More than 60,000 white-fronted geese gather at Miyajimanuma marsh in Bibai, Hokkaido, in preparation for their long migration north later this month. (Nobuhiro Shirai)

BIBAI, Hokkaido--Taking a breather before their long northward migration to the Russian Far East, tens of thousands of white-fronted geese are gathered at Miyajimanuma marsh here, creating a breathtaking spring spectacle.

More than 60,000 birds had arrived at the marsh located northeast of Sapporo by April 16, according to the Miyajimanuma waterfowl and wetlands center.

In the early morning, the migratory birds take off as a squawking mass from the marsh where they have been nesting.

Flocks of the white-fronted geese rise in unison to reduce the risk of being attacked by predators.

By day, they eat in the surrounding area to build up strength for their migration toward the end of April, and return to the marsh at dusk.

In spring and autumn, birdwatchers and photographers flock to Miyajimanuma, known as one of the largest stopover sites for migrating white-fronted geese.

The freshwater lake surrounded by rice paddies near a bend of the Ishikarigawa river is a registered wetlands under the Ramsar Convention.