Category Archives: 自然環境

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.

Coots – オオバン

On December 29, 2016, several coots (オオバン) were feeding on moss at the base of a flood control dam on Yasugawa about five kilometers upstream from Lake Biwa. Here in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, I often see coots in still water and slow streams, but I’ve never seen them eating so actively. I happened to be carrying a tripod, so I made a short video.

The pool and nearby running water below the dam make this an interesting location. In late spring and summer many people gather to fish there. Cormorants, egrets, and herons hunt nearby, and Japanese kites circle overhead, sometimes swooping down to pluck fish from the river.

Music

“Running Water” by Jason Shaw at AudionatiX (http://audionautix.com/). License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-By) 3.0.

Technical notes

Hardware

I shot the opening and closing scenes with an Olympus OM-D EM-5 camera and two lenses: Olympus 17mm f1.8 and Panasonic/Leica 25mm f1.4. For medium, closeup, and extreme closeup shots I used an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II camera and a Panasonic 100-400mm zoom lens.

I used the camera’s optical teleconverter for extreme closeups. At 800mm (400mm x 2) with a micro four-thirds system the 35mm equivalent focal length is 1600mm, which requires a steady tripod. I used a Manfrotto 055XPRO4 tripod and an MVH502AH fluid head. That seems like a lot of tripod for a micro four-thirds system, but it’s great for long lenses. The four-section model is easy to carry. I attach it to my Lowepro Flipside Sport 20L AW, a small backpack that holds two cameras, several lenses, a small audio recorder, etc. Recently I’ve been concentrating on still photography with a handheld camera, so I rarely use a tripod. This experience with the coots reminded me that I should carry a tripod more often.

Video post-processing software

I process media on a Lenovo ThinkStation S20 that runs Fedora GNU/Linux. For this video I first extracted clips from the raw files with FFmpeg. I wrote a shell script to automate processing by reading a data file that specifies how to make each clip.

Video editing was done with Pitivi version 0.97.1. Pitivi has become quite useful and much more stable than the editor I had been using; however, I had to experiment with rendering to get decent output. I used MP4 (x264enc) with a fixed bitrate of 8192K (default is 2048K), and I turned the speed/quality setting OFF (default is medium). Using a good fixed bitrate worked, but I’m not sure why or if my solution is best. Hopefully, future versions of Pitivi will make it easier to produce high-quality output.

Before uploading to YouTube I transcoded the video to Web-optimized M4V with HandBrake. The only trouble I had was that I could not change the title, which was derived from from the filename, and I was not able to edit metadata. (Perhaps it was due to my lack of knowledge.) Before uploading I edited the title and other metadata with the VideoLAN VLC media player.

Yasugawa and Mikamiyama from  the fish ladder along the dam in Moriyama

Yasugawa and Mikamiyama from the fish ladder along the dam in Moriyama

Late Autumn in Rural Shiga

In November and December we can see gradual but dramatic changes in rural Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Brilliant autumn colors appear and then fade, and deciduous trees and shrubs begin to appear barren as they reveal their branches. Bird populations change; most cormorants, egrets, and herons leave for warmer places, and winter migratory birds begin to appear.

Shinkansen crossing Yasugawa

Giant dahlia [tree dahlia] (皇帝ダリア)

Giant dahlia [tree dahlia] (Dahlia imperialis, 皇帝ダリア)

Fall colors at Yasugawa (野洲川)

Trees in Fall with Mikamiyama

Fields in Fall

Soybean field with Takano Park in background

Autumn colors in Takano

Autumn colors in Takano Park

Autumn colors in Takano Park

Fall colors in Takano Park

With very mild weather this year, I saw a few butterflies until late November.

Common copper butterfly (Lycaena phlaeas, ベニシジミ)

Black kites and other birds of prey often soar over rivers and fields. Sometimes crows steal their food.

Japanese black kite (トビ)

Japanese black kite (トビ) trying to protect its fish from a crow.

Daurian restarts (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ) appear in the fall and stay until early spring.

Daurian restart male (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ)

Daurian redstart male (ジョウビタキ)

Daurian restart female (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ)

Japanese tits (シジュウカラ) and other small birds become more visible as trees begin to lose their leaves.

Japanese tit (シジュウカラ)

Japanese tit (シジュウカラ)

In early December I saw a Japanese weasel (Mustela itatsi, イタチ) in mowed grass along an irrigation canal.

Japanese weasel (Mustela itatsi, イタチ)

Japanese weasel (Mustela itatsi, イタチ)

Autumn wind often blows from the northwest. Sometimes the sky is beautiful.

Tree and Mikamiyama (三上山)

Mikamiyama and Koyamakawa

A large persimmon tree near my house attracts several species of birds, especially as the fruit ripens in late autumn.

Crows in a persimmon tree

Quite a few species of birds are very common throughout rural Shiga in late fall and winter.

Japanese wagtail (セグロセキレイ)

White Wagtail (ハクセキレイ)

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ)

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ)

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ)

Varied tit (ヤマガラ)

Oriental Greenfinch (カワラヒワ)

Japanese white-eye (メジロ)

Japanese white-eye (メジロ)

Bull-headed shrike (モズ)

Eurasian tree sparrow (スズメ)

Brown-eared bulbul (ヒヨドリ)

Japanese grosbeak (イカル)

Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (エナガ)

Mallard duck female (マガモ)

Mallard duck (マガモ)

Some egrets and herons stay into late autumn, and a few may stay all winter.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Grey heron (アオサギ)

This year (2016) the autumn colors were brilliant, and I was able to spend quite a few days outdoors with a camera. All of the photos shown here were taken within a few kilometers of my home in Ritto City. Wild birds appeared in many places that I visited in Moriyama, Yasu, and Ritto by bicycle on on foot. I did not see any rare species that many bird photographers seek, but I am grateful that I can experience so much diversity so close to home.