Japan Winter Safari: Red-crowned Cranes Face Feeding Frenzies

Ben Reports from the Japan Winter Safari: Red-crowned Cranes Face Feeding Frenzies

Our hotel in Tsurui is so comfortable that it was a real pleasure to make the decision to have a late start this morning. The cranes only arrive from their overnight roosting areas near the river at around 09:00, so we indulged in a leisurely breakfast at 8am.

The overcast conditions meant that a lovely diffuse light permeated all around, and we captured images of the birds as they arrived and flew around at Akan, a crane feeding and viewing site. The courtship dances and singing were particularly poetic in that ethereal light.

Then at 14:00 feeding time began – with the frantic action that accompanies this each day. As the Red-crowned Cranes vie for their share of the spoils, White-tailed Eagles and Black Kites dive among them to steal whatever possible. The cranes leap up, flapping wildly and try to kick the thieves away – with limited success, but the effect is terrific! To add to the drama today, Whooper Swans arrived and also tried their luck. The resulting turmoil was something to behold! (And to photograph).

Within seconds of the last of the fish disappearing down a lucky bird’s gullet, peace abruptly descends on the area. It is difficult to realize that less a half a minute before, chaos reigned. The sudden transition takes a moment or or to adapt to.

Once calm was restored we could resume flying shots, portraits, action images, and beautiful high-key photos. The latter are particularly with snow surrounding the white birds, whose red polls, dark beaks and legs, and black feathers on the neck and tail area stand in dramatic contrast.

We remained at Akan until we were politely reminded that it was closing time and we were invited very kindly to depart.

Back at the hotel a luxuriated in an onsen, followed by a delicious traditional dinner – an excellent end to yet another wonderful day.

The forecast for tomorrow is for clear skies …