Saturday, 4 January 2014

Yamato River, Osaka

The lower Yamato River forms the border between Osaka and Sakai cities in Osaka prefecture. It's shallow canalised river with a sandy bed flowing through a densely populated urban area. It's tidal for its final 2km before emptying into Osaka Bay, above that point there are extensive, vegetated sandy areas where people practise golf, play with radio controlled cars and anything else people do in an urban open space. There are even a few birds sometimes. Below the high tide point the number of ducks increases and at the mouth there are huge flocks of Common Pochard, Greater Scaup and Tufted Duck. Kentish Plover are common in spring but other waders are unusual. The main attraction of the river is the gulls that congregate there.

Gulling on the Yamatogawa isn't the same as a fishing harbour with gulls sitting about on roof tops and lining breakwaters where there's always somewhere to re-check, or at a landfill with birds constantly on the move. On the Yamato birds come onto the lowest sandbar not too affected by high tide. This can change from year to year depending on sand extraction which always seems to be going on somewhere along the lower reaches. Very often the gulls will be on a 50-100m stretch of river with numbers building from late morning as birds come in to bathe. Birds are coming and going through the afternoon until they all fly off to Osaka Bay late afternoon.

Getting there is easy. Take the subway to Suminoekoen, the final stop of the Yotsubashi Line and walk south down R29 to the river. Because of dredging gulls have been gathering upstream close to the next bridge the last couple of winters, but that could easily change so scan for gulls from the bridge. It's better to view the river from the opposite side to keep the sun at your back.

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