Saturday 14 December 2013


Running into an owl by chance is a far less frequent than in the UK and in Kyoto the only species that is more or less guaranteed is Brown Hawk Owl. They're summer visitors of course but, for anyone visiting at that time, pairs in the Imperial Palace Park are straight forward. There's a softball area in the north east corner and just to the south across a broad gravel drive there's a roped-off area where you'll see several owl nest boxes and you should be able to find the male near by during the breeding season or even the young birds once they've fledged.
Ural Owl can be found on the hills surrounding the city but they require more work. Perhaps it might be easier to try for birds at the International Conference Center, I've never looked for them there but I have heard them when picking up visiting birders from the hotel there at night. They're quite widespread throughout the region.
Two scops owls Japanese/Collared and Oriental breed in the region. Japanese is quite common in forests in Kyoto prefecture, and no doubt elsewhere, though that doesn't mean they are easily seen, and in the city I've only seen a single singing migrant at Fushimi Inari Shrine. Oriental is far less common, in fact I haven't heard one in my usual nocturnal haunts for several years. Many local photographers head across to Tottori which certainly suggests they're difficult to get here.
Going back a few years Short-eared Owl used to be a common wintering bird at Ogura but they went into rapid decline and have totally disappeared. This seems to have been the case throughout the region as a whole and Short-eared has become quite a rare winter visitor.
Migrant Long-eared sometimes turn up in riverside trees along the Uji River near Ogura but the only regular winter roost I know of is in Osaka.

Oriental Scops rufous form male, Tottori 24 July 2011.

Female rufous form, Tottori 24 July 2011.

Oriental Scops male grey form 24 July 2011.

Blakiston's Fish Owl Washi no Yado, Hokkaido 4 January 2013. Finding a nest with a fledged young many years ago was a thrill but quite honestly the views at this famous location take some beating.

Brown Hawk Owl Hegurajima 10 October 2007.

(Ryukyu) Brown Hawk Owl Ishigaki 10 April 2013.

Migrant Long-eared, Hegurajima 11 October 2009.

A good sighting of Long-eared at Nosappu, Hokkaido 27 December 2012.

Short-eared Owl hunting along Cape Nosappu, Hokkaido 27 December 2012.

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