Tuesday 29 October 2013


The name Ogura refers to an extensive area of arable land south of the Uji River, on the southern side of the city. Once a huge flood plain between the Uji and Kiso rivers it must have been spectacular for birds. Though now tamed it's still an attractive place for birds and offers something different to the hilly, forested habitat that otherwise surrounds Kyoto. Ogura is something of a misnomer as the closest station is Mukaijima on the Kintetsu line rather than Ogura, the next station down the line.


The fields can be very interesting in winter. Northern Lapwings often become even more numerous than the resident Grey-headed and in some winters it's possible to see a good variety of birds of prey, though Eastern Buzzard, Merlin, Peregrine and Eurasian Kestrel are the staples. Large flocks of Rooks disperse across the fields at first light and in most years they have at least the odd Daurian Jackdaw with them. A good cross section of passerines is possible too; this is the most consitent place locally to see Russet Sparrow, buntings are well represented with Rustic, Black-faced, Meadow and Reed all common while resident Chestnut-eared are more difficult to find. Pallas's Reed Bunting is very rare and the formerly regular Japanese Reed Bunting is far less likely nowadays. Dusky Thrushes are common and Naumann's Thrush can sometimes be found among them but it isn't to be expected. Major rares I've seen here include Rough-legged Buzzard (a big rare for this area), Fieldfare and Meadow Pipit.

In spring and autumn flocks of egrets dot the area, both Cattle and Intermediate are common migrants. If there are wet fallow fields, the place can be fantastic for waders and I've recorded over 30 species, but saddly the right conditions hardly ever coincide with peak wader passage. The drier areas can still be productive, I've been lucky enough to see a Little Whimbrel here but Latham's and Swinhoe's Snipe are both regular and in August Oriental Pratincole can usually be found. Migrant passerines are mainly birds of open country, Siberian Stonechat, pipits, wagtails and larks but I've also found Hoopoe and Middendorff's Warbler. A streaked Shearwater was exceptional!

The adjacent riparian habitat is excellent with reedbed, scrub and small areas of trees stretching for kilometres. Often I'll walk downstream from Mukaijima station to Yawata-shi on the Keihan line. The name of the river changes from Ujigawa to Yodogawa at Yodo, half way between the two places.
The Yodo valley is clearly an important flyway which can make for excellent birding and I've seen some great birds along the river, usual species include the four commoner flycatchers, Sakhalin Warbler, several thrushes, Chestnut-cheeked Starling, Japanese Yellow Bunting. Green Pheasant is common but not always easily seen and Long-billed Plover can be expected in suitable areas. Rarer species I've found include Whiskered Tern, Chinese Penduline Tit (formerly a more regular winter visitor), Black Redstart (a major rarity in Japan) and Little Bunting. Recently along the
Yodogawa there has been Great Grey Shrike, Isabelline Wheatear and Petchora Pipit. Anything could turn up along here.

This is arguably the best single location around Kyoto. The area has great potential and the combination of different habitats within a short distance makes for interesting birding. A day can be spent along the river and across the fields, or just a section can be accessed returning via the same railway station.

Take the Kintetsu line from Kyoto station and get off at Mukaijima immediately after crossing the Uji River (local train stop only, though the express can be taken if you change at Tambabashi), or use the subway and change to the Kintetsu line at Takeda. The fields are obvious to the west from the station with the river you've just crossed to your right. Alternatively take the Keihan line from Kyoto to Yawata-shi, directly after crossing the Yodo and Kiso rivers and walk back up river. If you start early morning Mukaijima is the better option to keep the sun behind you.


  1. sounds very interesting -- I'll hope to check it out soon (living in Kusatsu and looking to do some birding in the area).

  2. Ahh, I often work in Kusatsu but don't go birding there. Biwako is good that far south in winter but I tend to head up to the top end and it's already dark before I work my way that far south.

    1. Ps. There was a Pec Sand at Ogura last week while I was on Hegurajima.

  3. Thanks for the info and great photos. Perfect as I prepare for a few days in Kyoto (March 30-April 1). Excited for first chance to bird Japan. Will be looking for guide or birding pal, but in any case your advice here is fabulous.