Two adult swallows: left one facing camera head down, right one looking right with mouth full of mud and twigs.

Swallows Preparing a Nest

A pair of adult swallows are preparing their nest by improving a nest that was made last year (June 2013) and used once.

This video was shot with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera with a 60mm lens at 2x with the optical teleconverter. I used a small LED light that I to a stairway to left of the camera. The light was not very strong, so I had to open the aperture to f3.2 to shoot at 1/60 sec. (ISO 400).

Video editing was done with with Kdenlive on a Lenovo Thinkpad T510 running Fedora, a GNU/Linux operating system. This is my first project with this software. I have not mastered it by any means, but it looks pretty good for the short and simple videos that I make. That’s very good news.

Two adult swallows roosting on a nest, face-to-face, with a white wall and ceiling in the background.

Swallows at Rest

Two adult swallows roosting on a nest, face-to-face, with a white wall and ceiling in the background.

Adult swallows roosting face-to-face.

Two adult swallows are roosting their second night in a nest left over from the previous summer. Last night they were nervous as I moved around nearby, but this evening they seem calmer. One flew away only briefly after I took several photos. They vocalized quietly but did not screech loudly as swallows do when they’re alarmed.

They were gone all day, and they haven’t done any exterior construction; however, the nest looks strong already. We can see down feathers inside, so it looks like they’re preparing to raise their young here.

Swallows Return

Adult swallow in a nest, closeup facing right.

Adult swallow nesting on a cool April night.

Swallows have returned to our car port. They have been flying in and out for several days, and this evening two came to roost in a nest was made last June.

Last year in July I made some videos of five baby swallows from July 7th, 13th, 19th, 20th, and 21st, when they flew from their nest.

July 7, 2013:

July 13, 2013:

July 19, 2013:

July 20, 2013:

July 21, 2013 – Young swallows fly:

Many years ago our neighborhood was full of swallows every spring, but since 2007 or 2008 we have seen very few. In 2013 a few more appeared, but they did not nest at our house until June. This year more came in early April. Hopefully, the population is growing.

I’m looking forward to watching swallows up close again this year.

Listening to Pee Wee Baseball Practice

On Sundays we can see many activities along the banks of Yasugawa in Ritto and Moriyama. There are several ground golf courses, a golf putting course, tennis and basketball courts, a beautiful track for track & field events, and, in Moriyama downstream from the JR train tracks, a large grassy field for picnics.

On Sunday, April 13, 2014, I took a bike ride along the river. On the way back home I saw some little boys doing batting practice. They were all wearing uniforms, so I assumed that it was a Pee Wee baseball team. One of their coaches was pitching gently, and I noticed that the boys hit nearly every pitched ball.

Visually the scene was pretty dull, with the boys mostly and some adults standing around under an overcast sky. But acoustically it was more dramatic. I was struck by the contrast between the low rumble of background noise and the sharp ping of metallic baseball bats that dominated the soundscape.

This field recording has been added to radio aporee ::: maps – Deba, Ritto, Shiga, Japan.

Commuting Bike

Red touring bicycle facing left along a paved path with bushes beside the road on the right.

Maruishi Balboa, a 1980 touring bike with a 2014 double kickstand along the road from Ritto City to JR Moriyama Station.

I commute about 3 kilometers by bicycle from my home in Ritto City to JR Moriyama Station. My commuting and general-purpose bike is an old Maruishi Balboa touring bike that I bought in 1980. Last week I installed a new double kickstand to make it more stable when I park it.

This bike has been to the Pacific Ocean, Kyoto, Uji, and on roads everywhere in Shiga Prefecture. Many times it has climbed up river valleys into the Suzuka mountains and taken me on several trips around Lake Biwa. In 33 years on the road, that old bike has been knocked down three times by cars, and in May, 2008, it was hit head-on by another bicycle: front wheels hit straight on, both rims were destroyed in figure-8 bends, the other rider, a high school girl blinded by car lights, was uninjured, and I suffered facial cuts and a badly sprained left hand. I’ve rebuilt the wheels, and many other parts have been replaced several times.

The Balboa has spent a lot of time outdoors, so the frame looks awful, but it rides well and I don’t have to worry about the abuse it gets in the bike parking lot at the train station. I lock it, but I doubt that anyone would want to steal it. Now I have four bicycles, including a newer (1996) touring bike, but for daily use my old Balboa is my first choice.

Cherry Blossoms and Bugs in Takano

Entrance to a Shinto Shrine, with right side of torii gate, stone lantern, and vertical stone with the Kanji for Takano Jinja.

Takano Jinja (Shrine) Entrance in Ritto City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan.

Cherry trees bloom at the beginning of April at the entrance to Takano Shrine and in Takano Park next to the shrine. With both old and young cherry trees, Takano Park is a good place to see blossoms up close.

Cherry blossom buds in Takano

Many people go to famous sites to view cherry blossoms from a distance as scenery or as locations for picnics, but I prefer quiet places where I can get close enough to look carefully at individual blossoms.

Beetle on cherry tree

Close viewing reveals more than details of blossoms. Trees host many small creatures, and sometimes we humans are fortunate enough to see them. The beautiful trees and blossoms that we admire serve other creatures in different ways.

Cherry blossoms

A branch that offers serene and delicate beauty to humans may be a site of dramatic struggles for survival.

I hope people who view cherry blossoms will take time to look closely and see the richness of nature that lies beyond our conventional notions of beauty.

Trees and flowers can give us great pleasure, but they also nurture many other creatures with whom we share Earth.

More photos are in my my Flikr set, Cherry Blossoms.

Retirement Day One

Closeup of cherry blossom, surrounded by semicircle of four blossoms from upper left to lower right, with stem from lower left and blue sky background.

Cherry blossoms in Ritto on April 1, 2014.

Today, April 1, 2014, is the first day of my retirement from full-time work. It is a beautiful day here in Ritto City, so I took my camera on a short walk along the fields near my house. Cherry blossoms are beginning to emerge along the irrigation canal that runs through Hayashi.

It’s a great pleasure to have enough time to enjoy such scenery on a weekday! I’ll continue to teach communication and media two days a week, but I no longer have other duties as a university professor. So far retirement feels wonderful.