Flowering Weeds in Early Spring

In March and April the Japanese countryside comes to life as weeds appear along fields and streams, anywhere with soil. Some of these plants are known for medicinal properties, and some are gathered as food. Most are ignored or cut down.

This year I’m trying to learn the names of flowering weeds as they appear in nearby fields and along the Yasugawa riverbank in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. This photo gallery includes some of the flowers I’ve seen from the beginning of March until mid-April, 2018.

Many of the flowers are tiny! Most of these photos were taken with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mk. II camera and a 60mm f/2.8 macro lens, which I showed on Twitter.

Crows along Yasugawa

On Sunday, March 18, 2018, I was cycling down the north bank of Yasugawa when I heard some noisy crows perched in nearby trees.

When I ride my touring bike, I carry a small audio recorder and microphones. For this recording I used a Sony PCM-M10 recorder and Clippy Stereo EM172 mics by FEL Communications Ltd. To mimic human hearing, a quasi-binaural sound image was made by placing the mics on either side of my bicycle handlebar bag. I prefer to use trees about the diameter of an adult human head, but I use the handlebar bag when I cannot find a tree.

Trek 520 touring bike with audio recorder and mics on handlebar bag in Yasu City

The Compass app on my iPhone shows the location, direction, and time.

Compass and geolocation app on bicycle handlebar bag in Yasu City

As we can see on the map, this location is between a river and near the edge of a suburban area. With aircraft overhead, vehicles on nearby roads, and rural and suburban human activities, this place is quite noisy, even on Sunday.

In everyday life we filter out much of the noise. When the crows are not so noisy, I suppose most people experience this environment as a peaceful and quiet little park, just as it appears in photographs.

Trek 520 touring bike in Yasu City

Trek 520 touring bike in Yasu City

Aging Camellia Flowers

On February 2, 2018, I was looking at a hedge of camellias behind the Ritto City Library (Shiga Prefecture, Japan). Some of the flowers were wilting. As I began to photograph individual flowers, I realized that the aging camellia flowers showed a lot individuality, each displaying a unique shape, texture, and color pattern.

Of course, most photos of camellias (ツバキ) show young flowers. Perhaps we become programmed to think of beauty as something fresh and flawless.

I’m sure many people see aging camellia flowers as ugly, but I wonder if that’s because they don’t look closely at each one as an individual. If we set aside our assumptions about beauty as youthful perfection, we can appreciate details that give character to each old flower.

Camellias (ツバキ)

Camellias (ツバキ) in the garden behind Ritto City Library

Long-tailed Tits (エナガ)

On January 27, 2018, I was walking along the edge of a field near my house when a flock on long-tailed tits (エナガ) appeared right in front of me at eye level. I was able to take a few photos of them.

Long-tailed tit (エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)

Long-tailed tits (エナガ)

Long-tailed tits (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)

Long-tailed tits (エナガ)

Long-tailed tits (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)

These cute little birds blessed me with their presence for only a few minutes before they vanished. If I had not been there, quiet and alert, I would have missed the opportunity to see them so close.

We experience life most richly when we are fully present.

Japanese Wagtail

On January 25, 2018, I saw a Japanese wagtail (Motacilla grandis, セグロセキレイ) in a small irrigation canal. The bird’s injured right foot did not prevent it from actively foraging in the shallow water as light snow fell.

In addition to several video clips, I took a few still photos of the bird.

The plowed fields may look barren now, but quite a few birds gather here in winter.

Plowed fields and small canal

Plowed fields and small canal in Tsuji, Ritto City

Notes

Video and photos were shot hand-held with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera and a 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens.

Music: “Rainbows” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com), licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License.

Video was edited with Kdenlive on a Fedora GNU/Linux workstation.