to be models for the trip! We had our briefing, donned our life jackets and board the boat the four of us and the tourist board chap now all we needed was some Japanese Murrelets. These tiny auk like seabirds are almost endemic to Japan so a really must see bird but we were worried about the visibility with the poor grey light, looking for a grey bird on a grey sea might be tough. We chugged slowly away from the dock and we all scanned the grey waters for any movement. After only about fifteen minutes our skipper was shouting and pointing he had spotted two Japanese Murrelets fantastic! The seabirds took flight whirring low over the sea and we held our breath hoping they would land again and thankfully they did. Our skipper manoeuvred the boat slowly closer and this time the birds were happy to swim about fairly close and we enjoyed super views. Sadly the really bad light made photography very tough so just some poor records possible. But what wonderful birds the Japanese Murrelets were and great to enjoy them with such lovely locals. Back at the dock we celebrated with hot drinks and biscuits back in the office and we were presented with Japanese Murrelet toys, badges, stickers and more from the local tourist board how lovely.

We were very happy indeed but a tiny bit sad that our mind-blowing Japan adventure was coming to an end – just one full day left. Check back soon for lots more bird blogs.

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