Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Rotten weather at Biwako

I had a good day out in Mie last Friday and had planned on staying the night to get a bit more gulling in the following day, however that evening the forecast promised an unremitting 80% - 90% chance of rain throughout Saturday so I decided to give up and head home. In the event there wasn't a drop of rain all day in Kyoto which had been due exactly the same weather as Mie according to my 'friends' at the Met Office. Thanks guys. So Saturday night I went up to the northern end of Lake Biwa, after all with only a 10% chance of rain limited to late afternoon the weather would be fine to check out the wildfowl situation. A ten percent chance; maybe the their forecasting ability is fine, it's just their math that's off.

I began the day in the mountains north of the lake and at 6:30 the clouds overhead weren't yet heavy but with fog lower down and ominous clouds approaching from the north things didn't look too good for the rest of the day. The mountains were fairly quite, reasonable numbers of the commoner finches and buntings, a good few Red-flanked Bluetails but surprisingly little evidence of woodpeckers, only the odd Jay, and definitely no Copper Pheasants. A stiff-winged Peregrine soaring high above was the only unexpected sighting. By 7:30 the opening spots of rain were signaling what was to come and I made my way down into the deepening fog below, and then on to the lake.

"And here's one I made earlier", which ought to strike a chord with Brits, I took this shot of Bluetail a week earlier on Mt Ibuki.
 It proved difficult to check the more distant ducks through the grey filter draining the lowlands of colour so I spent most of my time driving slowly round the fields and managed to track down two flocks of Tundra Swans (bewickii) by following birds flying 'inland' away from the lake.

A flock of Tundra Swans feeding on the fields.

Those Swans were close to the lake but another flock was two or three kilometres away and included a presumed columbianus. Going for the second flock really paid dividends as I came across two Common Starlings for the second time this weekend. I think I'd only previously seen one Common Starling in Kansai, so four in three days is good going.

A presumed Whistling Swan with the Bewick's.

Bewick's Swans.

Common Starlings with White-cheeked.

Another bird that caught my eye while slowly checking the fields was a strikingly large heron that flew up from a ditch and settled in a field. It 'felt' too large for the local modesta Great Egret the moment I saw it and sure enough, when I caught up with it, it had telltale yellow on the tibiae. There was a second modesta on the lake in front of the wild bird center at Kohoku, this seems a favourite spot for them, but the views are never great even when the weather is.

'Western' Great Egret on the fields.

Another with more obviously yellow legs.

Surprises through the murk weren't quite over; two Whiskered Terns hawking over a roadside pond stopped me in my tracks. I seem to be seeing more of this species nowadays, that's at least 10 this autumn, I don't know if that's down to luck or whether more are turning up here. Unsurprisingly however, it wasn't possible to get an even half decent shot of them.

Grey on grey: Whiskered Terns.

Now you'd be forgiven for thinking images of birds can't get much worse than those... but they can. As proof I'd offer the following image of four Eastern Marsh Harriers coming in to roost.

Four a group of five Eastern Marsh Harriers high over their roost site as the last of the poor light was giving up.

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