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三宅Style 第6回<番外編> クリス・クック氏(都内在住バードウォッチャー)インタビュー


Essay written by Chris Cook (Birdwatcher living in Tokyo)

If you ask a foreign birdwatcher, “What is special about Miyakejima?” they will quickly tell you: “Izu Thrush, Ijima's Warbler, Japanese Robin, Tairo-ike and albatrosses and turtles, nice accommodation, and good food!”

Far beyond the island, in Europe, in America and in Australia, Miyakejima is known as one of the important birdwatching sites in Japan, and foreign bird tour companies often include the ferry ride and an overnight stay on the island in their itinerary.

Japan has many interesting species of birds – there are about 600 on the Japanese bird list, and of these, 15 are endemic to the archipelago – so this country is often high on the list of places foreign birdwatchers want to visit.

For most, winter is the time to visit as this is when many interesting birds can be seen: there are eagles and cranes in east Hokkaido, and more cranes -- thousands of them! -- in Kyushu.

And, in between, there are several other places – for example, Rausu in Hokkaido, Yanbaru in Okinawa, Izumi in Kagoshima Prefecture, Hyuga in Miyazaki Prefecture and Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture – where many different and special birds can be seen.


But back to Miyakejima!

If you are a dedicated birdwatcher, two visits to the island are needed: one to see some species that are there only during the summer, and another visit in winter.

For birdwatchers going to Miyakejima, the list of must-see species includes two kinds of warbler, Izu Thrush (Akakokko), Japanese Robin (Tane-Komadori), Owston's Tit (Osuton-yamagara), Black Woodpigeon (Karasu-bato) and Japanese Crested Murrelet (Kanmuri-umisuzume). 

In early summer, one of my favourite times of the year to visit the island, I enjoy walking from the ferry port -- usually Sabigahama, but sometimes Miike -- to Tairo-ike. It is about 5 km from both ports, and it takes about 90 minutes or so to slowly walk and watch birds along the way.

Early on a warm summer's morning, as I walk along Isshu-doro,  I can hear birds singing or calling, or hear the sound of the ocean surrounding this paradise isle.

One of the noisiest birds is the Lesser Cuckoo (Hototoguisu) and they can be heard and often seen all over the island.

In certain areas, especially Izu-misaki, in the area close to Furusato no Yu onsen at Ako, around the lighthouse at Cape Satado, and near to Shinmyo-ike-ato, the Pleske's Warbler (Uchiyama-sennyu) can be seen and heard.  This species is very localised, but it is quite an easy bird to find on Miyakejima when the males are establishing their territories after arriving from their Southeast Asian wintering areas in May.

It is not what you might call a distinctive bird -- just dull pale brown, with dirty white underparts -- but the males fly a few metres up into the air when singing, so it is quite easy to see in late May or early June when they are singing. After that, when the birds have a nest or young, they become very secretive and are very difficult to actually see in the tall grass and bushes where they live!

Another species which also has a very restricted range is the Ijima's Warbler (Ijima-mushikui).

These small green warblers are quite common in the forest around Tairo-ike and other parts of the island where there are mature trees. On a sunny morning in late May or early June, when the males are singing, the forests around Tairo-ike are filled with their sweet notes.

During the late winter months, the ocean around the island can be productive for seabirds – specifically, albatrosses. These are breeding on Torishima, way down between the Izu Islands and the Ogasawara Islands, and in recent years new colonies have been established on Mukojima in the Ogasawaras and also on Mujin-to, off the west coast of Hachijojima.

Three species are involved: the rare and magnificent Short-tailed, and the commoner Black-footed and Laysan. The latter two species are common breeding birds at Midway Atoll, northwest of Hawaii, but only small numbers breed in Japan.

During the summer nearly all the albatrosses head off across to the other side of the Pacific, so you usually cannot see any around the Izu Islands between about May and late October.

At this time of the year, though, they are replaced by tens of thousands of shearwaters, which gather and form a thick ring of birds around the island in the early morning. Although they do not breed on Miyakejima, there is a large population on neighbouring Mikurajima.

Over the years that I have been visiting Miyakejima – I first went there in 1984 – I have found that between late January until late March or early April,  many birds gather in an area I have nicknamed the "Oshima Triangle" -- the area of ocean north of Miyakejima, east of Oshima and south of Chiba Prefecture.

On a "good" day -- with a strong west or southwest wind, lashing rain and fog -- it is sometimes possible to see dozens or even a few hundred albatrosses from the ferry as it goes back to Tokyo. And, in certain conditions, the albatrosses can be seen just offshore from Miyakejima, and I have sometimes seen them while waiting at the port for the ferry. There are often shearwaters and petrels, too, among them.

Very often, I visit Miyakejima for the day, arriving at 0500 on the overnight ferry from Tokyo, and leaving at lunchtime after it returns from its calls to Hachijojima and Mikurajima.

I spend several hours around Tairo-ike, as that is where many of the birds can be seen. Here, the nature centre, Akakokko-kan, is nestled under the trees, and the friendly staff can give you some information about where to see some of the birds on the island.

When I have time I like to stay overnight, and there is no shortage of good accommodation on Miyakejima.

Another of Miyakejima's attractions is that there is a live volcano on the island.

Of course care is needed but in general there is no need for alarm. Although the continually smoking vent does not present any problems, there is no need to go to the summit to look for birds as most can be found in the forest or farmland below.

About halfway up Oyama there is a road which goes around the volcano, and if you drive it, you can get some great views of the Izu islands, and from the north end of the island, on the main road which encircles Miyakejima, you can see Mount Fuji and, during the winter months when the air is crisp and clear, even the snow-covered mountains of the South Alps way over in Yamanashi Prefecture.
If you are visiting Japan or living here, a weekend or a few days on Miyakejima is well worth considering.

Aside from getting away from the hustle and bustle of the people, work-related stress and the bright lights of Tokyo, spending time on Miyakejima is a great way to unwind and connect with nature.

With its welcoming atmosphere, good food, nice scenery and fishing and birdwatching, Miyakejima is a place that you will not forget for a long time!





































Mr.Chris Cook
Shot at Tateyama
(クリス・クック氏 立山にて撮影)


/翻訳:地域おこし協力隊 木村美砂)


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