The last of the wild born "Toki", Nipponia nippon, Japanese Crested Ibis died in 2003. In 2008, 10 birds from a breeding program on Sado Island, Niigata, were released into the wild.
On Sunday, August 2 2009, my birding friend Mr Honma, called and asked if I'd like to try and see a Toki. Late that the afternoon, we drove to a fairly residental area with a heavily tree-lined river. When we arrived, I was surprised to see what seemed to be hundreds of people lining a bridge and roads by the river. Cars were parked illegally and police were driving by with a loud speaker asking people to move on. We soon found a place to put the car and walked back up onto the bridge. I could see people around me and down by the river pointing to a group of trees about 300 metres up the river, below us. I couldn't see anything. Suddenly excited voices and sighs filled the air and I could see a large, white bird flying up the river towards us. I stood motionless for a moment, reminded of watching an Australian White Ibis Threskiornis molucca in flight. I soon woke up and reached for my camera bag which was still zipped up. Panicing, I got it open, reached in and felt my sweat drip around the lens. Unfortunately, I'd prepared a 400mm lens with an added 1.5X teleconvertor thinking I'd be using it on a tripod. It was too big and slow for hand-holding. I lifted the camera. A butterfly flapped its wings in western Brazil, and I shook as the camera slowly focussed. I guess it was about 5.30pm + and light was poor but I have uploaded the best of my results. I would have been better off with a 300mm lens for the overhead encounter but it was a wonderful experience. The perched photographs were taken with the a fieldscope and digital camera through the mesh siding of the bridge so they're also not as clear as I'd like, but anyway, I hope I'll have many more chances to meet a Toki!