The strong relationship of the people of Japan with nature is often seen in art. Some of the art works depict small flowers in delicate detail and can be displayed in many settings where beauty is appreciated. Aside from Japanese calligraphy, a particular animal is actually always seen on some of Japan’s paintings and prints: birds. And today, not only is Japan known for its art and culture, it is emerging as one of the world’s best destination for bird watchers.
Because the country is known for its beautiful sceneries, mountain ranges and diverse ecosystem, many bird species are attracted by its endless riches that are beneficial to their survival. Today, birdwatching or birding is not only done by ornithologists, biologists and painters; photographers and lovers of nature even go to great lengths just to capture a rare beauty to share with the world. Birding often involves a significant auditory component, as many bird species are readily detected and identified by ear than by eye. Others use visual enhancement devices like binoculars and telescopes to find a particular bird species. Because of Japan’s geographic features and four well-defined seasons, many migrants visit the country each season: warblers and flycatchers in summer, ducks, buntings and finches in winter and shorebirds in spring and in autumn.
In the migratory seasons in the Tokyo area, the Yatsu-higata, Sanbanze, Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park, Tama River and the Obitsu River attract plenty of shorebirds like the Little Ringed, Snowy, Mongolian and the Black-bellied Plover, among others. And according to birdwatchers, it is best to visit the site in late April to late May and mid-August to late September to catch these birds playing on the muddy shores.
Meanwhile, woodland birds are often present in Japan’s most famous landmark, Mount Fuji. The forests’ treeline can be seen with Japanese Accentors, Indian Tree Pipit, Wren, Bullfinch and Nutcracker perched on branches and bathing on tiny pools that tourists pass by. Among the five large lakes at Mount Fuji’s base is Yamanakako, which is considered the most popular lake for birdwatching.
For those looking for rare species of swans and birds of prey, Kitaura, which is part of Kasumigaura, the second largest lake in Japan, features different kinds of waterfowl during winter season. Near this is the Ukishima marsh, where the Japanese Marsh Warbler and the Japanese Reed Bunting breed every summer. However, birding in the winter is as interesting as in summer, because raptors fly over the reedbeds about sunset, a perfect scenery that nature photographers would love to capture. The Kitaura and the Ukishima marsh are both located in the south of Ibaraki Prefecture, to which it takes an hour and a half to get from Tokyo by car.
Sixty-eight percent of the country is covered by forest and the remaining virgin forests are located in Hokkaido, also a perfect site for birds of prey and waterfowl. Between Hokkaido and Honshu is the Tsugaru Strait, which forms a border called the Blakiston Line, where the White-tailed Eagle, the Japanese Crane, Blakiston’s Fish Fowl and the Grey-headed Woodpecker can be spotted.
These are just some of Japan’s famous birdwatching sites. Every season features different bird species that might interest hobbyists and tourists from different parts of the world. However it is of utmost importance that despite the availability of these sites, hobbyists must respect nature by observing the law implemented in the area. And the safest way to enjoy this activity is by joining organizations that not only provide valuable information, but are also dedicated in protecting their natural resources. Japan not only has a very rich culture. It presents nature at its finest. So don’t expect its people to take their riches for granted. They may have painted some of their natural riches, but they intend to protect them, so that the future generation may be able to see them, and hear them and touch them.
Photo by: yamasan via Flickr