An urban oasis for migratory birds in the shadow of Tokyo’s skyline

By Carmen Grau Vila

Narashino, Japan, Dec 10 (EFE).- Migratory birds traveling thousands of kilometers between Siberia and Australia stop off in Tokyo Bay where, thanks to the help of local citizens, a nature reserve offers shelter in the shadow of the Japanese metropolis.

The Yatsu-Higata reserve is a protected, 40-hectare tidal mudflat east of Tokyo that hosts as many as 60 species of coastal and migratory bird species throughout the year.

A highway flyover above the reserve acts as a reminder of its proximity to the city but for decades these mudflats at the mouth of the Pacific Ocean have resisted encroaching urbanization.

For migratory birds, Yatsu-Higata is a welcome stopover on a long journey north or south, depending on the season, allowing the animals to feed and rest before embarking on the next stage of their journey.

At the reserve’s nature observation center, whose large windows offer an ideal opportunity for a spot of bird-watching, children learn about the wildlife through games.

Some 140 volunteers help out with classes and the upkeep of the reserve, while six rangers monitor the wildlife.

Ranger Fumiko Oyama, 58, has been working for two decades to protect the Yatsu-Higata reserve, which is home to plovers, ducks, cranes, crabs, clams and many other species.

“The birds send a strong message, returning here over and over again,” she says. “To protect them, humans must get involved. Without people and the efforts taken, this center would not exist,” she added.

Each year the nature center welcomes around 50,000 visitors.

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