Dr Eric Tan a.k.a. MountainMan was at Hokkaido’s Akan Crane Centre in Japan on 11th March 2011 at 1446 hours photographing the Red-crowned Cranes Crane (Grus japonensis). As Eric was looking through his viewfinder concentrating on the dancing cranes, he suddenly felt as if his tripod was giving way. He held onto the tripod and then realised that it was the ground that was shaking.
“As the shaking got more vigorous, the cranes started dancing even more vigorously too, hence I just stood as firm as possible and continued shooting the dancing cranes throughout the earthquake,” recounted Eric. “It was like shooting on a rocking boat… but the action was just too hot to miss. I didn’t think much of the earthquake (since earthquakes are a daily event here in Japan) and continued my birding till 1700 hours when I returned to the hotel. It was only then when I realized that it was a 8.9 earthquake just off the coast and much of coastal Honshu and Hokkaido have been inundated by Tsunamis as much as 10 metres high. I am just thanking my lucky stars now cos I have been on the pacific coastal region of Hokkaido for the last few days and most of the time I have spent at the harbours shooting ducks! If the earthquake and tsunami happened a day before, I would have been history now.”
Note: According to Archibald & Meine (1996), cranes of all species are famous for their dancing. This is seen most frequently in unpaired, young adults as it strengthens pair bonding. Among breeding pairs, dancing is rarely seen.
Dr Eric Tan
Archibald, G. W. & C. D. Meine, 1996. Family Gruidae (Cranes). In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (eds.), Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 3. Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 60-89.
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