Red-crowned cranes appeal to me for so many reasons. When I gear up for my annual pilgrimage to Hokkaido’s winter wonderland, I count myself fortunate to visit and photograph the Red-crowned cranes and other wildlife in Hokkaido. For over 20 years, I have been photographing Ezo Red Foxes, The Steller’s Sea Eagle, Ezo Sika Deer, Whooper Swans, and the White-tailed Eagle, among others. The land, sea, and air of Hokkaido is abundant with wildlife, and the natural landscapes that the winter conditions create make landscape photography another amazing once in a lifetime experience while joining a Hokkaido Winter Photography Workshop that I lead, and participants know they are going to take the best images of Japan wildlife, landscape, and Japanese culture with me at the helm.
Red-crowned Cranes are critically endangered, and 2020 will mark a half-century of the cranes being on the endangered species list. Several steps have been taken internationally to replenish their populations; however, the Red-crowned Cranes’ populations have suffered due to the reduction of wetlands. The population is said to be less than 3,000 birds worldwide, but over 1/3 of the entire Red-crowned Crane population is native to Hokkaido. The beautiful landscapes and preserved nature make Hokkaido an excellent habitat for the cranes, and their presence allows visiting photographers a photo op with one of the world’s rarest and majestic birds.
The Red-crowned Cranes are also considered symbols of fidelity, which undoubtedly comes from their long-pair bonding. Their dancing rituals are where the appellation ‘snow ballerina’ comes from, and when you see two Red-crowned Cranes begin their courtship dance. The choreography of the dance and the unison of the pair’s movements echoes the cranes’ growing devotion to each other as they raise their heads simultaneously and let out a fluting call as a testimony to their shared devotion. The call is so moving and the dance so inviting, that on some occasions, the dance will inspire other crane couples to begin their own duet. The dance is awe-inspiring, and their movements will create gallery-worthy photography for you when you join the Hokkaido Winter Photography Workshop.
Whether they are feeding in the marshlands or rice patties, or poised to take flight, the Red-crowned Crane is a fantastic sight to behold. I hope you join me and our team at JDS to take you to the best regions of Japan’s North Island to capture unforgettable once in a lifetime imagery.