The New Year dawned cold and bright - though there was an almost total lack of snow around Karuizawa (very unusual for this time of year), we had at least been afforded a hard frost. As we walked down towards the bird forest our first birds of 2016 included a couple of decent flocks of Rustic Buntings and a new bird for the trip: Japanese Green Woodpecker. Meadow Buntings and Dusky Thrushes were common, as was the usual range of woodland species that we'd been encountering throughout our fortnight in Japan - more notable species included Hawfinch and Japanese Pygmy Woodpeckers.
A pair of Brown Dippers were on the river opposite 7-11 while I jammed in on a male Long-tailed Rosefinch in the scrubby area behind the store; unfortunately it had disappeared by the time Rich arrived. A male Daurian Redstart there was one of only a few encountered at Karuizawa.
We'd been given recent gen on a pair of Japanese Accentors, seen just before Christmas along one of the bird forest trails. A thorough search of the stream failed to produce the species but we bumped in to a male Naumann's Thrush, which flew up from the track and gave brief views before flying off in to the forest - another surprise bird for the trip.
While Mick went to twitch a waterfall to the north of town, Rich and I spent several hours walking the trails in the bird forest. Birds were relatively few and far between and it was by no means easy going. It seems like finding Copper Pheasant here requires luck as well as persistence and I was afforded my slice of fortune early afternoon when I flushed a female from a steep ridge - the only one seen in our day and a half here. This was quickly followed by prolonged views of Japanese Serow (resembling an oafish goat-deer hybrid), the animal seemingly just as fascinated by us as we were by it. Another new mammal here was Japanese Hare.
Japanese Serow, Karuizawa
Fem/imm Long-tailed Rosefinch, Karuizawa bird forest
First-winter Bull-headed Shrike, Karuizawa bird forest
Mt Asama looms large over the clearing in Karuizawa bird forest - Long-tailed Rosefinch here