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

Return of the Great Ice Eagle 2017

Fukushimagata

Niigata, Japan

January 29, 2017

I really love Mr Honma’s enthusiasm. Every winter we look for the Steller’s Sea-eagle and he is always so bright and hopeful. We set out at 6:30 in the dark and freezing cold and he is never bored with finding the same bird perched up high above us.

I realise now that many of the birds we find each winter are actually the same individuals, not just ‘a’ Steller’s Sea-Eagle, or ‘a’ Peregrine Falcon. I guess it is the same for the ducks and swans and so on. In recent years, there is always one American Wigeon, one Steller’s Sea-eagle, one Peale’s Falcon. (as I describe it)
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Winter would be much colder and emptier without these now familiar treasures and I too, don’t want to take them for granted. 


Peregrine Falcon



Bean Goose




Whooper Swan

Steller's Sea-eagle




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.

Steller no Cry



At 59cm, Large-billed Crows (also known as Jungle Crows, Thick-billed Crows or Japanese Crows) are 5 centimetres bigger than Australian Ravens. In this movie we see them harass an adult Steller's Sea-eagle. We can see and hear the eagle cry-out at one point. Sadly, I just used the Nikon 1 V1 in-built mic with settings for wind reduction so the sound is soft. When I was standing there, it was quite loud and clear. The movie was taken on February 21, 2015 in Niigata, Japan.

I'm sorry, it's not really a nice movie so to cheer you up, below is a photo at a restaurant I recently visited in Niigata City, Japan. 



Return of the Great Ice Eagle 2015

Steller's Sea-eagle

Niigata, Japan

February 7, 2015




There were about four cars there when Mr Honma and I arrived about 8:30, but about four and a half hours later when we were leaving we counted 20 or more (Not including the ones that had come and gone and were about to arrive) 10 along one narrow dirt road and some 12 along another.

In between the cars were large Italian tripods holding up huge Japanese camera lenses. The subject that lured us all sitting quietly up on top of a large power-line tower. An adult Steller's Sea-eagle. As every year passes it seems the act of capturing images of their presence is growing more popular. We get just a few as they make their way from the north in search for food, but they are certainly celebrities here.

We, in blogland, are spoiled by the images we see every year from Stu's Hakodate Birding Blog up north. They are few here and only for a short time.

It was a fine Saturday and I too, stood at a tripod, ignoring I needed a toilet break and a mouthful of water. For more than four hours we didn't move. Only when the eagle wagged its tail or moved its head did oohs and ahhs sound and the chatter of camera shutters echoed about me.

Looking at it so high up just doesn't excite me as a photographer but I don't take for granted the opportunity to be here and see such a beautiful bird. I tried using my V1 attached to my little Nikon ED50 scope on took quite a few videos and have tried to present a sample here. I hope you like them. They are not perfect but it's one small step to share the experience. 

Mr Honma and I left before the eagle and I'm sure we missed something exciting!





Shake it!

Bothersome Large-billed Crows


Stretch it!


And...just one more stretch!