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Lake Kutcharo

It is the third northernmost Ramsar wetland registered in Japan and a migratory stopover site for tundra swans. The origin of the name of this place is, like other places in Hokkaido, Ainu, meaning “the river mouth from which the water of the swamp flows out. Another lake with the name of same origin is Lake Kussharo, but it is a different lake. In midwinter, the entire lake freezes over, so birds migrating to the lake move further south, but there are some areas where the water is not frozen over, and some birds decide to overwinter there. The best time to see them is around April, when the water is unfrozen.

What kind of birds can we see?
  • tsundra swan (Cygnus cygnus)
  • mute swan (Cygnus olor)
  • pin-tailed Duck, etc.

Although it is listed as a 15-minute walk from Hamatombetsu Bus Terminal, It is basically a place to come by car, taking about 1.5 hours from Wakkanai city.

Shooting locations and tips
Midwinter Freezing Period
  • Car to be 4WD, studless. Basically, the road surface is icy.
  • Although the lake is frozen, it is forbidden to enter or walk on it. If you go out to the terrace of the Swan Pavilion, you can go out near the unfrozen area and take pictures from there. Tripods are allowed.
  • From the terrace, you can reach it with a lens of about 600mm.
  • Feeding in the late afternoon (which may be why they overwinter).
  • Swans fly in the morning and back to their roosts when it gets dark. They roost around the mouth of the river. The time of arrival in the morning varies. I was told that they would arrive around noon, so I planned to wait for them from 8:30 a.m., but when I got there they had already arrived.
  • Visitors can buy bread and give it to the swans, that get swans to come very close.
  • Foxes and other animals are said to appear from time to time.
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