Among the adventures we’ve lined up here in Shiretoko Peninsula is a wildlife-watching cruise. We tried managing our expectations considering that it’s only an hour-long cruise and we weren’t that confident we can stay on the boat’s deck for most of the journey. The waters weren’t exactly calm, adding to the excitement as we reached the ice floes where eagles hovered over the floating ice. So many birds and I can only name the Steller eagle and the white-tailed eagle. Migratory birds who “shuttle” between Russia and Hokkaido. Consider them birds with dual citizenship. 😊 Frankly, we only learned all these trivia from our guide Nobu-san, who further explained that Russia’s Sakhalin Island is only 28 miles across the Sea of Okhotsk. Bird lovers would love it here. No chance for owl-sightings on this trip as such is a nocturnal activity and winter isn’t the best time to be outdoors at night. We weren’t lucky with spotted seals too but the bird scenes were enough to remind us of that movie by dear Alfred Hitchcock.

The wildlife we were looking for are the Steller sea eagles, which the Japanese call “owashi”. These aggressive eagles visit the island of Hokkaido, specifically the ice floes found in Rausu, every winter. Looking powerful and haughty, it was a big thrill seeing them on the ice floes while our boat’s skipper allowed one of his crew to throw out fish for these migrant birds to feed on. Another type of eagle found here are the white-tailed eagles. Both types of eagles competed for the fish throw. It would have been exciting to capture these birds of prey catch and clutch their fish with their talons but my fingers weren’t that quick and my simple iPhone camera no good for some otherwise NatGeo shots.

Some trivia: the owashi eagles feed on salmon in their breeding grounds in Sakhalin and Siberia. In Japan, they feed on cod. But we learned they also feed on squid, shellfish, crabs, and also ducks and other small animals. With a wingspan reaching up to 8 feet, one can imagine these birds being Kings of the wide, open sea. πŸ¦…