Japanese Birds

Togakushi Birdlife
At this time of year in Togakushi which is situated within Joshinetsu National Park birdwatching is the order of the day for visitors to the area. The reason being Togakushi is quite a special place for the hobby with a wide variety of rare and colourful Aves species frequenting this location after spending the previous months wintering (during which Togakushi was under 1.5m of snow) in Southeast Asia. During the month of May viewing conditions are exceptionally good as the leafless trees are just budding and the many varied birds that are aplenty in the area in spring are much more easier to spot than when the tress are fully clothed in their spring green jacket after their period of winter dormancy.

Japanese Birdwatchers in Togakushi

Togakushi is at an altitude of 1200m A.S.L therefore wildflowers blooming and trees coming into leaf can come as much as 2-4 weeks later than down at sea level. The temperature remains colder for that bit longer and this year especially seems to have dragged on for much longer than usual. The snow has lingered on for at least a couple of weeks more than last year resulting in wildflowers rearing their heads somewhat later and flowering whilst the plant is still quite small compared to normal. Down in Nagano City (the nearest city to Togakushi) trees are already green and many flowers have been in bloom for quite a few weeks now.

Sakura (Cherry Blossom)

The Sakura (さくら) or Cherry Blossom, of which Japan is particularly famous for, it being an extremely symbolic image and even a trademark of Japan comes into flower in April/May and has already finished down at sea level with Nagano City having had a fine display whereas up here in the mountains in Togakushi the Sakura has just flowered.

But back to the birdwatchers.
In Togakushi their are a number of highly scenic venues where one can spot quite a number of interesting species. Kagami Ike or Mirror Lake, Kotariga Ike which is a another small lake and at the Botanical Garden (Shokubutsu en) which is home to another small body of water (Midoriga Ike) which I will refer to as a true pond. The Japanese word 'Ike' actually means Pond in english but with the size of Kagami Ike and Kotariga Ike I just can't bring myself to call them ponds and besides Kagami or mirror in english sounds much better as a lake than a pond.
Birdwatching at the Botanical Garden

I would say the most popular place for viewing out of the above three would be the Botanical Garden but it can become crowded at the weekends with groups travelling from different parts of the country wielding some serious birdwatching equipment, you would be forgiven if you innocently thought the war had broken out again as a number of people are carrying what appear to be bazookas or other shoulder launched missile weapons judging by the unfeasably large lenses attached to their cameras. The Japanese don't like to do things by halves!

Unfeasably Large Lenses

A lot of people could be classed as proper Twitchers too. I thought twitcher was a name given in general to birders or people who watch birds but Wiki has put me right. According to Wiki the term Twitcher or Twitching "is reserved for those who travel long distances to see a rare bird that would then be "ticked", or checked off, on a list. The term originated in the 1950s, when it was used to describe the nervous behaviour of Howard Medhurst, a British birdwatcher. Prior terms for those who chased rarities were "pot-hunter", "tally-hunter", or "tick-hunter". The main goal of twitching is often to accumulate species on one's lists."
And one bird that the twitchers would love to get on their 'list' is the red billed Ruddy Kingfisher (Halcyon coromanda), very rare in Japan and highly sought after by birders, sadly I'm only here to inform of its irregular presence at sites such as the Botanical Garden in Togakushi, no pics as of yet from me but credit to Corry Chen for this one. 

Ruddy Kingfisher (Halcyon coromanda)

We are quite lucky to be residing in the forest itself, and putting a bit of feed out in the mornings on a daily basis works wonders. Just the other day our feathered friends were out in their multitudes. It's a very peaceful location and devoid of noise from squabbling twitchers so an ideal place for placid birds to pay us a visit. We had a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers (Picoides major/Dendrocopos major?) chasing each other around the trees and putting on a colourful vivid dancing display. We had another woodpecker, the Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker (Picoides Kizuki/Dendrocopos kizuki?), so named due to its small size of around 15cm, not as colourful as the Great Spotted Woodpecker but nevertheless a wonder to behold.

        Great Spotted Woodpecker                                                                           Picoides-Major
Another regular who joins us for breakfast is the stunningly colourful Narcissus Flycatcher (Ficedula narcissina) or kibitaki (キビタキ) in Japanese. Poor devil always seems to be on his lonesome though, maybe he/she likes it like that...


       Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker                                                                        Narcissus Flycatcher

We also recieve visits from a couple of Red-bellied Thrush (Turdus chrysolaus) along with an abundance of Varied Tit (Parus varius) and Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) who can't get enough of the seed put out for them.

           Varied Tit (Parus Varius)                                                                   Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)

But there is some competition at breakfast time, if the Squirrels are there first they tend to eat all the food in one go whereas the more relaxed Tits and Nuthatch seem to eat slowly, methodically, savouring every seed as it were. 

          Squirrel Approaching                                                                         Not much left for the birds!

And last but not least the Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) which seemed to be getting quite a lot of attention at Togakushi Botanical Garden, who would have thought it.....

                             Tufted Duck (Aythya-fuligula)                                 

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