Formerly quite widespread in Japan, the crane suffered a major decline in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For a while they were thought to be extinct, then a small population was re-discovered in Eastern Hokkaido, breeding in the extensive Kushiro Marshes and spending the winter near the village of Tsurui. Conservationists and local farmers came to the rescue, protecting the wetlands and feeding the cranes over the winter. The population gradually recovered and now number over a thousand.
|Red-crowned Crane portrait|
|this adult was adept at finding food in the river|
|flock of four flighting in|
The party of cranes were also gathered at a roadside sanctuary, and started to display and "dance". Wonderful sight.
|Whooper Swan family|
|Bean Geese (Taiga)|
|adult and juvenile|
|family of cranes in wet grassland habitat|
There are a couple of great viewpoints that give you a vista across the landscape. It is only then that you really appreciate how big and relatively wild this place is. It is thankfully now a protected area for the cranes and much other wildlife. It is not pristine - there has been drainage and reclamation around the edges, but it is still a much bigger (22,000ha) and more natural wetland ecosystem than we are used to in most of Europe and there is certainly nothing like it in the UK. Think "Insh Marshes on a grand scale" (Insh Marshes are a wonderfully wild wetland nature reserve in Speyside, Scotland).