Friday, February 19, 2016

Ornithology for “Bond, James Bond”

When people are prohibited to fish, hunt, or collect anything physically in a forest, they take tons of photos (and some videos). If we compare the degree of craziness of photographers of many kinds, those who tried to “capture the best moment of birds” would have the upper hand. There are many locations in Yokohama’s Citizen Forests where birds of many hues congregate. Though, in those places human population with 600mm lenses is often larger than that of their target. When we have to walk in front of these lines of cameras, one might imagine how Neymar feels when he reaches the front of the goal posts of the opposite side … The atmosphere is tense, and with unsaid irritability of media-men whose photo will be in the front page of the defeated side’s paper … “Why on earth do you come here to disturb us!?”

Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, it is a forest for everybody to enjoy in a civilized way. The place is not reserved for you photographers to take a picture of birds. … Anyway, thanks to those enthusiasts, the home page of Japan Wild Bird Society is bursting with brilliant photos that records multi-colored birds’ life in the archipelago. Biodiversity Center of Japan by the Ministry of the Environment also solicits reports, with photos welcome, from ordinary citizens to trace the habitat of many wild lives including birds. (Their reporting site is here.) So, that’s that. But without investing in bazooka-sized lenses, we can join the activity of observing birds for protecting biodiversity in Yokohama Citizen Forests.

All along this road in Maioka Park,
this song continued …

One of the training courses for registered Citizen Forest volunteers in Yokohama offers an opportunity to learn birdwatching in forest management, free of charge. It is held once in a year with Mr. Jinbo from of Kanoko Kankyo Produce Co. The main objective of the training is to introduce basic techniques of birds-observation for forest volunteers who monitor the health of forests. Starting from birds of prey such as Falco tinnunculus, Buteo japonicus, and Accipiter gentilis, birds are indicator species. Vegetarian birds need good food, aka healthy and lots of trees and grasses. Frog eaters need unpolluted wetlands, and falcons need everything for their rabbit-sashimi to be available daily. Lots of many kinds of birds mean the forest is diverse and healthy. “Collective Security Issues.” One of the roles of citizen volunteers in Yokohama’s forest is to monitor the health of the forest. So, knowing how to check the birds’ life in our forest is important.

Ardea alba in Umeda River, in front of Niiharu Forest

FY2015 course for birdwatching was held in one winter day in Niiharu Citizen Forest. Indeed, Niiharu is the richest forest in Yokohama. According to Mr. volunteer who is in charge of monitoring birds’ life in Niiharu, the Forest regularly houses about 100 kinds of birds. 60-65% are resident birds; 30% are wondering birds that change their residence within the archipelago according to the seasons; the rest is migrating birds many of which come from the Northern Eurasian Continent in fall to winter, and from the Southeast Asia in spring and summer. Niiharu is home for lots of owls … He said when we relax over the lawn in front of the Niiharu Visitor Center during nights, we can enjoy the chorus of owls daily. So the venue for the training could not be more apt in Yokohama.

The training is starting in Main Room of Okutsu House.

A fieldwork

The course consists of brief lectures about biology of birds and the key points in birdwatching for forest management. I now know why birds drop their droppings … Their body is to fly: bladder and “keep it till toilet” make them too heavy to be airborne. Better discharging them whenever the stuff reaches to an exit, right? (Oh, how super those tiny toilets in airplanes …)

Foot prints of a rabbit in Niiharu … dinner!

Then, Mr. Jimbo brought us to a walk in and around Niiharu to demonstrate practical know-hows of simple avian census. Some take-aways are
  1. Know the anatomy and biology of birds, and use the knowledge to interpret possible evidence of birds’ life in the forest. For example, birds of prey eat their food on the ground, and if the meal is another bird they cleanly pluck feathers before eating. On the other hand, curled feathers of waterfowls naturally molt. So, if we find a curled feather on shore of a pond it says that kind of bird was there. But if the feather is straight, it is a remnant of the table manner by a bird of prey which occupies the pinnacle of the food chain of birds: i.e., the forest is healthy.
  2. When we walk in the forest, try to keep the pace of 15 min per 400 m. Pay attention to the forms of scenery. If there is a strange spot in a grass field, it may be a bird. When a tree branch has a strange lump, a feathered creature would be sitting there. Remembering each silhouette of species could be handy.
  3. Don’t enter the forest with overflowing ambition to watch or take photo of birds. Imagine you know strangers are waiting there to watch or take photo of you. Are you happy to come out and act naturally in front of the hungry peeping-toms? (er, well, there could be such kind of people … point taken.) Wild animals are more cautious than you. Always become unnoticed when you plan to observe the nature, and keep a critical distance. When a bird is convinced that you in her territory do not cause any disturbance, she will show you how charming she is in her daily life. She can even approach you to say hello. Actually the same methodology applies to observe bears.

It’s a philosophy of 007, isn’t it?

A healthy turdus eunomus is there
after escaping from attacks of
a ferocious male lanius bucephalus.
Yeah, I do not have a 600m lens.
An abandoned nest of lanius bucephaluswhich is territorial.
The water in rice paddy is muddy so that
waterfowl(s) was/were active till early morning …
and they left lots of foot prints.
Generally they are nocturnal.

A motalica grandis is taking bath over there.
The bushes could be a place for alcedo atthis.
The reason why we think so is …
there remained white poops of alcedo atthisnear to the bush.
They are poops of egretta garzetta. Messier.
A mistletoe is a sign bombycilla japonica was there.

When we strolled in the forest after a brief lunch, Mr. Jimbo started to say “Oh … it’s too quiet … do you notice the tension? A hunt could begin …“ Wow. Birds of prey live very healthy regular life: 3 meals per day, and it was lunch time for them too. From somewhere in the Forest, the voices of garrulous glandarius came out to break the silence from time to time ... Motacillas flew very high above us, leaving the Forest. Two crying corvus corones hastily flew out of the Forest to the playpark near the houses … then, beyond the flood control pond within the Forest, suddenly, an accipiter gularis jumped out of the trees to chase a cyanopica cyana. Gocha! and it’s gone. The time required: less than 5 seconds (and of course, I could not take a photo). Mr. Jimbo said the claws of birds of prey are so sharp that the inner organ of animals would be shredded at the time the claws clenched the tiny body. Instant death.

Meanwhile in the pond, a phalacrocorax capillatus from the Port of Yokohama was busy swallowing fishes, a harmonious couple of anas zonorhyncha swam the surface in synchronicity, and an ardea cinerea elegantly walked to the shore. A peaceful daily life.

By the way, in the latest 007, “Spectre,” Mr. Bond explained his job to a Bond-girl as “an assassin.” I didn’t know that …

Ardea cinerea on the cat walk
When we walked back to Okutsu House for closing, a P3-C flew over high above … from Yokota Air Base? At that time, Mr. Kim Jong Un declared he’s going to blast a “satellite rocket” ... Collective Security Issues. We had a peaceful Niiharu afternoon.

National security issues

The City Office who’s in charge of execution of Green-up Plan is

Yokohama Municipal Government Creative Environment Policy Bureau 横浜市環境創造局
Phone: 045-671-2891
FAX: 045-641-3490

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