Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Japan in November (No.2): from Kushiro to Nemuro

After a good nights sleep in a comfortable Kushiro hotel, we picked up a hire car (4WD Nissan Note) and set off for along the coast, heading further east towards Nemuro. The rain had cleared overnight and the air was crisp and clear. Dozens of black-eared kites circled around the hillsides on the edge of town, enjoying the clear sunny weather.  Driving on north, after about twenty minutes a large eagle soaring overhead caused a rapid u-turn and search for a roadside pull in.  It was worth it.  Our first Steller's sea eagle was drifting over the forested landscape.  A magnificent bird.  We later found out that they had only just started to arrive from Siberia - they are winter visitors to this part of Japan.
Steller's sea eagle
We continued along scenic roads, past coastal settlements with fish farms in the bays.
Hokkaido coastline east of Kushiro
One lake held huge numbers of whooper swans.  We saw several thousand during the day, they must use these wetlands to feed up before moving further south: in another couple of months this area will be in the grip of a very cold winter, but just at the moment the wetlands must look very attractive to them.
adult and juvenile Whooper Swan
The coastline is spectacular with forest extending towards the cliff edge creating a natural ecological transition to wind-swept grassland and cliff.  Not something you see too often in Europe.
forest almost reaches the clifftop, Pacific Ocean beyond
In the woods, our first of many sightings of Japanese pygmy woodpecker and the Hokkaido race of Eurasian Jay and Eurasian Nuthatch.
Eurasian jay
Eurasian nuthatch
Japanese pygmy woodpecker
The most impressive wetland was at Kirritapu, great expanse of swamp with huge numbers of wildfowl congregated around the outlet from the wetland into the sea.  There is a newish wetlands centre beside the coastal road here, fortuitously open in November and serving a very welcome cup of coffee.
View across Kiritappu wetlands
Thousands of pintails and wigeons here, with a few American wigeons and a drake falcated duck.
pintails and wigeons
suddenly all the wildfowl took flight
Great views of a black-tailed gull as we crept towards it, using the car as a hide.
black-tailed gull

To round off the day, as we approached Nemuro, a majestic white-tailed sea eagle sat atop a fir tree, close to the road.
white-tailed sea eagle

No comments:

Post a Comment