Lake Utonai, a blue gem on the island of Hokkaido 北海道のウトナイ湖
A birder's paradise in northern Japan
Located an hour and a half from Sapporo, Lake Utonai is a small blue pearl lost in the middle of the Hokkaido countryside. Its 275 hectares and 9 kilometers in circumference, the lake is not only one of the last vestiges of the second largest marshland in Japan, but also one of the largest nature reserves for migratory birds in the country. Discover more about this unique and little known lake.
One of the biggest wetland in Japan
Located 11 kilometers from the town of Tomakomai on the island of Hokkaido, Lake Utonai is one of the most mysterious lakes on the island.
Located in the middle of the Hokkaido countryside, it is surrounded by forests and small rivers. An undeniable charm, which adds a little je ne sais quoi to its marshy expanses.
With 275 hectares of water, 9 kilometers in circumference, the lake is one of the last vestiges of the Yufutsu-genya wetland, the second largest wetland in Japan just after the Kushiro Shitsugen also located on Hokkaido Island.
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Dimensions that would then have something to delight water sports enthusiasts, and yet, it is another audience that they have seduced!
With an average depth of 60 centimeters, the lake is an AirBnB for the migratory birds in northern Japan! Due to this characteristic, the lake became the first nature reserve for birds in Japan.
An animal reserve protected by the State
Very popular with ornithology enthusiasts, Lake Utonai has been the subject of numerous preserves.
Today it is home to the first sanctuary dedicated to our feathered friends following the support of the Wild Bird Society of Japan in 1981, the Japanese society for the protection of wild birds.
The area has also been placed under state protection since 1982 to protect the lake's fauna.
The lake was used as a reserve of raw materials throughout the 1970s for local industries, which greatly affected the life of the marsh.
Among the species that frequent the banks, swans are numerous!
Credit: Flick/ harunirenoki
Every day more than 1000 birds come to stop at the lake during migration.
Credit: Flick/ o10ko_yama
Lake Utonai is home to an impressive number of birds, with more than 270 species seen around the lake, the wetland would include more than half of all the species found in Japan! With each migration, more than 1,000 birds per day stop in the area!
These figures have motivated associations and the government to protect the lake, especially since it is the natural habitat of several endangered species.
Every year many species of ducks, geese and swans are among the 'regulars' who choose the lake as a base in Hokkaido. Also seen at the lake are unusual birds of prey species like the peregrine falcon and the white-tailed eagle, a species whose numbers are rising (the white-tailed eagle was categorized as 'extinct species' in some parts of Europe before being reintroduced).
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This wealth of wild animals has attracted international attention since the lake is officially an animal reservation from the Ramsar Convention (a global body responsible for the protection of wetlands that are home to many species of birds) since 1991.
Lake Utonai also serves as a nature reserve for other animals such as squirrels and foxes.
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