Saturday, 9 March 2013

Japan 2013 - The road to Furen

14 February 2013

Rausu to Lake Furen

We left Rausu in sunshine and drove south down the coast. Our objective today was getting to Lake Furen, stopping whenever the road allowed at harbours and bays to check for birds. We started beside Rausu Harbour hen out onto the Notsuke Peninsula before the final stage to Lake Furen where we finished the day at the Bird Centre photographing a few common birds on the feeders before dusk. We stayed at the wonderful Furen Lodge  with Matsuo San and his wife. Their small minshuku, amazing food and wonderful hospitality was a real highlight of the trip.

A smart male Red-breasted Merganser
A couple of harbours held few ducks, but good numbers of gulls, allowing a few more shots.

An adult Glaucous Gull
A second winter Glaucous Gull 
Another adult Glaucous Gull
A very bulky looking Glaucous-winged Gull
A more dainty Glaucous-winged Gull
A fairly typical adult Glaucous-winged Gull 
Adult Glaucous-winged Gull

A third winter Slaty-backed Gull
A smart adult Slaty-backed Gull 
Adult Slaty-backed Gull
An adult Slaty-backed with extensive winter head markings
A line of Slaty-backed Gulls
An adult Vega Gull with its wings spread on landing
Touch down - useful spread wing shot

As we were leaving one harbour I found this white-winged gull out on the ice. It appeared small and dainty in comparison to the more typical Glaucous Gulls around it, but vies through the scope proved inconclusive and we gave up assuming it was just a particularly small Glaucous. However the one image that came out confirms its more dainty appearance, perhaps suggestive of Iceland Gull, though that would be quite a rarity here?

Black Scoters feed in the open water
The pack ice lingers just offshore

A short pit-stop at a Seven-Eleven gave us a chance to photograph the very common Large-billed Crow at close range. It struggled to swallow the doughnuts and had to soak them in a puddle first. I think it might have tried them before....

Large-billed Crow
Further south we drove out onto the long spit of land called Notsuke. It curves around a large tidal bay in summer, but in winter this is frozen solid and covered in snow. The sea provided interest with good numbers of sea duck, and the many utility posts provided perches for many eagles, some of which allowed quite close approach.

Adult White-tailed Eagle
Near-adult White-tailed Eagle
With care it was possible to approach quite close
The view from the start of the peninsula back towards Rausu

Further along we found several Steller's Sea Eagles. Some were sitting along the beach eating the carcass of a seal. Others were roosting our on the fields, but none was very approachable. We met a Japanese photographer who took us closer, but his lack of field craft had the birds flushing before any images were obtained. We left him to it and carried on up the road.

An adult Steller's Sea Eagle perches on the ice 
But they do not like getting too close
An immature Steller's Sea Eagle flies over to roost
Two adult Steller's Sea Eagles head off along the coast 
And an adult flies over our heads
Our various stops produce a nice selection of birds, including 250 Whooper Swan, 150 Greater Scaup, 75 Harlequin Duck, 50 Stejneger's Scoter, 1,000 Black Scoter, 6 Long-tailed Duck, 150 Goldeneye, 150 Goosander, 40 Red-breasted Merganser, and 40 Pelagic Cormorant. Over the course of the day we see at least 50 White-tailed and 75 Steller's Sea Eagles, plus a further 100 Black-eared Kites. 

Brash ice floating in the bay
Pack ice tossed up on the beach
The lighthouse at the end of the peninsula
At the end of the road we take a few photos then turn and drive slowly back along the road. An adult Steller's Sea Eagle is sat on one of the roadside utility poles and Gary approaches in the car very carefully. We expect it to fly away and grab some wonky images by hanging out of the car. But it stays put. Due to the angle Gary needs to get out so we carefully open the doors, expecting it to fly away. But it stays. We climb up the snow bank beside the road to get more height and it just sits in the sun and eyes us up. I have to say it was a little nerve wracking being so close to such a massive predator, especially when it glares down at you around that huge orange beak! What a bird, and the sun is shining.

Steller's Sea Eagle 
Adult Steller's Sea Eagle
The road back from Notsuke 

We depart leaving the eagle still on its perch with a card full of images. Wonderful stuff. We drive south towards Lake Furen, arriving late in the afternoon. We make straight for the Bird Centre and sit in the warmth watching common woodland birds at their feeders for the remainder of the day. Our Minshuku, the wonderful Furen Lodge, is just a few hundred metres away.  

Brown-eared Bulbul
Brown-eared Bulbul
Brown-eared Bulbul
Brown-eared Bulbul
Eastern Great Tit

Great-spotted Woodpecker
Great-spotted Woodpecker
Great-spotted Woodpecker 

Tree Sparrow
Tree Sparrow 
Marsh Tit
Willow Tit
We watch a Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker and 3 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 8 Marsh Tit, 2 Willow Tit, 15 Eastern Great Tit, 5 Nuthatch, 3 Brown-eared Bulbul and 20 Tree Sparrow all at very close range through the panoramic windows, with the frozen expanse of Lake Furen as a backdrop. As we drive to the Minshuku we take one last look beside the bridge where fittingly two immature White-tailed Eagles are sat in the last rays of sunshine on the sea defences.

Juvenile White-tailed Eagle 
Sub-adult White-tailed Eagle
Sub-adult White-tailed Eagle
Juvenile White-tailed Eagle

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