Rice Fields with Birds
'Through the Lens', Fujingaho Magazine, August 2014
Photos and text: Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado
English Translation: Asia Club, WBSJ Volunteer Group (TAKEUCHI Kyoko, KASE Tomoko)
Japanese scenery of rice fields is really beautiful. The Japanese have achieved mastery of utilizing their limited land in an effective and exquisite way. One of such examples is the terraced paddy in Noto peninsular. Certainly fallow rice fields are increasing and some fields are installed with the latest agricultural machinery and appliances, yet it is a relief that the seasonal landscapes through the train windows seem not to have changed a lot until now.
When Prince Takamado, my late husband, and I visited Kenya in 1999, we inspected the rice fields project managed by JICA. The fields spread out against Kilimanjaro. What greatly interested me was the difference of the rice fields of the two countries in spite of the apparent resembles of the whole sceneries. Without baobab trees, the sight itself was very alike Japanese one. I was deeply impressed when someone, no one knows who, started singing while planting rice, and the song finally ended up as a massive and fine chorus. People spontaneously moved to their songs and went on working joyfully, which was totally different from our silent and earnest working style. I could catch the very rhythm of African Continent we wouldn’t be able to feel anywhere else. It was the exact moment when I well realized that the climate and cultural characteristics clearly expresses itself even in such a simple example as the rice-planting style.
Black-winged Pratincole; Little Stint; Common Greenshank; Little Curlew. Photos: HIH Princess Takamado
Rice fields have rich ecosystem, the top of which is occupied by birds. The birds shown here are species that mainly inhabit wetland or grassy fields. In their wintering areas, they are seen at tidal flats and river mouths. Shorebirds are particularly hard to distinguish and photograph, for their plumage is too quiet in color and merge with the surroundings. Some species are decreasing in number worldwide. That is, I believe, due to destruction of habitats by development, overhunting for food and entertainment, and predation by the purposely introduced animals.
Cattle Egrets prefer insects, spiders, grasshoppers and frogs. Snipes feed on rice field creatures such as tadpoles, dytiscidae, and earthworms, and large Indian Pratincoles prey on flying dragonflies, flies or beetles. The bills of these birds are different from each other. Even among the same family Scolopacidae, bills are different in length, color and curve.
By changing plumage color, shapes of the bills, length of the legs and so on, birds have adapted themselves to their own ecosystems, while we, human beings, have only developed the brains without changing their bodies a lot. Making best use of the power of fire, we have not only devised and supplied with the needs such as food, clothing and shelter, but innovated our transportation system. In no time we have extended our habitable areas as deep into each corner of the earth as possible. On the other hand, the species which have changed themselves physically to adapt to their environment are easily influenced and damaged even by the slightest change of the environment.
If we do wish to continue to keep these beautiful landscapes much longer, constant and good attention must be paid to all the creatures sustaining our ecosystem. We should learn to coexist with them smartly. That is the duty laid on us, because we occupy the top of this rich ecosystem of the earth.