Layover (mostly) birding in Narita, Japan

If you have an overnight layover in Narita, Japan, you should do two things to prepare:

Step 1 read the The Naturalest Naturalist: Birding Narita, Japan: When life gives you layovers, make liferades...
Step 2 read 10,000 Birds: Nice, Nice Birding in Narita

I found a lot of good info in Jeremy Gatten and Mike Bergin's posts, and can recommend the same hotel that they did: the International Garden Hotel Narita. I arrived at ~3:30pm from Jakarta, so after a free airport shuttle ride, I quickly dumped my luggage in the room, and headed straight outside for the Nekono River channel to catch the day's remaining light. That afternoon river route is generally highlighted in red below. There was a paved, then dirt, pathway that follows the channel as far as I had time to walk north. That route also had a nice endpoint--the Aeon Mall--with a food court and grocery store to stuff myself with Japanese food for dinner. Non-snack highlights (and all lifers) were spot-billed ducks, meadow buntings, and Japanese wagtails. You can find all my day's observations here and a link to the route here.

The next morning, I woke up for first light at ~5am and generally followed the yellow route mapped above, with lots of deviations within that loop into rice paddies and poking around residential roads. I generally stayed in the open paddies and fields early in the morning, and entered the forest patch later when there was more light. Other folks, who can bird by ear or are less concerned about photographing their targets, might feel less constrained. I did find a good messy patch at my most southern point, between a highway and train overpass, where I had a long beautiful look at a green pheasant pair. Other highlights included a mating pair of green tree frogs, three tits in a tree (Japanese, long-tailed, & varied), a buzzard, and multiple better looks of bull-headed shrikes compared to the day before. All of the day's observations can be found here, including a couple that still need ID confirmation.

I was somewhat disappointed to see so few waterbirds in the rice paddies, and no odonates. In the forest directly behind the hotel, I passed by an interesting shrine and cemetery in a clearing, encountering some butterfly species and a jack-in-the-pulpit type plant that I did not find elsewhere. Overall, in about 5 hours of daylight over 2 days, I posted almost 50 iNaturalist observations, including 32+ species, 2 two new-to-me amphibian species, and at least 12 lifer birds.

I took the 8:30am shuttle back to the airport, having left my packed bags at the front desk so I could squeeze every last minute outside. The bus schedules (as of April 2017) from and to the airport are posted below. My experience was ~45 minutes to travel from the airport to the hotel (the Garden Hotel is the 3rd hotel stop), and a somewhat quicker return trip to the airport.

The biggest difference between my route and Jeremy and Mike's above was that I missed the Naritasan Shinsho-ji Temple and its grounds. That was mostly a time/light management issue -- the open river made for a pleasant walk in the waning light, and in the morning, I preferred to stay closer to the hotel so I could maximize time outside before hustling back to the airport shuttle. Next time!

Tagging a few others (@c_michael_hogan @carrieseltzer @tstrauch) who appear to have also made Narita layovers to see if they have advice/comments to add, and a local (@harumkoh).

Posted by muir muir, May 05, 2017 18:05

Observations

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 05:14 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Japanese Wagtail Motacilla grandis

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 05:16 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 05:16 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 05:17 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Black-backed Wagtail Motacilla alba ssp. lugens

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 05:19 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 05:27 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 05:29 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 05:35 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Japanese Tit Parus minor

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 05:37 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 05:41 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 05:42 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 05:45 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 05:47 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Description

"Eastern Spot-billed Ducks are more closely related to North America's Mottled, American Black, and Mexican ducks than they are to Mallards, which occur sympatrically in East Asia." see https://www.jstor.org/stable/4090327?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Photos / Sounds

What

Eurasian Green-winged Teal Anas crecca ssp. crecca

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 05:52 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 05:54 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 06:01 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Short-tailed Eurasian Moles Tribe Talpini

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 06:08 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Japanese Tree Frog Hyla japonica

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 10:20 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Red Swamp Crayfish Procambarus clarkii

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 10:25 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

Observer

muir

Date

April 24, 2017 10:31 PM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 05:09 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 05:18 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 05:16 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Orbweavers Family Araneidae

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 05:20 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Oriental Greenfinch Chloris sinica

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 05:20 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 05:33 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Fringed Iris Iris japonica

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 05:45 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Japanese Tit Parus minor

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 05:49 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 05:50 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Varied Tit Sittiparus varius

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 05:54 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Pipits Genus Anthus

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 06:01 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Japanese Green Pheasant Phasianus colchicus ssp. versicolor

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 06:14 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 06:14 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 06:21 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Brown-eared Bulbul Hypsipetes amaurotis

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 06:32 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 06:35 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Japanese Bush Warbler Horornis diphone

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 06:43 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Description

Furtive and obscured in reeds.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 07:01 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Red Deadnettle Lamium purpureum

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 07:09 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 07:19 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Gray-faced Buzzard Butastur indicus

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 07:25 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Schlegel's Green Tree Frog Zhangixalus schlegelii

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 07:35 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 07:40 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Old World Swallowtail Papilio machaon

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 07:59 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Japanese Copper Lycaena phlaeas ssp. daimio

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 08:19 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Pale Grass Blue Pseudozizeeria maha

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 08:21 AM EDT

Place

Narita (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

Observer

muir

Date

April 25, 2017 07:53 AM EDT

Comments

Thumb

Great journal post for maximising observation time at a Narita layover, Matt @muir ! You beat me to this idea for Narita, but your route was much more imaginative than mine! I chose to stay at the Narita Hilton, after studying the google earth maps before my trip and seeing all the proximate forested land. I still know not who owns the lands, but the Hotel staff said i was free to roam the forest on both sides of the Hilton....sometimes on trails and sometimes not. I was quite enthused with the plethora of forest tree species as well as understory features in this local area...much more than i expected in a basically built up area. There were birds present, but not readily visible with the dense forest canopy, mostly coniferous. I was just happy to see so much diversity on my morning improvised walk, even if mostly plantlife and fungi. Best, Michael

Posted by c_michael_hogan almost 4 years ago (Flag)
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Wow! I am super impressed with your route and planning. My Narita overnight layover last year was the completely unplanned—@maryeford and I were only supposed to connect through Narita for a few hours before traveling on to South Korea, but our flight left 8 hours late so we barely made it to the airport before their nightly cut off and spent most of our layover sleeping. The next morning before the airport it was a near-constant light rain, so I only managed a few observations right outside the hotel. If I pass through again I'll take your tips!

Posted by carrieseltzer almost 4 years ago (Flag)
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Thanks Carrie and Michael. The Hilton wasn't so far away from my hotel, I think it was actually the first stop of the shuttle from the airport. Glad you enjoyed your forest walk. And glad you made the most of an unplanned layover Carrie (ugh!).

I was inspired to write this up after finding Jeremy Gatten's Narita blogpost so helpful. He ended his post with "If you find this useful and end up doing something in similar vein, please take the time to write up your own report to help out future travelers," so I figured I had to do it for karma. If I write more trip/site reports in the future for other locations, what kind of info is useful for people? I tend to like to explore areas on my own, but appreciate logistical tips like where to park and trailhead coordinates (and where to eat!).

Posted by muir almost 4 years ago (Flag)

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