Our first morning at Lake Bi-wa dawned wet and grey but some of us were up at dawn and soon scanning the lake. There were quiet a few ducks about: Goosander, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Shoveler and Smew (three males) and Yellow-nibbed, plus Great Crested Grebes. In the grounds of the hotel, from our balcony viewpoint, we had Dusky and Pale Thrushes, White-cheeked Starling, Black-backed Wagtail, Little Egret and a flyby Merlin. A smallish bird caught my attention and in checking it found our first Long-billed Plover at the edge of a small pool.
Female Daurian Redstart
After breakfast we drove north around the lakeside to Makino where we again scanned the lake. Falcated Ducks were quite common and as well as the species we had seen this morning we added Slavonian Grebe, Temnminck's Cormorant, Great Egret and Black-tailed Gull plus a female Daurian Redstart and a Japanese Wagtail. At another lakeside stop further on we found a lone male Mandarin, the usual ducks, a single Red-flanked Bluetail and our first Black-faced Bunting. We had hardly got moving in the van again when we saw a group of passerines by the roadside and quickly got out. The birds flew on a way and we decided to weather the rain and to walk a little way along. We had found a mixed flock of birds comprising Black-faced Buntings, Great, Varied and Long-tailed Tits, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, a 'hondoensis' Great Spotted Woodpecker, with buffy face and breast, and, surprisingly, our third Japanese Accentor of the trip! We also had a fly-past Grey Wagtail.
Next stop was some farmed fields where we admired five Grey-headed Lapwings, both in flight and on the ground, and watched a Bull-headed Shrike. After one photo of the lapwing my camera stopped working, I think due to the damp. It started working again later after it warmed up. Most irritating!
Another stop and we added Taiga Bean Geese to the trip list. A stop by a harbour jutting out in the lake surprised us because we found about 10 Barn Swallows feeding by the harbour arm. Another bird of note here was Black-necked Grebe.
Small lake north of Biwa-ko
Next we went to a couple of lakes Armas knew where he was sure we'd see Baikal Teal. The first one had a lot of wildfowl on it: Mallard, Yellow-nibbed Duck, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Common Teal, Bean Geese, Gadwall and two male and three female Smew. Despite intensive searching we failed to locate a Baikal Teal but Peter found a Northern Goshawk. Just as we were to leave, some of the group already in the van, I found a White's Thrush. Peter was near and saw it and then he ran to the van to get the others. The bird showed nicely but only in flight, but at least we all saw it. The second lake was much smaller and held mainly a couple of hundred Common Teal. We also drove, rather randomly it seemed, along small roads looking for Green Pheasant. We did see a flock of 20 or so Meadow Buntings but no pheasants.
February 9th, our last morning in the Bi-wa area before our flight to Kagoshima on Kyushu. We worked hard to find a Scaly-sided Merganser but despite checking all the mergansers we saw were unlucky. I decided to count Falcated Ducks today and the morning gave us 91 males and 24 females, although the females were most likely undercounted. We did add new species to the trip list: a male Red-crested Pochard, which is very unusual in Japan, and eight Olive-backed Pipits. Graham also located another White's Thrush, this time feeding quite close to the road, and we spent a while admiring this bird as it feed in the open only a few metres away.
We dropped off the van at Kyoto and caught the bus to the airport in Osaka. Armas again had insufficient funds to cover the flights and this time Peter picked up the bill for five flights to Kagoshima and five flights from Kagoshima to Amami! Ian paid for his and Claire's flights as they wanted return tickets: they planned to spend some time in Kyoto after visiting Kyushu instead of accompanying us to the southern islands.