Tokyo Winter 2018

I lived in Tokyo for nearly 12 years and during that time, really didn’t do much birding or wildlife watching. It was always there but I never actively pursued it, instead focussing all my time on my other passion, music. Towards the end of my time there, the last couple of years, my wife and I had children and were then walking more in parks etc. And the passion came back strong.

We head back to Japan once every two years now to see the grandparents and touch base with our friends there. In 2018, we decided to skip a UK Christmas and have a Japanese New Year, a time when Japanese families gather and celebrate together. Whilst I knew I would miss the UK vibe, I was excited to get out to urban green spots in Tokyo and see what I could see, playing catch up for the years I missed.

Sites I visited are described below with the birds seen. For additional details, please feel free to get in touch.

Meiji Jingumae / Yoyogi Park

One of my favourite spots this visit  was Meijijingu – an area I spent much of my younger  years hanging out with friends in warmer months, getting inebriated under the cherry blossom of Yoyogi park and attending the various festivals put on in the park. I had no idea what a gem the shrine area was for wildlife.

From Yoyogi park, I started on the edge of the Meiji area with a small flock of brambling and very obliging varied tit. It was once I entered the shrine parkland woodland that the magic truly started.

The initial stretch of woodland path traversing the farthest western portion of Meijijingu (MJ from now on) is a lot quieter and has some lovely spots where varied tits will come to the hand to feed. Depending on what you think about feeding wild birds, carrying a few peanuts in the pocket is a good idea and gives some special memories. The same area gave both Japanese green and pygmy woodpecker, jungle crow, masked bunting, japanese sparrowhawk, Japanese white-eye, long-tailed and Japanese tits, and of course tons of brown-eared bulbuls. Eastern buzzards were along the edge and I was graced with multiple fly overs of northern goshawk, one of my favourite birds and one I remember seeing from my workplace whilst working in Tokyo. Urban goshawks!!!!

A pond in the middle of the park gave stunning views of a small hawfinch flock and more brambling and an uncommon grey bunting skirted the water’s edge with a pale thrush. A dusky thrush was also spotted a couple times.

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Rinkai Koen/Park

Close to Disneyland is a huge area of parkland built on reclaimed land with tidal flats. It’s a reknowned area for birding, more so in migration months, but equally for winter wildfowl and waders, so I was excited to get out there. The walk from the station gave some lovely views of oriental turtle dove, oriental greenfinch and the first Daurian redstart of the trip. Once at the water’s edge, white wagtails, a buff-bellied pipit and a common sandpiper flitted about and at least four wintering ospreys were fishing across the water. A bull-headed shrike also gave wonderful views.

Black-necked grebes, gadwall and wigeon were nice and close to the jetty and huge flocks of greater scaup lined the horizon. 

Moving back inland to the network of ponds and reedbeds produced grey heron, eastern buzzard, house swift, kingfisher, Japanese bush warbler,  goldcrest and masked bunting. A lovely flock of azure-winged magpies gave some great photographic opportunities too.

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Wadabori Park

A very local spot that my family used to visit when we lived in Tokyo provides a pond area with great but inaccessible “migrant trap” islands within close view, a canal with park woodland running along it and open grass areas. Visits in the past sued to give incredible gems such as bohemian waxwing, bull-headed shrike, and in summer Narcissus and blue-and-white flycatcher. Whilst the summer migrants would be well gone, I was still keen to see what was about. A walk around the main pond area gave some of the best kingfisher views I have  ever had. Super close. And the birds were relaxed all things considered.

Oriental turtle doves, large-billed crows, pintail and eastern spot-billed duck were common. A little egret fished in the pond and a grey wagtail moved along the canal area. The woodland areas held hawfinch, brambling, Japanese tit, long-tailed tit, born-headed thrush and Japanese pygmy woodpecker.

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Tama River Ichinomiya

A visit one morning to the west side of Tokyo gave a few more new species for the trip and a couple of lifers. Getting off at Ichinomiya station, I worked back to the river and went east along its banks. There was a bit of development going on so couldn’t get down the bank for while, but once I could, birds started popping up left right and centre. A few Japanese wagtails were on rocks in the water, alongside a group of herons including grey and intermediate and little egret.

Meadow bunting were the most common bird down here and gave some lovely views atop scrub areas. A gorgeous male Daurian redstart showed off for a good number of minutes as did a few hawfinch who were low down on some seed vegetation. Interesting to see them this low down and in scrub habitat. Black-eared/Black kites flew along the river but the best raptor moment came at the end when a peregrine started dive-bombing another peregrine with food on the opposite shore. Fantastic fun to watch. Probably not as fun for the peregrines. Other birds included tree sparrow, long-billed plover, green pheasant, great cormorant, grey wagtail, oriental greenfinch and bull-headed shrike

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Koukyo / Imperial Palace Moat

I had heard that the moat around the palace held falcated duck during winter so I paid a visit and wasn’t disappointed. A good number of this beautiful duck were quickly found, and pretty close to the edge too. Other birds found included black-crowned night heron, little grebe, shoveler, gadwall, and pochard.

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All in all, in was a pretty great list considering it was a family trip and I had Christmas/NY to contend with. Early mornings were as always the most productive so it fitted in well with a later morning start from the family.


Birds seen

  1. Pintail
  2. Mallard
  3. Tufted duck
  4. Wigeon
  5. Pochard
  6. Falcated duck
  7. Gadwall
  8. Eastern black-spot duck
  9. Eurasian Teal
  10. Shoveler
  11. Greater scaup
  12. Red-breasted merganser
  13. Little grebe
  14. Black-necked grebe
  15. Grey heron
  16. Intermediate egret
  17. Little egret
  18. Great cormorant
  19. Black-eared kite
  20. Osprey
  21. Japanese sparrowhawk
  22. Eurasian sparrowhawk
  23. Northern goshawk
  24. Eastern buzzard
  25. Moorhen
  26. Coot
  27. Long-billed plover
  28. Curlew
  29. Common sandpiper
  30. Black-headed gull
  31. Herring gull
  32. Vega gull
  33. Slaty-backed gull
  34. Green pheasant
  35. Feral pigeon
  36. Oriental turtle dove
  37. House swift
  38. Kingfisher
  39. Japanese pygmy woodpecker
  40. Japanese green woodpecker
  41. Peregrine falcon
  42. Rose-ringed parakeet
  43. Bull-headed shrike
  44. Azure-winged magpie
  45. Oriental/Carrion crow
  46. Large-billed crow
  47. Varied tit
  48. Japanese tit
  49. Long-tailed tit
  50. Brown-eared bulbul
  51. Japanese bush warbler
  52. Japanese white-eye
  53. Goldcrest
  54. White-cheeked starling
  55. Skylark
  56. Pale thrush
  57. Brown-headed thrush
  58. Dusky thrush
  59. Daurian redstart
  60. Eurasian tree sparrow
  61. Grey wagtail
  62. Japanese wagtail
  63. White wagtail
  64. Brambling
  65. Hawfinch
  66. Japanese grosbeak
  67. Oriental greenfinch
  68. Meadow bunting
  69. Masked bunting
  70. Grey bunting






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