No birds around at all today. Well, 1 Barn Swallow and a few crows/sparrows/bulbuls. IT’s been raining all day so I thought the nasty weather may have grounded a few migrants but no……………

The above Wryneck was in one of the local parks around this time a couple of years ago. It is a reasonably regular migrant and there was a pair of very vocal ones which stuck around for a few days.

Asian Rosy Finch

Asian Rosy Finch

Another quiet Sunday with no photos worth showing. This Asian Rosy Finch was in Sawara 2 years ago when there was a big flock of them in the area. No such luck today.

Birds around Onuma/Sawara were Great Egret, Black and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Brent Goose, Smew, Harlequin Duck, Black Scoter, Great-crested Grebe, White-tailed Eagle and Jay. There were some flocks of passerines around at least: Dusky Thrush in various places and Grey Starling/Oriental Greenfinch in Sawara.



Yet another bird we usually see in town this time of year but is absent so far this winter.

Bullfinches appear in early February most years to nibble on the cherry blossom buds in the trees near my apartment.

The main race is Japan is very different to that in the UK, as you can see from this picture below.


They breed in the high mountains in central Hokkaido and move to lower elevations in winter.

Birds with more red/pink on the breast are invaders from continental Asia and the 2 races form mixed flocks.


There is still time for them to appear in 2019.

These photos were taken 2 years ago.



Another bird I usually see plenty of in winter is Hawfinch, They are common, even in the middle of town. This year is very slow however and I haven’t seen any in town since late autumn. Where have they all gone?

The above photo was taken in a local park a couple of years ago. This is generally a pretty shy species but occasionally some individuals, such as this one, show no fear………


Daurian Redstart

A Daurian Redstart near my apartment from quite a few years ago. Some winters there are many small birds in town but not this year. I haven’t seen this species since November (it is usually a common winter visitor) and there are no Waxwings, winter finches or buntings.

No car last few days so I was stuck in town. There were 6 species of duck on the river at the weekend as well as Coot, Grey Heron and Great Egret but the only passerines of note were a handful of Dusky Thrush, several Eastern Great Tit and a lone Varied Tit. It is pretty cold (although not unusually so) and very icy underfoot: not ideal for walking around Hakodate looking to find any small birds.

Not Mallards

Falcated Duck

At Onuma a large flock of Mallard joins the Whooper Swan on a small ice free patch of the lake every year. Other species join too: there are usually a few Smew, Goosander and Goldeneye and for several winters a small group of Pintail. Bean and White-fronted Goose sometimes put in an appearance too.

3 years ago I noticed small numbers of Falcated Duck on the edge of the group, generally just out of camera range. And 2 years ago there were small numbers of Baikal Teal, again out of range.

Baikal Teal

Last year both species did come close enough for some pictures (but sadly not any Baikal drakes) So far this winter neither species has appeared……………….

Ring-necked Duck

Both the first 2 species are scarce but not especially rare in this part of the world. The female Ring-necked Duck came for 2 consecutive winters. Again, well out of camera range but a nice bird to see and a bona fide rarity.

Some Smew


Smew are regular winter visitors to Onuma (and also Yakumo). They tend to be a bit shy and difficult to photograph: they take flight very easily especially at Onuma.


These shots are from 2 years ago when a small group were often resting on a small unfrozen pond in late winter. It was next to the road and they often flew off and returned soon after providing lots of BIF chances.

This is one of many species that occur in the UK but are much commoner here. I only ever saw one in the UK actually.

Long time no see

4 years ago this immature Gyrfalcon spent the winter at Sawara. Sawara is a well-known place for this species. Ar the turn of the century a pair spent about 10 winters there and then nothing was seen of this magnificent bird until late 2013.


Another individual did appear at the same location a couple of years ago but it only stayed very briefly and was only seen by one person (who at least managed to get a photo). They periodically turn up all over Hokkaido but as they favour bleak snowy windwept underwatched coasts many probably get overlooked.


The odd coloration, tame behaviour and damaged tail feathers/wingtips led me to wonder if it was a hybrid /escapee. After much discussion with a falconer’s group on facebook I’m happy to call it a wild bird: the coloration can occur in the wild, tameness can be explained by lack of contact with humans and the damaged feathers can be explained by its struggles with prey on coarse sand or even concrete. Plus many falconers said a bird like this would be sporting rings and also be too valuable to let escape plus there are very few Gyrs or Gyr hybrids kept in Japan (apparently they don’t like humidity and often get sick). Breeders also said they didn’t believe it was a hybrid either.

Anyway……………………….surely it’s time for another to show up and ideally I’d like to find one myslelf. A pure white one would be nice.

Hoping for a red and green invasion

Common Crossbill

So it’s 2019. 5 years ago there was a big invasion of Common Crossbill into Hakodate. They were everywhere. 20014 was a Crossbill year when the above photo was taken. 5 years before that in 2009 we had another big Crossbill invasion when the following pic was taken.

Common Crossbill

5 years before that there was another big invasion. I didn’t have a camera in 2004 though. So do they erupt at 5 year intervals? In all those years flocks appeared in the local parks in mid February. I hope this year will be a repeat. There are precious few small birds around so far this winter ……….

Here’s another one from 5 years ago.

Common Crossbill

They occur most years in smallish numbers, I suspect those may be resident birds moving around Hokkaido and the big flocks in invasion years may be from the Asian mainland. But I may be wrong.