1 Oct 2017

Dancing Birds

Mute Swan © HIH Princess Takamado
Mute Swan © HIH Princess Takamado
By HIH Princess Takamado

'Through the Lens', Fujingaho Magazine, October 2017

Click here to view pdf

Photos and text: Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado

English Translation: Asia Club, a WBSJ Volunteer Group (YOKOYAMA Kazuko and KASE Tomoko)

July last year, I visited the Netherlands to attend a European tournament for the Japanese archery.   The Netherlands is known as “a low country” or “a water country”, with approximately half its land at one meter or less above sea level.   So people have been forced to be inventive in various ways to build a nation where they can lead a comfortable and safe life.   They drained the land by building dikes and pumping out the water into ditches using windmills.   The reclaimed land is called polder.   People move around by boat, instead of car, and some register larger boats as their residence.   Thus canals and ditches are part of their life, being recognized as roads. 

Common Tern © HIH Princess Takamado

Out of the town, the giant blue sky with floating white clouds, extensive flat farmlands and cattle scattered about welcomed me.  That’s exactly a scenery straight out of the 19th century paintings.   It was really beautiful, but at the same time, I understood well that the sea level rise as a result of global warming would have a significantly negative effect on the country’s existence.

Here I would like to show you some photos I took at Lake of Naarden on the morning of my departure for Japan. In 1905, when a proposal to use the lake as a dump was discussed at the Amsterdam city council, the citizens launched a campaign against it and abandoned the bill in the end.   Knowing this event led to the establishment of the Nature Conservation Society of the Netherlands, I felt very glad to be able to visit such a symbolic place.

Naarden Lake, the Netherlands © HIH Princess Takamado

I arrived at the lake so early as 5:30 in the morning, but still only 5 hours were allowed me to photograph.   That morning birds were quite cooperative to me.   The early-morning nature reserve of Naarden was breathtakingly beautiful and rich.   I moved around by boat with my camera set ready, listening to the story of the nature conservation activities and bird research.   I really felt the water level higher, compared with the land.

Birds are active early in the morning and often show unexpected actions, letting us find new facts.   Light is of great importance in photographing to illuminate birds’ faces, shining softly from sideways.   Partly helped by the water surface effectively working as a reflector board, I could take some photos I myself would give full marks.   From those photos I selected some of dancing birds which might make you feel as if you were hearing ballet music.

Purple Heron © HIH Princess Takamado

The first photo is of a pair of mute swans making a heart shape.   You could use it on a program of “Swan Lake”.   The second is of terns.   Terns have a compact trunk body with wings like those of a glider and short legs, thus the whole body is suitable for flying a long time and swooping down to catch fish.   This is why they look as if dancing elegantly and beautifully while flying about.   Lastly let me show you the photo of the moment a purple heron flies off the tree top.   I cannot but laugh whenever I see this photo as it looks like a rather big ballet dancer, don’t you think so?

In the 1990’s, a biology book entitled “Air and Water” was published.   It described the difference between the two fluids, air and water, and their influence on all the living organisms on earth.   Watching dancing birds in a water country, the Netherlands, I felt like motivated to read that somewhat difficult book again after a long interval.