Female white-tailed skimmer dragonfly (Orthetrum albistylum, ムギワラトンボ [females] or シオカラトンボ [males]) in the Omifuji Botanical Gardens, Kitazakura, Yasu City.

Early Autumn Insects

We tend to associate insects with late Spring and Summer, but quite a few butterflies, dragonflies, and other insects can be seen here in Shiga Prefecture from late September until early November.

Several species of butterflies and moths were very active in late September and early October. A few remained until late October.

Asian swallowtail butterfly (アゲハ) on a red spider lily (彼岸花)

Old World swallowtail butterfly (キアゲハ)

Humingbird hawk moth (ホシホウジャク)

Common grass yellow butterfly (キチョウ)

Common grass butterfly larva (キチョウの幼虫)

Oriental short-tailed blue butterfly (タイワンツバメシジミ)

Oriental short-tailed blue butterfly (タイワンツバメシジミ)

Eastern pale clouded yellow butterfly (モンキチョウ)

Eastern pale clouded yellow butterfly (モンキチョウ)

Chinese peacock black swallowtail butterfly (カラスアゲハ)

Indian Fritillary butterfly (Argyreus hyperbius, ツマグロヒョウモン)

A few Dragonlies were still here in October.

Meadowhawk [Darter] dragonfly (Sympetrum darwinianum, ナツアカネ)

Female white-tailed skimmer dragonfly (Orthetrum albistylum, ムギワラトンボ)

Female white-tailed skimmer dragonfly (Orthetrum albistylum, ムギワラトンボ)

In October locusts and other insects were active along the Yasugawa riverbank.

Migratory locusts (トノサマバッタ)

Tropidothorax sinensis (ヒメジュウジナガカメムシ)

Bee and grub on goldenrod (セイタカアワダチソウ)

Sorry this post appears so late!

Great egrets (ダイサギ) below Yasugawa Ohashi

Egrets in Summer

Yasugawa (野洲川), Shinkansen, Hira mountain range

View from Yasugawa Ohashi (野洲川大橋)

In late July and August 2016 I spent many hours on Yasugawa Ohashi (野洲川大橋), a bridge that crosses Yasugawa between Ritto City and Yasu City in Shiga Prefecture, Japan (map).

From the sidewalk the view downstream provided a good change to observe large birds, especially great egrets (ダイサギ) as they stood around and sometimes flew, fished, and fought. With my camera I tried to record some of the behavior of these beautiful white birds. Photos presented here are from my photostream on Flickr.

Challenges

Waiting for action

Photographing these beautiful white birds presented several challenges. The first challenge was boredom. Most of the time they stood without moving, often several hundred meters away. Even at a distance, sometimes they caught my attention, especially when they moved in pairs.

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Exposure compensation

The second challenge was exposure of these great white birds against a background that changed as they moved. I had to discard many photos before I learned to underexpose -0.3 to -1.7 EV, depending on the background.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Exposure was most critical with backlit egrets flying in late afternoon light.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Action

The third challenge was capturing action. Timing was critical, of course, but I also tried to keep action in the frame while adjusting the zoom lens and holding the camera level. Most difficult and most interesting were conflicts over territory.

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

A few times I wished that I’d shot video instead of still photos, especially this combat scene.

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Birds catching fish

When I began to take photos from the bridge, I was hoping to see birds catching fish. Sometimes I had to wait a long time, but a few scenes were worth the wait. For example, once a cormorant was after a small fish, but a great egret ran over and snatched it.

Great cormorant (カワウ) and great egret (ダイサギ)

Great cormorant (カワウ) and great egret (ダイサギ)

Great cormorant (カワウ) and great egret (ダイサギ)

Great cormorant (カワウ) and great egret (ダイサギ)

Sometimes egrets seem to dance as they chase fish.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sometimes their diving is pretty intense.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sometimes they use their wings to maintain balance.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sometimes they toss fish in the air to swallow them head-first.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Late afternoon colors

Just before sunset, the colors became very warm.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

 

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sharing the view

Many people passed on bicycles and on foot. Now and then someone would stop to chat, and sometimes people stopped just to share the view from the bridge.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Location

Technical notes

Photos were shot as JPEG with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 II camera and an Olympus 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens. Sometimes I used the Olympus 1.4x teleconverter, and sometimes I used 2x magnification.

Saving only JPEG enabled me to shoot very long bursts at 5 frames per second. Without such long bursts I could not have captured territorial disputes or some fishing scenes. In the future this kind of photography might be done by saving stills from high-resolution video recordings.

I processed the photos with DigiKam on a Fedora Linux workstation and uploaded them to my photostream on Flickr.

 

Concrete picnic table and stools in a wooded park

Hatonomori Park in Summer

Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (守山市の鳩の森公園) is a wooded public park with a few concrete picnic tables, a play area for children, and a small stream on two sides. The park covers 1.86 hectares.

On some weekday mornings local people, mostly seniors, gather to play ground golf. On hot summer days the sounds of ground golf compete with the buzzing of cicadas, murmers of turtle doves, and traffic on a nearby street.

This recording was made in Hatonomori Park, Moriyama City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan at about 10 a.m. on August 1, 2016. Recording was done with a Sony PCM-M10 recorder. Hear the same recording while seeing the map location on radio aporee maps.

Sony PCM-M10 recorder

Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園)

Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園)

Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園)

Hatonomori Park is full of cicadas in summer. Other flying creatures, such as butterflies and birds, hide when people are active in the park, but cicadas keep singing.

Cicada (セミ)

Cicada (セミ)

After the ground golf players leave the park, wild creatures reappear. The park has many beetles and other insects, including several species of butterflies.

Hestina persimilis japonica (ゴマダラチョウ) butterfly

Old World swallowtail butterfly (アゲハ)

Old World swallowtail butterfly (アゲハ)

Old World swallowtail butterfly (アゲハ)

We can see many species of birds in the park, and sometimes we can hear them. One of the nicest sounds in the park is the murmer of oriental turtle doves.

Oriental turtle-doves (キジバト)

Oriental turtle-doves (キジバト)

Two ponds hold carp and other fish. Ducks swim in the ponds and a small stream in winter and spring. In the summer egrets and herons sometimes appear. One grey heron sometimes perches on the foot bridge over the lower pond.

Grey heron (アオサギ)

Grey heron (アオサギ)

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that several species of small birds remain in the park in summer.

Long-tailed tit (エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (エナガ)

Japanese tit (シジュウカラ)

Japanese pygmy woodpecker (コゲラ)

Kingfisher (川蝉, カワセミ)

I often see two brown-eared bulbuls. Recently I discovered that they catch and eat cicadas. When they eat, they first bite off the wings. As they eat, they toss the insect. Finally, an only empty shell remains.

Brown-eared bulbul (ヒヨドリ)

Brown-eared bulbul (ヒヨドリ)

Brown-eared bulbul (ヒヨドリ)

Last winter a bird photographer told me about Hatonomori Park, which is about 25 minutes from my home by bicycle. It’s a nice ride, mostly along the Yasugawa riverbank, and the park is a peaceful place to watch birds.

Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園)

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

Swallows Nesting in Ritto City

Barn swallows (ツバメ, 燕) repairing an old nest that was last used in 2014. Morning sunlight strongly backlit the scene, so I used small LED lights to bring out the colors of the birds. Some people are surprised that barn swallows have such beautiful blue heads.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

My timing was lucky. The birds had been visiting the nest for nearly a week, but they did all of their repair work on a sunny Saturday morning (April 9, 2016) when I was home. When it was used in 2014, the construction was very smooth, but this time the outer surface near the top is pretty rough.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

All scenes were shot handheld in a stairwell with an Olympus MD-D EM-5 Mk. II camera and a 40-150mm f2.8 Pro lens. I did not use any special video settings. I simply pressed the video record button instead of the shutter button. The birds were at the nest only for short periods, so continuous video would have been very difficult without a tripod. I was able to capture a few scenes by starting to record as one of the birds swooped into the car port. In this kind of situation it is easier to shoot still photographs. I shot in bursts at 5 frames per second.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica gutturalis, 燕, ツバメ) are repairing a nest in my car port, Takano, Ritto City. The nest was last used in 2014.

Music credit

“Winter Chimes” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).

Production notes

Post-processing was done with digiKam for still photographs and OpenShot for video. I adjusted the length of the movie by a few seconds in order to match the music.

Great egret (ダイサギ) at Oyamakawa in Omifuji, Yasu City

Great Egret Fishing in Oyamakawa

On February 2, 2016, I spotted this great egret fishing in Oyamakawa (大山川) at Omifuji, Yasu City. It was shaking its legs and staring into the water. Apparently, the vibrations drive small fish out where the egret can catch them. I began to take photos, but I switched to video in order to record this way of fishing. While I was recording, the bird stumbled. Usually egrets are more graceful.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

This egret is one of very few that have remained in this area in winter. I’m looking forward to March, when more egrets and herons appear in rivers and nearby fields here in Shiga, Japan.

Production notes:

Video and still photos were taken with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk. II and a 40-150 f2.8 PRO lens with a 1.4x teleconverter. I used continuous autofocus with tracking. Sometimes the camera lost the bird and had to refocus the lens.

Music: “Sneaky Snitch” (2:16) by Kevin MacLeod (http://incompetech.com/)
Music and the video are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution (CC-By) 3.0 License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

Still photos were edited with digiKam (http://digikam.org) and video was edited with OpenShot (http://openshot.org/) on a Fedora (GNU/Linux) workstation (http://getfedora.org/).