Large white bird, a great egret, standing in water facing right.

Cormorants, Egrets, and Herons in Spring

Cormorants, egrets, and herons actively feed on fish in Yasugawa near Shinjo-cho, Moriyama, Shiga, Japan. This area, just downstream from where Shiga Prefectural Route 48 crosses the river, teems with life. It is not yet “developed” for ground golf or other recreational activities, although many people walk nearby. In late spring and summer quite a few people can be seen fishing within a few hundred meters both upstream and downstream.

Here the river flows north-northwest, toward the top of the map. I positioned my tripod on the left bank where the river is closest and shot upstream to the southeast.

Cars cannot enter the area beside the river or the road on the embankment to the west, so I left my car near a park just upstream from Shiga Route 48. From my house it is about 20 minutes by car and 25-30 minutes straight down along the river by bicycle. I usually ride a bicycle unless I’m carrying a heavy tripod and a big telephoto lens.

This area, especially the park, is a popular spot for local people, especially on Sundays and holidays. In the late afternoon and early evening many people jog, cycle, or walk their dogs at the park or on the closed road on the embankment, where some school kids commute by bicycle.

Except for a few people who fish, very few people go near the river here, so it is a good place for wildlife. With nearby traffic, farming, and light industry, it’s not very quiet, but it’s a beautiful place to relax.

Technical notes

I shot the video in mid-May, 2014, with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera and mostly a 1986 Olympus OM System 300mm f4 lens with a circular PL filter. For many scenes I used the camera’s digital converter, which effectively doubles the focal length of the lens. Manual focus was hard at such a great focal length.

Video was 1920x1080p at 29.97fps (fixed on the Em-5), and camera settings were all manual: shutter speed was 1/60 sec., aperture was f16 (in sunlight), ISO was 200, and white balance was set for sunlight. Color balance, saturation, and brightness were adjusted, and images were stabilized, with video editing software (Final Cut Pro X on a late 2008 MacBook).

An additional soundtrack was recorded separately with an Audio-Technica BP4025 mic (with a furry windscreen) and an Olympus LS-100 recorder. I put the mic on the ground in the grass near the camera tripod. The strong wind made the camera audio unusable, even with the external Olympus mic and a windscreen. The sound is what I heard at the camera position far from the river. Camera sound is included, but it has been reduced (-30dB). Ocasionally we can hear a strong puff of wind.

2 thoughts on “Cormorants, Egrets, and Herons in Spring

  1. peterrobertcheyne

    I enjoyed the relaxing video. That small wading bird at 2:17 is a kind of plover, I think, whose name I forget and I don’t have by ID book with me. I wish I could get out, but with the 2-yr old and the 4-month old, any time outside work is dad-at-home time! Last year was my last big chance for a long time! All the best, Peter

    Reply
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