Shiretoko Peninsula: Red Foxes Born at the Fisherman’s Hut (Banya)

We met a family of Red Fox in Rausu during the spring months, when the temperatures had not yet risen to double digits yet.

The three red fox kits lived under the floor of a building called ‘Banya’, which is a hut used by the sea fishermen.

I met these kids when they were less than two weeks old, and they still couldn’t see very well. The parents were frequently grooming them, to remove the dirt from their fur.

After observing them for a few days, I could get to know their daily schedule, and the relationships between the three siblings.

The third kit, which is a little smaller, was often seen dozing off or behaving a little differently then the other two. Every morning, when the time came for the fishermen to return to the port, the parent fox would also go to the port to get the fish from the fishermen.

Red Fox cub
Red Fox cub
Red Fox cub

Every year, from May to June in Rausu, it is not uncommon to find baby foxes coming out suddenly from under the floor of the huts, jump out onto the road, or sadly even get hit by a car in the road. During this season in Eastern Hokkaido, animals such as deer and fox are raising their families, so there is a need to be extra careful when driving.

Photo & Text: Kaito IMAHORI
Observation:  Rausu, Shireoko Peninsula, Hokkaido

*Contact  us, Saiyu Travel for more information about wildlife and bird watching in Hokkaido. We can make various arrangements for your trip. We have a guesthouse, Shiretoko Serai, in Rausu, Shiretoko Peninsula.

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Ezo Chipmunks Preparing for Winter

You might have a chance to encounter the small animals in the parks and shrines while vising the Eastern Hokkaido area.

Among them are the chipmunks, which hibernate through the winter. They will use the entire park in the autumn months to collect food for their winter storage. They may carry many kinds of food back to their nests such as yew nuts, walnuts, acorns, and mushrooms.

The Ezo Chipmunk, Tamias sibiricus lineatus, is a subspecies of chipmunk that is distributed throughout Hokkaido, its surrounding islands, and the islands of the Northern Territories.

Its body is about 15 centimeters long, a similar size as a mouse; and its footsteps are hard to hear, so it is often not noticed. Hokkaido is home to two small species: the Ezo squirrels and the Ezo chipmunks. The biggest difference is that Ezo chipmunks hibernate, but Ezo squirrels do not hibernate.

Ezo squirrels build their nests at the tops of tall trees, and basically live in the canopy. Ezo chipmunks, on the other hand, build burrows at the base of trees and hibernate, so their home range is largely on the ground level.

Ezo squirrels are also longer than Ezo chipmunks, with the squirrel’s tail alone, measuring about 15 centimeters.

Ezo squirrels can be observed throughout the year, but the Ezo chipmunks are easier to find from September to October, which is the busy pre-hibernation feeding season for them.


Photography & text: Shohei Morita
Observation: Sep 2022, Eastern Hokkaido Region

*Contact  us, Saiyu Travel for more information about wildlife and bird watching in Hokkaido. We can make various arrangements for your trip. We have a guesthouse, Shiretoko Serai, in Rausu, Shiretoko Peninsula.

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White Orca (Shiretoko, Hokkaido)

In May 2023, a ‘white killer whale’ appeared in the Nemuro Strait after two years of absence.

White orca / killer whale at Shiretoko, Hokkaiado 白いシャチ

The contrasting color of black and white is a characteristic of killer whales. But this orca’s entire body is white, so the eyepatch and saddle patch are not visible unless you look closely.

After the first observation of two of them separately in the Nemuro Strait in 2019, two white killer whales swimming together made headlines in 2021. And after two years, this year (2023), one white killer whale was seen off Rausu Port.

According to a Japanese news website, he is a “mature male”, “nearly seven metres long by eye measurement”, “at least nearly 50 years old” and “most likely the same individual as the first white killer whale identified in Japan”.

It is not known whether it is an albino (Albinism), which cannot produce melanin due to a genetic abnormality, or a white variant (Leucism) due to mutation. It looks like a white variant because it does not have the characteristic red eyes of an albino and its body colour is greyish.

Pod of 13 killer whales. The colour white is said to be a disadvantage in the race for survival, as it is easily noticeable in nature, but this individual has been able to grow well.

All boats are busy with the rare appearance of ‘white Orca’.


The tip of the dorsal fin is bent slightly to the left.

Abrasions under the dorsal fin on the left side of the body.

White orca swim peacefully against the backdrop of the snow-capped mountains of the Shiretoko Peninsula. We look forward to seeing them back in Shiretoko next year!。


Photo & Video : Shohei MORITA(Shiretoko Serai) Text : Wataru YAMOTO

Observation : May 2023, Rausu – Nemuro Strait, Hokkaido

Contact us  to make arrangements for photographing Orcas of Shiretoko – Nemuro Strait from April to July.

★Wildlife videos are also available on Youtube – we have the playlist as well.

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Wildlife Sightings for January in Eastern Hokkaido

February is generally the peak season in Hokkaido’s eastern region, but what is it like in January? In this blog, we would like to introduce the wildlife that you might see in East Hokkaido (Kushiro, Notsuke Pennisula, Rausu) in January.

Short-Eared Owl (Notsuke Peninsula)

During this period, short-eared owls migrating from Siberia and other places, could be observed (depending on the year). This grassland owl is a rarity in Japan, but when you visit the open grassy fields in the evening, you might observe them flying around looking for mice. After that, as the weather gets colder, many of the owls migrate to other places around the main island of Japan (Honshu), so Hokkaido in January might be the best time to photograph the snowy landscapes with short-eared owls.

Ural Owl (Eastern Hokkaido)

The ural owl, is an endemic species that inhabits Hokkaido as a resident year around. It is easy to spot these birds in the leafless trees.

Blakiston’s Fish Owl (Rausu)

The Blakiston’s fish owl can be seen from a facility along the Chitorai River in Rausu. It is a very rare species that inhabits only eastern Hokkaido and Far East Russia (Kunashir Island).

White-Tailed Eagle (Rausu, Notsuke Peninsula, Nemuro)

In eastern Hokkaido, there are wildlife that migrate here to overwinter, and there are also resident birds as well. They are most abundant in February, and can be easily seen flying around Lake Furen and Rausu.

Steller’s Sea Eagle (Rausu, Notsuke Peninsula, Nemuro)

The Steller’s sea eagles, which breed in Far East Russia such as in the Kamchatka Peninsula, migrate to eastern Hokkaido in the winter. February is the most common, month they start arriving, but I was able to confirm their appearance in January as well.

Red Crowned Crane (Tsurui Village)

In January, the red-crowned cranes are preparing for the breeding season. I was able to see the paired couples singing and dancing together, and a young bird practicing alone. From February to March, the breeding season is in full swing, the number of couples increase and the time they spend doing their displays goes on for longer periods of time.

Red Fox

The red fox, a subspecies that inhabits the Sakhalin, Hokkaido and its surroundings, is also approaching their breeding season as well. During this period, males will walk large areas in the deep snow searching for females, so the muscles of the upper body are said to be very developed, and this one here is a good example, showing very developed pectoral muscles.

One fox approached us with the Kunashir Island in the backdrop, and if you look closely at its tail, you can see some small hair loss. Scabies is spreading among the red foxes, and is seems to be causing a population decline.

Ezo Sika Deer

These are some Ezo Sika Deer with the Kunashir Islands in the background. At this time of year, they have winter fur and are very cute, but they have a voracious appetite and are highly successful at reproduction, so in some areas they are being exterminated due to damage to agricultural areas. At Shiretoko Sarai, the venison is added to the menu so it is not wasted.

In addition, you might see kestrel and a group of long-tailed tit.

January was a fulfilling time to encounter wildlife in eastern Hokkaido for a 3 nights and 4 days stay in January.

Photo & text: Wataru HIMENO

Observation: Jan 2023, Eastern Hokkaido

*Contact  us, Saiyu Travel for more information about wildlife and bird watching in Hokkaido. We can make various arrangements for your trip. We have a guesthouse, Shiretoko Serai, in Rausu, Shiretoko Peninsula.

*Youtube : Wildlife of Japan

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Brown Bears Awaiting The Salmon Run On Shiretoko Peninsula

The fall of 2022 was a rough start to the winter for the bears. The pink salmon, which usually go upstream starting from mid-August every year, provide an important source of fat and nutrients for the bears to survive the winter. But this time, there were almost no salmon that came.

A brown bear with the pink salmon, which are dwindling in number

In 2021 was said to be bad with 1/10 the number of salmon compared to the year before. But this year was even more horribly below that. We rarely observed the brown bears in August this year, even though normally we would see them, if we took a boat along the coast. It was thought that the shortage of food would continue, but in September, the chum salmon returned in numbers that were close to the previous years’ numbers.

Chum salmon surfing the waves

The bears which had returned to the forests due to the lack of salmon, came back to the shorelines in September to look for returning salmon. Due to the short period of time, and fierce competition, it was quite difficult for the mother bears with cubs and the younger, weaker bears to get close enough to the beach to catch the salmon. In only a month’s time, the long, harsh winter of Shiretoko will begin.

A mother bear showing her cubs how to fish for salmon

A cub imitating its mother

I hope they can get through the winter, and we can see them again next year.


Photography & text : Kaito IMAHORI (Shiretoko Serai), observation SEP2022.

*Contact us, Saiyu Travel for more information about wildlife and bird watching in Hokkaido. We can make various arrangements for your trip. We have our guesthouse Shiretoko Serai in Rausu on the Shiretoko Peninsula.

Please see other article from Kaito IMAHORI about Wildlife of Hokkaido

Rausu : Where the Killer Whales Gather

Blakiston’s fish owl that lives in the forest of Shiretoko

Experiencing Autumn From the Notsuke Peninsula to Tokachi Plain: Seeing Flocks of Snow Geese, Brandt, and Pika (Part 1)

Experiencing Autumn From the Notsuke Peninsula to Tokachi Plain: Seeing Flocks of Snow Geese, Brandt, and Pika (Part 2)

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Ezo Sika Deer of the Notsuke Peninsula in Winter

Ezo sika deer with the Shiretoko mountain range in the background

The Notsuke Peninsula in the winter has many charms.
One of them was an encounter with the Ezo sika deer, Cervus nippon yesoensis. In the winter, the heavy snowfall causes the deer to face food shortages. The flat Notsuke Peninsula, which juts out into the Nemuro Strait, is well-ventilated with relatively little snowfall, making it a great feeding ground for the Ezo sika deer. Therefore, in winter, you can encounter hundreds of Ezo sika deer all at once.

A group of female Ezo sika deer
Male Ezo sika deer

The Notsuke Peninsula is also designated as a wildlife sanctuary, so the Ezo sika deer are not weary of people, therefore close range photography is possible.

In addition, you can see the Shiretoko mountain range and Kunashir Island from the Notsuke Peninsula in good weather. If the visibility is good, you can also see the Akan volcanic complex and Mt. Kamui (also Mt. Mashu). The sun rises behind Kunashir in the morning and then sets on the frozen icy side in the evening, making it an attractive location for photography throughout the day.

View of Kunashir Island (the Northern Territories) in the background

This is located only an hour (one-way) from Shiretoko, Rausu, so it is possible to visit on a day trip, perhaps after an early morning drift ice cruise.

Photo & text: Shohei MORITA (Shiretoko Serai)

*Contact  us, Saiyu Travel for more information about wildlife and bird watching in Hokkaido. We can make various arrangements for your trip. We have a guesthouse, Shiretoko Serai, in Rausu, Shiretoko Peninsula.


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Ezo Red Fox in Winter

The Ezo red foxes live all over Hokkaido island. Officially a subspecies of the red fox, Vulpes vulpes schrencki, they inhabit the islands of Hokkaido, Sakhalin and the Southern Kuril Islands.

For those of us who live in Hokkaido, they are a familiar face that we often see in the city. However, people should be careful not to get close to them because they are hosts to a parasite called Echinococcus. Echinococcus (a type of tapeworm) is said to have spread to Hokkaido through fur fox farming in the Aleutian Islands and Kuril Islands. Sadly, the Ezo red fox has become the definitive host of the parasite Echinococcus. There are programs for delivering anthelmintic drugs to the fox population to reduce the infection rate.

A pair of Ezo red foxes during the breeding season (Notsuke Peninsula).
A pair of Ezo red foxes during the breeding season (Notsuke Peninsula).

During the summer, Ezo red foxes don’t look very beautiful because their fur sheds unevenly. Unlike the Japanese red foxes of mainland Japan (a subspecies of the red fox, Vulpes vulpes japonica), the Ezo red fox, Vulpes vulpes schrencki, which inhabits Hokkaido, north of the Blakiston’s line, has fluffy winter fur and gives it that beautiful look.

The bushy fur covers the Ezo red fox

Also, the whiteness of the snow makes their brown fur stand out. Especially from February to March, during their breeding season, they are often seen in pairs. If you are lucky, you may see them chasing each other playfully, or mating in the forest.

A couple of playful Ezo red foxes.
A couple of playful Ezo red foxes.
A couple of playful Ezo red foxes.

Photo & text: Shohei MORITA (Shiretoko Serai)

*Contact  us, Saiyu Travel for more information about wildlife and bird watching in Hokkaido. We can make various arrangements for your trip. We have a guesthouse, Shiretoko Serai, in Rausu, Shiretoko Peninsula.

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Sea Otters of Eastern Hokkaido

The wild sea otters in Japan, can only be found breeding in the eastern part of Hokkaido. The species that live in this northern coast of Japan are the subspecies Enhydra lutris lutris which uses the Commander and Kuril Islands of Russia. They were overharvested in Japan for their fur in Japan and was once thought to be extinct by the early 20th century, but since the 1980’s they were found to be breeding on the coast and near the islands around Nemuro.

Currently, they can sometimes be observed along the coastline of eastern Hokkaido and around the fishing ports year around, regardless of the season. Around June of every year, you might see the adorable sight of the parents carrying their pups on their bellies.

Sea otters have a very thick layer of fur that has a special adaptation to trap air in between their hairs, which allows them to float all day long with no effort. During the day, they repeatedly dive down and then surface to eat seafood on their stomachs while floating. At night, they will wrap kelp around their bodies to keep from being carried away on the currents while they sleep.

These adorable sea otters actually have many problems due to human activities, so coexistence is a constant challenge for them. Since sea otters in eastern Hokkaido eat sea urchins and northern mussels, fishermen have raised various concerns about the damage they cause to the fishing industry.

Current estimates of sea otter populations say a little more than 12 otters live in the area. Fisheries representatives are looking for ways to balance sea otter conservation and fisheries.

Photography & text: Shohei MORITA (Shiretoko Serai)

*Contact  us, Saiyu Travel for more information about wildlife and bird watching in Hokkaido. We can make various arrangements for your trip. We have a guesthouse, Shiretoko Serai, in Rausu, Shiretoko Peninsula.

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East Hokkaido Wildlife Photography Tour in Early Summer (Part 2)

birds photography tour Japan Northern Fulmar

This is part two of a report of the Wildlife Photography Tour lead by Gaku Tozuka, wild bird photographer (conducted from June 11-16).

East Hokkaido Wildlife Photography Tour in Early Summer (Part 1)

June 14 (Tuesday) Cloudy, then Sunny
Despite the cloudy and foggy weather, we boarded the ship in the morning. As soon as we set sail, the announcement over the intercom announced “We will go look for Minke Whales,” and we made our way to the ocean. In fact, Minke whales will appear out here, but it often seems like when they do come out, it always is just a flash of dorsal fin and then they hide immediately. They are not like the killer whales which take their time around you so we can enjoy watching them for some time. It can be so frustrating with the Minkes. After that, we had three boats searching for killer whales as well, but we did not have even one sighting.

We also couldn’t find any large flocks of Short-tailed Shearwaters, only sometimes seeing a Rhinoceros Auklet and the Northern Fulmar to photograph. Then, out of nowhere, a large flock of Fulmars started following our boat, as the rode the waves that the boat was creating! In a rush, I went to tell the tour participants, so they could get photos of the flock. They were able to get photos of them.

Pine Grosbeak

In the afternoon, it cleared up and was perfectly sunny, so we went to Shiretoko Pass for the Pine Grosbeak. I had heard from others that the grosbeak was not coming out lately, so it was just going to be up to luck if we did get to see it. Then, while we were chatting and eating our lunch, the driver shouted out at me, “Hey, Mr. Tozuka, isn’t that the Pine Grosbeak?” As he was pointing at the Siberian Dwarf Pine very near to us. Sure enough, just in the spot super close to us, was a brightly colored male sitting on the branch!

At 3:30 PM, we wrapped things up there and headed to the Rausu Visitor’s Center, then we returned to the lodging. Same as the previous night, we had some free time until dinner time. In the evening after dinner, we headed back to the Blakiston’s Fish Owl Observatory for photos.

Blakiston’s Fish Owl

Similar to the night before, one bird arrived at 7:50 PM. At around 8:50, it returned and before I could realize it, the other bird had arrived and we could get photos of the pair together. Then, again like the previous night, they left and did not return. We left there around 11PM.

Blakiston’s Fish Owl
Blakiston’s Fish Owl

June 15, (Wednesday) Sunny
I was awakened by a phone call at 6:50 AM, it was the chartered cruise boat company. “Today we are seeing high waves so we will cancel the cruise for today.” I was speechless. It was really sunny and seemed like perfectly good weather…but there was nothing we could do. I explained the situation to the guests over breakfast, and agreed to change the plan to try again for photos of the Pine Grosbeak. We retuned to the same place we saw it yesterday, and I searched around for it here and there but to no avail. Then as I was walking around, I saw a group of cameramen… “There is the red male!” they pointed it out. So, I ran to get my group participants and we all waited patiently for him to reappear. While we were there, the male came out 4 or 5 times again. Everyone’s photos were so-so but at least they could capture the red clearly on the male.

In the afternoon, we went to photograph the brown bears that appeared on the coast of the Shiretoko Peninsula. I was so worried because the morning cruise had already been canceled on us, but the Captain gave us the “Go” sign and we hurried to the wharf.

Our cruise for this tour is using a small boat, so we were able to get quite close to the shoreline when the bears appeared. First to come out was a young bear and we were able to get him at a pretty close distance. After that, we kept encountering bears one after another, and at the tip of the cape, we were able to see a mother and her two cubs. It is quite a rare thing to see bears at the end of the peninsula like that, so we were pretty lucky with this sighting!

Since we were all the way at the far end of the Cape, we were about to go over time with our cruise, but on the way back, there was another sighting and the Captain of the boat said “There are two bears.” Perhaps they were a young pair of siblings, but they let us get their photos as well. On this day, we observed a total of 9 bears, for me this was the highest encounter rate I had ever had! Even though we went over time, the captain’s gracious attitude made it very unforgettable cruise.

This evening’s lodging is in Shari, and it will take some time to get down there, so we had a plan not to make any stops along the way. But right when we left, we saw a baby fox who was quite a character, so we started a photo session, right out the gate. This charming little fox did not run away, and even when we stepped out of the vehicle for photos he did not run. He let us get loads of photos of him playing by himself and even stopped to strike a pose for us now and then!

As we started making our way, the driver asked me, “So, Neboku Pass or Shiretoko Pass?” Since the weather was pretty good and clear, I decided to catch the beautiful evening vista of Shiretoko for our drive.

June 16 (Thursday) Light Rain and then, Sunny
Finally we are on our last day of the tour. It was a soft rain in the morning, but as soon as we left, it lifted. Today our goal is the Koshimizu Wild Flower Garden for the small birds.

Perhaps it was the low temperatures, but the little birds were pretty quiet today. However, as the temperatures rose, we started to hear the calls of the Lanceolated Warbler which sounds like the chirping of insects. We were not so fortunate as the birds, like the Locustellidae were making calls but they just would not make any appearances! It was so frustrating! LOL…Only the Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler showed itself. This year, due to the colder weather, the flowers were blooming late, so the sightings were not so good. But still at least we could see the Black Lily Fritillaria camtschatcensis.

Reed Bunting
Reed Bunting
Siberian Rubythroat
Siberian Rubythroat
Siberian Stonechat
Siberian Stonechat
Pacific Swift
Pacific Swift

Since the time hit 10 AM, we moved from here to the final leg of the tour. We explored the lakeside paths, and looked for creatures to photograph. We could see and photograph different species like the kingfisher, little ringed plover, and the yellow-bellied kingfisher.

I wish to thank all the participants who came on this tour, I appreciate the good times during our long tour for 6 days and 5 nights!

Birds Photographed:
Japanese Cormorant / Pelagic Cormorant / Red-faced Cormorant / Grey Heron / Northern Fulmar / Short-tailed Shearwater / Red-crowned Crane / Common Cuckoo / Pacific Swift / Little Ringed Plover / Latham’s Snipe  / Slaty-backed Gull / Common Guillemot / Spectacled Guillemot / Rhinoceros Auklet / Horned Puffin / Tufted Puffin / White-tailed Eagle / Blakiston’s Fish Owl / Treecreeper / Great Spotted Woodpecker / Marsh Tit / Great Tit / Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler / Black-browed Reed-warbler / Chestnut-cheeked Starling / Siberian Rubythroat / Siberian Stonechat / Japanese Pied Wagtail / Oriental Greenfinch / Long-tailed Rosefinch / Pine Grosbeak / Black-faced Bunting / Reed Bunting / Chestnut-cheeked Starling

Birds Observed:
Eurasian Wigeon / Mallard / Greater Scaup / Himalayan Cuckoo / Black-tailed Gull / Pomarine Skua / Black Kite / Common Kingfisher / Black Woodpecker / Bull-headed Shrike / Marsh Tit / Jungle Crow / Varied Tit / Eurasian Skylark / Barn Swallow / House Martin / Brown-eared Bulbul / Eurasian Nuthatch / White-cheeked Starling / Tree Sparrow / Grey Wagtail / Eurasian Bullfinch / Chestnut-eared Bunting / Common Merganser / Oriental Turtle Dove / Himalayan Cuckoo

Birds Hear Calling:
Japanese Robin / Brown-headed Thrush / White’s Thrush / Lesser Cuckoo / Japanese Bush Warbler / Sakhalin Leaf-warbler / Lanceolated Warbler / Gray’s Grasshopper-warbler / Oriental Reed Warbler / Narcissus Flycatcher

Other Mammals:
Brown Bear / SeaOtter / Minke Whale / Ezo-sika Deer / Raccoon Dog / Ezo Red Fox /Chipmunk

Photography & Text: Gaku TOZUKA (Bird photographer)
Visit: 2022, 11-16 JUN, Eastern Hokkaido

*Contact us, Saiyu Travel for more information about wildlife and bird watching in Hokkaido. We can make various arrangements for your trip. We have our guesthouse Shiretoko Serai in Rausu on the Shiretoko Peninsula.

Please see other article related “Birds Photography in East Hokkaido”

Bird Photography : Steller’s Sea Eagle and White-tailed Eagle (Rausu, Hokkaido)

Spectacular View! Rausu Drift Ice Cruise at Dawn (Rausu, Shiretoko Peninsula)

Rausu’s Drift Ice Cruise and the Drift Ice in the Port of Rausu・The Steller’s Sea Eagle and White-tailed Eagle

Icy Lake Furen: Steller’s Sea Eagle and White-Tailed Eagle (Lake Furen, Hokkaido)

Long-tailed Tit : Winter Photography Tour (Nemuro, Hokkaido)

Experiencing Autumn From the Notsuke Peninsula to Tokachi Plain: Seeing Flocks of Snow Geese, Brandt, and Pika (Part 2)

Flight of the Snow Goose and Cackling Goose

This is the second part of Kaito Imahori’s tour report of the October 26 – 30, 2021 tour.

Experiencing Autumn From the Notsuke Peninsula to Tokachi Plain: Seeing Flocks of Snow Geese, Brandt, and Pika (Part 1)

On the 3rd day of our tour, I went in search of the Snow Goose just before daybreak. Just upon my arrival, I heard the noise and when I looked out, the geese were flying all around me!

Flocks of Snow Goose and Cackling Goose

I went down to the wetland, and could see many Snow Geese and Cackling Geese. Over and over again, I could see about 1000 Snow Geese swirling over my head, as they took flight and landed. It was a relatively short distance away and I could observe them from the car, so it was a great time.

Snow Geese taking flight

In the afternoon of the second day at that location, I went to observe the Ural Owl, but unfortunately, I could not find it. In the park, I saw the Hokkaido Squirrel, running about and they were so cute.

Hokkaido Squirrel
Hokkaido Squirrel

Again in the evening, I went in search of the flocks of Cackling Goose, but they were in a totally different spot. The evening light shone on them beautifully as they were spread out across the open field.

Flock of Cackling Goose
The Snow Geese and Cackling Geese flying at dusk

On the 4th day, we went in search of the pikas in the mountains. When I was waiting quietly in the morning, I could hear it calling and could make a sighting as well! While I was there, I heard a noise of rustling in the distance and saw a brown bear, so decided to descend from the mountain for safety. Then as we neared our car, and did a quick search nearby, we found another pika and everyone in the group could see it! We were so elated!


After we descended from the mountain, we looked for the Hokkaido squirrel in the afternoon. I was able to capture this lovely moment of a little squirrel standing on a carpet of yellow leaves of the Ginko trees.

Hokkaido Squirrel

In the evening, upon the request of one of the group members, I went looking for a Hazel Grouse. I couldn’t get a good photo, but we did get a great chance to see a male Hazel Grouse take flight directly in front of us. We ended this day watching the sunset from the observatory, as it silhouetted the Hidaka Mountain range.

Silhouetted Hidaka Mountain range

On the final day of the tour, I set out before sunrise to catch the flocks of snow geese, but the swamp was so quiet. When the sun rose, we could see there were no geese in the water. It seems they all returned to the mainland sometime in the evening the day before! It was too bad we could not see them on our final day, but as we looked out over the quiet wetlands, I offered a prayer that they could all safely navigate their migration ahead.

Sunrise over the wetlands

As a final stop, we stopped in Obihiro City’s park to look for some more bird species. We were looking for bird species that we still had not yet seen, like the Great Spotted Woodpecker, Marsh Tit, Eurasian Nuthatch, which we were able to see. We even got to see another Hokkaido Squirrel.

Great Spotted Woodpecker
Marsh Tit
Eurasian Nuthatch

We were able to see a total of 7 species of Geese during the tour. It is only in Hokkaido that you can see all the species that can be found in Japan, in one single tour. And easily, at that, if you move from location to location in time to see their migrations. In the spring, the geese will come back where there is still snow on the ground, so please come then to see them! Thanks for reading this report and hope to see you here!

Photo & text: Kaito IMAHORI
Tour date: 26-30 Oct 2021, Tokachi, Hokkaido

*Contact  us, Saiyu Travel for more information about wildlife and bird watching in Hokkaido. We can make various arrangements for your trip. We have a guesthouse, Shiretoko Serai, in Rausu, Shiretoko Peninsula.

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