The two-week period of February 4-18 marks the beginning of spring, Risshun (立春) in the traditional Japanese calendar of 24 seasons. In southern Shiga Prefecture winter birds are still here, often hiding in bushes and trees as raptors patrol the skies. Sparrows are active in fields, and great cormorants return to local colonies. Pink and white Japanese plum blossoms (梅の花) bloom, attracting birds and a few bees and other flying insects.

Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)
Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)
Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)
Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)
Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)
Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)
Japanese tit (Parus minor, シジュウカラ)
Japanese tit (Parus minor, シジュウカラ)
Pygmy woodpecker (Dendrocopos kizuki, コゲラ)
Pygmy woodpecker (Dendrocopos kizuki, コゲラ)
Bull-headed shrike (Lanius bucephalus, モズ)
Bull-headed shrike (Lanius bucephalus, モズ)
White-cheeked starling (Sturnus cineraceus, ムクドリ)
White-cheeked starling (Sturnus cineraceus, ムクドリ)
Brown-eared bulbul (Hypsipetes amaurotis, ヒヨドリ)
Brown-eared bulbul (Hypsipetes amaurotis, ヒヨドリ)
Dusky thrush (Turdus eunomus, ツグミ)
Dusky thrush (Turdus eunomus, ツグミ)
Dusky thrush (Turdus eunomus, ツグミ)
Dusky thrush (Turdus eunomus, ツグミ)
Japanese black kite (Milvus migrans, トビ)
Japanese black kite (Milvus migrans, トビ)
Eurasian tree sparrows (Passer montanus saturatus, スズメ)
Eurasian tree sparrows (Passer montanus saturatus, スズメ)
Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus saturatus, スズメ)
Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus saturatus, スズメ)
Great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo, カワウ) colony
Great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo, カワウ)
Great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo, カワウ) colony
Great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo, カワウ)
Great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo, カワウ)
Great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo, カワウ)
Daurian redstart male (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ)
Daurian redstart male (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ)
Daurian redstart female (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ)
Daurian redstart female (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ)
Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ)
Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ)
Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ)
Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ)
Japanese plum blossoms (Prunus mume, 梅)
Japanese plum blossoms (Prunus mume, 梅)
White Japanese plum blossoms (Prunus mume, 梅)
Japanese plum blossoms (Prunus mume, 梅)
Miniature Japanese plum tree (Prunus mume, 梅) with old temple bell
Miniature Japanese plum tree (Prunus mume, 梅) with old temple bell at Enchoji (圓超寺)
Pink Japanese plum blossoms (Prunus mume, 梅) at Enchoji (圓超寺)
Japanese plum blossoms (Prunus mume, 梅)
White Japanese plum blossoms (Prunus mume, 梅)
Japanese plum blossoms (Prunus mume, 梅)
Marmalade hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus, ホソヒラタアブ) approaching white plum blossoms
Marmalade hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus, ホソヒラタアブ)
Japanese honeybee (Apis cerana japonica, ニホンミツバチ) pollinating white plum blossoms
Japanese honeybee (Apis cerana japonica, ニホンミツバチ)

Many days are still cold and gloomy, but Japanese plum blossoms and the wild creatures that visit them reassure us that spring is on its way.

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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