Trip Report: Tokyo, Japan, July 31 - August 4, 1994

Urs Geiser, Woodridge, IL, USA;

Birds mentioned

(Names according to A Field Guide to the Birds of Japan)

Little Grebe                      Podiceps ruficollis
Great Cormorant                   Phalacrocorax carbo
Mute Swan                         Cygnus olor
Mallard                           Anas platyrhyncos
Spot-billed Duck*                 Anas poecilorhyncha
Pochard                           Aythya ferina
Tufted Duck                       Aythya fuligula
Black-tailed Gull*                Larus crassirostris
Black-crowned Night Heron         Nycticorax nycticorax
Little Egret*                     Egretta garzetta
Intermediate Egret (?)            Egretta intermedia
Great Egret (?)                   Egretta alba
Rock Dove                         Columba livia
Rufous Turtle Dove*               Streptopelia orientalis
Japanese Green Woodpecker (?)     Picus awokera
Japanese Pigmy Woodpecker (?)     Dendrocopos kizuki
Barn Swallow                      Hirundo rustica
Brown-eared Bulbul*               Hypsipetes amaurotis
Great Tit                         Parus major
Tree Sparrow                      Passer montanus
Gray Starling*                    Sturnus cineraceus
Azure-winged Magpie*              Cyanopica cyana
Jungle Crow*                      Corvus macrorhynchos

* Life bird

General Remarks

This is the second part of my report from a business trip to East Asia. Please refer to the first part (Seoul, Korea) for reference materials and equipment used. The birding was entirely urban, in parks within central Tokyo. The weather was extremely hot (90-103 deg F) and quite humid during my stay. All these factors, and the short time I was able to devote to birding, contribute to the relatively meager account. Time constraints prevented me from visiting the Yacho Koen bird park near Haneda Intl. Airport, where I should have been able to find shorebirds.

Daily Reports

July 31, 1994

I had arrived the previous night from Seoul and was ready to spend this Sunday birding and sight-seeing. The first birds heard and seen were the numerous JUNGLE CROWS which made a racket from almost every tree. The were by far the most conspicuous birds during my entire stay in Tokyo. Near my hotel in Ueno Park was a small lake which was largely overgrown with lotus plants (in bloom - a wonderful sight). In the small stretches of open water were many SPOT-BILLED DUCKS and several light-colored hybrids with partial MALLARD heritage. There was also a pair of Aythia ducks with field marks of both Pochard and Canvasback (likely escapee). The former was indicated by the roundish head, but the bill of the male didn't look blue enough. Not having had much previous experience with either species, I finally decided that the shape was more important and called it a POCHARD, the more likely choice. Among the ducks were also a few LITTLE GREBES, all eagerly awaiting handouts from people. Occasionally, GREAT CORMORANTS from the nearby zoo rookery flew over the lake. In the trees surrounding the lake, there were numerous TREE SPARROWS and some ROCK DOVES (pigeons).

A subway ride brought me to the Meiji Jingu Shrine which is surrounded by a heavily forested park. JUNGLE CROWS, PIGEONS, and TREE SPARROWS were everywhere, and GREAT TITS could easily be found in several locations. At the inner gardens (admission fee), I teamed up with an elderly Japanese birder who spoke little more English than I spoke Japanese (i.e., none). With the help of the Japanese names listed in my field guide and some sign language, he was able to point out the woodpeckers we heard on a couple occasions: JAPANESE GREEN WOODPECKER and JAPANESE PIGMY WOODPECKER. He also showed me a nest hole of the former. Together, we saw the first of several BROWN-EARED BULBULS. Several birds of the leaf warbler variety had to remain unidentified. On one of the gravel paths, I had a nice look at a RUFOUS TURTLE DOVE. In order to escape from the heat and the blaring "music" emanating from nearby dormitories, I visited a small museum at the shrine featuring Meiji-era wood prints. In one of the side rooms, I discovered a nice collection of bird photographs which had evidently been taken within the shrine area. An amazing variety of birds have be seen there in the proper season (mid-summer is not so good).

The second park I visited today was the East Garden of the Imperial Palace. Again there were numerous crows, sparrows, and pigeons, also BARN SWALLOWS. Occasionally, some GRAY STARLINGS flew from tree to tree, but I never got a good look at them. Near a pond, a LITTLE EGRET landed in a tree above the water. BROWN-EARED BULBULS, GREAT TITS, and unidentified LBJs could be found in the trees. In the moat surrounding the gardens were SPOT-BILLED DUCKS and MUTE SWANS (not entirely wild).

This evening I spent at a colleague's apartment in the formerly industrial area near the harbor. At dusk we watched from the balcony hundreds of GREAT CORMORANTS fly in long rows overhead. BLACK- TAILED GULLS were patrolling the waterways.

August 1-4, 1994

These days were filled with business, and the birding was restricted to a daily stroll around the lake in Ueno Park and the University of Tokyo campus. At the lake, I added a TUFTED DUCK, GRAY STARLINGS, an immature BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON, and an egret of which I only saw the head sticking out over the lotus plants. I tentatively called it an INTERMEDIATE EGRET. Next to the conference center on the university campus was a secluded pond which attracted a few birds: JUNGLE CROW and TREE SPARROW, of course, but also BROWN- EARED BULBUL and GRAY STARLING. The Mallard/Domestic Duck hybrids were obviously not wild. Once, I saw a quick flash of light blue on a largish bird flying through the trees, but luckily, I was able to get better views at Azure-winged Magpies later.

In the afternoon of 8/3/94 I made a visit to the Asakusa Temple District. Most notable around the temple were the huge numbers of pigeons which descended on people with handouts. Nearby was the Sumida Gawa River with a small park along its shore. Flying over the river were BLACK- TAILED GULLS and SPOT-BILLED DUCKS. In the park, it was possible to see many GRAY STARLINGS, both adult and juvenile, feeding on the ground, and finally, a pair of AZURE-WINGED MAGPIES were checking out a garbage can.

From the train to the airport, I spotted an egret flying over a reservoir. It looked large enough for a GREAT EGRET, although I didn't get a good look at it.

Thanks again to all of those who sent me suggestions for birding in Tokyo.

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Urs Geiser;; June 2, 1995