Gloriously, Steller's Sea Eagle is locally common, and we saw nearer a thousand than 500. Birds were distributed all along the coast from north-west of Abashiri to Kushiro. Birds perched on sea ice off the north coast, on harbour walls at Rausu, and on a frozen lake at Furen.
With all this heavy-billed action, I rather shamefacedly omitted to spend much time papping the Black(-eared) Kites that often joined the throng. So here's an image to celebrate that species.
Whenever the two species of eagles came together and food was on offer, fish were not the only scraps on show. Many a tussle provided great photographic opportunities, and I indulged. (Should even this slideshow not sate your appetite for raptor, please check out the eagles gallery on my photographic website.)
It's not a raptor, but it is a hook-billed carnivore, and it was a long-overdue tick for me, so I am going to finish this series of blogposts with images of Ural Owl. We visited two stakeouts, seeing a pair at one and a singleton at the other. The latter was two minutes walk from the airport terminal at Kushiro, and provided a fitting final bird of a brilliant trip - the best that winter birding can offer, anywhere in the world. Arigato, Japan.
Local ecotourism entrepreneurs have cottoned onto the money-generating potential offered by the eagles, and furnish the birds with food (and humans with viewing opportunities) at Rausu and Furen. Most of the images that follow were taken at those two sites.
As you may have noticed, just as oranges are not Japan's only fruit (remember: Mandarin in Satsuma), so Steller's are not Hokkaido's only sea eagle. There are White-tailed Eagles in abundance too. Views beyond my wildest dreams. What a cracker.
And so to eagles - what you've been waiting for. Steller's Sea Eagle has it all: the allure of the rare, stunning beauty, immense power, a denizen of wild places. It is, justifiably, what everyone comes to Hokkaido in winter to see, birder or not.