Release | nobu Kawashima
Sea eagle and white-tailed eagle watching with a guide in Shiretoko
Do you want to try to look for animals in winter Shiretoko? In this tour, you can encounter with not only sea eagles, a natural treasure, and white-tailed eagles, but also ezo deer, ezo red foxes, and seals sleeping on a piece of drift ice! However, it will depend on your luck if you can actually see them because they are all wild animals. Let’s test your animal luck!
Shiretoko is the place to encounter wild birds and animals oftenIt’s not unusual to hear stories from people who encountered ezo deer or ezo red fox on roadsides while driving in Shiretoko. In fact, people should be careful to not cause accidents with them. It is a daily thing to encounter with wild animals here.
▲You will notice “wild animals crossing” sign everywhere.
In other words, there is a good chance to encounter with wild birds and animals. If you have a mind to watch them quietly at safe areas, you may be able to observe their lives and dramas in nature!
▲You can sometimes see ezo red fox in this close distance! They are wild animals so you should not feed them no matter how cute they are.
Heading to where we can see wild birds and animals? Where is that?I participated in “Winter animals watching tour” provided by “Shiretoko Nature Office”, who operates nature tours in Shiretoko, Utoro. The main objective of this tour is to find and watch large raptores such as sea eagles and white-tailed eagles.
▲Bird watching requires a binocular telescope! They lend one for each.
We use cars to move around, but we will be outside when we observe birds so be sure to wear warm clothes to participate.
The destination is somewhere with high possibilities to encounter wild animals such as sea eagles and white-tailed eagles. The exact location is not set; guides will see the weather of the day and information about animals until the day before and take participants to sites with high possibilities.
Where are we going? It depends on experiences of the professional and his natural instinct! Let’s just follow the guide!
Location no.1: Check the mountainside!After driving the National Route for a while, we stopped at a place where we could park the car. We started watching the sky and branches of the mountainside, facing the ocean in the back, very carefully.
▲Everyone is looking for birds using binocular telescopes.
“I found one over there.”
The guide was very quick to find one!
▲An eagle was resting on a branch by the cliff. Is it a sea eagle or white-tailed eagle? It does not look like a crow, but it was impossible to distinguish for an amateur.
So the guide helped us.
▲The guide explained the difference between a sea eagle and a white-tailed eagle.
He explained not only how to distinguish them but also habits of animals and natural environment of Shiretoko. I felt like I became knowledgeable. I don’t know if it was because of that, but I found one!
▲A sea eagle!
We kept our voice down and tried to be as quiet as possible while watching the birds not to scare them.
We changed the spot after watching for a while.
Location no.2: Check the sea of drift ice!We watched the sea of drift ice next.
▲Drift ices cover the surface completely! It was kind of astonishing!
As we get impressed by the sea of drift ice, our objective this time is to find wild birds and animals.
Are there seals or sea eagles?
▲I found! They were probably white-tailed eagles.
When they are very far, it is difficult to take pictures of them without a super zoom lens even if we can see them clearly with a binocular telescope.
So there is a secret trick.
▲Taking a picture of the telescope with a smartphone?
After setting the focus of a telescope or a binocular telescope, turn on the camera of your smartphone. Put the lens of a smartphone to the peephole, and if the angle of view and focus fit correctly, it will turn out like this!
▲I took this picture with a smartphone and a binocular telescope. I could take a recognizable picture of the bird. If I were closer to the bird, I could take better pictures than the one above.
You don’t have to bring a superzoom lens like a cannon; a smartphone might be good enough. Try this way if you don’t have a super zoom lens!
Location no.3: Look down from a hillThe last location we visited on tour this time is Cape Puyuni Observatory, where we can look down the ocean of Utoro area in Shiretoko. It is famous for watching the sunset and every day, many people with cameras visit the cape in evenings.
▲The day was pretty cloudy, but we could see a tip of the sun going down to the sea of drift ice.
We watched the sky and the sea of drift ice while seeing the sunset.
Then, we found something moving on the drift ice! And it was pretty a big group! Are those seals?
▲Shadows were moving on drift ice near the coastline.
Unfortunately, those were not seals; they were humans enjoying drift ice walking tour.
We could not encounter with seals this time. It seems like it’s not that easy to find seals. However, we found sea eagles and white-tailed eagles flying in the sky many many times!
When we participate in the tour, the guide takes us to locations with high possibilities of encountering animals, and they lend a binocular telescope. And when we listen to explanations by the guide, I felt like I have become an expert on animals or a biologist. We could watch the animals while learning about them.
If you ever have a chance to visit Shiretoko, enjoy encounters with wild birds and animals together with visits to the sea of drift ice!
Photo / Toru Tanaka
Text / Hokkaido Likers photo writer nobu Kawashima