Friday, 17 December 2010

In the Hearts of the Bean Geese.

Fukushimagata, (Niigata) is a wetland reserve about half an hour’s drive north-east of central Niigata city. I learned a bit about its history when I arrived in Niigata some years ago but unfortunately I’ve forgotten a lot of details. I have Japanese brochures from the visitor’s centre but the best information I can currently find in English is: here.

From about the end of September to April, it is a hive of activity for migratory birds. Throughout these months, tour groups from other prefectures steadily arrive with field-scopes and cameras in hand.

Rare species for the region can be seen here. I’ve seen a Canadian Goose, gotten a photo of a Black-faced Spoonbill, recorded Amur Falcons (though no one else did..?), and heard of the excitement about a feast of others. I enjoy its potential for raptor encounters such as Eastern Marsh Harriers, Northern Goshawks and Peregrine Falcons but White-tailed Sea-eagles, Rough-legged Buzzards, and even a possible Steller’s Sea-eagle are all possible. Not guaranteed but all worth keeping an eye out for.

Many of the birds however are abundant. Ducks such as teal and widgeons; swans, mostly Whooper but with sprinkling of Tundra and various geese, all working together in the thousands to make the reserve a dramatic place to visit. The most noted species for these wetlands however, is the Bean Goose; the symbol of Fukushimagata. Fukushimagata boasts the biggest gathering of this species in Japan. All literature and souvenirs at the visitors centre are marked with its image. From the start of November they arrive like waves on the shore. Hundreds at a time. Their noise, like an approaching storm.

(Photographed at Fukushimatagata at the end of November, 2010)

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