On January 4, 2019, I rode my mountain bike (Araya Muddy Fox 650B) to Kibogaoka Culture Park (滋賀県希望が丘文化公園). Along the way I stopped to photograph several birds, beginning with a white wagtail (ハクセキレイ) beside a field near my home.

White wagtail (Motacilla alba  lugens, ハクセキレイ)
White wagtail (Motacilla alba lugens, ハクセキレイ)
White wagtail (Motacilla alba lugens, ハクセキレイ)
White wagtail (Motacilla alba lugens, ハクセキレイ)

In Omifuji, Yasu City, a grey heron (アオサギ) was strolling in Oyamakawa (大山川). While I watched this bird, it never looked down.

Grey heron (Ardea cinerea, アオサギ)
Grey heron (Ardea cinerea, アオサギ)
Grey heron (Ardea cinerea, アオサギ)
Grey heron (Ardea cinerea, アオサギ)
Grey heron (Ardea cinerea, アオサギ)
Grey heron (Ardea cinerea, アオサギ)

As I approached Sakura Ryokuchi Park, I noticed a great cormorant (カワウ) at the river below. I got only a glimpse of the bird through a hedge as it took flight.

Great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo, カワウ)
Great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo, カワウ)

From the bike path in Saukura Ryokuchi I saw several great cormorants (カワウ) follow a couple of great egrets (ダイサギ) downstream.

Great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo, カワウ) and great egrets (Ardea alba, ダイサギ)
Great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo, カワウ) and great egrets (Ardea alba, ダイサギ)

I entered Kibogaoka Park at the West Gate and rode up the bike path around the softball and baseball fields, past the athletic field, the tennis courts, and the South Gate, across Ginrinno Bridge (銀輪の橋), and over the hill to Kaede no Mori (かえでの森).

As I was riding up the winding mountain path beyond the bridge, I saw a large owl flying up the steep hillside to my left, staying only a couple of meters off the ground. I stopped my bike, raised my camera, and tried to remain very still as the bird flew directly toward me and landed nearby. The owl and I took a good look at each other before it continued on its way. I felt blessed to have a close encounter with such a magnificent creature!

Ural owl (Strix uralensis,フクロウ)
Ural owl (Strix uralensis,フクロウ)
Ural owl (Strix uralensis,フクロウ)
Ural owl (Strix uralensis,フクロウ)
Ural owl (Strix uralensis,フクロウ)
Ural owl (Strix uralensis,フクロウ)
Ural owl (Strix uralensis,フクロウ)
Ural owl (Strix uralensis,フクロウ)

At Kaede no Mori (かえでの森) I left the bike path and rode down the main road past the Japanese Garden (日本庭園). Just past the turnoff to the campgrounds I left the paved road and followed a dirt path down along Oyamakawa (大山川) to Bodaiji in Konan City. On the road I met three hikers, including an older couple who have lived nearby for 48 years.

Dirt road along Oyamagawa (大山川)
Dirt road in Kibogaoka Culture Park

Most of the wildlife seems to have disappeared in recent years, but this woodland area remains relatively quiet. I was able to cross the river at one location, where I left my bike and walked up a trail to a small reservoir.

Trail northeast of Oyamagawa (大山川)
Trail in Kibogaoka Culture Park (滋賀県希望が丘文化公園)
Small reservoir above Oyamagawa (大山川)
Reservoir in Kibogaoka Culture Park (滋賀県希望が丘文化公園)
Small reservoir above Oyamagawa (大山川)
Reservoir in Kibogaoka Culture Park (滋賀県希望が丘文化公園)

The dirt road down along the river comes out at the Iwatani Chemical recycling plant (岩谷化学工業) beside the Meishin Expressway in Bodaiji, Konan City. As I continued to follow the river downstream, I saw only a few crows, turtle-doves, and brown-eared bulbuls in trees until a Japanese wagtail (セグロセキレイ) walked out onto the road in front of me.

Japanese wagtail (Motacilla grandis, セグロセキレイ)
Japanese wagtail (Motacilla grandis, セグロセキレイ)

One of my favorite waterfowl spots is the Oyamakawa (大山川) reservoir beside the Meishin Expressway Bodaiji Parking Area (菩提寺PA 下り). Unfortunately, the water level was very low, so most of the birds were far away in the middle of the pond. However, a grey heron (アオサギ) feeding nearby stayed long enough for me to take a few photos and make a short video clip.

Grey heron (Ardea cinerea, アオサギ)
Grey heron (Ardea cinerea, アオサギ)
Grey heron (Ardea cinerea, アオサギ)
Grey heron (Ardea cinerea, アオサギ)

(Grey heron video file – 76MB)

On this 23-kilometer bike ride I enjoyed rural and woodland scenery while getting some moderate exercise, met a couple of interesting people, saw a few beautiful birds, and had a rare face-to-face encounter with a wild owl. I’m grateful to have been blessed with such great rewards for a little effort.

See more photos in my Flickr photostream or one of my albums.

Published by Greg Peterson

Professor Emeritus, Kyoto Notre Dame University. I have retired from full-time service (1977-2014) and now offer weekly lectures in interpersonal and intercultural communication. Since 1980 I have lived in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, where I enjoy outdoor activities, especially photography, hiking, and cycling.

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2 Comments

  1. An owl in Kibogaoka! I have been there many times, but have never had a chance to meet an owl. You are lucky, and so are we, for getting to see photos of such a precious moment. Thank you!

    1. I was hoping to see smaller birds near the sports grounds, but none appeared. To see such a magnificent owl along the bicycle path was a very nice surprise. At first I could not believe my good fortune! I hope we will see more wildlife in the park and surrounding areas this year.

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