Category Archives: 自然環境

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

Eastern spot-billed ducks (カルガモ) at Omoigawa (思川)

On Sunday, October 1, 2017, I rode my touring bike along Japan National Route 1 to Omoigawa (思川) in Iwane, Konan City. The ride out was hard and slow as I fought against a strong southeast headwind, but I enjoyed the emerging fall colors along the small river.

Omoigawa (思川) is now more of a canal than a natural river, but it teems with vegetation and wildlife. Fish attract large birds like this grey heron (アオサギ).

Grey heron (アオサギ) at Omoigawa (思川) in Iwane, Konan City

Local authorities in Shiga Prefecture try to educate people about the importance of keeping rivers clean. For example, an old sign explains the relationship between water quality and species of fish and aquatic animals that thrive in rivers.

Trek 520 touring bike parked along Omoigawa (思川) near Chudebashi (中出橋) in Iwane, Konan City, at a large sign which lists species of fish and aquatic animals that live at different water quality levels

The southeast wind was so strong that I decided to make a u-turn at Tsushima Shrine (津島神社), only about 11km from home.

Trek 520 touring bike at Tsushima Jinja (津島神社) along Omoigawa (思川) near Kamiebashi (上出橋) in Iwane, Konan City

As I was resting, I walked over to the nearest bridge, Kamidebashi (上出橋), and saw some Eastern spot-billed ducks (カルガモ) swimming upstream.

Eastern spot-billed ducks (Anas poecilorhyncha zonorhyncha, カルガモ ) at Omoigawa (思川) near Kamidebashi (上出橋) in Iwane, Konan City

I shot one still and some video clips with my little Panasonic DMC-LX9. At home I edited the video clips with Kdenlive on a Fedora GNU/Linux workstation. Editing was minimal. I trimmed and combined clips, added music and titles, boosted color saturation, and reduced brightness a little.

Music: “Drifting” by Jason Shaw at AudionautiX.com, Licensed under a Creative Common Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) license.

Butterflies in September


September is a great month to watch butterflies and other insects on flowers in rural Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Between August 31 and September 21, 2017, I photographed ten species and saw several others while cycling in the countryside near my home.

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Old World swallowtail (Papilio machaon) – キアゲハ

Old World swallowtail butterflies (Papilio machaon), キアゲハ) on a zinnia flower (Zinnia elegans, ヒャクニチソウ, 百日草) behind Sakura Ryokuchi Park in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Old World swallowtail butterfly (Papilio machaon, キアゲハ) on a cosmos flower behind Sakura Ryokuchi Park in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Old World swallowtail butterfly (Papilio machaon, キアゲハ) on Physostegia virginiana flowers (obedience, ハナトラノオ [花虎の尾]) behind Sakura Ryokuchi Park in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Old World swallowtail butterfly (Papilio machaon, キアゲハ) on Physostegia virginiana flowers (obedience, ハナトラノオ [花虎の尾]) behind Sakura Ryokuchi Park in Minamizakura, Yasu City

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Asian swallowtail (Papilio xuthus) – アゲハチョウ

Asian swallowtail butterfly (Papilio xuthus, アゲハチョウ) on a zinnia flower (Zinnia elegans, ヒャクニチソウ, 百日草) along Hayamagawa (葉山川) in Rokujizo, Ritto City

Asian swallowtail butterfly (Papilio xuthus, アゲハチョウ) on a zinnia flower (Zinnia elegans, ヒャクニチソウ, 百日草) along Hayamagawa (葉山川) in Rokujizo, Ritto City

Asian swallowtail butterfly (Papilio xuthus, アゲハチョウ) on a zinnia flower (Zinnia elegans, ヒャクニチソウ, 百日草) along Hayamagawa (葉山川) in Rokujizo, Ritto City

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Indian fritillary (Argyreus hyperbius hyperbius) – ツマグロヒョウモン

Indian fritillary butterfly (Argyreus hyperbius hyperbius, ツマグロヒョウモン) on a zinnia flower (Zinnia elegans, ヒャクニチソウ, 百日草) behind Sakura Ryokuchi Park in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Indian fritillary butterfly (Argyreus hyperbius hyperbius, ツマグロヒョウモン) in Anyoji, Ritto City, near Ritto Nature Center (栗東自然観察の森)

Indian fritillary butterfly female (Argyreus hyperbius hyperbius, ツマグロヒョウモン) near the woods in Yasugawa Athletic Park in Ritto City 野洲川運動公園

Indian fritillary butterfly female (Argyreus hyperbius hyperbius, ツマグロヒョウモン) along the Yasugawa riverbank in Moriyama City

Indian fritillary butterflies (Argyreus hyperbius hyperbius, ツマグロヒョウモン) mating near the woods in Yasugawa Athletic Park in Ritto City 野洲川運動公園. The more colorful female is on the left.

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Painted lady (Vanessa cardui) – ヒメアカタテハ

Painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui, ヒメアカタテハ) on a cosmos flower behind Sakura Ryokuchi Park in Minamizakura, Yasu City, with Mikamiyama (三上山) in the background

Painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui, ヒメアカタテハ) behind Sakura Ryokuchi Park in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui, ヒメアカタテハ) on a zinnia flower (Zinnia elegans, ヒャクニチソウ, 百日草) along Hayamagawa (葉山川) in Rokujizo, Ritto City

Painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui, ヒメアカタテハ) on a zinnia flower (Zinnia elegans, ヒャクニチソウ, 百日草) along Hayamagawa (葉山川) in Rokujizo, Ritto City

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Eastern pale clouded yellow (Colias erate poliographys) – モンキチョウ

Eastern pale clouded yellow butterfly (Colias erate poliographys, モンキチョウ) on a zinnia flower (Zinnia elegans, ヒャクニチソウ, 百日草) along Hayamagawa (葉山川) in Rokujizo, Ritto City

Eastern pale clouded yellow butterfly (Colias erate poliographys, モンキチョウ) on a zinnia flower (Zinnia elegans, ヒャクニチソウ, 百日草) along Hayamagawa (葉山川) in Rokujizo, Ritto City

Eastern pale clouded yellow butterfly (Colias erate poliographys,モンキチョウ) on a sunflower behind Sakura Ryokuchi Park in Minamizakura, Yasu City

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Common bluebottle (Graphium sarpedon nipponum) アオスジアゲハ

Common bluebottle butterfly (Graphium sarpedon nipponum, アオスジアゲハ) on the path along Oyamakawa in Omifuji, Yasu City

Common bluebottle butterfly (Graphium sarpedon nipponum, アオスジアゲハ) on the path along Oyamakawa in Omifuji, Yasu City

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Small white (Pieris rapae) – モンシロチョウ

Small white butterfly (Pieris rapae, モンシロチョウ) behind Sakura Ryokuchi Park in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Small white butterfly (Pieris rapae, モンシロチョウ) on Allium tuberosum flowers (ニラ, 韮) behind Sakura Ryokuchi Park in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Small white butterfly (Pieris rapae, モンシロチョウ) [?] along the Yasugawa riverbank in Moriyama City

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Asian comma butterfly (Polygonia c-aureum) – キタテハ

Asian comma butterfly (Polygonia c-aureum, キタテハ) on Allium tuberosum flowers (ニラ, 韮) behind Sakura Ryokuchi Park in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Asian comma butterfly (Polygonia c-aureum, キタテハ) on Allium tuberosum flowers (ニラ, 韮) behind Sakura Ryokuchi Park in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Asian comma butterfly (Polygonia c-aureum, キタテハ) on Allium tuberosum flowers (ニラ, 韮) behind Sakura Ryokuchi Park in Minamizakura, Yasu City

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Common straight swift (Parnara guttata guttata) – イチモンジセセリ

Straight swift butterfly (Parnara guttata guttata, イチモンジセセリ) at the ground golf course near the JR train tracks in Moriyama City

Common straight swift butterfly (Parnara guttata guttata, イチモンジセセリ) on a zinnia flower (Zinnia elegans, ヒャクニチソウ, 百日草) along Hayamagawa (葉山川) in Rokujizo, Ritto City

Common straight swift butterfly (Parnara guttata guttata, イチモンジセセリ) on a zinnia flower (Zinnia elegans, ヒャクニチソウ, 百日草) along Hayamagawa (葉山川) in Rokujizo, Ritto City

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Spangle (Papilio protenor) – クロアゲハ

Spangle [butterfly] (Papilio protenor, クロアゲハ) on red spider lilies (lycoris radiata, 彼岸花) along an irrigation canal in Kamitoyama, Ritto City

Spangle [butterfly] (Papilio protenor, クロアゲハ) on red spider lilies (lycoris radiata, 彼岸花) along an irrigation canal in Kamitoyama, Ritto City

Spangle [butterfly] (Papilio protenor, クロアゲハ) on red spider lilies (lycoris radiata, 彼岸花) along an irrigation canal in Kamitoyama, Ritto City

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Notes

Please let me know if you see errors in the photo captions. I have only recently learned the names of some butterflies and flowers shown here.

Most photos were shot with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II camera and an M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens with a 1.4x Teleconverter MC-14. Usually I shoot with Auto-ISO in shutter priority mode. For wide-angle and medium shots I use a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX9 (Japanese-only version of LX10/LX15).

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Sounds of cicadas at the end of summer

Along Oyamakawa in Omifuji, Yasu City, Shiga Prefecture, cicadas dominate the soundscape in summer. In mid-September, before autumnal equinox, smaller insects join the chorus.

On 2017-09-15 the cicadas were very loud as I rode my mountain bike on a path through a grove of ornamental cherry trees between a small river and a residential neighborhood (radio aporee ::: maps – Omifuji, Yasu-shi, Shiga-ken, Japan).

Araya Muddy Fox mountain bike

Araya Muddy Fox mountain bike near the path along Oyamakawa in Omifuji, Yasu City.

Audio recorder and microphones

Audio recorder and microphones on a cherry tree in the woods along Oyamakawa in Omifuji, Yasu City

A little before 13:00 I mounted a Sony PCM-M10 recorder and FEL Clippy EM172 mics on a tree trunk for quasi-binaural recording. The mics face northwest toward a busy two-lane road, Japan national route 8, with the river and farms to the right and a residential neighborhood to the left.

Audio recorder and microphones

Audio recorder and microphones on a cherry tree in the woods along Oyamakawa in Omifuji, Yasu City

We can hear cars, trucks, agricultural machinery (rice harvester), and other human sounds, but the cicadas compete well and nearly drown out the songs of smaller insects. Soon the cicadas will fall silent, and we’ll wonder how another summer passed so quickly.

Red spider lilies (lycoris radiata, 彼岸花)

Red spider lilies (lycoris radiata, 彼岸花) along an irrigation canal in Mikami, Yasu City, Mikamiyama (三上山) in the background.

Videos of small creatures with a compact camera

At the beginning of summer, 2017, I bought a little Panasonc LUMIX DMC-LX9 compact digital camera. This model has a flip-up LCD screen and enables extreme closeups with a large aperture and a wide-angle view. I have using it mostly for general photography, especially while cycling. As I had hoped when I bought it, works very well for closeup shots of small creatures.

Caterpillar in Hayashi

Closeup of a caterpillar on a sidewalk along a country road in Hayashi, Ritto City (map). Video was shot just before sunset on 6 July 2017. Music: “Before Dawn” by Jason Shaw at AudionatiX Music License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-A) 3.0

Inchworm along a forest road

Closeup of an inchworm at a bridge on a forest forest road in Bodaiji, Konan City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan (map). Video was shot while mountain biking on 15 July 2017.

Shield bug (stinkbug)

Finally, an unpublished clip of a shield bug (カメムシ, 亀虫) at Kashiho Shrine (上葦穂神社) in Kojibukuro, Konan City (map). I discovered the shrine while I was cycling. As was leaving, I noticed this bug in the grass beside the parking lot. I followed it until it flew away. Later I trimmed heavily to remove most of the scene that was out of focus.

Technical notes

This little camera seems to work very well for closeup video of small creatures. To do extreme closeups I zoom out to the widest angle (30mm full-frame equivalent). Depending on the background, I set the aperture somewhere between f5.6 and f1.4. For small insects I must get very close. In fact, the inchworm in the video above actually hit the lens! This camera will not work well with small creatures that are shy. For shy creatures such as butterflies we can get better results with a close focus telephoto lens on a mirrorless or DSLR camera.

I have not done any color grading because I like the natural colors of the raw clips from the camera. I do all post-processing with free/libre and open-source software (FLOSS) on a Fedora GNU/Linux workstation. I trim some clips with FFmpeg and edit with Kdenlive. I use the video editor to trim and join clips and to add titles and sound (music for the caterpillar video).

This little camera has features that I have not yet exploited. I have been shooting full HD (1920×1080) in aperture priority mode and continuous focus tracking. In the future I may shoot 4K video and try various settings; however, my present point-and-shoot style seems to work well. I have to hold the camera very close the the ground, which become difficult, so I may add a bracket or a cage to hold the camera. For more sophisticated editing and color grading I can use professional software such as Da Vinci Resolve by Blackmagic Design.