Wednesday 30 October 2013


Tundra Swan Columbianus bewickii bewickii is the common swan of the region but is restricted to the Japan Sea side of the country therefore Lake Biwa (Biwako) is the closest to Kyoto it occurs. Some make it down towards the southern end of the lake but most remain at the northern end. It can be found at many other wetlands in the north of Kansai.

                                                                      Two adults.

                                                        Dark-billed immature, 18 January.

                                                 Immatures still lighter-billed, 2 December.

Tundra Swan C.c.columbianus also occurs in the region in small numbers and can be found at Lake Biwa or elsewhere but I don't find birds every year even though it might be expected that birds would return to the same location in successive winters, particularly where family groups are concerned.

Classic columbianus, a large individual with a tiny yellow tear drop in front of the eye.

Not all birds are as obviously columbianus, the following shots are of a family party at Kokoku, Biwako. The first bird would be a good contender in its own right but the second has quite extensive yellow on the bill. The immature has very limited pale areas on the bill and again looks good. Collectively they are quite convincing.

The adult with limited yellow on the bill.

The adult with more extensive yellow.

The young bird, Lake Biwa February 2008.

I've never encountered Whooper Swan at Lake Biwa and their appearance in the region seems unpredictable but it's possible to bump into singles mixed in with flocks of Tundra Swan.

Whooper Swan in southern Hokkaido.

Trumpeter Swan is a rarity in Japan and those that do occur would be expected in the north, so a bird at Lake Shinji (Shinjiko), Shimane prefecture came as a huge surprise and was really popular with birders, particularly as other birds at this location during the winter included Ruddy Shelduck, Pied Avocet, Common and Arctic redpolls and Snow Bunting.

                                              Trumpeter Swan with Tundra Swans.

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