Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Hokkaido - Abashiri, Notoro and Notsuke

We'll be leaving Hokkaido tomorrow afternoon, after a really memorable time here. Despite the winter being extremely mild, lower snow than normal and a distinct lack of sea ice we've managed to come away with some really decent stuff. And it was still pretty cold too to be honest! Large numbers of quality birds all along the coast... copious numbers of Harlequins mainly with a load of Black Scoters thrown in.

We started our coastal birding in the north around the town of Abashiri and Cape Notoro. This was the first in a long line of sites we'd check for Asian Rosy Finch, but pride of place here was a Siberian Grey Shrike on roadside wires a km or so before the lighthouse. A pretty scarce bird in Japan, and one we've got Josh J and Google translate to thank for the gen.
Siberian Grey Shrike Cape Notoro, Hokkaido 27th December 2015
Back in Abashiri with a nice dumping of snow, the local Slaty-backed Gulls and a few Glaucous Gulls were out in force. A handful of Falcated Ducks were on the river, and a few Oriental Greenfinches seemed a bit out of their depth.
adult Slaty-backed Gull Abashiri, Hokkaido 27th December 2015
juvenile Glaucous Gull Abashiri, Hokkaido 27th December 2015
We headed east along the coast towards Shari, stopping off at a swan park where there'd been a hutchinsii Canada Goose a couple of days previously. We couldn't find this yank stray but a few Harlequins on the river, a drake Smew, a couple of distant Steller's Sea Eagles and Red-crowned Cranes at least gave us something to look at.
adult Slaty-backed Gull Shari, Hokkaido 27th December 2015 (with Mick S looking elsewhere)
Despite our best efforts to get the gulls in with the usual bread and popcorn at Shari, as soon as one of these beasts flew over they all scarpered, even the Glaucs.
White-tailed Eagle Shari, Hokkaido 27th December 2015
The next day (after our first night with Blakiston's Fish Owls - see previous post), we headed east and onto the coast again after a check of Yoroushi-onsen for Solitary Snipe. This was unsuccessful but the many brandtii Jays played ball.
Jay Yoroushi-onsen, Hokkaido 28th December 2015
Once on the coast, checking of harbour revealed good numbers of Harlequins and Black Scoters once again, with a scattering of Pacific Divers and Red-necked Grebes. We headed into Rausu, knowing full well all the boat trips to see the eagles on the ice wouldn't be happening (due to the lack of ice), so we cut our losses and retraced our steps south and then onto the Notsuke Peninsula. And the Steller's Sea Eagles duly obliged, in large numbers.



Steller's Sea Eagles Notsuke, Hokkaido 28th December 2015
There were also a number of White-tailed Eagles on the peninsular too, as well as twenty or so Snow Buntings; however our quest for Asian Rosy Finch would have to be finishe another day.

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