Birding in southwest Hokkaido

The Hakodate Area

While most birders head for east Hokkaido for the more renowned winter visitors, or to the mountains of central Hokkaido for the summer visitors, southwest Hokkaido is also well-worth visiting and birding. 

Local birding resident Stuart Price has provided information on three locations to try: 

1  Mount Hakodate

Take Tram number 2 (to Yachigashira) and get off at the final stop, from here it is a 5 minute walk to Cape Tachi-machi. After you walk through the cemetery turn right and the trail starts about 200 meters on your left.

Birds to look for: migrant buntings, thrushes, warblers and flycatchers in spring and autumn. Tits, nuthatches and woodpeckers are present all year and migrant raptors can be seen in autumn. In late winter/early spring seawatching off the cape can produce divers, grebes and alcids as well as vast flocks of Red-necked Pharalope in mid May. Brent Geese and Harlequin Duck are common in the harbours at the foot of the mountain in winter.

2  Lake Onuma

30 minutes north of Hakodate by car or take any northbound train and get off at Onuma Koen station. Cycles can be rented, it takes a couple of hours to ride around the lake: the best birding areas are between the campsite and the start of the trail up Mt Komagadake.

Birds to look for: 5 species of woodpeckers including Black Woodpecker; Hazel Grouse, Ruddy Kingfisher, White-tailed Eagle and Stellers Eagle, Ural Owl, Whooper Swan, Smew, Northern Goshawk, White-bellied Green Pigeon, various thrushes, warblers and flycatchers.

3  Yakumo

The Yurappu River is the main birding area here. Yakumo is about an hour's drive north of Hakodate and can also be accessed by train on the main Hakodate to Sapporo line. Birding is best at the river mouth (all year) and inland towards Kamiyakumo (winter) along Route 42. The latter site is where the eagles congregate in winter.

Birds to look for: Upstream is best for Steller's Eagle and White-tailed Eagle, Japanese Hawk Eagle and Crested Kingfisher. Downstream the birds also include, at different season: Sakhalin Grasshopper Warbler, Sand Martin, Osprey, Eastern Marsh Harrier, various ducks including Smew and Falcated Duck, various herons including rarities such as Black-faced Spoonbill, various waders including Broad-billed Sandpiper and Red-necked Pharalope, Asian Rosy Finch, Snow Bunting, Wryneck, Siberian Rubythroat. Offshore there are seaduck, grebes, and divers.

© 2020 Mark Brazil & Chris Cook

Last updated: 20200608