Red-crowned cranes and the hoar frost!

On day 5, we headed to the Haneda Airport for our flight to Kushiro in Hokkaido.  Japan is made up of five islands and Hokkaido is the largest and most northern one. The northern tip of Hokkaido is six miles across a channel from Russia.  We picked up our rental car, a four-wheel-drive SUV, at the airport.  All vehicles are right hand drive on the left side of the road.  Most vehicles are quite small.  There are very few full size automobiles in Japan.  The larger vehicles are SUV’s.

Our hotel was a large one but somewhat outdated.  It was also a Japanese style room with futon pads.  All of the hotels we stayed in had very small rooms.  Often there was barely enough room to put our suitcases and camera cases on the floor and frequently, there were no chairs.  A couple of the more modern hotels had desk areas and western style chairs.

We were up at 4am the next morning to drive to Tsurui to photograph red-crowned cranes on the Otowa Bridge.  We got to the location by 6am (sunrise was a half hour away) and there were already a crowd of photographers lined up on the bridge.  It was cold….-11 C or 12 Fahrenheit.

The cranes are a long way off on the river.  A few like the one pictured above were wading much nearer the bridge the first day.  Even though it was cold, it wasn’t cold enough to  create the hoar frost that freezes onto the trees.


We shot for about an hour and half and left as the birds were beginning to move to the nearby field and the nearby Tranto Ito Crane Center to feed on left over grain.

The cranes jump up and down looking for attention from their mates and other cranes.

After spending a couple of hours photographing the red-crowned cranes, we drove around the countryside looking for interesting landscapes to photograph.

Day two at the Otowa bridge was much better.  We got there about 5:40 in the morning but, again, there were already a lot of photographers lined up on the bridge.  I worked my way to the center of the bridge and shot over the shoulders of two others who were on the rail.  It was also much colder….-19 C or -3 Fahrenheit.  Due to the extreme cold, the mist rising from the river was creating the hoar frost that we were looking for.

It was really beautiful.  The cranes are about 200 yards or more from the bridge and this morning there aren’t any walking around nearby.  As the sun came up the trees took on a golden light.  You can see the mist that for the hoar frost rising from the river .

We also shot some of these red-crown cranes and whooper swans at the Akan International Crane Center.

I thought mine was pretty big

until I saw hers!

We had checked out of our Kushiro hotel as we left that morning so now we headed north to the Lake Kussaro area for two nights.  Lake Kussaro is a little more centrally located in Hokkaido.  After checking in at our hotel, we drove north to Bihoro Pass to photograph Lake Kucharro from above.

Again, we spent a lot of time roaming through the area, checking out various locations and roads, looking for interesting landscapes.

There was lots of snow in Hokkaido and it snowed frequently.  We had a major snowstorm one day and that brought out the big guys!

It also closed a few roads.

Tomorrow we had west toward Biei for a couple of days looking for great landscapes.




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