The 6th was my first full day in the area and a priority for anyone coming here has to be the cranes. Obviously that's how my day began, watching thousands of cranes on Higashi Kantaku, but because I'd heard the Scaly-sided Mergansers were back on the upper reaches of the Sendai River a lot of the day was spent in a fruitless search for them.
I first saw Scaly-sided back in 1988 - and I walked 50km that day to do it - but I haven't seen another since. It's not that I haven't tried, believe me I have. Let's just say if you want to see Scaly-sided, don't come birding with me. And lookout for my forthcoming publication "Viewpoints Along Hard To Access Rivers In Japan", it's sure to be a best seller... aren't tricky species supposed to get easier once you've finally connected with one?
Back to Arasaki where at least the cranes are hard to miss.
It's sometimes said that less is more and this is my attempt to prove it... a nice solitary Hooded Crane. Solitary Hooded Cranes are a great rarity here.
I don't know who said that though, so down to business...
...cranes as far as the eye can see. Add to these the flock in front of the crane centre plus all the birds that don't make this their first port of call and we're talking serious crane numbers.
Below is the second (and closer) of the two Common Cranes I saw that morning but looking at the images now I'm wondering if it isn't a Hooded hybrid. The other Common Cranes I saw didn't have the suspicious darker grey patches on the back and the head markings don't look as clear-cut as "real" Common Cranes. I'll have to look into it when I get back. Nice bird though.
Our Hoodies also come in a fetching range of greys...
From a distance I thought the pale bird in these shots was going to be my first Sandhill of the trip. Most birds seem to vary from mid- to blackish-grey but this was by far the palest bird I saw and by the final day of the trip was still an outlier.
Speaking of Sandhill...
...five was the most I ever saw together.
While Hooded come in a convenient frame filling size and Sandhill are positively dinky, White-naped is heading in the other direction. They're absolutely huge, well, as long as there aren't any Siberian White around.
And just to show it's not all larger-than-life glitz and glamour I'll end this with a couple of Little Ringed Plover shots before starting my (I'm guessing) 14 hour drive back to Kyoto.