Eagles On Ice Lots Of Them And What A Sight 1 February 2020

Black-eared Kites and crows arrived at the feast first, more was to come.

We were out early for some pre-breakfast birding in a local wood not far from our guest house, wading through pretty deep snow. Not many birds about in the cold morning light, Japanese Tits, Brown-eared Bulbuls, Eurasian Jays, a gang of Black-eared Kites sat miserably at the edge of the wood waiting for the sun to come up. As we headed back for our breakfast we started to see Steller’s Sea Eagles and White-tailed Eagles overhead, awesome birds and boded well for our post breakfast visit to the frozen lake.

Then the first Steller's Sea Eagles arrived and what magnificent birds they are!

After breakfast we drove the mile or so to a frozen lake where Charley assured we were in for treat. The sun was breaking through but boy was it cold, way below freezing and just enough breeze to make it feel bitter. We piled the layers on braved the cold, two people were out on the ice of the frozen lake some one hundred yards away with sledges and were unloading something onto the ice. No sooner had they began their work Black-eared Kites, Large-billed Crows and Carrion Crows swarmed above them. This was impressive but we figured there was more to come.

As the two people returned from the ice, leaving piles of fish on the frozen water, eagles began to appear as if by magic. Huge Steller’s Sea Eagles flapped overhead joined by their smaller cousins the White-tailed Eagles, and we just stared in awe of these magnificent raptors. The kites and crows were down on the fish but the eagles seemed reluctant to come down at first. A few of the Steller’s Sea Eagles landed on the ice beyond the feeding frenzy but just sat and watched. Others, of both species of eagle, seemed more intent on sparring mid-air with each other rather than feeding. Then as if some unseen or unheard signal the eagles moved in for their feed! What a fantastic sight it was too. These massive birds fought and squabbled on the ice and again we were just in awe of what we were seeing! It was only the day before we had first set eyes on a Steller’s Sea Eagle now we were watching over fifty of these beasts at close range and watching them fight with White-tailed Eagles was this for real? It was just a fantastic spectacle and one we will never forget, for years and years I had wanted to see a Steller’s Sea Eagle but never dreamt of a sight as amazing as this! Elation doesn’t even cover it!

What a staggeringly amazing bird Steller's Sea Eagles are truly awesome!

We left the frozen lake feeling a little like our job in Japan was done, Steller’s Sea Eagle was the target bird, my all-time most wanted bird in the whole world and we had not only seen it but really experienced it. But Charley was very confident that there was so much more still to come.

At the coast we found out Charley was right about more to come! We explored a long peninsula and watched masses of gulls feeding over the surf, just the sort of place we might find something special we thought. Charley mentioned that he had never seen a Ross’s Gull despite having seen a staggering 7,000 plus species! About twenty minutes later I could barely believe my eyes an adult Ross’s Gull was over the surf! Amazing and it got better a second Ross’s Gull joined the first this time a first-winter bird, Charley was very happy indeed! But it didn’t stop there Tyler spotted a Fieldfare by the roadside – a vagrant in Japan! This day was just out of this the world we were seeing so many amazing birds.

A few of the other species we enjoyed on this mind-blowing day included Brent Geese, Harlequin Duck, Stejneger’s Scoter, Black Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Spectacled Guillemot, Slaty-backed Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Black-throated Diver, Paleagic Cormorant, Eastern Buzzard, Marsh Tit, Brown Dipper, what a fantastic day of wonderful birds.

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