Re: seeing cranes/swans/eagles in january
I took a look via Google Maps and using my own experience travelling around Hokkaido to check out the areas you mentioned. Do note that I have never been to the eastern side of Hokkaido so my information may not be correct.
A day trip to Akan and Shirarutaru should be fine. Google states that it's about an hour drive from Kushiro. I usually double the estimate to be safe. 2 would be safer but I think 1 day is okay.
As for Lake Akkeshi, it's just over an hour away. I'd also double it to be safe. It is on the way to Nemuro.
In terms of travel time, Google Maps does a decent job but they won't factor in the snow and ice covered roads in January, nor do they do a good job with traffic in the cities. I sometimes find that just getting through the city nearly doubles the time it takes to go from A to B. I'd have to double check with a map book I use to get an accurate guess at the times, but I don't have one for Hokkaido.
As for the day trip from Kushiro to Rausu, I highly doubt it. Google says it takes 4 hours. If you have the time, you can try, but I doubt it.
Again, I highly emphasise that I'm guessing on the times as I have no personal experience. From my driving experience in other areas of Japan, it can sometimes take a lot more time than you expect. However it can be much faster. Plan for the worst and add things to do if you find yourself ahead of schedule. Last year I took a drive from Tottori to Matsue to Hiroshima. I was planning to go to the Iwami Ginzan but cancelled it due to timing. I also ended up spending more time at a beach on the coast that I never expected to stop at. It's a lot of fun to just stop at various pull outs along the highways, although it might be a bit cold in January. :)
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