Imagine the sky filled with thousands of squawking geese, their wings flapping furiously, as they enjoy a mini-vacation on their epic 4,000 kilometer bi-annual migration. You probably thought about the great expanses of Canada, or perhaps the steppe of Central Asia.
For a two week period each spring and fall, the white-fronted geese arrive just outside Sapporo at Miyajima-numa, a relatively small wetlands on the outskirts of Bibai City. They come all the way from Russia, where they spend summers breeding and fattening up off the rich taiga, with few predators or people around.
Every fall, they undertake a long journey south to Miyagi Prefecture, where they survive the short but freezing winter. Along their migration route lies Hokkaido, Bibai to be specific, where rice left over from the harvest of hardworking local farmers provides excellent nutrition for their journey. The young chicks, on their first and most perilous journey south, receive much needed rest. And among the bogs, standing in a small cluster, are nature lovers in the know, observing perhaps what is Hokkaido’s least-known natural wonder. Indeed, this small and humble Miyajima-numa was listed by the UNESCO Ramsar Convention as a protected site in 2002, alongside some of the world’s most incredible wetlands.
We arrived just before sunset at the start of their two-week visit to witness 32,000 geese streaking through the sky, flying in classic ”V” formations before descending sharply into the bog. There was magic in the air and the feeling of the world as it should be: healthy, balanced and interconnected. These visitors from the far north brought with them far more than just a brood of chikcs - they brought hope, vitality and inspiration - that in spite of all the changes facing our planet there still remains mystery and magic, a hope for living alongside nature and not just destroying it, a glimmer of a paradise lost.
The bi-annual migration typically occurs from the end of September to mid-October, and again for two weeks in mid-April, both at sunrise when they leave the bog in unison to fill their bellies, and at dusk when they return to take rest. For the simplicity of their story, and the fleeting time they visit, it’s an inspiring and off-the-beaten-track adventure just one hour from Sapporo. Enjoy Nature, Be Happy!
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