Beautiful Animals of Hokkaido

I recently took another short trip to Hokkaido, this time to the Shiretoko Peninsula (知床半島), which is at the northeast corner of Hokkaido (北海道), projecting into the Okhotsk Sea. 

I didn't do any diving (the Okhotsk Sea is literally freezing cold!), but I did get a chance to see and photograph some local wildlife, like these Japanese spotted deer (Cervus nippon yesoensis, エゾシカ):


japanese spotted deer overlooking Okhotsk Sea
That's the (very cold) Okhotsk Sea in the background.
japanese spotted deer, Cervus nippon yesoensis
Four deer walking through snow to forage for food
female and fawn japanese spotted deer
Female deer with fawn, both checking out the dorky guy with camera
japanese spotted deer, Cervus nippon yesoensis
Portrait of a beautiful Japanese spotted deer
japanese spotted deer fawn, Cervus nippon yesoensis
Sheesh, even deer stick their tongues out at me.

Besides deer, we were fortunate enough to get glimpses of red foxes (Sakhalin subspecies, Vulpes vulpes schrencki, キタキツネ) a few times:

red fox, Sakhalin subspecies, Vulpes vulpes schrencki
One of the red foxes that crossed paths with us well as birds, like this Steller's sea eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus, オオワシ):

Steller's sea eagle, Haliaeetus pelagicus
Steller's sea eagle perched in a tree, looking out over the water

We also stayed one night at a small place where a pair of endangered Blackiston's fish owls (Bubo blackistoni, シマフクロウ) have been visiting almost daily for 17 years. Apparently, a lot of people travel from far-and-wide for the purpose of seeing and photographing these rare nocturnal birds of prey. We were fortunate to have the entire place to ourselves.

endangered Blackiston fish owl, Bubo blackistoni
One of the fish owls having a bad feather moment

It snowed pretty heavily for a couple of hours that night, but the owls swooped down before and after the snowfall to snatch a type of salmon (Oncorhynchus masou masou) known as yamame (ヤマメ). 

endangered Blackiston fish owl, Bubo blackistoni
Blackiston's fish owl with a masu salmon

The owls are wild, but they have become habituated to the presence of people. The owner of the accommodation keeps the river stocked with fish, so the owls know there is always food available.

Incidentally, this was the first time I've had a chance to use my new Canon 200-400mm f/4 IS USM zoom lens, the one with the built-in 1.4x teleconverter. In case you're interested, the image quality from this lens is fantastic, and having the built-in 1.4x TC came in really handy!

I'm not accustomed to shooting with large lenses like this, so it took a bit of fiddling before I got the hang of it. I had a large monopod, which I used a couple of times, but in most instances, I had to react quickly, which meant pulling my 5D Mark III + 200-400mm lens out of my f-Stop Tilopa backpack and handholding the 4.5kg set-up.

Handholding was definitely possible (all the workouts paid off!), though certainly a physical challenge (understatement). Fortunately, the image stabilisation incorporated in this lens works really well, so I was able to get a high percentage of crisp shots even when I didn't have support for the lens.

Hokkaido is a beautiful place. I hope to get back there again before too long.