Sunday 10 November 2013

Swan Goose

Having had other commitments last weekend I was really frustrated I couldn't go to Kanazawa to look for a Crested Ibis I'd heard had arrived at Kahoku Higata. There were also 50+ Common Crossbills in Kaihin Park which I wanted to see as the are many flocks in Kansai now are fairly mobile and hard to catch up with. I was able to clear my schedule for last Friday and drove up overnight on Thursday, getting an hour sleep in a convenience store car park before dawn. At the first pre-dawn flush of light flocks of Rooks were overhead making their way out onto the open fields and as soon as I unpacked my gear I followed.

I found two Daurian Jackdaws in the first party of Rooks I encountered but in the next three hours of driving round the fields there was no sign of the Ibis. There were good numbers of winter ducks in but as yet no Tundra Swans. A Hen Harrier but surprisingly no Eastern Marsh. It's quite possible the Ibis was lurking somewhere on the huge expanse of fields but it could have taken all day just to drive round and still miss it in a ditch or obscured behind trees, buildings or embankments. So I gave up.

I went to the park but all I found were lots of birders standing in knots or like me wandering forlornly round looking for anything to brighten their day. The Azure-winged Magpies were good, as always. I always get a kick out seeing the Magpies here, this the closest place to Kyoto I ever see them. I didn't think the Crossbills were going to put in an appearance and certainly didn't want to spend all day waiting so when rain started I left.

The plan was to drive south to the Katano Kamo Ike area and Fukui goose fields but as it was still pouring I went straight past the junction with the idea of checking out northern Lake Biwa instead. It's not often I feel grateful for heavy showers but as soon as I arrived at the lake I found a Swan Goose with the Taiga Beans. If it hadn't been for the rain, I never would have visited Biwako.

It's seven years since I saw a Swan Goose, in a flock of Greater White-fronts in Fukui and it had given me an impression of such large size that I was taken aback to see this bird was smaller than some of the Beans. The goose was asleep most of the time and by the time I got away there wasn't enough light left to check out any of Lake Biwa's other key locations.

So after a promising start it seemed the birding day had fizzled out with a total failure to see target species and a waste of daylight at the wheel, only to be saved at the death by the totally unexpected. If only all disappointing days could end on a high!

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