Ochiro san and I head north for a birding adventure in Hokkaido! Two flights later we arrive at Nakashibetsu airport -deep snow and freezing cold. We are no longer in Okinawa. As we pick up a car, a policeman and another guy come running up to me. I make a run for it it but I am too old and fat. Turns out that there is a special safety campaign about driving on snow and ice. The other guy is a journalist and takes lots of photos of fat gaijin being instructed. Great fun!
We are also met by Fukuda san, an old buddy of Oshiro san. He is some kind of environment ranger for the area. He immediately takes us birding, lots of sea ducks, rare Rosy Finches and to my huge excitement and astonishment, a Steller’s Sea Eagle just sitting in a tree. It is massive!
Sorry folks, this post is going to be a long succession of bird photos. Those who are not bird-minded are forewarned. We stay at a very good guesthouse. I will write a separate post on the guesthouses and the food they prepared for us,
Next day we drive up the coast of Northeast Hokkaido looking for seabirds of which there are strangely few on Okinawa. We meet Fukuda san who shows a pod of Killer Whales who seem to be stuck in the pack ice. There are about ten who are swimming back and forth in a frenzied manner. Fukuda san rushes off to arrange rescue. We also see a lot of eagles.
That night is Owl night! Blackiston’s Fish Owl https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blakiston%27s_fish_owl is the biggest owl in the world and very, very rare. The birds come down to fish in a little river near Rausu. A little, very basic, guesthouse has installed lights where the owls often fish. Ichiro and I lie on our futons and watch. Not much going on until 2:00 am when Ichiro san shakes me awake. A huge owl is sitting on the bank just in front of us. Ichiro san slides back the french window and I am able to take amazing photos! Wow! He slides the window back as it is insanely cold.
The owl comes back 3 times before dawn.
Early next morning we get on a boat to track down eagles on the pack ice.
We chug out to the pack ice . There are eagles everywhere. The boat stays on the edge of the ice and a guy throws fish out to the eagles. Everyone should do this at least once! Hundreds of Eagles swirl around the boat, screaming and bickering.
We drive South to stay in a great guesthouse on the banks of Lake Furen.
Thursday is Red Crested Crane day!
These birds are so beautiful, so elegant, so emblematic of Japan. We find hundreds!
We drive down to Kushiro and catch flights the next morning back to Naha. -18C in Kushiro, 18 C in Naha.
Many thanks to my Mongolian wool socks. https://www.amazon.co.jp/-/en/North-Mongolian-Unisex-Middle-natural/dp/B07XQDDYD3/ref=sr_1_1?crid=YQV88C1TXER8&keywords=モンゴル靴下&qid=1676101059&sprefix=mongolian+socks%2Caps%2C220&sr=8-1
Above all, thanks to Ichiro san! He organized the itinerary, booked all the guesthouses and provided expert knowledge on all the birds. He is a wonderful man. Do not forget the he is a extraordinary artist!
What an adventure!
…’kin ‘ell, Neil, what bird lover’s coup. Your photos are astonishing. I’ve been entranced by the idea of seeing a Blakiston’s Fish Owl ever since I read that wonderful book “Owls of the Eastern Ice” by Jonathan Slaght. I liked that book so much I gave it to both of my brothers and to three friends, including Carolyn Smith because of her work in various part of Russia.
What a trip! The birds were amazing. We got to see everything we had dreamed of and in abundance. I did not know about “Owls of the Eastern Ice” but will now get a copy. Thanks.
That made a delightful interlude to my day – thanks so very much!
Wonderful bird pictures. Amazing how well they deal with the intense cold – at least you seem to have got youself properly dressed! Must be difficult taking photos in those thick gloves.
It was a fantastic trip – I highly recommend.