10 Things I Didn’t Think I Would Need in Nanae, Japan (Part 2)

By Ben Mirin, CIR

2. A fly rod

I did not expect to see salmon jumping in the Europe River at this time of year.

A week ago, I was awake at a time I only reserve for two activities: bird watching and fishing.  The former was on my agenda, and I had leapt out of bed after a long night of karaoke to meet my friend Tanaka-san for an expedition to find White-tailed and Stellar’s Sea Eagles near Yakumo, a coastal town roughly 1 hour from Nanae by car.

Together with Tanaka-san’s daughter, Miu, we spent the morning cramped in the car, driving among different lookout points that Tanaka-san had memorized.  At each stop, we lowered our windows and peered through the freezing rain to scan treetops and shorelines for birds.  The name Yakumo has a meaning: 1 week and 8 days of rain.  I wondered what could attract eagles to such a place.

The answer became clear when the rain let up.  Stepping outside momentarily, I walked to the edge of a nearby bridge and looked out over the river.  Hundreds of spawning salmon were tailing and splashing all along the shore.

Almost on cue, eagles began to cry in the cold morning air.  Looking up I saw dozens of them circling over the water in search of the fish. Dozens more were clearly visible in clouds of black and white plumage that peppered the surrounding hillsides.  I had never seen so many of these huge raptors in one place.

A White-tailed Eagle in flight

These were not the only phantoms to emerge during this brief dry spell.  Ducks and gulls entered into larger parts of the river from their refuges near the shore, a family of deer ran by the road, and a rare Pied Kingfisher passed fleetingly overhead.  After enduring a slow and rainy morning, and even a brief hailstorm, the two Tanakas and I had earned a magnificent reward.  We stayed out in Yakumo until nearly five o’clock, by which time another storm was approaching over the summit of Mt. Komagatake.

Fly-fishing and bird watching go well together.  Each activity can bring you to beautiful parts of the world, and as this experience demonstrates, they can be practiced simultaneously.  When I return to the Europe River in Yakumo, I hope I will be prepared to do both.

…To be continued…

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3 Replies to “10 Things I Didn’t Think I Would Need in Nanae, Japan (Part 2)”

  1. Wonderful post, Ben! As an avid birder here in Concord I really loved your description of the eagles appearing arriving for their own early morning fishing.

    The photo of Mount Komagatake is a stunner. Have you met Mizuhuo? I stayed with her family on the shores of Lake Onuma, and walked under the shadow of Mount Komagatake a number of times. This post reminded me of my time with them.

    Happy holidays, and keep those posts coming! R.

    1. Hi Stu, thanks for your post. I hope we cross paths soon. I’m always happy to meet fellow birders.
      I checked out your Hakodate birding blog. Great photos! I’ve added it to my blog roll.

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