We Fly North To Hokkaido Japan And Look For Our Most Wanted Bird 31 January 2020

The most wanted bird in the world over the airport - just fantastic! Steller's Sea Eagle.

We headed for Tokyo Airport and were very glad to be told our flight north to Hokkaido was going ahead, whew. Taking off from Japan’s capitol city we looked down at the vast sprawl of human construction below us bathed in warm sunshine. Two and half hours later we could see snow and ice below us as we arrived over the island of Hokkaido! What a difference, it was mid-winter still on the island and we pulled on extra layers quickly. A shuttle bus took us to the hire car depot and while Charley sorted out the minibus we stood outside. Of course I was scanning for birds but could not see a single one, not even a feral pigeon or a crow. Then I spotted a huge raptor, it was coming head on and not giving much away and I called out “Eagle! Probably a White-tailed” as I thought this was the most likely species. Then the huge bird turned and our jaws hit the floor – Steller’s Sea Eagle – the very first bird seen on the island! We punched the air and hugged each other we were so excited to see this wonderful raptor so soon after our arrival on Hokkaido.

Tyler and Glenn feeling very happy at Hokkaido Airport, Steller's Sea Eagle seen!

Harlequin Ducks in a Japanese harbour in a snow storm.

The views of the Black Scoter and other sea-duck were amazing but the snow made photos tough.

Charley emerged from the hire car office complete with keys and was rather under whelmed by our sighting, but we were on a massive high. Heading off on the snowy roads through a winter wonderland landscape we soon saw more Steller’s Sea Eagles and realised why Charley had been pretty cool about our sighting of one! We also saw White-tailed Eagles as we drove but little else and before long it began to snow pretty hard making seeing anything very tough. We reached the coast but the conditions were terrible, gale force winds and stinging sleet and snow made birding just about impossible. But we did try for a while managing to see Red-faced Cormorant on a sea-cliff and close views of beautiful Harlequin Ducks in a harbour where we could bird from the bus.

Up close with a Glaucous-winged Gull in the snow, an impressive beast.

Other wintering ducks here included Stejneger's and Black Scoters, Long-tailed Duck and Goldeneye but all through snow. This harbour was good for gulls too and we had close looks at Kamchatka, Vega, Slaty-backed, Glaucous-winged and Glaucous Gulls. Amazing to see our first Steller’s Sea Eagles but the conditions were just grim. We called it a day and headed off to our traditional Japanese guest house where we were to stay for one night. It was pretty basic with shared bathrooms but it was warm and our hosts were very friendly.

Lots more bird blogs to come soon please check back for more birding adventures.

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