background image

Japan part Two, the eagles.

One of the major aspects of the trip that I was looking forward too was photographing the eagles in Hokkaido. I had never seen a Steller’s sea eagle before and because it is one of the world largest raptors and stunningly marked I was excited about seeing one for the first time.

I was also looking forward to working with them on the sea ice that flows from the Amur river in Russia around the Japanese coast and into the bays on the east of Hokkaido. Unfortunately the ice is not entirely predictable, what ever is now? So we had our fingers crossed as we drove across this mountainous and beautiful island.

Our first dawn run didn’t look too good, no sea ice so we only worked with the birds diving into the sea to retrieve fish thrown out for them. However, and its good practice that we had booked  four trips over two days, on the second trip our skipper said we would try for the sea ice.

A fast blast across the sea towards the Russian islands and we found the wayward ice, and with it eagles. To see a Steller’s perched on a peak of ice is fantastic, but in flight it becomes awe-inspiring. Over this and the next two trips we worked with both Steller’s and white-tailed eagles on pristine sea ice as it cruised into the Japanese coast.

The repeated trips allowed all of us to get the bog standard (!) images of birds in flight or perched on the ice plus chances to work that bit more creatively and to concentrate on conflict when one bird tried, often successfully, to pinch a fish right out of the claws of another eagle. There was no pecking order between the eagles, in fact the smaller white-tailed were more consumate fliers and more nimble so didn’t have the respect that the bill and body size of the Steller’s might have created.