Japan in Spring: May 07—20, 2019
Spring Migration & Island Endemics
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Wonderful spring migration birding and unique endemics on Tobishima in the Sea of Japan and the southern islands of Amami and Okinawa. Diverse and beautiful spring migrants from Mugimaki Flycatcher and Siberian Blue Robin to Japanese Paradise-Flycatcher and many more. Endemics on Amami and Okinawa include gorgeous Lidth’s Jay, Amami Woodcock and Thrush, Okinawa Rail, and Pryer’s (Okinawa) Woodpecker.
Early May is a terrific time to see Japan’s birds at the peak of their spring migration, and to search out special birds unique to this ancient nation of many islands. The tour also gives an opportunity to visit and bird in rural Japan, away from urban centers, to experience a more traditional Japan that few tourists see.
Tokyo is the central hub of the tour, as we travel to different islands. Our tour is unique in that we include two nights on Tobishima Island in the Sea of Japan along with our days on Amami and Okinawa. Tobishima in spring is legendary among Japanese birders because it is a magnet for trans-Sea of Japan migrants, regularly hosting large migrant numbers, as well as birds otherwise rare in Japan.
From the coastal city of Sakata on Japan’s west coast, a short ferry ride takes us to Tobishima. Seabirds en route may include such regional specialties as Streaked Shearwater, Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel, and Japanese Murrelet. Reaching the picturesque fishing port on Tobishima, we set foot on one of the best spots in the region for seeing birds migrating north along the east rim of Asia, as they stop on this island outpost. Many species pass through here, stopping in woods and gardens, including such songbird beauties as Mugimaki and Blue-and-white flycatchers, Siberian Blue Robin, Japanese Waxwing, and Tristram’s Bunting, plus huge Black Woodpigeons and speedy Pacific Swifts. With nearly two full days to bird the small island, we are bound to strike birding riches here. Traditional lodging on the island is attractive and comfortable.
Then it’s back to Tokyo for a day, birding parks for such specialties as Japanese Green Pheasant, Japanese Wagtail, Japanese Woodpecker, and Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker. Then we fly south, beyond Japan’s main islands, to the archipelago of Nansei Shoto (Ryukyu Islands), the southernmost, subtropical islands of Japan. Here, with ample time devoted to each of the islands of Amami and Okinawa, we will search out their highly sought after endemic birds. On Amami are the unique cobalt-blue and brown Lidth’s Jay, as well as Amami Woodcock and Amami Thrush, and a night outing might also turn up Brown Boobook, Ryukyu (or Elegant) Scops-Owl, and the endemic Amami (or Ryukyu) Black Rabbit. Okinawa boasts the lovely endemic and endangered Okinawa (or Pryer’s) Woodpecker and Okinawa Rail. Both islands together offer opportunities to enjoy another rich sample of migrating birds and local specialties, from such wonders as the wildly long-tailed Japanese Paradise-Flycatcher to such birds as Cinnamon Bittern, Ruddy Kingfisher, Ryukyu Green Pigeon, Ryukyu Minivet, Ryukyu Robin, and Black-naped Tern.
Good to very good accommodations; all nights Western-style hotels except two nights Tobishima in traditional Japanese inn with futons and without single room accommodations; very good food, emphasizing fresh Japanese seafood; birding on Tobishima (two days) mostly on foot, occasionally moderately strenuous; one 80-minute ferry crossing to and from Tobishima; climate moderate and comfortable, more warm and humid farthest south.