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Relationship of migratory cold air masses on the fluctuation of waterfowl population during the wintering season of 2005/2006

Relationship of migratory cold air masses on the fluctuation of waterfowl population during the wintering season of 2005/2006

Bird Research 2: A11-A17

A supply of roost and foraging sites are essential factors for migratory waterfowl to survive the wintering season. Severe weather, including the freezing over of lakes (used for roosts) and heavy snow cover on fields (reducing foraging efficiency), is generally considered an important factor deterring waterfowl from wintering further north than Miyagi Prefecture. In 2005/06 winter season, severe cold air masses often migrated to Japan and caused prolonged periods of frozen lake roost sites, and heavy snowfall in the foraging area. To study the relationship of severe cold air masses to fluctuation of the wintering waterfowl population, we compared data for average air temperature and snowfall, with the number of waterfowl wintering around Lake Izunuma-Uchinuma, northern Japan, from November to January between 2005/06 (severe winter) and 2004/05 (normal winter). In 2005/06 winter, there were especially low air temperatures and an increase of snowfall in December; as a result, the period that the lakes were frozen was prolonged three times that of the previous winter. The total number of waterfowl remained stable throughout the winter of 2004/05. During the severe winter of 2005/06, however, the number of Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus increased, and ducks increased earlier than during the 2004/05 winter. In contrast, the population of Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons was stable. The increase of Whooper Swan, and early increase of ducks, might be ascribed to an increased population from flocks moving from northern areas to this southern refuge due to severe conditions. The stability in the number of geese is likely due to the fact that most geese in northern Japan already congregate for winter around Lake Izunuma-Uchinuma; therefore, no new flocks would emigrate from northern areas to Lakes Izunuma-Uchinuma.

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