Sunday, 3 January 2016

Karuizawa no snow but snow monkeys show (then back to the airport)

The first couple of days of 2016 (Happy New Year to all by the way) were spent around Karuizawa with a morning visit to see the snow monkeys (Japanese Macaques) at Jigokudani. However, birding around Karuizawa was extremely hard work, perhaps mainly due to the really mild winter where we were walking about this place - normally with a foot or so of snow already by now - admiring all the greenery. No good for birds really, but we gave it a really good go.
Japanese Serow Karuizawa, Honshu 1st January 2016
Karuizawa, an upscale town in the 'Japanese Alps' is where people come to see the likes of Copper Pheasant, Japanese Waxwing, Pallas' Rosefinch and Japanese Accentor. Unfortunately I saw none of these, despite a day and a half walking around the woods - Josh J flushed a Copper Pheasant and we had brief views of a Naumann's Thrush (which was nice) but other than that, we had to console ourselves with Japanese Green Woodpeckers and Long-tailed Rosefinches. Plus all the usual species for the last time, including lots of Dusky Thrushes, some Japanese Grosbeaks, a couple of Japanese Wagtails and some showy Spot-billed Ducks.

male Long-tailed Rosefinches Karuizawa, Honshu 1st and 2nd January 2016
Meadow Bunting Karuizawa, Honshu 1st January 2016
Spot-billed Duck Serow Karuizawa, Honshu 2nd January 2016
The snow monkeys, however, did show well... which is no less than we expected. We got there for when the park opened (9am) and within 45 minutes had our fill just as the masses started to arrive. Pretty good value primates.

Japanese Macaques Jigokudani, Honshu 2nd January 2016
And so to this morning, Sunday. We got ourselves back to Narita airport, and carefully positioned, had a couple of hours of birding this morning - with the one target of Brown-headed Thrush, seemingly pretty straightforward around the airport hotels. And indeed they were, as within an hour of birding, we'd seen about three of them along with our last looks at stuff like Black-faced Buntings, Japanese White eyes and Oriental Turtle Doves.
Brown-headed Thrush Narita, Honshu 3rd January 2016
So that's it for this trip. Back to work tomorrow but a load of memories and a good first venture to Japan. A country that, unfortunately, puts Britain to shame in terms of etiquette, courtesy and cleanliness. A very impressive place.

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