Migratory Bird Season on Teuri Island

Here are some of the birds we observed on Teuri Island in May 2024.

This is a busy time of year for migratory birds on the island. One week, one species of bird is in certain parts of the island, the next week it is nowhere to be found and another appears in its place. Teuri Island in May happens to be on a migratory route, making it a real joy to explore every day.

First are the birds that arrive in early May, when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
Cherry blossoms bloom in May on Teuri Island. A Japanese white-eye and Eurasian bullfinch were hard at work looking for food.

Japanese White-eye(Zosterops japonicus)
Eurasian Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)

In coniferous forests, blue-colored birds such as the blue-and-white flycatcher and red-flanked bluetails shine.

Blue-and-white Flycatcher (Cyanoptila cyanomelana)
Red-flanked Bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus)

In a slightly more open area, we spotted a hawfinch.

Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes)

The Eurasian siskin, common redpoll, rosefinch, and brambling also come to the island to feed, as seeds here are plentiful. The brambling can be seen throughout the island, but they only stay for about a week.

Eurasian Siskin (Carduelis spinus)
Common redpoll (Carduelis flammea)
Long-tailed Rosefinch (Uragus sibiricus)
Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)

We observed red-necked phalarope in a puddle on the shoreline.

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)

A purple heron made a visit to the back of a house.

Perple heron(Ardea purpurea )

In the meadow, the call of the common cuckoo echoes out.

Common cuckoo(Cuculus canorus)

We also spotted harlequin ducks along the shoreline.

Harlequin duck(Histrionicus histrionicus)

Birds visit Teuri Island one after another! This year, rosy starlings also dropped by!

Eyebrowed Thrush(Turdus obscurus)
Asian brown flycatcher(Muscicapa dauurica)
Japanese Thrush(Turdus cardis)
Mandarin duck(Aix galericulata)

 

Rosy Starling(Sturnus roseus)

From the second half of May to the first half of June, birds that come to Teuri Island to breed are busy searching for mates and preparing their nests.

Long eared owl(Asio otus)
Siberian rubythroat(Calliope calliope)
Chestnut-cheeked Starling(Sturnus philippensis)
Eurasian Woodcock(Scolopax rusticola)
Siberian Stonechat(Saxicola torquata)

It is also a relatively easy season to observe the latham’s snipe which arrive from Australia without making any stops to feed along the way.

Latham’s Snipe(Gallinago hardwickii)

In May, when many migratory birds arrive on Teuri Island, the variety of birds that can be observed changes almost daily. Visit Teuri Island in May for a chance to meet those beautiful birds!

 

Photo & Text : Wataru HIMENO

Observation : May 2024, Teuri Island, Hokkaido

★ Visit our web site of  TEURI ISLAND. ☜

Contact us to make arrangements for photographing seabirds on Teuri Island and Wildlife of Japan.

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

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Ochishi and Kiritappu in Early Summer

In early summer, seabirds in breeding plumage and sea animals can be seen on the Ochishi cruise and at Cape Kiritappu, and beautiful flowers and grasses can also be found in the marshlands along the way.

Ochiishi Cruise and Surrounding Waters

From Cape Nosappu to Cape Erimo, part of the cold Oyashio (Kuril) Current flows along the coast, especially from Nemuro to Cape Kiritappu, which is the area with the lowest sea water temperature in Japan. As a result, tufted puffins, red-faced cormorants, and other seabirds that are difficult to see outside of this area breed here. The uninhabited islands of Yururi Island and Moyururi Island in Ochiishi are especially important breeding grounds for seabirds, and both landing on the islands and fishing in the surrounding area are prohibited. Currently, seabird observation by permitted fishing boats is operated in some areas.

To visit the waters of Yururi Island and Moyururi Island, you must take a Ochiishi cruise operated by the fishing association. The cruise takes about 2.5 hours on a local fishing boat and involves observing birds in the surrounding waters. Since this is a fishing boat, the cruise can be quite bumpy and subject to waves depending on the weather, so please make preparations to deal with seasickness, assure your belongings are adequately waterproofed, and bring warm clothes.

The following is a list of seabirds and marine animals that can be seen.

Rhinoceros Auklet
Spectacled Guillemot
Pigeon Guillemot
Tufted Puffin
Japanese Murrelet
Pacific Loon
Red-faced Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
White-tailed Sea Eagle
Harbor Seal
Sea Otter

 

Cape Kiritappu and the Surrounding Wetlands

Cape Kiritappu is a breeding ground for sea otters and many seabirds can be seen here. If you are lucky, you may see tufted puffins and harbor seals. Since this area is accessible by car, it can be an alternative destination in case the Ochiishi cruise is cancelled due to bad weather or lack of passengers.

In the Cape Kiritappu wetlands near Cape Kiritappu, large colonies of daylily, hare’s-tail cottongrass, and other grasses and flowers can be seen, as well as many birds that prefer the grasslands. In addition, along the road to Ochiishi, there are several small wetlands and grasslands suitable for flower and bird watching. Here you can also expect to see red-crowned cranes with their chicks.

Below are some of the birds and flowers that can be seen in the wetlands. Please refer to the seabirds at Cape Kiritappu, as they are similar to those on the Ochiishi cruise mentioned above.

Kiritappu Wetland(Hokkaido Daylilies)
Kushiro Jacobs Ladder
Black Lily
Siberian Rubythroat
Amur Stonechat
Long-tailed Rosefinch
Reed_Bunting
Latham’s Snipe
Red-crowned Crane
Ezo Sika Deer

 

Photo & text : Hiromichi HAYASHI

Observation : Ochiishi & Kiritappu, Nemuro, Hokkaido

*Contact  us, Saiyu Travel for more information about wildlife and bird watching in Hokkaido. We can make various arrangements for your trip. We operate a guesthouse, Shiretoko Serai, in Rausu, Shiretoko and Teuri Island. both are perfect location for wildlife lover.

*Youtube : Wildlife of Japan

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The Japanese Pika of Tokachi-dake Mountain

In the high mountains of central Hokkaido, the lovely pika, which is said to be a survivor of the ice age, can be found. The species seen here is the Japanese pika (Ochotona hyperborea yesoensis), a subspecies of the northern pika (Ochotona hyperborea). It prefers a cool climate, and its optimal temperature is said to be around 12 degrees Celsius.

he Physical Appearance of the Japanese Pika

What is a Pika?

Pika are quite different in appearance from their close relatives, rabbits, being small (15-18 cm in length), with rounded, short ears, a short tail hidden from view by body hair, and short legs, giving them the appearance of a mouse or hamster at first glance. However, their dental structure is the same as that of rabbits, and they cannot grasp objects with their paws like rats. The Japanese name of the Pika is nakiusagi, which can be translated as “whistling hare.” As its name implies, the pika produces distinct sounds: the male makes a series of strong chirps, chit-chit, chit-chit, four to sixteen times in succession, while the female makes only a single or irregular series of sounds.

The pika’s habitat

The pika’s habitats include exposed rock zones or “scree slopes,” where rocks of various sizes are piled up, providing a refuge from predators such as Ezo stoats, least weasels, and Ezo red foxes. They also allow the pika to benefit from the cool air in the crevices between the rocks in summer. The presence of bushes and forests nearby where food can be obtained is also a prerequisite.

Mount Tokachi (Tokachidake), viewed from Bogakudai

The Japanese Pika of Tokachi-dake Mountain

Japanese pikas can be seen in abundance in the scree slopes of Bogakudai, the trailhead for Tokachi-dake Mountain. Pikas do not hibernate, and autumn is the best season for observation as they become more active in order to store food. Especially when it is sunny and moderately warm with no wind, they stay still on the rocks and sunbathe, which is good for photography and observation. Chipmunks, which prefer a similar environment, can also be seen.

A Japanese Pika Making Its Distinct Call
A Japanese Pika Basking in the Sun
A Japanese Pika Eating Lichens
A Chipmunk

Places to Visit in Conjunction

It is 44 km from Asahikawa Airport, so it takes less than an hour to arrive at the parking area of Tokachi-dake Bogakudai by car.

On the way there, you can also visit beautiful scenic spots such as the Blue Pond of Shirogane Onsen and the Hills of Biei to take pictures. You can stay at Shirogane Onsen, visit the Blue Pond in Shirogane Onsen in the early morning, then observe pikas in the morning, and visit the hills of Biei in the afternoon.

The Blue Pond of Shirogane Onsen
The Hills of Biei (Mild Seven Hill)

In autumn, the air is clear and you will encounter beautiful scenery!

 

Photo & text : Hiromichi HAYASHI

Observation : Tokachi-dake Mountain, Hokkaido

*Contact  us, Saiyu Travel for more information about wildlife and bird watching in Hokkaido. We can make various arrangements for your trip. We operate a guesthouse, Shiretoko Serai, in Rausu, Shiretoko and Teuri Island. both are perfect location for wildlife lover.

*Youtube : Wildlife of Japan

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Wildlife on Teuri Island in Spring and the First Herring Spawn in 70 Years

>For information and tours of Teuri Island, click here!

On April 15, 2024, the first herring spawn in 70 years was observed on Teuri Island, Hokkaido. The islanders were excited to photograph and then harvest the herring. At an island inn, stewed herring and herring roe were served. No one on the island today knows what it was like in the heyday of the herring harvest.

Here is some of the wildlife we observed on Teuri Island in the spring.

On the route from Haboro Port to Teuri Island, black-throated divers (surprisingly common), ancient murrelets, rhinoceros auklets, and spectacled guillemots were seen.

Eight species of seabirds breed on Teuri Island: the common guillemot, spectacled guillemot, rhinoceros auklet, black-tailed gull, slaty-backed gull, Japanese cormorant (Temminck’s cormorant), pelagic cormorant, and ancient murrelet. By April, they have already begun their breeding season.

Black-tailed gulls are breeding and expanding their territory on the Kurosaki coast, and around April 20, mating (or pseudo-mating) has already started taking place throughout the area.

Black-tailed gulls mating (or pseudo-mating)
Kurosaki Coast, where the breeding grounds of black-tailed gulls are expanding

When I looked at the Japanese cormorant breeding site from the seabird observation hut, they were already feeding their chicks. The Japanese cormorant is a seabird that starts breeding early, and it seems to be getting even earlier. Slaty-backed gulls were breeding and mating on the upper slope of the bluff. There were many rhinoceros auklet nesting sites in this area as well.

Japanese cormorants nesting on a bluff. Most of the nests had chicks in them.

Red-breasted mergansers are seen near Maehama Fishing Port. Red-breasted mergansers migrate to Teuri Island as winter visitors. They will soon be heading north as well.

A Red-breasted merganser pair

And then there are the harlequin ducks. They are the most common ducks on Teuri Island. I often saw them near Maehama Fishing Port and Lombaba Beach. Harlequin ducks can be seen all year round on Teuri Island, but they are definitely easier to see—and more beautiful—during the winter months.

Harlequin ducks at Lombaba beach

On one morning when the wind had calmed a bit, we went out to the sea on the Keimafuri-Gou, a small boat operated by island photographer Takaki Terasawa. The view from the boat was that of Teuri Island in spring!

A steller sea lion we met as soon as we left the harbor. They migrate to Hokkaido from the Kuril Islands in winter. This young male was all alone. Teuri Island, where herring now spawn, attracts wildlife as well as people. It is a symbol of the richness of the sea.

Steller sea lions will soon be moving north.

From the boat, we observed the black-tailed gull breeding grounds on the Kurosaki coast and then headed in the direction of Akaiwa. We did not see any common guillemots at the breeding site, but we did see four common guillemots flying over the sea in the vicinity.

The reef was teeming with some very dry and fluffy spotted seals.

Spotted seals watching our boat

The beautiful sound of spectacled guillemots chirping at each other echoes out to sea. On a rocky shore, an adorable pair is seen in a courtship gesture.

Spectacled guillemot courtship
A flock of Spectacled guillemots at sea near nesting cliffs
Lovely spectacled guillemots showing off their red legs

Lastly, please take a look at this herring spawn, photographed on April 15 by the staff of Saiyu Travel’s Teuri Office (Teuri Island Naturelive).

The herring spawn turning the sea white and murky, viewed from Lombaba beach.

Spawning occurs in spring, when females lay their eggs on seaweed in shallow waters less than one meter deep, and males release sperm to fertilize the eggs. This spawning causes the seawater to become white and murky.

Pacific Herring laying eggs in seaweed

A herring dish served at the Yorozuya Ryokan( 萬谷旅館)where I stayed. The fresh herring was so tasty.

Simmered herring
Herring roe Kazunoko

I myself had just returned from a trip to Sitka, Alaska, in search of the wildlife that gathers there during the herring spawn. In Alaska, the “Herring Run” is a very popular wildlife tour where you can encounter humpback whales, gray whales, bald eagles, steller sea lions, and other creatures that congregate in the waters of Sitka.

Will Japan’s herring spawn one day be referred to as Hokkaido’s “Herring Run”? Before that, it is important to first restore the richness of the sea where herring come to spawn every year. I sincerely hope that the herring will return next year too.

Image & Text: Mariko SAWADA & Midori KUDO
Observation: April 2024, Teuri Island, Hokkaido

 

Photo & text : Mariko SAWADA

Photography of Herring spawning : Midori KUDO

★ Visit our web site of  TEURI ISLAND. ☜

Contact us to make arrangements for photographing seabirds on Teuri Island and Wildlife of Japan.

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

 

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Birds of Eastern Hokkaido in Winter

During this winter, we were able to observe many birds, including red-crowned cranes and Ezo Ural owls. The number of photographers from abroad has also increased considerably—especially in Tsurui Village, where red-crowned cranes can be seen. Over 200 people gathered on the Otowa Bridge to photograph the birds sleeping in the river.

Near the Otowa Bridge, from January to early March, temperatures drop below -15°C, and on humid days, a phenomenon known as “Steam Fog” in which steam rises from the river, can be observed. The white breath of the red-crowned cranes as they chirp at each other is beautiful, and the large snowflakes that fall create a magical scene.

Steam Fog
red-crowned cranes
red-crowned cranes
red-crowned cranes
Otowa bridge in early morning

Ezo Ural owls are usually found in the trees they’ve chosen for their fixed nest sites, but they may change their location from year to year. We speculate that this may be due to changes—precipitated by the amount of snowfall in a given year—in their rodent-hunting spots. In the month of February, at the nests we observe every year, we can see the owls stand side by side in pairs—for them, this is courtship season. In some nests, we could not see the pair line up together, perhaps because one of the two had disappeared.

Ezo Ural owl
Ezo Ural owl
Ezo Ural owl
Ezo Ural owl

The long-tailed tit is the most popular wild bird in Hokkaido nowadays. In winter, they look like snowmen when viewed from the front, puffing up their feathers to ward off the cold.

Long-tailed tits are only about the size of a ping-pong ball and usually hang from branches at the top of trees, pecking at insects and winter buds. If you are lucky, they will come down to a lower branch to catch their food, and you may even be able to photograph them at eye level.

Food is scarcest from February to March, and in addition to the food they normally eat, they strive to eat really small plant seeds to sustain themselves.

In April, insects appear, ensuring that the long-tailed tit will be well nourished. By May, we can expect to see new chicks.

Long-tailed tit
Long-tailed tit
Long-tailed tit
Long-tailed tit

Red-crowned cranes, Ezo Ural owls, and long-tailed tits are all difficult to observe from mid-March onward, as their activity patterns change dramatically for the breeding season.
Mid-February, when they are actively courting, is the best time to observe these three species.

Photo & Text: Kaito IMAHORI
Observation: Tsurui Village, East-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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Reasons Why Teuri Island Became a Sanctuary for Seabirds

>For information and tours of Teuri Island, click here!

Teuri Island is a small island with a circumference of about 12 km, and as of 2024, it has a population of approximately 250 people. Despite its size, Teuri Island is considered a “paradise for seabirds,” with an estimated breeding population of around one million birds. Such a sanctuary for seabirds is unique within Japan, as even the neighboring Yagishiri Island, which is about 3 km to the east and of similar size, lacks a significant seabird population.

The reason behind this phenomenon can be attributed to the maritime climate around Teuri Island, particularly during winter when it is influenced by the Siberian high-pressure system from the continent. As a result, the island is continuously exposed to northwestern winds. Over millions of years, these prevailing winds have shaped the landscape, forming cliffs predominantly on one side of the island.

from Google Map

The red lines indicate the original location of the island.

from Google Map

The arrows indicate the direction of the wind. Cliffs were formed on the northwest part of the island where the wind directly hits.

Cliffs, which are among the most challenging terrains for mammals, including humans, become easily accessible for birds capable of flying. Consequently, seabirds, which primarily reside at sea, are not well-adapted to terrestrial life, leading them to choose cliff habitats for breeding where their predators find it difficult to access.

The slaty-backed gull, which breeds on cliffs.

The pelagic cormorant and the black-tailed gull, which breed on cliffs.

The most abundant breeding location for rhinoceros auklets on Teuri Island is on land with soil situated atop the cliffs. Rhinoceros auklets choose to nest on land, despite the presence of many predators, as it becomes harder for predators to spot them during the evening twilight when they return to their nests all at once at sunset. If there were tall trees around the nesting area, they would be at a higher risk of colliding with them in the dark. Therefore, they prefer nesting in areas without tall trees.

Thanks to the island’s strong winds, which prevent the growth of tall trees, Teuri Island provides the ideal conditions for rhinoceros auklets. They have a habitat where approximately 400,000 breeding pairs thrive, making it the world’s No. 1 breeding site for these birds.

Rhinoceros auklets return to their nests by diving into treeless grasslands.

In this way, a miraculous convergence of ideal conditions for seabirds has resulted in the creation of Teuri Island, where numerous seabirds breed. During the seabird breeding season, boat tours are also available, allowing visitors to observe seabirds and geological formations from beneath the cliffs.

Photo & text : Wataru HIMENO

★ Visit our web site of  TEURI ISLAND.

Contact us to make arrangements for photographing seabirds on Teuri Island and Wildlife of Japan.

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

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The Spectacled Guillemot : A Timeless Favorite among Teuri Island’s Seabirds

>For information and tours of Teuri Island, click here!

 The Spectacled Guillemot: A Timeless Favorite among Teuri Island’s Seabirds

The Spectacled Guillemot, known as “ケイマフリ” (Keimafuri) in Japanese, holds an unwavering popularity on Teuri Island. Its name is derived from the Ainu word “ケマフレ” (Kema-fure), meaning “red-legged.”

True to its name, the Spectacled Guillemot not only possesses red legs but also has a similar crimson color inside its mouth. While observing its courtship behavior on rocky shores, it display its legs while opening its mouth to court potential mates, they leave viewers mesmerized by its stunning beauty.

Compared to other Alcidae birds inhabiting Teuri Island, the Spectacled Guillemot excels at taking off from the water’s surface. It performs a skillful take-off by running on the water while building momentum before finally lifting off. (On the other hand, the other two species, Common Guillemot and Rhinoceros Auklet, perform take-offs by half-swimming and flapping their wings on the water’s surface.)

The sight of “Teuri Blue,” the mesmerizing color of the sea, combined with the radiant red legs of the Spectacled Guillemot, is incredibly beautiful. Many visitors come to Teuri Island solely to witness this enchanting spectacle.

Furthermore, during the latter part of the breeding season, around late June, you can also observe the Spectacled Guillemots carrying food in their beaks to feed their chicks. This heartwarming sight showcases the dedication and care these birds have for their offspring, adding to the enchanting experience of witnessing their behavior on Teuri Island.

The diverse range of prey that the Spectacled Guillemot carries, such as larval fish  and small sculpins, adds to its allure and charm. Observing these graceful birds transporting various types of food is truly captivating.

It’s wonderful to hear that Terasawa Takaki, a photographer residing on Teuri Island, has been so captivated by the charm of the Spectacled Guillemot  that he created a Japanese sake named after them and even adorned his own boat with illustrations of the bird. His passion for these birds is truly inspiring.

Sake – ケイマフリ=Spectacled Guillemot
Takaki Terasawa’s boat ケイマフリ号 name after Spectacled Guillemot

I wholeheartedly agree with the invitation for everyone to come and visit Teuri Island to experience the magic of meeting the Spectacled Guillemots in person. It is undoubtedly an unforgettable experience that will leave visitors in awe of the island’s natural beauty and its remarkable avian residents.

 

Image & text : Wataru HIMENO

★ Visit our web site of  TEURI ISLAND.

Contact us to make arrangements for photographing seabirds on Teuri Island and Wildlife of Japan.

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

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The Nocturnal Creatures of Teuri Island (Hokkaido)

>For information and tours of Teuri Island, click here!

Teuri Island is located at 44 degrees north latitude, so during the period from spring to summer, the daylight hours are long, and the sky becomes completely dark around 21:00 (9:00 PM). In the morning, it starts to get bright around 3:00 AM, which means that the nocturnal creatures are spending super busy throughout the night.

Speaking of nocturnal creatures, one  cannot fail to mention the owl family. In the year 2023, the breeding of the Long-eared Owl (トラフズク Torahuzuku in Japanese) has been confirmed on the island.

Long-eared Owl トラフズク(Torahuzuku)

During the early spring, we confirmed the presence of three chicks, but from the first half of July onwards, we could only find two. It is suspected that one of them might have died at some point. This experience made us realize the true harshness of nature.

Furthermore, the Kiwi of Japan is called a “ヤマシギ” (Yamashigi), which refers to the Eurasian Woodcock, also inhabits Teuri Island.

The life style of the Eurasian Woodcock is similar to the Kiwi of New Zealand, it is a nocturnal creature and preys on worms and other creatures found near the ground. However, the Eurasian Woodcock has the advantage of being able to fly, which allows it to have a broader range of habitats. It has numerous holes in its beak with nerve endings, enabling it to sense movements and detect prey while inserting its beak into the ground.

Eurasian Woodcock ヤマシギ (Yamashigi)
Eurasian Woodcock ヤマシギ (Yamashigi)
Eurasian Woodcock ヤマシギ (Yamashigi)

Additionally, on warm nights, the only snake species found on Teuri Island, the Japanese Mamushi Viper (マムシ: Mamushi,  also known as the Japanese pit viper), also becomes more active.

Japanese Mamushi Viper, Japanese pit viper  マムシ (Mamushi)

The snake, often referred to as a nocturnal creature, on Teuri Island, might also be quite active during daytime, especially in the cooler seasons like early spring. Despite being a reptile, it gives birth to live offspring instead of laying eggs. This adaptation might be what allowed it to efficiently reproduce in the fluctuating temperatures of Teuri Island, making it the only snake species on the island.

The Japanese Mamushi Viper is the most well-known venomous snake in Japan. The image of “Mamushi = danger” is deeply ingrained, and this might be a reason why drivers tend to be less aware of avoiding them compared to other creatures. As a result, during the season, I witnessed numerous instances where these vipers were hit and killed by vehicles.

Japanese Mamushi Viper, Japanese pit viper  マムシ (Mamushi)

Also, the Japanese tree frog (ニホンアマガエル  Nihonamagaeru), the only amphibian species found on Teuri Island, becomes active during the night.

Japanese tree frog ニホンアマガエル (Nihonamagaeru)

Due to its small size, approximately 12km in circumference, Teuri Island has limited sources of stable freshwater, making it challenging for amphibians, which constantly require water, to find suitable habitats. However, despite the scarcity of such environments, numerous individuals of the Japanese tree frog  can be found breeding near locations such as rainwater accumulated in abandoned ships and in small springs close to the coastline.

Furthermore, after observing the nocturnal activities, one can enjoy the breathtaking sight of a beautiful starry sky. On clear nights, shooting stars can be observed almost without fail.

Marhama Fishing Port at night

When you visit Teuri Island, please make sure to look up at the night sky before you leave.

 

Image & Text: Wataru HIMENO

★ Visit our web site of  TEURI ISLAND.

Contact us to make arrangements for photographing seabirds on Teuri Island and Wildlife of Japan.

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

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Mt. Fuji in the Summer! Observing Subalpine birds at Okuniwa and the White-bellied green-pigeon on the Oiso Coast

Reported by YOSHINARI TOSHITAKE for a tour conducted from August 21 – 23.

Day 1

Meeting at the Shinjuku bus terminal and took a bus to the 5th station of Mt. Fuji, which is approximately 2,300 meters above sea level.

When we arrived at Okuniwaso as planned, we immediately started observing birds and taking photos. The back garden is short and has a well-developed walking path, so one of the attractions is that you can stroll around freely.

The waterhole

At the waterhole, we saw Eurasian bullfinch, Red-flanked bluetail, Coal tit, Goldcrest, Japanese leaf warbler. The birds are less than 10 meters away, so we could get good pictures. The little birds came out here and there, so I over heard the group talking about how they were satisfied with the afternoon.

Eurasian Bullfinch Photography by HO
Goldcrest       Photography by HO

Okuniwaso is a mountain hut, so there are no baths or showers (the temperature is cool so no sweating, but it gets really chilly in the mornings and evenings.) Dinner is served early (when it was still light!) at 4:30pm, but the food was luxurious for being at a mountain hut.

Plentiful Dinner at the Mountain Hut

It was still light even after dinner, so the owner of Okuniwaso showed us the walking path. Unfortunately, the clouds in the western sky were too thick to color Mt. Fuji red in the sunset, but we were able to see the peak of Mt. Fuji up close. And at night, we could see the stars in the sky, between the clouds. Smartphones these days are so advanced, it’s was easy to take pictures of the starry sky. Both of the following images were taken with an iPhone.

The starry sky with Mt Fuji
The Night Sky

Day 2

It was clear skies at dawn, so we were able to have a great view of the sunrise over the ridge with Mt. Fuji.

Daybreak

Just like yesterday, the birds came out frequently for us on this day, as well. A male ed-flanked bluetail that hadn’t come out yesterday also showed up, but perhaps it was in fact, that there were three different males. The male ed-flanked bluetail is truly beautiful.

Male Red-flanked bluetail Photography by HO
Japanese leaf warbler (left) Red-flanked bluetail (right)
From the left : Coal tit, Eurasian bullfinch and Japanese leaf warbler

We enjoyed ourselves at Okuniwaso in the morning hours, and after lunch, headed towards Oiso in preparation for observing green pigeons the next day.

Day 3

Unfortunately, today’s weather forecast is cloudy and rainy. Despite the bad weather, we left the hotel with the hopes that it will improve, while it was still dark, and arrived at Oiso and Terugasaki Beach. It was raining a little when we arrived, but the rain gradually subsided and fortunately, it became sunny. White-bellied green pigeons were flying in, but they were quite wary and would not come down to the rocks. Also, it seemed to be raining quite a bit on the mountain in the direction from which they flew in. However, they gradually started descending to the rocks, and we were able to observe them drinking seawater.

Green Pigeons flying in
Pigeons drinking some seawater
Pigeons getting caught in a wave

When the green pigeons that had been drinking seawater, took off all at once, a young peregrine falcon appeared. I didn’t see any attacks on the green pigeons, but it seems like the falcon had been hiding somewhere close by.

Juvenile Peregrine Falcon

I was a bit worried about the rain forecast for our last day, but considering that last year it was sunny and quite hot, it ended up being a good day, which was a relief. During the tour, we had an interesting combination of subalpine birds at an altitude of 2,300 m and the White-bellied green pigeons on the coast, and we could see a wide variety of birds this year.

(Total of 27 Bird Species)

 

Report by:  YOSHINARI TOSHITAKE

Observation:  August 21-23, 2023, Mt. Fuji 5th station, Oiso Coast

*Contact  us, Saiyu Travel for more information about wildlife and bird watching in Okinawa & Amami Oshima. We can make various arrangements for your trip.

*Youtube : Wildlife of Japan

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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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