2 June 2008
North Hokkaido Trip 2008 #1
One of many Siberian Rubythroats I saw on a 6 day road trip to the far north of Hokkaido and back...........but they weren't as common as this species which seemed to be perched every hundred yards or so down every non urban road.......... a male Siberian Stonechat.
This was pretty much the first photo of the trip. 2 very famous local mountains. Mt Usu (in the foreground), an active volcano and Mt Yotei in the background.
We set off early last Wednesday en route to our first stop at Furano in the centre of Hokkaido. It was beautiful clear spring weather but we didn't have time to stop until we reached Mukawa, a river estuary near Tomakomai. I visit here 1 or 2 times a year. Last spring (on almost exactly the same date) there were over one thousand Red Necked Stint but on this occasion there were only a few waders, the most interesting being Mongolian Plover. There were lots of Black Browed Reed Warblers (another common bird on this trip), a few Scaup and Glaucous Gull and a hunting Osprey, here's a crappy pic.
We headed inland and north driving through the forested Hidaka area (Oriental Honey Buzzard being the only noteworthy species here) to spend the first night in Furano. We stayed in a small hut (or 'bungalow') on a campsite and it was very very cold, only a couple of degrees above freezing.
The rural scenery around Furano and Biei is often reminiscent of northern Europe. Lots of Stonechat here again.
The campsite area was next to a forest and a quick walk produced a few interesting species. Woodcock were displaying at dusk, White Rumped Swifts flew overhead and other stuff included Common and Oriental Cuckoo, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Great Spotted and Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Goshawk, Brown Thrush and these 2 common species. Russet Sparrow and Siberian Meadow Bunting.
Leaving Furano we passed by Asahikawa and here we made a navigational error and headed east instead of north. We skirted the edge of Daisetsuzan National Park, the highest mountainous area in Hokkaido. The mountains were still covered in snow and actually the route we ended up taking was better than the one we'd planned on. We hit the Ohotsk Coast at Monbetsu where we parked up near a small coastal pool and were instantly rewarded with several singing Siberian Rubythroat.
The coast was very nice (I posted a crappy 'live' cellphone picture a couple of posts ago) and like everywhere in north/east Hokkaido very quiet and remote compared to even the countryside in the south. White Tailed Eagle was the main new species we saw here......
It was still a long drive to our next campsite at Lake Kucharo, we got there just in time to put up the tent and enjoy the sunset (the subject of another crappy cellphone update). It was cold again but we still managed a couple of beers in front of the tent.
#2 to follow soon.........