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Photos and text: Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado
English Translation: Asia Club, a WBSJ Volunteer Group (YOKOYAMA Kazuko, KASE Tomoko)
Spring is a season of beautiful flowers. Intending to show you some photos of birds with flowers, I searched through the bird photos I have taken only to find a few of them. The birds in the photos flying to cherry blossoms for nectar in particular were all Japanese White-eyes and Brown-eared Bulbuls showing all in spring. Whenever I went out to photograph birds in other seasons and came across with brilliantly blooming flowers, I wished with sigh any other birds might come to perch there, but basically no birds appeared. While we have the old expression “flowers, birds, winds and moon” as well as beautiful drawings of flowers and birds, why, in reality, do we seldom witness them together? I have embraced this question these several years, so I’ve tried to put it into writing this time.
Overseas birds can be seen gathering around flowers all the year-round. I, myself, have been able to see humming birds in Costa Rica, Brazil and Columbia, sunbirds in Egypt, and Hawaiian honeycreepers in Hawaii. They are all nectarivorous. Although they belong to different families, they look very similar. When I saw a sunbird for the first time, I even thought it as a hummingbird. Their characteristically small body and long and slender bills must be the result of evolution to suck up nectar in various places in the world. Flowers provide birds with nectar, and in return, birds carry the pollen to other flowers. This is the give-and-take relationship they have created in their habitats respectively. I cannot but admire this fascinating and inevitable evolution.
In japan, only in the flower season of spring, Brown-eared Bulbuls and Japanese White-eyes , both having thin bills, flock to suck up flower nectar, but it does not mean that other birds never come to do so. I suppose some of you may have seen sparrows and great tits eating cherry blossoms. As these birds do not have suitable bills to suck nectar, they break flowers to eat. Moreover, most birds in Japan start eating insects in summer, so they come to flowers less often. However, in Okinawa, Japanese White-eyes are likely to eat both nectar and insects through a whole year.
Now, why aren’t there birds in Japan that flock around flowers to suck nectar all year long? The reason might be that we have four seasons. Winter is cold here in Japan without flowers, so it is hard for such birds to survive as they usually live on flower nectar in countries of perpetual summer. I have seen hummingbirds in Canada and North America where there are four seasons like Japan. Different from Japan which is surrounded on all sides by the ocean, North and Latin Americas are contiguous with each other. When winter comers and flowers decrease there, birds can move southward. Thus it must be explained.
Noticing that there are less birds gathering around flowers in Japan, I have re-acknowledged the magnificence of our nature; that is the four seasons and birds living in such an environment. Japan is located to the east of Eurasia, lying long from north to south with as many as 3000 islands. It is an important place for migrant birds to winter, breed and stop over. That is why we can watch various birds in any season. The only concern I have felt through the lens these few years is the gradual change in those seasons. I suspect summer and winter have become longer, and spring and autumn, shorter. I hope to observe continuously how birds react to this situation.
What made me aware that birds do not flock around flowers all through a year was my desire to take both in one photo. Drawings of birds and flowers are just drawings to express the charm of the season in one scroll as beautifully as possible. Photography stands on different points. I would like to continue to take photos in one place and another, looking forward to encountering any new findings at any time.