We left our hotel in Kushiro very early in the morning and headed to Otowa Bridge to see the roosting Red-crowned Cranes. We weren't very lucky since the weather was awful. We spent some time photographing the cranes from the bridge under heavy snow with some Chinese group of photographers then moved on to Tsurui-Itoh Sanctuary. I did manage to see a pair of Crested Kingfisher chasing each other from the bridge though.
|Red-crowned Crane and a ringed Whooper Swan|
|Red-crowned Crane and Whooper Swan|
|Red-crowned Cranes at Otowa Bridge|
I even flushed a single finch from the ground at the end of the bridge, took few photos of it in flight but the quality of the photo was so poor that I couldn't tell anything about it, so I decided to delete them. I later heard from Yann that few days earlier, a birder found a large flock of Pallas's Rosefinches just at the bridge. I suddenly realised that I should've at least kept those photos in case they might be the only proof for my lifer.
|Love photographing them while flapping their wings!|
|They were constantly noisy as the name suggests.|
|There were quite many juveniles with brownish-grey plumage.|
Last time I visited Tsurui-Itoh Sanctuary, I didn't see any Whooper Swan, but this time there were lots of them! I have no idea what has happened since 2010. There were much fewer cranes here than at the Akan International Crane Center as we first arrived, but many more of them began to arrive around 9AM as an officer started to put out some food for them.
|Red-crowned Cranes while dueting|
|Showing off the dances|
|Gracefully moving in the snow|
|Adult and juvenile Whooper Swans|
|Red-crowned Cranes landing|
|Whooper Swan walking elegantly across the snow|
|Having fun kicking the snow|
We noticed that lots of small birds were gathering near a building on the opposite side of the crane feeding ground. I later realised that the building was a Wild Bird Society of Japan's office and they regularly put out some sunflower seeds for small birds at the feeders in front of the building. We could even watched them while having a nice cup of coffee inside the cozy building through the window. What a nice place to be.
|Male Great Spotted Woodpecker at the feeder|
|Eurasian Tree Sparrow and Marsh Tit|
|Eurasian Nuthatch; subspecies S. e. clara of Hokkaido|
|This subspecies has entirely whitish underparts, much different from the one found in other parts of Japan.|
There were lots of Marsh Tits, a pair of Eurasian Nuthatches, few Japanese Tits, a single Coal Tit and a male Great Spotted Woodpecker, which was truly the starbird for us. Even though it was a shy bird, it showed up nicely at the feeder if we stayed and watched from inside the building. A pair of Grey-capped Greenfinches, a non-breeding male Hawfinch and some Eurasian Tree Sparrows also showed up afterwards. We stayed at the sanctuary until around noon then went out for lunch in a soba shop nearby before leaving Tsurui for Kussharo Lake.