Thursday, June 21, 2012

Japan Day Four: Kamakura

Lotus and Lily Pad Pond, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, Kamakura
As was the case with Enoshima, our visit to Kamakura was more about site-seeing and souvenir-buying than bird watching but a few things caught my attention.

First, the awesome lotus pond near the Hachiman shrine above, the home of giant soft-shell turtles. Here's a glimpse of one swimming about.
Nihonsuppon, Kamakura, Japan
At the same shrine, a memorial to the giant sacred thousand-year old gingko tree that used to reign near the entrance. It fell a couple of years ago but shoots from the original tree are still living and are being nutured
and encouraged by the public. "Ganbare Daiichou!" [Hang in there, Great Gingko Tree!]

Kamakura is a city of tsubame (barn swallows--technically the same species that lives in Europe, the U.S., even Africa). They can be seen flying overhead, perching on wires
and building nests in unlikely places.
This nest is not on the eaves of a barn but in an alcove outside of a shop. The swallow parents seemed at ease flying in and out over the heads of souvenir hunters.

We might say "ganbare" to the tsubame as well. According to literature distributed by the Wild Bird Society of Japan the barn swallow population in Japan has steadily decreased in the last few years. Many areas that used to see flocks of swallows returning every spring, hardly see any anymore.
Kieyuku Tsubame
There are many possible causes, including habitat loss and human predation, but these are long-standing problems unlikely to have causes such a sudden crash. One plausible explanation is the increase in insecticide use in both Japan and the swallows' wintering grounds.

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