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Birdwatching Locations in Tokyo

October 17th, 2005
I've been promising this for a while, and didn't get around to it until now. Here is a quick rundown of the better birding spots I've come across in the Tokyo Area. Bayside In geographical order, from east to west: Toyko Port Wild Bird Park (東京港野鳥公園), a.k.a. Oi Wild Bird Park: Located near Haneda Airport, this park features both freshwater and saltwater/mudflat environs. There is a visitor's center (air conditioned in summer), and many small scopes for the visitors to use. The saltwater mud flats can be viewed from the visitors center or from two blinds, and a great variety of birds visit there. Another blind overlooks a freshwater lake and marsh that attracts grebes and ducks as well as swallows and kingfishers. All of this is on the east side, beyond the admission building. Opposite that, on the west side, are a few small gardens, trees, and a freshwater lake, but I have seen few if any interesting birds there. I have been told alternately that low tide and high tide are best--low tide because the birds come in at that time, and high tide because the birds are all out on the bay at low tide and this is higher ground. Admission is ¥300, not much at all, and you are given an English-language pamphlet with good illustrations as well as an English checklist. Access by train is from the Ryutsu Center station on the Monorail, third stop out from Hamamatsu-cho, which can be reached from the Yamanote Line. Vehicle access is on Kan-Nana Blvd., stay to the left after you pass Route 357. Here is the location on Google Maps. Kasai Rinkai Park (葛西臨海公園): The east side of this park is dedicated to a bird sanctuary and viewing area with a good number of blinds. There is an open viewing structure in the middle, and a walkway dividing the two water areas. The "lower lake" area, on the east side (not the one with the cormorants) has mud flats and some excellent viewing spots, one in particular favored by birders, on the north side. A good many waterbirds can be seen here (including less-common sandpipers, stilts, even curlews), and in the winter, they say it is overflowing with ducks. There is no admission, so no literature (as is the case with most parks). Access by train is by the Keiyo Line (not the Keio Line), five stops out of Tokyo, or by car off of Route 357. It's right across from Tokyo Disneyland. Here is the location on Google Maps. If you look at the map, you'll see the east side lake is shaped like a duck; the favored viewing blind is by the "tail" on the top. Niihama Bird Park, or "Bird Paradise" (野鳥の楽園): A lesser-known bird park just a bit farther east off of Route 357, accessible from Ichikawa-Shiohama Station on the Keiyo Line. I actually have not been inside this park yet--I went on a weekday, and it's only open on weekends. The peek I did get seemed to indicate that it was mostly occupied by cormorants. I will have to try again sometime soon--perhaps in winter there are a lot more ducks there. There is, however, a very interesting bird hospital on the west side. Serious birders will be less excited as the birds are in captivity, but there were dozens of very interesting birds in there, including Green Pigeons, Cattle Egret, and a Peregrine Falcon. Here is the location on Google Maps. The bird hospital is marked by a small circle on the waterside road on the lower left side, the title of the location extending into the water. I am not sure how much admission is. Yatsu Higata Salt Flats (谷津干潟): a much more popular birdwatching area. Essentially a large, rectangular area where saltwater is brought in to create saltwater flats for the shorebirds to enjoy. A wide variety of birds visit here. There is a visitor center with a small restaurant, but some of the better viewing can be done outside where there are benches and overhangs built, along the edge of the flats. There is no admission. Access by train is by the Keiyo Line (again) from Shin-Narashino Station; ask for directions at the station. By car it is again off of Route 357. Do not assume that access is from the park on the north edge of the flats--it is not. Here is the location on Google Maps. Inland Tama Reien Cemetery and Sengenyama Park (多摩霊園、浅間山公園): Tama Reien is a huge, one-kilometer-square cemetery in the middle of Western Tokyo, straddling Fuchu and Koganei Cities. It has a good amount of shrubbery and not a few trees. The smaller but more verdant and hilly Sengenyama Park is adjacent to the cemetery's southwest corner. Together they are one of the best inland birdwatching areas within the Tokyo city area, without having to go all the way into the mountains somewhere. I've spotted Hawfinches, Grosbeaks, Long-tailed and Varied Tits, a few different Thrushes, Partridges, and a Japanese Green Woodpecker. There is no admission. Access by train is by the Seibu-Tamagawa Line, which starts from Musashi-Kasai Station on the Chuo Line. Take that line to Tama Reien-Mae Station. By car, Shin-Koganei Road off of Route 20 takes you by Sengenyama; a turnoff will take you to the main entrance of Tama Cemetery. Here is the location on Google Maps. The Tama River (多摩川): I know this is very general, but it's a long river and there are many good birding spots along it. I live in Inagi, and there is one place where I have spotted a lot of birds, including the most recent Bull-headed Shrike. You can find it here on Google Maps, less than a kilometer east of Minami-Tama Station on the JR Nambu Line running from Tachikawa to Kawasaki. I've also spotted terns, greenfinches, sandpipers, a lot of wagtails and egrets and herons, a good supply of winter ducks, meadow buntings, greenfinches, and others. Experienced birders I've asked have told me that this spot along the river, at Seiseki-Sakuragaoka (on the main Keio Line) is the best place, but my luck has been less than great there. I've seen some good birds at this spot myself.
Other than these two places, my birding inland has been limited to various local parks and pocket valleys occupied by farms, none of them notable as bird cornucopias--just the occasional lucky sighting. I've heard that going up to the Oku-tama valley way out in northwestern Tokyo is good, and of course Mt. Takao out of Hachioji is supposed to be very good as well. I tried places marked as "Bird Sanctuaries" on my maps, but these places tend to be more sanctuary-oriented, and less watching-oriented, like the sanctuary in Koganei Park. If you have any suggestions for other good birding spots in Tokyo, I am eager to hear them and try them out. I will likely re-publich this list in the future if I find any other good spots. Keep in mind that I'm still an amateur birder and so have probably missed some significant locations, particularly inland. So your help and support would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. Peter
    October 17th, 2005 at 09:20 | #1

    Invaluable stuff to people new to the Tokyo birding scene such as myself. Kasai Rinkai Park is well off my usual stamping grounds but I will now combine a visit there with the Motor Show early in November based on your good words.

    Provided the weather is good, the wife and I will be paying a visit to the Miyagase Dam area in Kanagawa (near Hon-Atsugi) next weekend to do some bird watching. A combination of the dam, its tributaries, and some mountain/valley walking trails make this place look rather attractive in theory!

    By the way, what are your experiences (if any) of the Tokyo Port Bird Reserve like after 2pm? My schedule prevents me from morning excursions here!

  2. Luis
    October 17th, 2005 at 10:12 | #2

    I have not visited the Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park enough to establish an understanding of bird population in terms of time of day. There seem to be so many variables–tides, seasons, and chance… I haven’t even figured out who’s right about which is better, high tides or low tides. Best is probably just to simply go and see what there is.

  3. October 26th, 2005 at 16:14 | #3

    Come round to Abiko some time, I heard we have a rather famous “bird museum” that even a princess has once visited. It is located at the Teganuma marsh, once the most polluted lake in Japan (now 6th), although I have been told last week that the birds are coming back. We are also close to the epicentres of the most recent quakes.

    All in all, plenty to experience in lovely Abiko.

    http://www.bird-mus.abiko.chiba.jp/english/eindx.html

  4. Luis
    October 26th, 2005 at 18:36 | #4

    Thanks! I might just do that, next time I get the chance. I usually ride by scooter, though–Abiko is a bit far from Tama, I think. What kind of birds have you seen there?

  5. October 27th, 2005 at 10:07 | #5

    I’m afraid I know nothing about birds, trees, flowers and the like, to the constant amusement of my wife. To each their own.

    Yes, it may be a little far from where you are, but perhaps worth a day trip. It is quite relaxing at the lakeside. Some impressions:

    http://www.unicircuits.com/gallery/LFSP/LF4_fishing_teganuma_3_003
    http://www.unicircuits.com/gallery/LFSP/LF24_Teganuma_fishing_fathe_001

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