【Series】Spirits of the Kamuy landscape (15)The short-eared owl, a disarmingly charming "underdog"

Bathed in the setting sun, a short-eared owl flies against the Nemuro Strait backdrop

In the evening hours right before sunset, as fishing boats unload their catch along eastern Hokkaido’s Notsuke Peninsula, a bird traces a feeble and unsteady line through the sky. It is a short-eared owl.

A winter bird, the short-eared owl often rests in dried grass during the day and comes alive in the evening hours. It flies low above snowfields, searching for Japanese red-backed voles to feed on. Moving its face up and down, left and right as it flies, the short-eared owl is a disarmingly charming sight, and popular among wild bird enthusiasts.

The short-eared owl is an expert at hunting voles, but as soon as it tries to take flight with its catch, it is often attacked by flocks of crows and winds up having its meal stolen. If the short-eared owl is not careful, the competing predator peregrine falcon can knock into it at high speeds, killing and eating it. This underdog image might be the reason it is so popular.

Many other predator birds also traverse the skies of Notsuke Peninsula, which juts out into the waters of the Nemuro Strait. Last year bald eagles were the stars of the area. Winter at Notsuke Peninsula is cold, but fun.


Notsuke Peninsula