Category Archives: 自然環境

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.

Uguisu (鶯)

On June 4, 2017, a quiet Sunday, I took a bike ride in Yasu City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan. On the way home I heard a Japanese bush warbler (uguisu, ウグイス, or 鶯).

I always carry a small audio recorder and a pair of Primo EM172 mics in my touring bike handlebar bag. The bird began was sing loudly as I rode into a wooded area, so I quickly leaned my bike against a small tree, attached the mics, and began to record.

Bike is parked in foliage along road in abandoned park in Ichimiyake, Yasu City. Audio recording of bird calls with Clippy EM172 mics and Sony PCM-M10 recorder.

Trek 520 touring bike along road in abandoned park in Ichimiyake, Yasu City

The uguisu (Japanese bush warbler) remained in dense foliage, and I never saw any of the birds we hear in this recording. (The photo at the top was taken in 2016.)

Foliage along road in abandoned park in Ichimiyake, Yasu City

This area was once a park. On weekdays dump trucks haul dirt and gravel nearby along the riverbank, but on weekends it’s very quiet, a nice place for leisurely cycling.

Foliage along road in abandoned park in Ichimiyake, Yasu City

Foliage along road in abandoned park in Ichimiyake, Yasu City

Location

The Compass app on my phone shows the direction and location of the stereo recording, but it is not accurate. The mics were aimed south, but the city is Yasu, not Moriyama, and maps coordinates were off by several hundred meters. An annotated paper map or an online map with a satellite image would be more accurate and useful.

Trek 520 touring bike parked in foliage along road in abandoned park in Ichimiyake, Yasu City. Audio recording of bird calls with Clippy EM172 mics and Sony PCM-M10 recorder.

This shows the location within the abandoned park.

Recording and post-processing

This method of quasi-binaural recording attempts to emulate human perception by placing the left and right mics on either side of a bicycle handlebar bag. It is not ideal, of course, but setup can be done very quickly. This recording was made with a Sony PCM-M10 recorder and FEL Communications Clippy Stereo EM172 Microphone.

Trek 520 touring bike parked in foliage along road in abandoned park in Ichimiyake, Yasu City. Audio recording of bird calls with Clippy EM172 mics and Sony PCM-M10 recorder.

Trek 520 touring bike parked in foliage along road in abandoned park in Ichimiyake, Yasu City. Audio recording of bird calls with Clippy EM172 mics and Sony PCM-M10 recorder.

Audio post-processing was done with Audacity on Fedora Workstation, a GNU/Linux system running on a Lenovo ThinkStation 20 computer. I trimmed the recording from more than 20 minutes to 5:19 and normalized the gain. I did not add any filters, EQ, or compression.

This recording is also available on radio aproree ::: maps – sounds of the world.

Grey wagtails (キセキレイ)

In winter I have been delighted to see several grey wagtails (キセキレイ). Here in Shiga Prefecture these beautiful birds are much less common and much more colorful than two other wagtail species, Japanese wagtails (セグロセキレイ) and white wagtails (ハクセキレイ).

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ, Motacilla cinerea cinerea) above Yasugawa dam in Moriyama

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ, Motacilla cinerea cinerea) above Yasugawa dam in Moriyama

In winter I’ve seen grey wagtails most often at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園). The small stream along the park is an ideal location that I discovered in 2016.

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ) in Hatonomori Park, Moriyama City.

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ) in Hatonomori Park, Moriyama City.

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ) in Hatonomori Park, Moriyama City.

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ) in Hatonomori Park, Moriyama City.

In 2017 the same stream remains a good spot.

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県   守山市 鳩の森公園)

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県   守山市 鳩の森公園)

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県   守山市 鳩の森公園)

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Sometimes I encounter grey wagtails along other streams. In December I was able to photograph one as I was cycling along a canal near Hiyoshi Shrine (日吉神社) in Kamitoyama, Ritto City.

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) along a field near Hiyoshi Shrine (日吉神社) in Kamitoyama, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) along a field near Hiyoshi Shrine (日吉神社) in Kamitoyama, Ritto City

Now and then we can see grey wagtails in open areas. After it snowed here in January, 2017, one appeared for several days in Takano Park (滋賀県 栗東市 高野公園).

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

I am hoping to see more of these beautiful, shy birds before they fly away.

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City. Shot at 1/640sec @ f8 ISO 400.

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City. Shot at 1/640sec @ f8 ISO 400.

January birds

In January, 2017, I took hundreds of photographs of birds near my home in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Here are a few of them.

More photos are on Flickr. Quality varies!

Selected photos are on 500px.

Eurasian tree sparrows (スズメ) in a field south of Sakura Ryokuchi Park in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Eurasian tree sparrows (スズメ) in a field south of Sakura Ryokuchi Park in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus, スズメ) in Takano, Ritto City

Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus, スズメ) in Takano, Ritto City

Oriental Greenfinch (Chloris sinica, カワラヒワ, 河原鶸) in Takano, Ritto City

Oriental Greenfinch (Chloris sinica, カワラヒワ, 河原鶸) in Takano, Ritto City

Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ) in a cherry tree near the Sunrise Tower at Sakura Cemetery in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ) in a cherry tree near the Sunrise Tower at Sakura Cemetery in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Japanese tit (Parus minor, シジュウカラ) along Yasugawa riverbank near the lower ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Japanese tit (Parus minor, シジュウカラ) along Yasugawa riverbank near the lower ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Varied tit (Parus varius, ヤマガラ) in a cherry tree near the Sunrise Tower at Sakura Cemetery in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Varied tit (Parus varius, ヤマガラ) in a cherry tree near the Sunrise Tower at Sakura Cemetery in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Olive-backed Pipit (Anthus hodgsoni, ビンズイ) in Yasugawa Sports Park woods

Olive-backed Pipit (Anthus hodgsoni, ビンズイ) in Yasugawa Sports Park woods

Oriental turtle-doves (Streptopelia orientalis, キジバト) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Oriental turtle-doves (Streptopelia orientalis, キジバト) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Oriental turtle-dove (Streptopelia orientalis, キジバト) at Takano Park in Ritto City

Oriental turtle-dove (Streptopelia orientalis, キジバト) at Takano Park in Ritto City

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla, アトリ) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla, アトリ) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Dusky thrush (Turdus eunomus, ツグミ)  eating persimmons in Tsuji, Ritto City

Dusky thrush (Turdus eunomus, ツグミ) eating persimmons in Tsuji, Ritto City

Dusky thrush (Turdus eunomus, ツグミ) in Factory Park near the Kibogaokaguchi intersection in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Dusky thrush (Turdus eunomus, ツグミ) in Factory Park near the Kibogaokaguchi intersection in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Pale thrush (Turdus pallidus, シロハラ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Pale thrush (Turdus pallidus, シロハラ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Scaly thrush [Amami thrush] (Zoothera dauma, トラツグミ) in the woods along Yasugawa between the soccer ground and the parking lot near the backetball court in Moriyama

Scaly thrush [Amami thrush] (Zoothera dauma, トラツグミ) in the woods along Yasugawa between the soccer ground and the parking lot near the backetball court in Moriyama

Meadow bunting (Emberiza cioides, ホオジロ, 頬白) along Yasugawa riverbank near the ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Meadow bunting (Emberiza cioides, ホオジロ, 頬白) along Yasugawa riverbank near the ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Meadow bunting (Emberiza cioides, ホオジロ, 頬白) along Yasugawa riverbank near the ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Meadow bunting (Emberiza cioides, ホオジロ, 頬白) along Yasugawa riverbank near the ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Black-faced bunting (Emberiza spodocephala, アオジ) on the gravel road to Takano Shrine in Ritto City

Black-faced bunting (Emberiza spodocephala, アオジ) on the gravel road to Takano Shrine in Ritto City

White wagtail (Motacilla alba  lugens, ハクセキレイ) at Takano Park in Ritto City

White wagtail (Motacilla alba lugens, ハクセキレイ) at Takano Park in Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Crow (カラス) in a tree along Yasugawa in Moriyama

Crow (カラス) in a tree along Yasugawa in Moriyama

Common kingfisher (カワセミ, 川蝉) female at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Common kingfisher (カワセミ, 川蝉) female at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Pygmy woodpecker (Dendrocopos kizuki,  コゲラ) along Yasugawa riverbank near the lower ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Pygmy woodpecker (Dendrocopos kizuki, コゲラ) along Yasugawa riverbank near the lower ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

I’m looking forward exploring Shiga Prefecture and seeing more birds in February.