Friday 15 January 2016

Japan day two: Tokyo

20 December 2015

Unfortunately my 'capsule' was opposite possibly the loudest snorer that I've ever encountered in my life and that, coupled with jet lag, meant that I didn't really sleep all that much overnight and was therefore pretty happy when the clock finally ticked round to 5.30 am.

After a shower I left the hotel and, grabbing breakfast on the way, caught the subway to Meiji Jingū. The park and woodland surrounding the shrine was only completed some 90 years ago but is very well established and a great location for city birding. Not long after arriving and passing through the impressively large Cypress torii (gate) I was enjoying a flock of Dusky Thrushes bathing in a stream as well as my first Varied Tits high in the canopy. Further strolling produced good numbers of the commoner woodland species, including plenty of Oriental Turtle Doves.

The shrine itself was not only beautiful but very peaceful early morning, though this had changed by the time I passed again 90 minutes later. As the name would suggest it is a shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and seems extremely popular with both tourists and locals alike.

The more open areas on the north side of the park produced a slightly different selection of species, including my first Bull-headed Shrike and a showy pair of Black-backed Wagtails, one of which posed for photos.

Black-backed Wagtail

A few Spot-billed Ducks were floating inanely on the nearby pond, Pale Thrush was seemingly quite common and I glimpsed a Goshawk flying over. Japanese White-eyes afforded some of the best views I had all trip, though I never managed any pleasing photographs.

Japanese White-eye

With the 9 am opening time approaching, I headed back to the gardens south of the shrine. Not only does this area tend to be quieter (a 500 ¥ entrance fee seems to put the masses off) but the birds here are fed regularly, meaning they're much more confiding. Indeed, the Varied Tits feed out of people's hands while my first Black-faced Buntings fearlessly scrubbed around on the floor to within a few feet.

Black-faced Buntings at Meiji JingÅ«

Varied Tit - another species I failed to photograph satisfactorily, this being my only decent image

My main target here was Grey Bunting, a species that can be elusive and therefore tricky to catch up with. Various items of gen I'd gleaned suggested that the buntings visit the seed put out for them but that didn't seem to be the case today - just the flock of Black-faced plus a couple of brief Oriental Greenfinches. Wandering around the various trails I eventually found a pair of Grey Buntings feeding in the inflow channel at the east end of the main pond, giving distant (but decent) views just in time for the arrival of Rich and Mick, who'd flown in overnight from Vienna.

Back at the seeded area females of Red-flanked Bluetail and Daurian Redstart appeared before our cue to leave for Haneda airport, where we saw a female Blue Rock Thrush a short while before catching a late afternoon flight to Kagoshima, on the southern island of Kyushu.

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