Japan farewell tour, part 2

A few records from my ongoing farewell tour of Japan 🙂

Sado Island: I was there for only a few hours. The ferry crossing to the island was a bit rough and I didn’t see anything interesting; on the island I checked out Iwayaguchi Caves (38.262733N, 138.438552E) and found greater and Japanese horseshoe bats and eastern bentwings, but no eastern long-fingered myotis. The only other mammal of interest was a Shinto shrew briefly seen in Osado Ishina Ancient Forest (38.195512N 138.416817E).

Niigata: saw an Echigo mole swimming across a flooded field in torrential rain (at 37.81380N 138.875424E).

Southeast of Tokyo, Forest of Ichihara Quad (35.305209N 140.131150E) has a network of trails through deep forested ravines and riparian meadows, excellent for spotlighting. Some trails and trailside streams go through narrow tunnels where greater horseshoe bats and a few Far Eastern myotis roost year-round and other species are possible in winter. Plan on spending a full day to explore the stream tunnels thoroughly, and bring a small ladder to get to them from the road. Lesser Japanese moles build very shallow tunnels in the park’s campgrounds, and with some patience can be caught by hand.

Shikoku: A good place to look for lowland forest species is Hokigamine Forest Park (33.667932N 133.680308E); birdlike noctules were swarming there along forest trails. Ishizuchi Ropeway (33.803207N 133.148300E) provides access to higher elevations where I found Shinto shrew, True’s shrew-mole, and Smith’s red-backed vole. If the ropeway is closed, continue driving on Hwy 142 to its end (at 33.785363N 133.093872 E) and explore from there. In Ashizuri-Uwakai National Park I saw a Japanese dormouse at the mountain pass at 32.866186N 132.850276E. I swam 600 m from the shore near Otsuki to the small islet called Biro-jima (32.746696N 132.601014E) to see Oriental freetails, but they roosts in deep crevices and are difficult to see well except when emerging (I couldn’t wait for that because I didn’t want to get hit by a boat swimming back in the dark).

Ogasawara Islands: on the way to the islands I saw Longman’s beaked whales (!) and one dwarf sperm whale in the area between Torishima and Mukojima. On Chichijima you can go in a small boat to nearby uninhabited, very scenic Minamijima to swim with Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (spinner dolphins also show up sometimes). Took me two attempts. I also took a whalewatching tour and got one sperm whale, a few pantropical spotted dolphins, and distant Cuvier’s beaked whales. Bonin flying fox is common around town – look in Ogamiyama Park within easy walking distance from the ferry terminal. Introduced black rat is also common there. From Chichijima I took another ferry to Hahajima and searched the island for Sturdee’s pipistrelle (known from a single 1915 specimen), but didn’t find any sign of microbats – just lots of Bonin flying foxes. On the way back to Chichijima saw a Bryde’s whale (they look nearly identical to Eden’s whales which inhabit coastal waters in southern Japan, but only Bryde’s is known from the Ogasawaras). On the way back to Tokyo saw two dwarf sperm whales just 30 m from a feeding frenzy of wedge-tailed shearwaters, so I’m pretty sure they were also feeding on something – possibly the first observation of surface feeding in normally deep-diving species. Next morning another dwarf sperm whale breached just 50 m from the ship. Looks like they are very common in that area, just missed often because normally they are so stealthy.

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