We awoke to find that there had been another dusting of snow overnight and a selection of common species were feeding avidly at the guesthouse feeders during breakfast. A White-tailed Eagle flew over as we left - the first of many eagles we were to see throughout the day.
After enjoying excellent views of Lake Kussharo from the north, the road to Abashiri soon produced the first Steller's Sea Eagles (and a White-tailed) along the route. The scenery along this road is absolutely stunning, as it is around much of northern Hokkaido, and the mulitude of spectacular wintry vistas is a highlight in itself.
Great vista from the road north of Lake Kussharo
I'd done some genning in the days leading up to our Hokkaido visit and established that two desirable species had been seen recently at nearby Cape Notoro. The approach road to the lighthouse immediately produced one of these - a cracking Northern Shrike hunting from roadside wires and seemingly unbothered by the north-westerly gale battering the Cape. Though annual on Hokkaido it is rather rare and isn't something visitors should expect to see, so was a pleasing bonus.
sibiricus Northern Shrike at Cape Notoro
Returning to Abashiri port, we found that the fishing fleet was in for the winter and gull numbers were low, though a 1cy Glaucous x Glaucous-winged often showed well alongside a pure Glaucous and several Harlequins also came quite close.
1cy Glaucous (top) and Glaucous x Glaucous-winged Gulls, Abashiri Port
We checked a smaller frozen lake back towards Abashiri but the goose was not among the 100 Whooper Swans there. Two of the world's most handsome ducks, a drake Smew and a drake Harlequin, were found alongside each other at the outflow there was one of the memorable sights of the trip.
Perhaps the two most beautiful ducks in the world? Sadly they never glanced around at the same time.
Adult Glaucous with other gulls at Shari Port
We couldn't quite believe the script here. Watching the owner stock a small pond with fish less than ten metres from where we were sat, separated by nothing more than a pane of glass, it seemed scarcely believable that the world's largest owl might be enticed by this setup. Yet that's exactly what happened some time before 17:15, when a Blakiston's Fish Owl emerged from the darkness, somewhat shocking us with its sheer size as it arrived at the pond and began to fish. It performed extremely well for several minutes and not long after was replaced by a second bird, giving equally as incredible views. One of the birds (apparently the male) has a damaged left eye and has been regular here for over 10 years!
We enjoyed a few more showings (one of which interrupted our fantastic evening meal) before the Owls seemingly shut up shop for the evening; after the last sighting at 20:30 we did not get another sniff by midnight and so retired for the night.