Tundra Swans on Lake Biwa


On the third day of this new year, I drove up to northern Nagahama’s Kohoku-cho shore along the lakeside road. I went looking for migratory Tundra Swans (kohakucho コハクチョウ) on the lake since I had never photographed them on the lake.

Every autumn around late October, we always hear about the first arrival of Tundra Swans from Siberia. It’s a harbinger of winter for Shiga and those birds are beloved in Shiga. I’m not really a birdwatcher nor a wildlife photographer, but I decided that I’d better get some swan shots.

Fortunately, I spotted a few of them (top photo). A small family of swans among Taiga bean geese, also a migratory bird. Tundra Swans from northern Siberia have been wintering on Lake Biwa since 1971. They arrive in families. Swan couples fly together with their young born last May-June. The juvenile birds are grayish instead of white. They stick together as a family the whole time. Several hundred Tundra Swans winter on Lake Biwa, and over 600 came over last winter. Most of them can be seen in northern Nagahama such as the Kohoku-cho area.

Meanwhile, Taiga bean geese (オオヒシクイ) also spend winter on Lake Biwa, arriving from around late September. They come from the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia and fly over Sakhalin before arriving along the Japan Sea coast. A few thousand of them winter in Japan and a few hundred come to Lake Biwa. Lake Biwa is the southernmost area of Japan where they winter.

Kohoku Mizudori Station

Also visited the Kohoku Mizudori Station, a great place to stop for a bite to eat or to pick up local products and souvenirs. In Japanese, it’s a michi-no-eki, which is a roadside rest stop with a store and eatery. Michi-no-eki are geared for tourists traveling by car. They are conveniently located along a major road (usually far from any train station). Most of Shiga’s cities and towns have at least one michi-no-eki. I’ve included all of them in my Google Maps of Shiga.

Next to Kohoku Mizudori Station is the Kohoku Wildbird Center for birdwatching, which was unfortunately closed for the New Year’s holidays. It’s too bad because there were a lot of people at the Kohoku Mizudori Station and I’m sure they would have also visited the center. Anyway, mission accomplished. Tundra Swan images added to my collection.

Shopping at Kohoku Mizudori Station.

Kohoku Mizudori Station’s ko-ayu sweetfish tempura food stand was very popular. This lady was busy as heck on Jan. 3.

One of the best simple pleasures in Shiga is ko-ayu sweetfish tempura just out of the hot oil. 380 yen.