Niall Hatch's Japan
Japan is a country of beautiful Pacific islands, and a land of contrasts – from ancient culture to cutting-edge modern technology, from its temples, shrines and gardens to the many delicacies that make it a foodie’s paradise. It’s an archipelago of almost seven THOUSAND islands that stretch across three thousand kilometres, and is home to a staggeringly large variety of wildlife. It’s a country that bewitches and beguiles all those who visit, with many dreaming of a return.
In February of this year, Niall Hatch (who is the Development Officer with BirdWatch Ireland) enthralled us with stories from his trip to the Land of the Rising Sun, and he was so enchanted with what he saw that he’s going back again, this week – and he’s going to document what he sees and hears exclusively for Mooney Goes Wild! Tonight, he tells Derek about what he's hoping to see in his second visit to Japan - and about welcoming a very special Japanese visitor to Ireland: Her Imperial Highness The Princess Takamado! For more information about and photos of the royal visit, scroll down.
Niall Hatch of BirdWatch Ireland, and your guide to the delights of Japan for the next two weeks!
***To follow Niall's adventures, read his blog and view his photos as his trip develops, click here!***
Niall's Japanese Itinerary - July 2017
After a couple of days in Tokyo (where there will not be much to report, nature-wise) I'll be travelling by ferry to the remote volcanic island of Miyake-jima, which is part of the Izu Archipelago which lies to the south of Tokyo.
The Izu Islands are home to several endemic (i.e., unique) birds, including Izu Thrush, Izu Robin and Ijima's Warbler. The isolation of the group has led to the evolution of unique island forms which are found nowhere else on earth. The island itself is home to only around 2,500 people, all of whom are required by law to carry gas masks with them at all times, in case the island's central volcano spews out poisonous gasses. In addition to the birds, the island is also famous for its rich coral reefs and the population of dolphins in its waters.
After that, I will be returning to the main island of Honshu and gradually making my way eastwards towards Nagano, where the Winter Olympics were held in 1998. There won't be any winter sports at this time of year, of course, but during summer the mountain slopes are covered in birds and other wildlife, including both Copper Pheasants and Green Pheasants, as well as Japanese Thrushes, Japanese Accentors and other unique birds. I am also hoping to track down some Japanese Macaques, the monkeys which are often shown on TV relaxing in the natural thermal baths. I also plan to visit iconic Mount Fuji and to see some of the birds that make their homes on its slopes.
After that, I will be flying southwards to the subtropical island of Amami Oshima, where I will spend several days searching for the unique birds that are found only there: Lidth's Jay, Amami Thrush, Amami Woodpecker and Amami Woodcock. The island is also home to the Amami Black Rabbit, the last surviving member of an ancient lineage of rabbit species that once occurred throughout eastern Asia. It is strictly nocturnal and, somewhat oddly for a rabbit, is notable for its very short ears. The island forms part of the Ryukyu Archipelago (which also includes Okinawa, which I visited back in January of this year), which collectively are home to many more unique bird species, and I will also be trying to track these down on Amami Oshima: birds such as Ryukyu Robin, Ryukyu Green Pigeon and Ryukyu Minivet.
BIRDWATCH IRELAND PRESS RELEASE: VISIT OF PRINCESS TAKAMADO OF JAPAN TO IRELAND
Monday, July 10th 2017
BirdWatch Ireland was delighted yesterday to welcome Her Imperial Highness The Princess Takamado of Japan, who serves as Honorary President of the global conservation partnership BirdLife International, on a birdwatching tour around the islands off the coast of north Co. Dublin.
Princess Takamado, who is a very keen birdwatcher and a highly accomplished nature photographer, having heard of the rich bird life of our capital city and its environs, had expressed an interest in seeing and photographing Puffins and other seabirds during her current visit to Ireland. BirdWatch Ireland therefore was very pleased to organise a day of activities for the princess, showcasing some of Ireland’s most special marine birds.
Clockwise from top left: Princess Takamado photographing Puffins off Ireland's Eye (photo by Dick Coombes); Princess Takamado on Lambay with (l to r) Japanese Imperial Guard, Declan O'Sullivan & Stephen Newton (photo by Dick Coombes); Princess Takamado hiking on Lambay Island (photo by Dick Coombes); Princess Takamado on Lambay with Declan O'Sullivan, Dick Coombes & Stephen Newton
The birdwatching party, which also included Anne Barrington, the Irish Ambassador to Japan, departed from Howth Marina at 06:00, making its initial stop in the waters off Ireland’s Eye, where Her Imperial Highness saw and photographed her first Puffins. The group was also treated to excellent views of Gannets, Ireland’s largest breeding seabird, at their colony on the island: one of only six such Gannet colonies, or "gannetries", in Irish waters.
The party then continued on to land on Lambay Island, where two highly enjoyable hours were spent viewing the island’s breeding Puffins at close quarters. Princess Takamado was also very pleased to enjoy close views of other spectacular seabird species, notably Guillemots, Razorbills, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and Shags.
Clockwise from top left: Princess Takamado photographing terns on Rockabill, with Niall Hatch and David Miley of BirdWatch Ireland; Princess Takamado holding a tern chick on Rockabill Island; Princess Takamado learning about the work on Rockabill from Dr. Stephen Newton; Princess Takamado holding a tern chick on Rockabill Island (all photos by Dick Coombes)
On departing Lambay, the group then sailed to remote Rockabill Island, home to Europe’s largest colony of Roseate Terns, one of our rarest breeding seabirds. This year, the island is home to no fewer than 1,597 nesting pairs of these beautiful birds, which is a record high number for the island. Rockabill is also home to over 2,000 pairs of the closely-related Common Tern, plus smaller numbers of Arctic Terns, Black Guillemots and Kittiwakes.
The three BirdWatch Ireland wardens, who are currently living on the island for the duration of the summer, gave the princess a tour of the colony and explained the work they carry out as part of BirdWatch Ireland’s EU-LIFE-funded Roseate Tern Conservation Project, which is also supported by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Her Imperial Highness then spent some time photographing both the terns and the Black Guillemots from one of the island’s photographic hides, and expressed her great pleasure at the remarkable views she enjoyed of these rare and elusive birds.
Clockwise from top left: Princess Takamado with BirdWatch Ireland wardens Shane Somers, David Miley, Stephen Newton & Caroline McKeon (photo by Dick Coombes); Princess Takamado with Declan O'Sullivan, Niall Hatch, Shane Somers, David Miley, Stephen Newton & Caroline McKeon; Princess Takamado chatting with Rockabill tern wardens Shane Somers, David Miley & Caroline McKeon (photo by Dick Coombes); Princess Takamado holding two tern chicks on Rockabill Island (photo by Dick Coombes)
Speaking following the princess’ visit, Declan O’Sullivan, Interim CEO of BirdWatch Ireland, noted, "It was a great honour for BirdWatch Ireland to be able to show some of Dublin’s most special birds to Her Imperial Highness, and to showcase the rich yet often underappreciated wildlife of our capital city. Her obvious joy at seeing so many Puffins and other seabirds at such close quarters was truly infectious, and we were absolutely delighted to have been able to organise this birdwatching trip for her during her visit to Ireland and to have spent so much time with her today."
Dr. Stephen Newton, Senior Seabird Conservation Officer with BirdWatch Ireland, remarked, "All of us at BirdWatch Ireland are immensely proud of the Roseate Tern conservation work which is carried out each year on Rockabill Island, and we were also very proud to have the opportunity to share the fruits of this success with Princess Takamado. Our wardens on the island are doing a remarkable job this season, and we were very pleased that Her Imperial Highness could experience their work at first hand and that she enjoyed her visit to the island."
Left: Princess Takamado with BirdWatch Ireland Chairperson Gerry Lyons (red hat) on Rockabill Island; Right: Princess Takamado chats with Declan O'Sullivan (Interim CEO - centre) and Dr. Stephen Newton (photos by Dick Coombes)
BirdWatch Ireland would like to thank the Embassy of Japan and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for their kind assistance and support, which were instrumental in making this special birdwatching trip possible.