(Reading time: 3 - 5 minutes)

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Where? Hokkaido, Japan
When? 02/2014

Hokkaido, Japan's Northern island, is a special experience and cannot really be compared with the rest of Japan. Vast landscapes and scenic mountain ranges prevail instead of megacities and densly populated areas. And in the winter months this experience is even more exciting! Birds of all species populate the air, and Chitose's International Airport is busy with winter operations, assuring the safe handling of civil and military air traffic alike.

 Flights 5257 Zeitler 700 470 90
 Flights 5257 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Flights 5268 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Flights 6264 Zeitler 100 67 85

Regarding aviation the first contact with Hokkaido will most probably be the „New Chitose Airport“. It is the island's the main aviation hub and around 45 minutes by car South of Hokkaido's largest city Sapporo. "CTS" hosts apart from the civil terminal building also an airbase of the Japanese Air Defence Forces (JASDF). Regarding operations the Eastern part of the airport is mainly used for civil operations on runways 01R/19L and 01L/19R, both 3000m long, whereas the JASDF operastes mainly from the two Western runways 18R/36L (2,700m) and 18L/36R (3,000m).

0Chitose Airport JAL 5688 Zeitler 700 470 90
0Chitose Airport JAL 5688 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport JAL 3707 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport JAL 3921 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport JAL 5916 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport JAL 5944 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport JAL 6219 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport Air Do 3026 Zeitler 700 470 90
Chitose Airport Air Do 3026 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport Air Do 3053 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport Air Do 3197 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport Air Do 3601 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport Air Do 3657 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport Air Do 5778 Zeitler 700 470 90
Chitose Airport Air Do 5778 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport Air Do 5816 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport Air Do 5928 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport Air Do 5966 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport Air Do 5990 Zeitler 100 67 85
ZChitose Airport Air Do 5293 Zeitler 100 67 85

Civil traffic at Chitose itself is domitated by the two big Japanese carriers ANA and JAL and the local "Hokkaido International Airlines" Air Do.

0Chitose Airport ANA 3164 Zeitler 700 470 90
0Chitose Airport ANA 3164 Zeitler 100 67 85
0Chitose Airport ANA 3208 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport ANA 2820 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport ANA 3245 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport ANA 3301 Zeitler 100 67 85
0Chitose Airport ANA 3609 Zeitler 700 470 90
0Chitose Airport ANA 3609 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport ANA 2864 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport ANA 3632 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport ANA 5350 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport ANA 5374 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport ANA 3457 Zeitler 700 470 90
Chitose Airport ANA 3457 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport ANA 3470 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport ANA 4019 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport ANA 4090 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport ANA 4142 Zeitler 100 67 85

Other carriers connecting to the rest of the Land of the Rising Sun are Vanilla Air, Skymark, Jetstar and Fuji Dream Airlines, with the rest of the remaining airlines connecting to many Asian countries, mainly to China, Taiwan and Korea.

0Chitose Airport Impressionen 2945 Zeitler 700 470 90
0Chitose Airport Impressionen 2945 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport China Airlines 2840 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport Coast Guard 5794 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport Eva Air 2889 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport Impressionen 2970 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport Impressionen 5444 Zeitler 100 67 85
0Chitose Airport Jetstar 5682 Zeitler 700 470 90
0Chitose Airport Jetstar 5682 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport Jetstar 3964 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport Skymark 3003 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport Thai 5992 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport TransAsia 3182 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport Vanilla Air 5769 Zeitler 100 67 85

The JASDF operates three flying Squadrons at Chitose: the 201 and 203 Hikotai flying the F-15 Eagle, as well as the " Special Airlift Group " – 701 Hikotai – that is responsible for the operation of the two Boeing B747-400 governmental aircraft, the "Japanese Air Force One", being responsible to bring the Emperor, Prime Minister and other high-ranking officials safely to destinations worldwide.

0Chitose Airport B744 6091 Zeitler 700 470 90
0Chitose Airport B744 6091 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport B744 5603 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport B744 5668 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport B744 6176 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport B744 6181 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport B744 6205 Zeitler 100 67 85

But the main task of the JASDF remains the responsibility to defend of the Northern airspace of Japan around Hokkaido and the many small islands.

0Chitose Airport F 15 3761 Zeitler 700 470 90
0Chitose Airport F 15 3761 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport F 15 3737 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport F 15 3740 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport F 15 3750 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport F 15 3757 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport F 15 3808 Zeitler 100 67 85
0Chitose Airport F 15 6116 Zeitler 700 470 90
0Chitose Airport F 15 6116 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport F 15 6029 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport F 15 6052 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport F 15 6053 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport F 15 6110 Zeitler 100 67 85

With the Russian island of Sachalinsk as well mainland Russia is very close to Japan’s Northern point of Defence, and the activity of Russian Air Force and Navy aircraft noticeable increased in the recent years and it is thus not rare to see F-15J Eagles armed with live AAM-3 missiles going on an intercept mission.

Chitose Airport F 15 3838 Zeitler 700 470 90
Chitose Airport F 15 3838 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport F 15 3847 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport F 15 3859 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport F 15 3884 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport F 15 6005 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport F 15 6012 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport C 1 6148 Zeitler 700 470 90
Chitose Airport C 1 6148 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport C 130 3832 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport T 4 3767 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport T 4 3789 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport T 4 3797 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport U 125 3909 Zeitler 100 67 85

Apart from the metal birds Hokkaido is also very popular amongst bird photographers. I also took my time to visit two interesting places for bird photography during that trip: Rausu and the Kushiro Region.

 Deer 4964 Zeitler 700 470 90
 Deer 4964 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Deer 4985 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Deer 4997 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Deer 5008 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Deer 7457 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Deer 7468 Zeitler 100 67 85
Kushiro Airport Kushiro 4145 Zeitler 700 470 90
Kushiro Airport Kushiro 4145 Zeitler 100 67 85
Kushiro Airport Kushiro 6283 Zeitler 100 67 85
Kushiro Airport Kushiro 6291 Zeitler 100 67 85
Nakashibetsu Airport Nakashibetsu 4441 Zeitler 100 67 85
Nakashibetsu Airport Nakashibetsu 6385 Zeitler 100 67 85
Nakashibetsu Airport Nakashibetsu 6424 Zeitler 100 67 85

Rausu is famous for the Sea Eagles, that come with the sea ice close to the mainland in the month of February. Two species can be seen when taking a boat cruise from Rausu harbor: the Steller's Sea Eagle and the White-tailed Eagle. The appearance of both eagles is very impressive with a length of around 90cm and a wingspan of up to 2,50m!

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0Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 10 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 2 Zeitler 10 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 2 Zeitler 17 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 2 Zeitler 19 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 2 Zeitler 20 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 2 Zeitler 4 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 2 Zeitler 8 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 13 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 21 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 23 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 24 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 26 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 2 Zeitler 15 700 470 90
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 2 Zeitler 15 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 19 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 31 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 39 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 7 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 6972 Zeitler 100 67 85

They are basically fish eaters and when being fed from the boat they present a stunning "flying display" and offer multiple possibilities for some nice photos. Those boat trips were an amazing experience, and it can only be argued of the Stellar's Sea Eagle with its huge beak in bright yellow and the overall blackish feathering with distinctive white shoulder is more photogenic than the White-tailed Eagle and a more camouflaged body colour in overall brown.

Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Rausu 6607 Zeitler 700 470 90
Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Rausu 6607 Zeitler 100 67 85
Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Rausu 6639 Zeitler 100 67 85
Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Rausu 6651 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 8322 Zeitler 100 67 85
0Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 4 700 470 90
0Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 4 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 2 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 5 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 8352 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 8368 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 8378 Zeitler 100 67 85
0Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 34 700 470 90
0Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 34 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 28 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 29 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 33 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 42 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 3 Zeitler 8 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 4771 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 6762 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 6836 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 6920 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 6956 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 7046 Zeitler 100 67 85
0Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 7956 Zeitler 700 470 90
0Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 7956 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 7202 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 7212 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 7290 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 7656 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 7717 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 7818 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 8082 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 8143 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 8466 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 7149 Zeitler 700 470 90
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 7149 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 7233 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 7902 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 8131 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 8132 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 8257 Zeitler 100 67 85
 IPhone 0598 Zeitler 700 470 90
 IPhone 0598 Zeitler 100 67 85
 IPhone 0724 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 4660 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 4921 Zeitler 100 67 85
Sea Eagles At Rausu%2C Hokkaido%2C Japan Eagles 8570 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Gulls 2 Zeitler 700 470 90
 Gulls 2 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Gulls 2 Zeitler 2 100 67 85
 Gulls 7014 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Gulls 7501 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Gulls 8268 Zeitler 100 67 85

Tancho, the famous red-crowned Crane has been the reason for the next stop on this trip. The cranes are one of the biggest birds in Japan at 140-150cm height and with wingspan of 220-240 cm. The entire body is white, while from bill to neck and a part of wings are black, and the top of the head is red. The crane can be found around numerous spots in the Kushiro region, such as the Tsurui-Ito Tancho Sanctuary or the Akan International Crane Center, where the birds gather in masses as they are being fed there and taken care of. Especially at that tie of the year you can witness the spectacle of the cranes gracefully dancing on the snowfields, with seemingly choreographed dips and jumps.

0 Cranes 8881 Zeitler 700 470 90
0 Cranes 8881 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Cranes 4185 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Cranes 7934 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Cranes 8000 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Cranes 8319 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Cranes 8868 Zeitler 100 67 85
0 Cranes 8936 Zeitler 700 470 90
0 Cranes 8936 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Cranes 4410 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Cranes 8175 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Cranes 8281 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Cranes 8355 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Cranes 9068 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Swans 4255 Zeitler 700 470 90
 Swans 4255 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Swans 7984 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Swans 7986 Zeitler 100 67 85

It was a real pleasure seeing all these birds, and the rather bad weather at Chitose is also a reason to come back on day - back into the cold!

 Landscape 6325 Zeitler 700 470 90
 Landscape 6325 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Landscape 7415 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Landscape 8687 Zeitler 100 67 85
 Landscape 8709 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport So 3111 Zeitler 100 67 85
 IPhone 0287 Zeitler 700 470 90
 IPhone 0287 Zeitler 100 67 85
 IPhone 0330 Zeitler 100 67 85
 IPhone 0340 Zeitler 100 67 85
 IPhone 0385 Zeitler 100 67 85
 IPhone 0437 Zeitler 700 470 90
 Flights 5265 Zeitler 100 67 85
 IPhone 0309 Zeitler 100 67 85
 IPhone 0437 Zeitler 100 67 85
 IPhone 0454 Zeitler 100 67 85
Chitose Airport So 3902 Zeitler 100 67 85

If you are keen on getting more information about the birds of Hokkaido, please visit this link: https://www.wbsj.org/en/tsurui/birds.html, that also provided parts of birds descriptives given on this page.

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