Birding Hokkaido- Abashiri, Yoroushi, Cape Notsuke

Memanbetsu birding around Lake Abashiri, Cape Notoro and Saroma

A 20min bus ride from Memanbetsu airport took us to the lakeside hotel, Abashirikoso. Located just next to the frozen lake, we had our first views of Steller’s Sea Eagles, White-tailed Sea Eagles and a hungry fox! There is a trail across the hotel where we saw the Varied Tits, Marsh Tits, Black-eared Kites, Eurasian Nuthatch and the rare Mountain Hawk Eagle! The hotel is also famous for Onsen and they serve very nice dinner there!:)

dinner at lake abashiri hotel- yummy!

dinner at lake abashiri hotel- yummy!

Our two day stay at Memanbetsu yielded more foxes and quality birds including Smew, Grey-headed woodpecker, Goldeneye, Whooper Swans, Tundra Swans, Falcated ducks, Spot-billed ducks, Red-crowned Cranes, Long-tailed Rosefinches, Treecreeper, etc! Cape Notoro provided very good sea birding opportunities and the view was breathtaking, a place not to be missed!

white tailed sea eagle

white tailed sea eagle

mmexport1460106007434

Birding at Lake Tofutsu, Lake Kusharo and Yoroushi Hotel Daiichi

We headed South towards Yoroushi Hotel Daiichi, an Onsen hotel that provides very good birding! We stopped at Lake Tofutsu and Lake Kusharo where we further saw birds including Ural Owl, Winter Wren, Eurasian Bullfinches, and Sea Eagles!

Ural owl at Lake Kusharo.

Ural owl at Lake Kusharo.

By 5pm, we were at Yoroushi hotel and immediately greeted by Japanese Sable! With a running creek outside and warm water pipes surrounding the hot-spring hotel, it provided a comfortable home for these cute mammals in winter! Looking thru the window in the lobby, we also saw lots of Eurasian Jays, Marsh tits, etc.

Hokkaido Sable at Yoroushi Hotel

Dinner starts at 6pm as we’re told the Blakiston fish owl usually appears around 6:45pm! Sure enough, the majestic owl appeared and we dropped our chopsticks and headed to the lobby where we already set up our gears! A couple currently lives along the creek and they came a few times to make sure we had great views of them! I find this style of birding very stressful- I couldn’t concentrate on my dinner and ended up having stomach cramps!:-/

According to Matsuo San, owner of Lode Furen, there are only 130 Blakiston’s fish owls in Hokkaido and their locations are being kept secret and are in the process of tagging as part of conservation strategy. Best views for this rare owl lies in Rausu and Yoroushi.

blakiston fish owl in Yoroushi hotel

lobby in Yoroushi hotel

lobby in Yoroushi hotel

Birding at Notsuke Peninsula and around Lodge Furen

At Notsuke Peninsula, we saw more Steller’s Sea Eagles waiting to head North, White-tailed sea-eagles, Black Scoters, White-winged Scoters, Harlequin duck, Pacific Cormorants, Asian Rosefinches, more foxes and also deers!

deers at Cape Notsuke

deers at Cape Notsuke

male black scoters after one female

male black scoters after one female

seller's sea eagle in flight

seller’s sea eagle in flight

harlequin duck at cape Notsuke

harlequin duck at cape Notsuke

Habomai cruise and more birding around Lodge Furen

It was a windy day and the waters was rough! While hanging on to our dear lives on the  boat, we were rewarded with good views of Spectacled Guillemots, Long-tailed Ducks, Rhinoceros Auklets, Black Scoters, Pigeon Guillemots, Greater Scaup, etc!

Some Long-tailed ducks in choppy waters

Some Long-tailed ducks in choppy waters

spectacled guillemot at Hobamai cruise

spectacled guillemot at Habomai cruise

rhino auklets are common here

rhino auklets are common here

A blurry pic of pigeon guillemot

A blurry pic of pigeon guillemot

wild and windy hobamai cruise

wild and windy habomai cruise

Back on land, we spent sometime looking at Glaucous-winged and Glaucous gulls!

Glaucous-winged gulls seen in most piers in Hokkaido

Glaucous-winged gulls seen in most piers in Hokkaido

glaucous gull in Hokkaido

glaucous gull in Hokkaido

Everyone wrote something for Matsuo san when we stayed at Lodge Furen.

Everyone wrote something for Matsuo san when we stayed at Lodge Furen.

It was a happy few days birding in Hokkaido! Our last bird of this section of the trip was Hazel Grouse. I lost count of how many times we saw foxes but its always exciting to see one and even more thrilled to see a pair!

The next day, we flew out from Kushiro to continue our journey to Miyakejima island!

Hazel grouse in Hokkaido

Hazel grouse in Hokkaido

Love is on the air!

Love is in the air!

fox4

Posted in Japan | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Japan pelagic birding- Hokkaido- Miyakejima island Part 1/3

Late March is a good month to bird in Hokkaido- because we saw not only winter birds but also spring arrivals and cost was much lower! I also wanted to do a pelagic trip and also visit Miyakejima island, so I bundled them up and  came up with an itinerary and my friends- Low and Gim joined in. I couldn’t have asked for better company, Low is our chief spotter, Gim- our researcher, Terry, for bird I.D. and spotter; and me? I already came up with an itinerary and arranged everything- so I just chill and relax~😛

Itinerary

Nagoya to Tomakomai, Hokkaido (by ship) Click here for ship details!

From Tomakomai, Hokkaido, we flew to Memanbetsu, Hokkaido where we met Matsuo San (our guide and driver)

From Kushiro, Hokkaido, we flew to Tokyo and embarked night ferry to Miyakejima Island. Click here for ship booking.

*We’ve taken 2 domestic flights  and as we hold foreign passports, we could get cheap domestic tickets via ANA, and JAL 

At Nagoya Meitetsu Bus Terminal, we took the one and only bus to Nagoya Port- It leaves everyday at 5:20pm at level 4 (ticket counter at level 3). When we arrived at the Nagoya port, the big ship was awaiting for us and so were choppy waters with white caps! We’re in for a rough ride!

A 3 day ride from Nagoya to Hokkaido and we bagged a lot of pelagic birds- the most fruitful period was actually from Nagoya to Sendai section- after we’ve passed Sendai, things were a lot quieter but the scenery was breathtaking!

Some birds and mammals we saw: streaked shearwaters (tons of them), Ancient murrelets, Japanese murrelets, Short-tailed albatross, Black-legged kittiwakes, Red-throated loons, Black-throated loons, Pomarine Skuas, Rhino auklets, gulls, Dall’s porpoises, Northern fur seals, etc.

black legged kittiwakes are seen in flocks in Pacific Ocean

black legged kittiwakes are seen in flocks in Pacific Ocean

Pomarine Skua flew in and I was able to take a nice photo with my short lens.

Pomarine Skua flew in and I was able to take a nice photo with my short lens.

Small flocks of Ancient Murrelets seen on pelagic birding in Japan

Small flocks of Ancient Murrelets seen on pelagic birding in Japan

Lots of loons seen on Pelagic birding, from Nagoya to Tomakomai

Lots of loons seen on Pelagic birding, from Nagoya to Tomakomai

Lot's of Dall's porpoises in the Pacific Ocean!

Lot’s of Dall’s porpoises in the Pacific Ocean!

Northern fur seals floating in the Pacific Ocean.

Northern fur seals floating in the Pacific Ocean.

An unforgettable moment-

Saw a white wagtail making it way to Hokkaido! It didn’t hopped on the ship for a free ride, but kept on flying low to avoid headwinds..but waters were choppy in the Pacific Ocean.. I hoped it got to Hokkaido safely. To witness a migration like this brings a tear in my eye every time I think of it.

Migration across Pacific Ocean is not easy

Migration across Pacific Ocean is not easy

And here’s some great views as the ship made its way to Tomakomai port!

Snow-capped mountains seen as we got closer to Hokkaido.

Snow-capped mountains seen as we got closer to Hokkaido.

Arriving Tomakomai port

Arriving Tomakomai port

Lots of jellyfish in water, not sure if edible?

Lots of jellyfish in water, not sure if edible?

We arrived on time and headed out of the ferry terminal to catch our shuttle bus at 11:30 to the New Chitose airport for our flight to Memanbetsu! Everything went flawless, thank goodness!

Bus stop outside Tomakomai port

Bus stop outside Tomakomai port

End of part 1- zzz

Posted in Japan | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jankowski’s Bunting

jankowski's bunting female

Jankowski’s Bunting

 

A bird that is on the verge of extinction is seen in Beijng! Overseas birders were just as excited as the local birders. Busy with my work, i couldn’t find the time to visit firsthand but I finally got to see the small flock that has decided to winter in Beijing.

a bird that needs desperate help!

a bird that needs desperate help!

jankowski bunting

Jankowski’s bunting wintering in Beijing

jankowski bunting

Jankowski’s bunting

Its been quite sometime since I last visited Miyun! There were tractors cutting the grass, making rodents flee from their hideouts! Raptors definitely saw this opportunity and they were hovering around in search for their tasty food.

While people were busy taking photos of raptors, we’re on the other end trying to find the Jankowski’s buntings! It is a difficult task to I.D. them if not for the experts! But I wandered off alone to see more birds. Then i saw a group of buntings very close to me- my instinct was to photo first then I.D. later. And it paid off!:)

I hope people will make a contribution to save the bunting, especially for those who saw the bunting.. click here to donate! For more information about Jankowski’s bunting (also known as rufous-backed bunting), visit http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=8938

Posted in China | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Wildlife in Uganda

My first trip to Africa and I went to Uganda! Without my yellow fever vaccination ( out of stock in China and HK takes 3 months to get an appointment- blimey!) I took a risky move purely to see my dream bird. It was none other than the pre-historic looking Shoebill! I was told it’s a 99% chance of seeing the weird looking bird at Mabamba swamp but we failed to find it in my morning boat trip!:-/ The boat ride however, gave us awesome views of a variety of birds including African Jacanas, Malachite Kingfishers, Palmnut Vultures and even a Mamba snake!

I was devastated not seeing the shoebill- how can I leave Uganda without seeing the Shoebill!? My guide David Agenya (Gorilla whisperer) arranged an afternoon hunt and perseverance is in sight! No words can describe my feelings when I saw the Shoebill up-close, bucket list ticked and I can finally move on to my next venture- yup, searching for relatives!

shoebill5

Shoebill in Mabamba!

Relatives that share 98.4% DNA with me live in the Impenetrable forest at Bwindi and up the mountains! To see these rare relatives- you need a permit and a very good guide. We’re in good hands as David Agenya is the lead supervisor at the research centre- he arranged everything including a great lodge (The silverback) and personally took us up the hike! For 15 USD, I hired a porter which helped me with my backpack and gave me a push/ pull to get through the damp forest! To penetrate the impenetrable forest, our guards used machetes and after almost a 2hour hike (we’re lucky as in some cases it takes 8hrs), we finally saw our relatives! Yes, mountain Gorillas! We had very good views of the babies and the Silverback and his wives as we spent an hour with the family.

gorilla2

Silverback at Bwindi Impenetrable forest

Uganda has much to offer-located at the Equator, the weather is mild, with greens everywhere! No wonder it boasts of over 1000 birds in Uganda and is home to elephants, tree-climbing lions and cheeky chimpanzees and angry hippos, etc! I didnt have enough time to do a safari but just passing through the outskirts already gave me a hindsight of what I have missed! Surely, I’ll be back again for more! Thanks to David Agenya who only whispers to gorillas (davidagenya@gmail.com)!

Below are just some of the many birds and wildlife photos I’ve taken at lodges, drive-bys!😛

crowned crane

Crowned crane- national bird of Uganda

elephant3

Elephants in Uganda

giant kingfisher2

Giant Kingfisher

saddle-billed stork

Saddle-billed stork

helmeted guineafowl

helmeted guineafowl

lizard buzzard

lizard buzzard

Spur-winged lapwing

spur-winged lapwing

long crest eagle

Long-crested Eagle

African fish eagle

African Fish eagle

african buffalo

African Buffalo

African Harrier-hawk1

African harrier hawk

african golden breasted bunting

African golden breasted bunting

babboon

baboon!

Posted in Uganda | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Birding in Wuerqihan Part 2

The visit this time to Wuerqihan, Inner Mongolia in November yielded as much surprise as last winter if not better! At -32c last year, we missed the grouses but apparently this is the best time to see the grouses plus the owl I missed last year- Ural Owl.

The dark was setting in when we had just seen a raccoon dog! Still thrilled with the raccoon or dog lifer, our car stumbled upon a rock that was in the middle of the road. A close look- Ural owl – one i had missed last winter, so it’s a thrill to see it at close distance too!

Ural owl on the road

Ural owl on the road

Of course the usual owls were there too- Great Grey and Hawk Owl.😛

Hawk owl is very common in Wuerqihan

Hawk owl is very common in Wuerqihan

greatgrey

Great grey owl wasn’t fussed about us

And of course, the grouses and the rare Black-billed capercaillie were seen this time. Hazel grouses were plentiful- male looked especially stunning with red eyelids. When winds picked up, it was a funny sight to see the Black grouse swaying on the thin stems of the trees!

black billed capercaillie is a MUST SEE in Wuerqihan

black billed capercaillie is a MUST SEE in Wuerqihan

Hazel grouse wears furry boots all year round.

Hazel grouses wears furry boots all year round.

Black grouse on a tree!

Black grouse on a tree!

Other birds seen included the Black woodpecker, three-toed woodpecker, lesser spotted woodpecker, Eurasian Jay, Siberian Jay, Nuthatch, Willow tit, Azure tit, and also loads of ravens, crows, and long-tailed tits! At -10c, and not too windy, the weather was gd for the 3.5 days birding. But as the snow hasn’t filled the holes on the road, the car ride was slow and bumpy! Nonetheless, I hope to visit this magical forest again in Spring, hopefully see a lynx and some more rare birds.:)

willow tit in Inner Mongolia

willow tit in Inner Mongolia

lots of long-tailed tits here!

lots of long-tailed tits here!

And of course I have to post the raccoon dog!:)

Raccoon dog seen in the fields at Wuerqihan

Raccoon dog seen in the fields at Wuerqihan

Posted in China | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment