The northernmost islands of Japan are on similar latitudes with Rome, Marseilles, and New Hampshire. But they are COLD and frozen! Hokkaido is Japan’s second largest but has only 4% of the population. It does have snow, forests, salmon, brown bears and other amazing wildlife. I got the chance to visit the eastern part to see the legendary Red-crowned crane (Grus japonicus) – Tancho tsuru in Japanese. In the early 20th Century they were thought to be extinct in Japan until a group of 20 individuals were discovered in a wetland in eastern Hokkaido. Now the global population is up to 2000 and have strong protection in Japan where their habitat is increasingly protected and local farmers have taken to feeding them in their snowy wintering grounds. The two day trip was short but full of birds – besides the cranes there were Stellar’s sea eagles (Haliaeetus pelagicus), White-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla), Eurasian jays, Chinese nuthatches, woodpeckers, lots of tits, and a couple of Hen harriers (Circus spilonitus) – plus a fox and lots of Sika deer (Cervus nippon)! And snow and cold!
I also had a fun companion and partner on the trip – and personal chauffeur. She did a great job driving on the snowy roads!
Cranes in flight – so graceful.
Crane print – so big!
Sika deer – Cervus nippon
An algae ball from Akan Lake. Found only in that lake north of Kushiro.
There is a Stellar’s sea eagle in that shot!
With some short videos!
Some of the landscapes were stunning!
Frozen Lake Akkeshi
And my amazing chauffeur got to have some fun too. 🙂
Walking on water!
That was a cold cold bench?
In December 2012, I was lucky enough to get to visit Izumi, in Kagoshima Prefecture on Kyushu Island. The area is one of the biggest wintering grounds for several species of cranes, particularly Hooded Cranes and White-naped Cranes. I was there a bit early during the season before the peak of the wintering population arrived sometime in January, but I witnessed 30,000 cranes taking to the sky as a truck came to dispense food through the dawn mist. The video below doesn’t do it justice – amazing.
I like bird watching. Somehow, its become part of my family. My mother, my aunt and uncle, and some of my cousins can often be found in the woods, wetland or coast with binoculars. But, I’m not very good at it. But being in nature and enjoying the search and seeing something interesting or beautiful is a little thrill.
Most of my birding over the past 10 years has been throughout Sabah, Malaysian Borneo with Mount Kinabalu as my favorite destination. at 4095 meters, Mt. Kinabalu is the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea and home to many of Borneo’s highland endemic birds.
My biggest success is having spotted Kinabalu’s Whitehead 3 – Whitehead’s Broadbill, Whitehead’s Trogon, and Whitehead’s Spiderhunter – and I’m happy to have accomplished it with my best birding partner, Angela Lim. It took us several years and a few rather harrowing encounters with the Liwagu Trail, but we did it.
- Whitehead’s Broadbill (Calyptomena whiteheadi)
- Whitehead’s Trogon (Harpactes whiteheadi)
- Whitehead’s Spiderhunter (Arachnothera jullae)
Some of my other favorite birding spots include the Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sandakan, Fraser’s Hill in Peninsular Malaysia, and the Kinabatangan River.