Almost a year of preparation, planning, enjoyment and hope for the best possible conditions. In particular, the mandible cranes with snow and eastern eagles on ice. And then, finally. Long, eleven-hour flight over Balt, Finland, Russia Siberia and Chinese Manchuria to the „Land of the rising Sun“.
The night after arriving at Kushiro, we rent the Mazda CX-5 2.2D. On the left side of the road we go from the airport to town Tsurui. The pure “Japanese” name of the “Green Park Hotel”, however, was in the traditional style (rooms without furniture, beds on the ground) with great cuisine and Japanese baths called „onsen“, our first base for a morning outing to the „Otowa Bridge“, from where is the overnight stay of the Red-crowned Cranes. In the morning haze and the rising sun, you can get the most romantic photos from the whole island of Hokkaido. However, you have to climb three of the mostly local photographers who are on a narrow bridge. The queues are in a good place at three o’clock in the morning. Fortunately, the big white men can come a long way later. With their 190 centimeters they can take a bold position in the fourth row, and the heads of the Japanese, Korean and Chinese are so perfect.
But fast, time is not gone, and we want to get ALL! We are heading for Whooper swans. On the shores of Lake Kussharo there are some of the countless thermal springs. Thanks to them, even in local hard winters, the lake’s surface is at least freezing on a small area, which is enough to swallow the winter. The wind of the gale force, though photogenic steam of hot springs blows mercilessly, yet we get very immediate photographs of hardy swans in the snow blizzard.
We drove that day into the port city of Raut. The fulfillment of one of my photographic dreams was approaching. The next day at 4.00 am we board the boats and head for the Kunashir´s strait. The Kuril´s islands are under surveillance and the Ochotsk sea is behind them. Even before dawn, it is clear that there will be nothing to take with the Steller´s sea eagles on ice floes. It was not planned, but the next day we are going again. From the planned one-day shoot of the eagles, it’s finally three days! It can not get enough. After five years this year, the ice rallies are over! In addition to those real kings of Kamchatka, there are also Steller´s sea eagles, but also exotic Slaty-backed gulls for us. While strolling around the harbor during a frosty afternoon, it is a good idea to photograph the Harlequin duck, the Japanese wagtail and the great rarity – Naumann’s thrush.
A tourist attraction, like most of the places we visited at Hokkaido, is the place where the Blakiston´s fish owl is taken. It’s always a lottery bet, but we were lucky. With about ten other photographers, we were in the night frost. From the four-hour wait twice every five minutes, during which two 16GB cards were filled. There might be only a few good pictures, but a lifetime experience.
Our Czech heart, accustomed mostly to photographic solitude, had to resort at least for a long time from the thickets of ubiquitous telephoto lenses and tripods. Instead of a secret, called “Luňákov” on the way from Raus to Nemuro, we have met our expectations richly. Very photogenic still life with Black kite and Black-eared kite was somehow planned. The big bonus was the Chinese nuthatch and the Japanese pygmy woodpecker. And it was a deserved bonus, no scenes ready for tourists. Honestly moments.
The last two days were in full and unmistakable cantonese of the Red-crowned cranes. It was a return to the crowd, but the theater of nature was magnificent. Throughout Akan, the circle of our pilgrimage ended in Tsurui. Hundreds of black and white birds, more elegant than you can find. Dances, setting sun, snow and snow and thousands of experiences in the heart. Hokkaido, Japanese Arctic.
True, honest and unforgettable thanks to ONDREJ PROSICKÝ for a well-planned trip, as well as for the elaborate assembly of our four-member team, whose members were other great friends VLADIMIR JUREK and MICHAL DOBEŠ. The team proved to be absolutely great, trouble-free, always well-tuned and perfect one!