Hokkaido trip 2011

I recently spent 10 days on the Japanese island of Hokkaido with a photographer friend from the US.
Hokkaido is something of a winter mecca for wildlife photographers. There are the famous Japanese or Red Crowned Cranes at Kushiro and Akan which is where we spent the first two full days. We then moved to Lake Kusharro in the centre of the island. This is volcano territory and most of the lakes in this region are old craters. Lake Kusharro freezes almost completely but there are small areas which are fed by hot water springs which remain open. A large number of Whooper Swans spend the winter here and because the open water is restricted to narrow strips around the outside of the lake it is possible to photograph these beautiful birds at absurdly close quarters.
After Two wonderful days at Lake Kusharro we moved to the small coastal port of Rausu

situated on the east coast of the Shiretoko peninsula and oppsite one of the disputed Kuril islands.

At Rausu the sea freezes, or rather pack ice covers the surface of the sea. It follows currents down from the arctic and is blown backwards and forwards across the sound. One day the whole sea is impassable to all but the strongest icebreakers and the next it can be clear sea.
With the pack ice come the fish eating eagles looking for patches of clear water to fish in.
Locals have been feeding the eagles for years and there are many of the two most common here.the white tailed sea eagle is an impressive bird of prey but is dwarfed by the Stellers Sea Eagle, he largest eagle by weight in the world.
We awoke very early each morning o take a boat from he harbour out into the ice to capture shots at dawn. A very cold but exhilarating experience.
In and around Rausu we found other species as a bonus. Firstly the very rare Blakiston Fish Owl again the biggest Owl in the world.In addition we saw many ducks in around the harbour, lots of Scaup,Goldeneye and Pintails as well as some very shy Harlequin ducks.
There were plenty of Sika Deer to be found not far fom he road and numerous black
kites scavenging around the port.
After 4 days in Rausu it was back to Kushiro and more Cranes and Eagles before flying back to Tokyo.


Photo comment By Kevin Wilson: Pete Great shots. Owls have always been a particular interest of mine, so I particularly enjoyed the Blakiston Fish Owl pictures. Hope all is well Kev

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