Japan Winter Safari: Leaving the Cranes

Ben Reports from the Japan Winter Safari: Leaving the Cranes

After breakfast we went straight to the Tsurui Red-crane Centre for our final day photographing these spectacular birds. Not only are they beautiful and elegant, they look quite magnificent in the white snow – or against the dark trees in the distance. And their courtship displays need to be experienced even just once in a lifetime. The dances, pirouettes, bowing – and the singing all add up to one of those sights that is never forgotten.

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Today there were far fewer birds, which made it so much easier to isolate and photograph individuals and dancing, courting pairs as they flew in, or left again. They looked truly spectacular against the dark trees behind them.

Once again we decided to visit Akan for the feeding time.

And again the fewer numbers meant that we could focus on individuals and pairs again.

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Even when the fish arrived for feeding time, photography was very different from yesterday’s frenzied chaos. Even when 5 White-tailed Eagles and 3 Black Kites started to dive from lofty heights, we were able to focus on individuals, pinpointing and capturing the amazing dramas.

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As the eagles and kites dived, the cranes jumped up to evade them, but then flapped and kicked to get rid of the pirates. And as always every successful grab by an eagle or kite started an aerial combat of some ferocity, with opportunistic onlookers hoping that the fish would be dropped and therefore available to them.

Then, when it was over, it was sadly time for us to pack and and leave for the airport at Kushiro for our flight to Tokyo and our farewell dinner together.

But – we have been told that there are Mandarin Ducks currently at the Emperor’s Palace, and we have just enough time to fit that in tomorrow …