Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Day One: Meiji Jingu and the National Park for Nature Study

Hashibutogarasu, Meiji Jingu, Tokyo, Japan
Let's get one thing out of the way. The most prominent bird in the Tokyo area is the jungle (or large-billed) crow. It is an enormous bird that travels in noisy groups. During the morning bands of jungle crows may be observed ripping through street side garbage bags. During the rest of the day the crows take over nature sanctuaries, making it sometimes difficult to hear anything else. Apparently the jungle crow population is half of what it was ten years ago. That is very hard to believe.

We were staying near Shibuya so Meiji Jingu made sense for my first early morning excursion. I brought my son back later in the morning to view the June Iris Festival in the inner garden. It was raining, sometimes in torrents.

The woods of Meiju Jingu are perfect for tits (known locally as kara) and other forest birds, such as mejiro (white-eyes) and komadori (Japanese robin). They were not so good during my walk for photographs of small birds. Here is a diagnostically effective but crazy bad photo of a yamagara (varied tit), a bird that is normally only encountered in the mountains.
The shijukara (Japanese tits) were the most prominent noise-makers (aside from the crows, of course) as their children had just fledged and were aggressively begging. They also have an easily recognizable song.
The inner garden was gorgeous in the rain, though the irises weren't yet in full bloom (this, at least, kept things peaceful and uncrowded).  Diving in the rainy carp pond was a friendly kaitsuburi (little grebe). On the way out we watched the gatekeepers hand-feeding yamagara.

Here's a set of recordings from the Meiji Jingu/Yoyogi area (some from the following morning)

After Meiji Jingu we took the train down to Meguro to visit Bird Plaza (more about that next time). It was still rather early so my son and I strolled through the National Park for Nature Study (or Kokuritsu Shizen KyŨikuen). A combination arboretum and wildlife sanctuary, the park offers views of a variety of indigenous trees, some enormous and old. It seems to be a favorite of retirees, judging from the people we encountered.
Momiji in June

My favorite area was a wetland zone (with its own naturally occurring irises) perfect in the soft June rain.

A small pond provided the promise of bird sightings. It was raining hard by this point and we were hungry and tired so we didn't take advantage. We did hear a lot of mejiro (and crows) during our walk.
Aodaishou (Japanese Rat Snake)
And saw a snake in a tree!

After lunch at the wonderful Fukuraya, where I had the most delicious curry rice ever (on brown rice, no less), it was time for Bird Plaza.
To be continued...

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