Tuesday 29 October 2013


Lake Biwa hosts the nearest wintering geese to Kyoto, with over 200 Taiga (Middendorff's) Bean annually at Kohaku-cho at the north east end of the lake and there is also a small but increasing number of Greater White-fronted with them. Rarer geese sometimes occur, I've seen Swan, Tundra Bean but unfortunately missed the best of all, a Greylag.

Taiga on Lake Biwa, February 2014.

The geese are usually quite distant here, often swimming or asleep on the wrong side of the island, fortunately this tiny Tundra Bean wandered into the foreground.

A family of Tundra in the foreground, middendorffii behind.

Further north into Fukui there are huge flocks of Greater White-front, especially around Sakai-cho, Fukui city and on up into Ishikawa where there are more Taiga Bean at Katano Kamo Ike. Every winter there'll be a few Lesser White-fronts to reward effort sifting through the flocks. In 2006 there was also a Swan Goose and Cackling Goose with the White-fronts. The former is rare in Japan and the latter becoming more frequent further north.

This Greater White-front dropped onto Hegurajima as many singletons do in early October.

This old video-grab provides an excellent comparison of head and bill between the two species.

A poor quality video-grab of a very rare combination of geese.

Swan Goose with Taiga Beans on Lake Biwa, 8 November 2013. This goose wintered here.

Strictly speaking Lake Shinji (Shinjiko), Shimane isn't within Kansai but it's doable as a day trip with an overnight drive from Kyoto. It's worth spending longer if possible as it's a fantastic place for birding. In the winter of 2008/09 there were many rare birds wintering in the area and one of them was Snow Goose, a species which is much easier to see further north in Japan and can't be expected in Kansai but its presence to the west shows it is at least possible.

A fantastic bird to see within a day trip from Kyoto.

There are always a few Black Brant on the sea in the Tsu/Matsusaka area in Mie but they are invariably rather distant.

Black Brant looking very small off-shore with Mallards and Falcated Duck in Mie, Janurary 2014.

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