Category Archives:

Little egret hunting in a canal

On October 14, 2017, I saw a little egret in the canal that runs around my neighborhood. It was hunting by shaking a leg to drive prey from vegetation in the shallow water. As I was returning on foot from a long photo walk, my camera was ready. I was able to shoot a few minutes of video before the bird walked away up the canal.

I also took several photos, but still photography cannot show the egret’s quick leg movements.

Little egret (コサギ) in the canal at the northeast corner of Hayama Danchi in Ritto City

Little egret (コサギ) in the canal at the northeast corner of Hayama Danchi in Ritto City

Little egret (コサギ) in the canal at the northeast corner of Hayama Danchi in Ritto City

Little egret (コサギ) in the canal at the northeast corner of Hayama Danchi in Ritto City

Little egret (コサギ) in the canal at the northeast corner of Hayama Danchi in 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: “Pennywhistle” by Jason Shaw at AudionautiX.com, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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

This video is also available on YouTube.

Egrets in September

September at Yasugawa (野洲川) begins gently as the hot, lazy days of summer continue. Great egrets and grey herons stand patiently in and along the river.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) at Yasugawa in Moriyama

Grey heron and great egret (アオサギとダイサギ)

Grey heron and great egret (アオサギとダイサギ) at Yasugawa below the Shinkansen tracks

As the river rises in early September, we see fewer egrets at popular summer locations such under the Shinkansen (新幹線) bridge.

Shinkansen (新幹線)

Shinkansen (新幹線) crossing Yasugawa (野洲川)

Many egrets gather at the dam between Yasu City and Moriyama City.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) at Yasugawa below the dam in Moriyama City

Some pursue fish in the river below the dam.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) at Yasugawa below the dam in Moriyama City

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) at Yasugawa below the dam in Moriyama City

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) at Yasugawa below the dam in Moriyama City

Some perch on the dam and hunt for small aquatic animals.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) at Yasugawa above the dam in Moriyama City

Great egret (ダイサギ) and little egret (コサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) and little egret (コサギ) at Yasugawa on the dam in Moriyama City

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) at Yasugawa on the dam in Moriyama City

Great egret (ダイサギ) and little egret (コサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) and little egret (コサギ) at Yasugawa on the dam in Moriyama City

Some hunt in nearby fields, eating grasshoppers and other insects. Sometimes they find larger prey.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) with a large frog in Tsuji, Ritto City

Fall weather begins in early October. Many birds begin to migrate to warmer locations, while some egrets and herons remain at Yasugawa.

Little egret (コサギ)

Little egret (コサギ) at Yasugawa below the dam in Moriyama City

Grey heron (アオサギ)

Grey heron (アオサギ) at Yasugawa on the dam in Moriyama City

Grey heron (アオサギ)

Grey heron (アオサギ) at Yasugawa on the dam in Moriyama City

Little egret (コサギ)

Little egret (コサギ) at Yasugawa below the dam in Moriyama City

Egrets in Summer

Yasugawa (野洲川), Shinkansen, Hira mountain range

View from Yasugawa Ohashi (野洲川大橋)

In late July and August 2016 I spent many hours on Yasugawa Ohashi (野洲川大橋), a bridge that crosses Yasugawa between Ritto City and Yasu City in Shiga Prefecture, Japan (map).

From the sidewalk the view downstream provided a good change to observe large birds, especially great egrets (ダイサギ) as they stood around and sometimes flew, fished, and fought. With my camera I tried to record some of the behavior of these beautiful white birds. Photos presented here are from my photostream on Flickr.

Challenges

Waiting for action

Photographing these beautiful white birds presented several challenges. The first challenge was boredom. Most of the time they stood without moving, often several hundred meters away. Even at a distance, sometimes they caught my attention, especially when they moved in pairs.

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Exposure compensation

The second challenge was exposure of these great white birds against a background that changed as they moved. I had to discard many photos before I learned to underexpose -0.3 to -1.7 EV, depending on the background.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Exposure was most critical with backlit egrets flying in late afternoon light.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Action

The third challenge was capturing action. Timing was critical, of course, but I also tried to keep action in the frame while adjusting the zoom lens and holding the camera level. Most difficult and most interesting were conflicts over territory.

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

A few times I wished that I’d shot video instead of still photos, especially this combat scene.

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Birds catching fish

When I began to take photos from the bridge, I was hoping to see birds catching fish. Sometimes I had to wait a long time, but a few scenes were worth the wait. For example, once a cormorant was after a small fish, but a great egret ran over and snatched it.

Great cormorant (カワウ) and great egret (ダイサギ)

Great cormorant (カワウ) and great egret (ダイサギ)

Great cormorant (カワウ) and great egret (ダイサギ)

Great cormorant (カワウ) and great egret (ダイサギ)

Sometimes egrets seem to dance as they chase fish.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sometimes their diving is pretty intense.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sometimes they use their wings to maintain balance.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sometimes they toss fish in the air to swallow them head-first.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Late afternoon colors

Just before sunset, the colors became very warm.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

 

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sharing the view

Many people passed on bicycles and on foot. Now and then someone would stop to chat, and sometimes people stopped just to share the view from the bridge.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Location

Technical notes

Photos were shot as JPEG with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 II camera and an Olympus 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens. Sometimes I used the Olympus 1.4x teleconverter, and sometimes I used 2x magnification.

Saving only JPEG enabled me to shoot very long bursts at 5 frames per second. Without such long bursts I could not have captured territorial disputes or some fishing scenes. In the future this kind of photography might be done by saving stills from high-resolution video recordings.

I processed the photos with DigiKam on a Fedora Linux workstation and uploaded them to my photostream on Flickr.

 

Great Egret Fishing in Oyamakawa

On February 2, 2016, I spotted this great egret fishing in Oyamakawa (大山川) at Omifuji, Yasu City. It was shaking its legs and staring into the water. Apparently, the vibrations drive small fish out where the egret can catch them. I began to take photos, but I switched to video in order to record this way of fishing. While I was recording, the bird stumbled. Usually egrets are more graceful.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

This egret is one of very few that have remained in this area in winter. I’m looking forward to March, when more egrets and herons appear in rivers and nearby fields here in Shiga, Japan.

Production notes:

Video and still photos were taken with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk. II and a 40-150 f2.8 PRO lens with a 1.4x teleconverter. I used continuous autofocus with tracking. Sometimes the camera lost the bird and had to refocus the lens.

Music: “Sneaky Snitch” (2:16) by Kevin MacLeod (http://incompetech.com/)
Music and the video are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution (CC-By) 3.0 License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

Still photos were edited with digiKam (http://digikam.org) and video was edited with OpenShot (http://openshot.org/) on a Fedora (GNU/Linux) workstation (http://getfedora.org/).

Eastern spot-billed duck close-up facing right, right eye near center.

Oyamakawa in Autumn – 秋の大山川

In November, 2015, I took video clips and photographs of wildlife from along the left bank of a small river, Oyamakawa (大山川), in Omifuji, Yasu City, a short bike ride from my home (map).

Video clips were shot with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk. II camera. I used three Olympus lenses: a 17mm f1.8 for panoramas and old 200mm f4 and 300mm f4.5 Zuiko manual focus lenses for wildlife scenes. Music is from “Perspectives” by Kevin MacLeod (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license).

Postproduction was done with Audacity (audio), FFmpeg (video clip trimming), OpenShot (video editing), and digiKam (still photo editing) on a Lenovo ThinkStation S20 computer running the Fedora Workstation operating system.

Oyamakawa (大山川) is a small, gentle creek that flows from the hills above Bodaiji into Yasugawa just upstream from the Japan Route 8 bridge, Yasugawa Ohashi. The lower part of the creek in Omifuji, Yasu City, is full of vegetation that supports wildlife. The river seems tiny in its deep channel with high concrete banks for flood control.

Oyamakawa (大山川)

Oyamakawa (大山川)

Oyamakawa (大山川)

Usually the mouth of the river is even smaller than we can see in this photo (below), which was taken across the north fork of Yasugawa just after quite a lot of rain. The mountain in the background is Mikamiyama (三上山).

Autumn colors at Yasugawa

The video shows the most common birds there in November, but some appear more in still photos. For example, one grey wagtail (キセキレイ) is very photogenic at the river, but I have seen the bird there only a few times. Usually I see it at a distance, flitting about in bushes across the stream.

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ)

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ)

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ)

Great egrets were very common in early November, but I saw very few after the middle of the month.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Common kingfishers (川蝉) live at the river in at least two locations. At one of their favorite hunting places two older men have planted tree branches as perches for them in the riverbed. About once a week one of the men comes to take photos. Both men have the same routine. They dress in camouflage, sit patiently in folding chairs, and take photos with Olympus cameras attached to small telescopes. I don’t have such patience, but I was able to take a few photos of birds on their perches.

Common kingfisher (川蝉, カワセミ)

Common kingfisher (川蝉, カワセミ)

Common kingfisher (川蝉, カワセミ)

Another kingfisher hunts upstream and often perches on the concrete bank or on rocks in shallow water.

Common kingfisher (川蝉, カワセミ)

Some creatures don’t appear in the movie. For example, quite a few huge joro spiders had webs between trees early in the month.

Jorō Spider (Nephila clavata, ジョロウグモ)

Japanese black kites (トビ) sometimes flew overhead.

Japanese black kite (トビ)

Small birds appeared in trees and bushes, but I had better luck getting photos of them at other locations. For example, in October a Siberian stonechat (ノビタキ) was at the mouth of the river.

Siberian stonechat (ノビタキ)

A bull-headed shrike (モズ) was upstream in Sakura Ryokuchi Park.

Bull-headed shrike (モズ)

Pheasants, turtle doves, and numerous smaller birds live in the bushes near the mouth of the river.

Oyamakawa (大山川).

The Ritto ground gold course, which we can see on the other side of Yasugawa, is just a short walk from my house. It’s great to have so much vegetation and wildlife so close to home.