Japan Winter Safari: Countless Dancing, Singing Cranes

Wim Reports from the Japan Winter Safari: Countless Dancing, Singing Cranes

The sunrise this morning was particularly beautiful – and maybe it took on an extra splendor after our many stormy, blizzardy, overcast days.

We went straight to the Tsurui Red-crowned Crane area and waited for the cranes to arrive from their overnight roosting spots, and before long pairs of started to fly in. More and more arrived – certainly many more than we expected. And the dancing, courtship displays, singing, aerial lifts started immediately. The sight was quite spectacular!

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We watched and photographed the beautiful interactions for the entire morning, and then decided to visit the Akan feeding station for the 2pm feeding time.

When we arrived there were cranes everywhere, with the courtship dances and songs going strong. There were so many birds, with numerous Whooper Swans that also arrived, that it became quite difficult to isolate and focus on one pair of courting cranes for photography.

Feeding time arrived – and of course, with the arrival of the fish, White-tailed Eagles and Black Kites swooped in to grab what they could.

The cranes valiantly tried to protect their bounty, but time and again the scavengers stole a fish and tried to make a fast getaway. But each time, the thief would be pursued by another Eagle or Kite, and aerial combats took place regularly. Often the fish would be dropped – and picked up by another hopeful and opportunistic bird.

The action continued without a break for more than thirty minutes. There was so much going on that at times one was hard pressed to decide which of the aerial disputes or ground battles made the best picture.

And as always, as soon as the last fish was gone, so were the Eagles and Kites.

We returned to Tsurui, where, if anything, the numbers of cranes had increased even more. We remained there until it was simply too dark to see or photograph anything at all.

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Back at the hotel, our daily onsen was as fabulous as ever and now we are off to dinner.

Tomorrow we leave for Tokyo …