Close Encounters of the BIRD Kind – KOGERA (コゲラ) – Japan`s smallest woodpecker
By Avi Landau
Forty years ago, much of the land upon which the Tsukuba Science City would be built, consisted of woods and marshland. In the 1970`s large wooded tracts were cleared to build Soviet-style government housing (inspired by the Science City Akadem-Gorodok, located not far from Novosibirk). The new housing communities were called Matsushiro (once the Teshirogi woods), Takezono (once the Hanamuro woods), and Namiki (once the Sasagi woods).
Times changed, though, and as part of the Japanese government`s (mostly cosmetic) stabs at economic reform, these aging official housing complexes have been coming down, demolished to make way for privately owned, single-family homes. The Takezono and Namiki KANASHA (official housing) have already disappeared without a trace. The Matsushiro houses are now half-gone. Small areas remain though, with boarded up buildings and the land around them fenced off with wire creating a kind of temporary No-man`s Land. A perfect (yet temporary sanctuary for the birds made habitat-less by all the deforestation in the area (as more and more private housing developments go up).
Passing by in spring and summer was like being outside an aviary. I couldn`t actually see any wildlife, but the continuous twittering of birds – large (pheasant and magpie) and small (bush-warbler and bulbul, etc.) was entrancing.
Then last week, on a bitterly cold, windy winter`s day I passed by on my way to the post-office. I was curious as to what bird calls I would hear. Instead of a song, though, I heard a gentle, rapid-fire rapping (about eight raps per second, I would say) on one of the leafless road-side trees. I froze and scanned it. Nothing. Only the rapping. I stayed still for a few more seconds. Movement. Something tiny, and gray – with stripes! A KOGERA (Japanese pygmy woodpecker) – the first one I`ve ever seen in Tsukuba.
I stood and watch for a while, as the brutal winds stung my face. It moved around skillfully taking up position at another part of the trunk. It peck some more…. and then it flew off.
An encounter of 2 or 3 minutes… but it made my day!