Osaka Nanko Bird Sanctuary

Getting there: take the Chuo Line to Cosmosquare then change to the new tram. Get off at World Trade Center-mae station. Take the WTC exit, then follow the signs to ONBS 1km as the crow flies.

Opening hours: Visitor center/Main Observatory: 9am-5pm • The park and northern observatory: 24 hours for the night owls

Close: every Wednesday and New Year holidays (12/28-1/4)

Website: www.birdingpal.org (for birding contacts)

Tel: 06-6613-5556

Go for a walk at Osaka Nanko Bird Sanct- uary (ONBS) in Osaka’s port and you may think that all those vested, binocular-bear- ing twitchers are hurling insults at you. Don’t be offended, these are just the monikers of some of the birds you may see at one of Japan’s most important wetlands. ‘Twitchers’ are passionate bird- spotters who actively pursue rare birds in their native habitats, and while they might be at the butt end of a few jokes, over 100,000 twitchers twitch away happily at Nanko Sanctuary each year, getting goose-bumps as they observe Osaka Bay’s transitory and long-term avian residents. Don’t be a bird brain … spread your wings and join them!

The sanctuary is in the northwest corner of the 1940s Sakishima land reclamation. By 1969, the number of waterfowl and shorebirds utilizing an undeveloped zone had increased so noticeably that NGOs began to improve and conserve the area. This in turn enticed migrating birds to stopover for a little R&R at the Nanko B&B. Many migratory species breed in northern China, Mongolia, Siberia and Alaska during June and July, then fly thousands of kilometres to Australia’s and Indonesia’s warmer climes for the non-breeding season, passing over Japan en route. Clearly, suitable stopover sites are critical during such long journeys. In recognition of the importance of a stable stopover habitat for migratory species, the Japanese government has ratified various international agreements, promi- sing to endeavour to establish sanctuaries and facilities for the management and protection of migratory birds and their environment. ONBS was opened in 1983 and is a 19-hectare area of woodland park (6.5ha) surrounding ponds, a lagoon, artificial tidal flats, and salt marsh (12.8ha).

Although direct access to the tidal flats and salt marsh is generally prohibited, clear observation of these areas is possible from two towers. The main, indoor facility has plenty of seats along the windows, which occupy 180 degrees of the round building’s walls. Visitors are free to open the windows to put binoculars and cameras through. There are several powerful tele- scopes, which cost ¥100 for three minutes, or visitors are welcome to set-up their own. It has information boards and touch- screen computers relaying data about the different species that visit (in Japanese only), a library, a meeting room for hire, and a display of wood-carved and preserved birds. The northern observation facility is open to the elements, merely a concrete rounded structure with wooden seats, viewing holes and pictures of Nanko’s winged guests. The early bird catches the worm and the best time to visit is when the tide is low, around dawn, or at dusk.

Happily, 236 species were identified at this site between 1983 and 2002, including more than 50 shorebird species. Moreover, 134 species of benthos (the collection of organisms living on or in sea or lake bottoms) were identi- fied between 2000 and 2002, including shell- fish, snails, worms, and crabs. This diversity indicates a healthy wetland and ONBS now plays a key role in educating people about wet- lands and water birds. They hold formal classes for local students and informal observation events are held every Sunday and on public holidays by volunteer staff. The Osaka Branch of the Wild Bird Society of Japan and the Nature Conservation Society of Osaka often conduct bird-watching events at ONBS. Bird- watching events are held by the Osaka Port and Harbour Bureau every May during Bird Week. Anyone can participate in these events and they are generally free. There are opportunities to get down and dirty in the intertidal area too. Since Ulva weed species grow abun- dantly in the tidal ponds during summer and autumn, the conservation program for removing them and collecting litter is performed four times per year by staff and volunteers.

This year’s autumn migration will soon begin, so, as the Google translation of the ONBS website says, “The bird chirping in our mind is comforted. Let us sit down and listen to the chirping!”

Text: Nicola Dixon • Photos: Nicola Dixon, Elena Naumova

Source: Kansai Scene

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