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.

Published by Greg Peterson

Professor Emeritus, Kyoto Notre Dame University (1977-2020). Since 1980 I have lived in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, where I enjoy outdoor activities, especially photography, hiking, and cycling.

Join the Conversation


  1. Beautiful photos, my dad loves birdwatching and my son is very interested in them thanks to him. I will show him your post, as I’m sure he would be keen to find out what birds we missed when we were in Japan in the summer. We saw plenty of the white herons when we cycled the Kibi plain and the looked so beautiful in contrast to the green of the rice fields.

    1. Thanks for your comment! Some of these birds are here all year, but the little ones are hard to see in trees and bushes when everything is green. Others migrate from colder places in late fall and stay until early spring. From spring to early fall we see a lot of cormorants, egrets, and herons. I also enjoy seeing grey herons and great egrets in fields when I go cycling. I hope your son will enjoy nature and bird watching. I’m not a birder, but I appreciate the knowledge and skill of older people who have been teaching me. In the last two years or so I’ve learned to recognize about 70 species. It’s very satisfying to be able to name every bird I see. I wish I could do the same with flowers!

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: