Wednesday 14 May 2014

Ashyu Forest (central Kyoto prefecture)

The first time I visited Ashyu Forest was an overnight camping trip with the local branch of WBSJ over 20 years ago. Nowadays I use the term "Ashyu Forest" very loosely to cover a much wider area in the hills north of Kyoto city. In practise a car is an absolute necessity to access any of the excellent locations and it would be impossible to do the area justice in a day. Having said that most species can be found throughout the area and focusing on one area is probably the best strategy. From Kyoto city drive north on Route 367 then turn right onto what is marked briefly as the R781 on the Google map before reverting to R367. At night this road can be good for mammals and I've seen Ural Owls and Japanese Night Heron at Dawn. There are many Asian House martin colonies under bridges along the road and Brown Dippers on the river. I also hear Ruddy Kingfishers and Japanese Scops Owls along here. Take the first left, after several kilometres, just past Omiya Shrine and you'll see a large sign saying Beechan Forest. Drive to the end, where there's a small car park, a toilet block and a chain across the road, sometimes the later stretches can be blocked, or partly blocked, by by landslips in the rainy season. Walk up the (drivable) track to a gate at the top where there's a sign board with a map showing the various walking routes. The big advantage with this area is the number of walkable trails, elsewhere the birds seem equally good but hillsides are frequently too steep to allow access.

Map of walking trails.

The main habitats are primary forest (particularly at Ashyu), mature secondary growth, conifer plantations and rice paddies where narrow, flat valley bottoms allow strings of small villages to worm their way into the hills.

First light over the forest while walking up to the above map.

A favourite high-valley bottom for Crested Kingfisher and the more widespread Ruddy Kingfisher.

Coming from the south turn left after Omiya Shrine, and drive till the end of the road then continue uphill on foot to reach the early morning shot site then drop down into the following valley to the river in the second shot.

Breeding birds here include Japanese, Japanese Scops, Oriental Scops, Ural and Brown Hawk Owl; Ruddy and Crested Kingfisher; Great Spotted, White-backed and Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker; Oriental, Lesser and Northern Hawk Cuckoo (plus Common in spring); Japanese Thrush; Blue and White, Narcissus and Asian Brown Flyctcher (oddly, I've never seen Paradise here); Ashy Minivet; Grey Nightjar. One one ocassion I heard Fairy Pitta here. I've never seen Copper Pheasant or Japanese Night Heron here though I'm sure both will occur. Near Omiya Shrine is the closest spot I've seen Copper Pheasant and a little further down the road I've had early morning roadside Japanese Night Heron.
Mammals I've seen here are Japanese Squirrel, Japanese Macaque, Large Japanese Mole (only once, swimming across a stream!), Black Bear, Japanese Marten, Masked Palm Civet, Racoon Dog, Japanese Lesser Flying Squirrel, Japanese Hare, Red Fox Sika Deer, Wild Boar, various bats and a few mice. I've had Japanese Serow not far from here but I'm still waiting for Japanese Badger.

I've explored most roads further south than this where birds and mammals are much the same though Copper Pheasant and Japanese Night Heron have been more regular in my experience but that's probably no more than coincidence.

I've seen five species of snake in the area:-

Japanese Rat Snake.

Four-striped Rat Snake.

Tiger Keelback.

Japanese Mamushi.

My only Japanese Keelback was wary and really fast so I couldn't get a shot, actually the Tiger Keelbacks I've seen were all difficult to approach too.

The area is also great for amphibians, salamanders, frogs and toad.

Japanese Toad.

Some kind of tree frog on a post in the forest at night.

Tree frog "nests" are common and will suddenly appear over a short-lived puddle on a rutted track.

Fire-bellied Salamanders can be so common you have to watch where you step.

I presume these are Japanese Brown Frog.

I'm not sure which species this is, in short grass adjoining paddyfields. 

Daruma Pond Frog in a valley bottom.


No comments:

Post a Comment