Return to the Kingdom of the Great Ice Eagles

March GosRuss-11.jpg

Whenever I see any wild eagle my heart becomes like that of a small child playing barefoot in a garden, holding out a plastic dinosaur with one eye squinted-imagining it is real.

Not that I ever did that.

In February 2006, I realised dreams from my childhood in undertaking a cruise by the kind people of 

GOZIRAIWA SIGHTSEEING

 or 

Their English Website

 and

 Japanese:

Pension Rausukuru

(Your cruise is discounted if you stay at the Inn). We returned to join them again, 12 years to the day, to again behold one of the greatest sights within this solar system. Where else can any of the world’s space agencies travel to find such wonders? This time we also stayed at their beautiful Canadian log-house, Pension Rausukuru, and feasted on delicious fresh food and went on two cruises into a kingdom unseen in any other known world.

We're also grateful to Stuart Price of

Hakodate Birding

for advice when we were making our plans. Stuart really helped me with the owl. Thanks, Stu. Check out Stuart's magnificent blog and brilliant pictures!

The Greatest Eagle in the World

I still remember black & white TV. I especially remember it on rainy Sundays. It always seemed so cruel for the day before a new week of school to be rained out. I remember getting up, turning on the tele, and swivelling the channels; “O”, “2”, “7”, “9”. I’d be scorned by a wooden-faced man, then fidget watching a cowboy movie. I’d give up by the time they’d hurry off to lynch someone. If I was really lucky there would be an Elvis movie on after lunch. In the meantime I’d draw a picture, or make some kind of craft. I’d try to reinforce the idea of my freedom being a non-school day by having a bowl of ice-cream and decorate it with a couple or four spoons of Milo. I did like finding a documentary to watch. Especially on something like eagles. Once I saw a documentary about Golden Eagles in Scotland.

The only other eagles I knew were the Bald Eagle in America, and my Wedge-tailed Eagle in Australia. I got it into my head to find out which one was the biggest. I pulled every book out off the shelves in my search. Eventually I decided to look into a really old set of encyclopaedia. It was so old that even the gold trim was brown. I looked up the word, “eagle” and was so excited to find that it had a chapter especially about the greatest eagles on earth. Bonus! The pages were dull with only a few colour plates here and there. Finally I found the page I was looking for and was kind of let down by small sepia and black and white photos. No big wedge-tail’s wings spanning over two pages. I began to read and became even more perplexed. It went on about a monkey-eating eagle in the Philippines, and a great harpy in the jungles in South America. It went on further to claim that the most massive eagle on earth was actually off the icy coasts of eastern Russia, Korea and Japan. I’d never heard of such a thing. I peered into a small sepia picture of a big fat bird sitting on what looked like a rock. It looked pompous; almost imperial. It’s white shoulders reminded me of the clothes worn in those old portraits of Napoleon and Henry the Eighth. It’s head and beak were were huge in proportion to it’s body. It didn’t look like what I thought an eagle should look like and I had no mental image of icy coasts anywhere. What a crappy Sunday.

For years, I would think about eagles again. I would search for pictures in bookstores and libraries. Such images of wild eagles were very rare. I often went back to look at the small old pictures in that book. I had many questions. Who had taken the pictures? How did they find the eagle? How did they get there? Through the 70s, 80s, and 90s, finding such pictures was a great challenge. Now we can find anything with the internet. Type in a name and there a thousands of pictures. I only hope that we don’t become complacent, and disregard such subjects as something unimportant because of the ease with which we find them. I hope there are still little girls and boys who are inspired, and dream of standing in the presence of a wild eagle.

Rausu-yaki

Pension Rausukuru

Keep Our Villages Safe

Blakiston's Fish Owl
(Bubo blakistoni)

Japanese: Shima-fukuro

Ainu: Kotankorokamui - ("God who protects villages")

Rausu, Shiretoko, Hokkaido, Japan

February 24, 2018


Time flies. Already a week ago I enjoyed birding in Hokkaido with friends from home. I really owe a big thanks to my wife. She planned the itinerary, made the bookings, drove us 604kms between birds, translated and communicated for us, she cleared the skies and calmed the sea. I am eternally grateful.

Waiting for this monstrous owl was an intriguing experience. We only saw it the once. Though only once, it is not likely to fade from our memories.



10 years on....

Sea-eagles off the shore of Rausu, Shiretoko, Hokkaido, Japan

February 25, 2006


Ten years ago today I enjoyed a boat ride off shore of Rausu, Hokkaido, Shiretoko, Japan. My photos are looking old now but I'm still grateful for the experience.


At 10:20am on February 25, 2006 this adult Steller's Sea-eagle passed by me at the back of the boat. This is frame 1.

This is the second frame. My heart got sucked up into my throat as my camera lost focus.

Pentax *ist DS and Pentax AF ED 400mm f5.6

I'm sorry to bore you. I know by now you know this is still my favourite picture. This is the third frame. I gritted my teeth and the camera just recaptured focus as the eagle passed.This is unedited and uncropped.

The last frame of the encounter. There was no going back.

White-tailed Sea-eagles feeding.

Big Eagles Japan



This is to announce the availability of my new book, Big Eagles Japan. (Actually, my wife's too -she took some of the pictures at Shiretoko and actually arranged to whole trip)

It's not just something I did overnight and I'd like to explain more through he following timeline:

2003  I developed an interest in Syllabus Design for ESL and I've always wanted to publish my photographs and realised it would be nice to incorporate my photos in beautiful materials for ESL. 

2005 and 2006    I began collecting swan pictures and visited Shiretoko.  I bought expensive software and  began making posters for schools I visited in Niigata. 

2006 - 2008   I was well into my project, then called "Swans and Eagles for the Communicator". At one stage I had over 360 pages and very red eyes. I had to cut it right down for a meeting at a publishers in Australia in 2008. Even with just 80 pages I was told that to self publish it, it would cost $20000au. I was drained and put it on a shelf.

2009    I started this blog.

2012   Still with the book files all over my computer, I decided to have another look into publishers last year and discovered Blurb. I decided to cut the original idea down into two different but related books. So I've finally finished the last draft. 

I'm sorry to my patient followers who must be tired of my same old Shiretoko pictures but this book was my original plan. I started this blog when I was tired of thinking about publishing my book. I am so happy I did, however. I really enjoy the visitors it gets and it's great to share here. 

That is not to say that the book is old or tired. I think I may never better my pictures from Shiretoko in February 2006 and I have carefully constructed the books. I hope both the books are exciting and interesting to ESL/EFL users and to native English speakers. (It is in British English, however)

I am happy that I have a Japanese friend who is helping his grandchildren with their English studies and he thinks my materials are great for Japanese children. I have friends in Oz as well who are excited to show white swans and snow to Australian children. 

Big Eagles Japan is available and an eBook for Apple devices and in print. I have made three print versions available: Be sure to check if there is Blurb in your country before you pay for postage!! It is available internationally however.

Softcover and plain paper about $35, (American dollars)

Hardcover with the best proline photographic paper and linen cover and high quality end sheets. For the collector! About $75 big ones.

and Imagewrap with nice lustre paper. I think this is a nice durable version for children - $54.

I hope both of the books are great introductions to the world of ornithology. If whoever reads this new one finishes it, then runs around their home flapping their arms about like a big eagle, I have succeeded. 

Please let me know your ideas and thoughts. I look forward to them.

I have also had an exciting encounter with a waxwing and will post about it soon. 

Russell.








I have a question..

White-tailed Sea Eagle

Rausu, Shiretoko, Hokkaido, Japan

February 25, 2006


What do you think these eagles are doing?

This is from my Shiretoko trip seven years ago. They are on the ice-floe in the sea. I noticed eagles sometimes sticking their beaks into the ice.

I'm not sure if the ice is fresh water or just frozen sea-water..

I'm grateful for your ideas.


Steller's Sea-eagle