Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Socks go Wild in Hokkaido - Part III Dancing Cranes


Our second and last morning at the Wilderness Lodge and we got a lie-in! Ando had already disappeared with the next small group to be hauled out of bed at the crackov and carted off to see the cranes in their early morning river setting.  So it is a late 8.30 a.m. before we were packed and off on the snow covered roads.  We decided to drive around the marshlands for a while to see what we could find on our own and then return to the crane reserve at Tsurui in the hope that the cranes would turn up on schedule this time.  We had seen cranes in the evening, cranes in the morning, but had yet to see them in their full glory dancing!

We were so sad to be leaving this area, the beautiful intense brightness of the light and our luck to have such blue sky'd sunny weather had already improved my health and well being, the wildlife encounters turned my anxieties to excitement and cut through my general state of exhaustion, buoying me up with enough energy to keep going. How we wished we were spending longer here to explore this wilderness landscape. Even our short drive produced curious deer, buzzards, kites and distant eagles. We could have happily have spent a week or more there, instead of our meagre two days.

We returned to the crane reserve and waited patiently, with a few other photographers, praying that we would see a few more cranes than the couple pootling about in front of us in a desultory fashion.

And then the cranes suddenly raised their heads to the west and started hollering!  A small squadron of three more cranes was on its way

They looked so funny their large bodies so graceful in flight, a little ridiculous as they glided slowly over the tree tops. Daddy Crane, Mummy Crane and Baby Crane!

Mummy and baby (not yet old enough to develop the red crown of the adults) land first

then Daddy comes in to land


In Japan everything comes with a tune, like the announcements on the Shinkansen which start with a little jingle in my mind segueing straight into 'Young Gifted and Black'. Most videos of the cranes are accompanied by tinkly Japanese music - but as the next flight of cranes arrived all I could hear was BeyoncĂ©  playing in my mind.  The Red-Crowned cranes were dancing to 'Single Ladies'.... , as in the video of  BeyoncĂ© and her backing dancers,,

All the single ladies (All the single ladies)


All the single ladies (All the single ladies)


Now put your hands up!


Cause if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it
If you liked it then you should've put a ring on it

Wuh uh oh uh uh oh oh uh oh uh uh oh
Wuh uh oh uh uh oh oh uh oh uh uh oh

And then more and more cranes started to arrive, flights of three to six birds starting as distant dots until descending over the trees and landing like dancers in the field in front of us. After an hour we drag ourselves away... we have owls and eagles to see and our first view of the Hokkaido coast.  What a wonderful, life fulfilling, spectacle it has been - I laughed out loud at the joy of it and the crazy, funny, cranes.

The cranes are extremely rare and as their meat was prized they were almost wiped out by hunters in the early 1900s. And then, as in so many places, their breeding grounds were eroded by
rampant land development for agriculture the population reduced to fewer than 20 surviving in the Kushiro marshes.  As the population dwindled to the point of extinction, local people around Kushiro started to provide food for them in the winter and they gained legal protection. Over the years the population made a dramatic recovery - it is believed there are up to 2000 cranes around this part of Hokkaido now.  A wonderful story of conservation!

[Photography note: the Bedsock used the Canon 70D with 600mm sigma lens and tripod. I used the Canon 600D and 75-300mm lens handheld.  Both had their uses and drawbacks, it was more difficult for the Bedsock to track the moving cranes and to get a full 'squadron' in the photo. But obviously the quality of his pictures is better. I got better framed subject matter due to the ease of handheld and being able to change position more easily without a tripod - but the quality is not as good and I didn't have the camera on an ideal setting as I had forgotten to reset the sensor.  Nevertheless we are pleased that between us we got some pretty good and occasionally 'artistic' photos as a wonderful souvenir of our trip.]


Anonymous said...

Genius! Lovely photos. This post really made me smile. And of course the song has now been stuck in my head for a few days. I am so glad you guys had such a great time out there Arabella-san.

Gardens at Waters East said...

Enjoyed my visit to your blog today. The Sandhill Cranes (which we have in this area of the world) passed over the gardens here on Saturday. Fourteen in a "V" just over the rooftop. Impressive - and beautiful. JC

karen gimson said...

Made us all laugh. Plus we can't stop singing that song now. Thanks for sharing your photos. I'd love to see the cranes in their natural home. We saw some last year at Pensthorpe.

Anonymous said...

I have been coming back to look at these photos a few times. Absolutely stunning. And I love the dancer photo comparison.

Lisa Greenbow said...

This is a fabulous post. uhoh uhoh...

Arabella Sock said...

Thanks Lisa

The other tune they bought to mind was Mambo No 5. chorus "A little bit of Monica...." these Dancing Cranes have sure got rhythm