In a Heavy Snowfall with Whooper Swans …

Ben’s News from Lake Kussharo Hokkaido on the Tusk Japan Wildlife Photo Tour:

(Photos from Ben’s mobile phone)

We had a very early start again this morning for our day with the Whooper Swans. The morning was overcast, and the whole area around the lake looked quite monochromatic and still. That was until shafts of light broke through the clouds and lit up a section of the beautiful scene sometimes gently and at other times with a dazzling brilliance. It was magical.

The lake is frozen over, with small warmer patches of water around the edges. One of the patches was very close to our hotel and we arrived to find about five Swans already there. The birds usually roost on the open ice toward the centre of the huge lake overnight and then arrive soon after dawn in search of warmer water and food.

We waited and very soon Swans arrived in pairs or groups numbering up to about fifteen that arrived at a time. There was plenty of calling, displaying, and showing off, and the time whizzed by as we photographed the nonstop action right in front of us.

After breakfast we visited a different spot with many more birds and far less open open water. We photographed the Swans as they flew in and out, or swam back and forth, and strutted about looking very important.

As we arrived back at our hotel for lunch, snow started to fall. So after a very hasty meal we dashed out again to capture images of the Swans in the snowfall. The snow fell heavily until night. We remained in the snow and used our wide angle lenses with fill in flash. We then mounted our cameras on tripods that we stuck in the water among the Swans and stood back. The birds investigated and soon ignored our photographic equipment, while we fired the cameras with remotes. It was spectacular, and we remained at the shore until we could barely see our hands in front of our faces.

Back at the Lodge our hosts (Ainu People) who were the original inhabitants of this island, are professional musicians and they put on a most beautiful music show with traditional dancing. We all loved it!

We plan to visit the lake for a final quick session in the morning before breakfast, and then it will be time for our next stop at Rausu where we hope to see many Steller’s Sea Eagles.