Last Full Day On Hokkaido Japan And We Enjoy Beautiful Cranes 3 February 2020

Our sea-watching spot in the sunshine and great birds enjoyed here.

Sadly all too soon it was our last full day on the northern island of Hokkaido in Japan. We had come here with one thing only in mind to see the magnificent Steller’s Sea Eagle and it was mission accomplished for sure. But Hokkaido has so much more to offer and we were keen to make the most of our last day.

Wonderful to see Steller's Sea Eagles in glorious sunshine and against blue sky.

It was sunny morning and we drove out to Cape Nosappu and set up the scopes for a spell of sea-watching. It was so nice to see blue sky and a calm sea and we quickly enjoyed many birds, gorgeous Harlequin Ducks, Black Scoter and Long tailed Ducks gleamed in the sunshine. But it was not ducks we had come for and more scanning soon produced our target birds – Pigeon Guillemot, Spectacled Guillemot and the tiny Ancient Murrelet – what a fantastic trio of birds to see. The first two were new birds for all three of us though I had seen Ancient Murrelet in the UK, an extremely rare bird there with just the one record of a bird that was seen on Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel in 1990 and amazingly returned the following year!

But Hokkaido still had even more to offer and we headed off to look for Japan’s National Bird the Red-crowned Crane also known as Japanese Crane. This is the only species of crane that winters on Hokkaido as the winters here are brutal and these birds are kindly fed by local people who love them.

As we neared the area where the cranes are fed we came across three of these huge and magnificent birds in a roadside field, two adults and a juvenile. Of course these were “lifers” for all of us and it was wonderful to happen across them like this.

At the feeding area the sun was going behind clouds and the snow was thick on the ground. It was a popular spot and many photographers were lined up at a fence by a field where a wonderful flock of Red-crowned Cranes were stood in the snow. The birds were pretty close so the views were brilliant, photos on the other hand were tricky, black and white, and red, birds on white snow not easy to get the exposure right especially with falling light levels! But we were thrilled to see and these wonderful birds.

That evening we enjoyed a superb meal at our lovely guest house. This place was just amazing and the owners really looked after us so well, if only all the accommodation could have been like this! Hokkaido is a pretty remote place so you have to use what is available near the best birding, hopefully more tourists will visit this spectacular part of Japan and more places to stay will open up?

The next morning after some birding in the sunshine we headed for the airport for our flight south to Kagoshima and promise of thousands of more cranes!

We watched a pair of Long-tailed Tits, the gorgeous white-headed Japanese race very different to the ones back in the UK. We also enjoyed a rather lonely looking Red-crowned Crane in the sunshine before very reluctantly heading for the airport.

Hokkaido had delivered and then some, we had loved it, yes it had been bitterly cold at times and snowed and been windy at times but the birds are what we will remember from this amazing island. Anywhere you can watch hundreds of Steller’s Sea Eagles, Blakiston’s Fish-Owls, Ross’s Gulls, Red-faced Cormorants and Red-naped Cranes and whole host of other superb birds has to be worth a visit! I would return in a heart-beat and hope I will.

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