Saturday 16 November 2013


White-tailed Eagle is probably annual, with odd birds along the northern Kansai coast and beyond up the Noto Hanto (Noto Peninsular) as well as occasionally south as far as northern Lake Biwa. When birds do arrive they usually stay throughout winter but, between wandering over a large area for food and sitting for long periods in a favourite tree, even long stayers can be tricky to see on any given day.

Of course Hokkaido is the place to see the haliaeetus eagles and White-tailed can be found quite easily in summer as well as winter.

Adult Ochiishi Peninsular, Hokkaido, January 2013.

Immature Notsuke Peninsular, Hokkaido, January 2013.

Immature Cape Nosapu, Hokkaido January 2013.

Adult Shiretoko Peninsular, Hokkaido, August 2012.

For years there's been a wintering adult Steller's Sea Eagle at Kohoku-cho in northern Biwako, if my memory serves, November 26 is its expected arrival date. Though I've seen three additional birds on the lake over the years, it'll be a big miss when it no longer turns up. It's easy to find the bird, from the Kohoku-cho Wild Bird Center look back across the fields away from the lake and you'll see a hill. The eagle is always sitting in the trees when it's not duck hunting on the lake, there are invariably lines of photographers waiting for it to fly! As with White-tailed, Hokkaido is by far the best place to see this species.

Immature Steller's Notsuke Peninsular, Hokkaido, January 2013.

Adult Notsuke Peninsular, Hokkaido, January 2013. All the white-winged gulls are a dead giveaway this isn't in Kansai!

Adult Notsuke Peninsular, Hokkaido, January 2013.

Heading south to the opposite end of the country Ryukyu Serpent Eagle is equally easy to see. It's very common on Iriomote and only slightly less so on Ishigaki. They sit on roadside telegraph poles and are impossible to miss. They are also quite approachable.

Iriomote, April 2013.

Iriomote, April 2013.

Iriomote, April 2013.

Immature Iriomote, April 2013.

Immature Iriomote, April 2013.

The place to see Golden Eagle in Kansai is Ibukiyama, on the border of Shiga and Gifu prefectures. The 17km access (toll) road is closed to vehicles during winter but it is nevertheless a great platform for birding on the forested slopes. Snow makes for heavy going and I've never made it all the way to the top during winter. It might be possible to walk the much shorter zig-zagging path directly from foot to summit on the west side, I've never tried it. 

I don't know of any other aquila records from Kansai but for many years a Greater Spotted Eagle spent each winter in Kyushu. When that bird stopped coming it seemed there'd been no more opportunities to see the species however a juvenile appeared in the winter of 2014/15 so perhaps it'll continue the tradition.

Juvenile Greater Spotted Eagle in Kyushu, December 2015.

Golden Eagle Ibukiyama, November 2006.

Birds settling to roost Ibukiyama, November 2006.

Mountain Hawk Eagle is a low density breeder throughout the region's higher mountains including the Ibukiyama area, central Kyoto prefecture and the spine of the Kii Peninsular, but they are wide-ranging birds and luck is needed to see them. Away from Kansai, I've had great views of them in roadside trees along a stretch of route 317 in Aomori pefecture on different visits to the area over a number of years.

The distinctive shape of an overhead Hawk Eagle. Kyoto prefecture April 2014.

Mountain Hawk Eagle near Hirosaki, Aomori, August 2013.

Near Hirosaki, Aomori, August 2013.

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