Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Yasugawa Riverside Park

Just before noon on January 7, 2017, I made a field recording in a large park along Yasugawa in Shiga Prefecture, Japan (野洲川立入河川公園). The recording was made with a small Sony PCM-M10 digital recorder mounted on a tripod near the lower end of the park. I chose this location in order to reduce traffic and train noises from bridges upstream, as well as the rumble of water at a dam downstream. I pointed the microphones southeast toward Mikamiyama.

We can hear the rumble of a nearby dam, traffic, crows, and kids playing in the distance. These sounds are overwhelmed by a recorded public address message broadcast from speakers on a small building on the embankment above the park. The recorded message asks people to obey park rules: no golf, RC cars or aircraft, fireworks, unleashed dogs, fires, littering, or other activities that may disturb people. The same loud recorded message dominates the sonic environment of the park once every hour.

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama, looking with the microphones southeast toward Mikamiyama

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama, looking with the microphones southeast toward Mikamiyama

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama

I often visit this park to look for birds. Egrets, herons, cormorants, and ducks can be found in the river both above and below the dam, and many small birds live in the vegetation along the riverbank.

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama, looking downstream to the north

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama, looking downstream to the north

On January 7th, as I was recording, I walked upstream and saw a few birds.

Daurian redstart male (Phoenicurus auroreus,  ジョウビタキ) along Yasugawa upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Daurian redstart male (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ) along Yasugawa upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Dusky thrush (ツグミ) along Yasugawa upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Dusky thrush (ツグミ) along Yasugawa upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Oriental Greenfinch (Chloris sinica, カワラヒワ, 河原鶸) along Yasugawa upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Oriental Greenfinch (Chloris sinica, カワラヒワ, 河原鶸) along Yasugawa upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Activity in this park varies a lot, depending on the season, the weather, and the day of the week. But whatever they are doing, everyone in the park hears the same loud recorded message once every hour.

Audio recorder at New Year's Eve in the park along Yasugawa upstream from the Shinkansen bridge in Moriyama

New Year 2017 Temple Bells and Fireworks

This recording is also on radio aporee ::: maps.

On New Year’s Eve I wanted to record temple bells and fireworks along with other rural sounds from a nearby location with little traffic. I thought one of the Yasugawa riverside parks might be far enough away from major roads but still close to home.

There are no lights near this location and no place to park a car at night. I had to go by bicycle, so I practiced in daylight on December 31st.

Public park along Yasugawa riverbank upstream from Shinkansen bridge in Moriyama City

Public park along Yasugawa riverbank upstream from Shinkansen bridge in Moriyama City

In daylight I mounted a small audio recorder on a light tripod. That practice helped me when I mounted an Audio-Technica BP4025 stereo microphone and a Tascam DR-70D recorder on the same tripod late at night in the dark.

Public park along Yasugawa riverbank upstream from Shinkansen bridge in Moriyama City

Public park along Yasugawa riverbank upstream from Shinkansen bridge in Moriyama City

At night I recorded from at about 23:30 on December 31st until about 00:10 on January 1, 2017. As I was recording, I sat on a park bench with a nice view of Mikamiyama.

Public park along Yasugawa riverbank upstream from Shinkansen bridge in Moriyama City

View of Mikamiyama from the public park along Yasugawa riverbank upstream from Shinkansen bridge in Moriyama City

The audio recording sounds pretty noisy, but that’s what it’s like in this suburban area with so many people and so much activity. We become so accustomed to noise that we just filter it out. Maybe that’s why they announce the year with fireworks. Those midnight explosions are hard to ignore.

Coots (オオバン) at Yasugawa below the dam in Moriyama

Coots – オオバン

On December 29, 2016, several coots (オオバン) were feeding on moss at the base of a flood control dam on Yasugawa about five kilometers upstream from Lake Biwa. Here in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, I often see coots in still water and slow streams, but I’ve never seen them eating so actively. I happened to be carrying a tripod, so I made a short video.

The pool and nearby running water below the dam make this an interesting location. In late spring and summer many people gather to fish there. Cormorants, egrets, and herons hunt nearby, and Japanese kites circle overhead, sometimes swooping down to pluck fish from the river.

Music

“Running Water” by Jason Shaw at AudionatiX (http://audionautix.com/). License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-By) 3.0.

Technical notes

Hardware

I shot the opening and closing scenes with an Olympus OM-D EM-5 camera and two lenses: Olympus 17mm f1.8 and Panasonic/Leica 25mm f1.4. For medium, closeup, and extreme closeup shots I used an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II camera and a Panasonic 100-400mm zoom lens.

I used the camera’s optical teleconverter for extreme closeups. At 800mm (400mm x 2) with a micro four-thirds system the 35mm equivalent focal length is 1600mm, which requires a steady tripod. I used a Manfrotto 055XPRO4 tripod and an MVH502AH fluid head. That seems like a lot of tripod for a micro four-thirds system, but it’s great for long lenses. The four-section model is easy to carry. I attach it to my Lowepro Flipside Sport 20L AW, a small backpack that holds two cameras, several lenses, a small audio recorder, etc. Recently I’ve been concentrating on still photography with a handheld camera, so I rarely use a tripod. This experience with the coots reminded me that I should carry a tripod more often.

Video post-processing software

I process media on a Lenovo ThinkStation S20 that runs Fedora GNU/Linux. For this video I first extracted clips from the raw files with FFmpeg. I wrote a shell script to automate processing by reading a data file that specifies how to make each clip.

Video editing was done with Pitivi version 0.97.1. Pitivi has become quite useful and much more stable than the editor I had been using; however, I had to experiment with rendering to get decent output. I used MP4 (x264enc) with a fixed bitrate of 8192K (default is 2048K), and I turned the speed/quality setting OFF (default is medium). Using a good fixed bitrate worked, but I’m not sure why or if my solution is best. Hopefully, future versions of Pitivi will make it easier to produce high-quality output.

Before uploading to YouTube I transcoded the video to Web-optimized M4V with HandBrake. The only trouble I had was that I could not change the title, which was derived from from the filename, and I was not able to edit metadata. (Perhaps it was due to my lack of knowledge.) Before uploading I edited the title and other metadata with the VideoLAN VLC media player.

Yasugawa and Mikamiyama from  the fish ladder along the dam in Moriyama

Yasugawa and Mikamiyama from the fish ladder along the dam in Moriyama

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園), Kojima-cho, Moriyama City

White-eyes in Camellias at Hatonomori Park

Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (守山市の鳩の森公園) has small grove of sasanqua camellias (カンツバキ) along a small stream. They bloom in early December.

Sasanqua camellias (Camellia sasanqua  カンツバキ) in Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園), Kojima-cho, Moriyama City

Sasanqua camellias (Camellia sasanqua カンツバキ) in Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園), Moriyama City

Sasanqua camellias (Camellia sasanqua  カンツバキ) in Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園), Kojima-cho, Moriyama City

Sasanqua camellias (Camellia sasanqua カンツバキ) in Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園), Moriyama City

In mid-December Japanese white-eyes (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) gather in the camellias. These photos were taken on December 17 and 19, 2016.

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園), Kojima-cho, Moriyama City

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園), Kojima-cho, Moriyama City

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園), Kojima-cho, Moriyama City

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園), Kojima-cho, Moriyama City

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園), Kojima-cho, Moriyama City

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園), Kojima-cho, Moriyama City

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園), Kojima-cho, Moriyama City

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園), Kojima-cho, Moriyama City

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園), Kojima-cho, Moriyama City

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園), Kojima-cho, Moriyama City

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama

See more of my photos on Flickr: Greg Peterson in Japan.

Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City

I often ride a bicycle from my home in Ritto City down along Yasugawa to Moriyama, and then on city streets over to Hatonomori Park. Usually it’s a quiet place, except when people play ground golf, and often wild birds can been seen in the trees. Last August I posted a recording and some photos:

Hatonomori Park in Summer

As we can see on the map, the park is in a residential district of a small city. As of November 30, 2016, the city reported a population of 81,126 Japanese and 858 foreigners (自治会別・地区別人口). More information about Moriyama City is on the city website in Japanese (滋賀県守山市).

Fields in Fall, Hayashi, Ritto CIty

Late Autumn in Rural Shiga

In November and December we can see gradual but dramatic changes in rural Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Brilliant autumn colors appear and then fade, and deciduous trees and shrubs begin to appear barren as they reveal their branches. Bird populations change; most cormorants, egrets, and herons leave for warmer places, and winter migratory birds begin to appear.

Shinkansen crossing Yasugawa

Giant dahlia [tree dahlia] (皇帝ダリア)

Giant dahlia [tree dahlia] (Dahlia imperialis, 皇帝ダリア)

Fall colors at Yasugawa (野洲川)

Trees in Fall with Mikamiyama

Fields in Fall

Soybean field with Takano Park in background

Autumn colors in Takano

Autumn colors in Takano Park

Autumn colors in Takano Park

Fall colors in Takano Park

With very mild weather this year, I saw a few butterflies until late November.

Common copper butterfly (Lycaena phlaeas, ベニシジミ)

Black kites and other birds of prey often soar over rivers and fields. Sometimes crows steal their food.

Japanese black kite (トビ)

Japanese black kite (トビ) trying to protect its fish from a crow.

Daurian restarts (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ) appear in the fall and stay until early spring.

Daurian restart male (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ)

Daurian redstart male (ジョウビタキ)

Daurian restart female (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ)

Japanese tits (シジュウカラ) and other small birds become more visible as trees begin to lose their leaves.

Japanese tit (シジュウカラ)

Japanese tit (シジュウカラ)

In early December I saw a Japanese weasel (Mustela itatsi, イタチ) in mowed grass along an irrigation canal.

Japanese weasel (Mustela itatsi, イタチ)

Japanese weasel (Mustela itatsi, イタチ)

Autumn wind often blows from the northwest. Sometimes the sky is beautiful.

Tree and Mikamiyama (三上山)

Mikamiyama and Koyamakawa

A large persimmon tree near my house attracts several species of birds, especially as the fruit ripens in late autumn.

Crows in a persimmon tree

Quite a few species of birds are very common throughout rural Shiga in late fall and winter.

Japanese wagtail (セグロセキレイ)

White Wagtail (ハクセキレイ)

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ)

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ)

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ)

Varied tit (ヤマガラ)

Oriental Greenfinch (カワラヒワ)

Japanese white-eye (メジロ)

Japanese white-eye (メジロ)

Bull-headed shrike (モズ)

Eurasian tree sparrow (スズメ)

Brown-eared bulbul (ヒヨドリ)

Japanese grosbeak (イカル)

Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (エナガ)

Mallard duck female (マガモ)

Mallard duck (マガモ)

Some egrets and herons stay into late autumn, and a few may stay all winter.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Grey heron (アオサギ)

This year (2016) the autumn colors were brilliant, and I was able to spend quite a few days outdoors with a camera. All of the photos shown here were taken within a few kilometers of my home in Ritto City. Wild birds appeared in many places that I visited in Moriyama, Yasu, and Ritto by bicycle on on foot. I did not see any rare species that many bird photographers seek, but I am grateful that I can experience so much diversity so close to home.