Category Archives: 自然環境

End of Summer

The last days of summer 2018 in Shiga Prefecture have been mostly cloudy, with quite a bit of rain and very little sunshine. Whenever it was not raining too hard, I went out with a camera most days September 11-19, 2018.

September 11 – insects in a garden, Yasugawa, nearby fields

Physostegia virginiana flowers (obedience, ハナトラノオ) in a neighbor’s garden attract many butterflies, moths, bees, and other insects.

Yasugawa has been running high but not at flood levels.

Late in the afternoon local farmers were hurrying to harvest their rice before rain the following day.

September 14 – Takano

As soon as the rain stopped in mid afternoon, I walked to Takano Park, just a few minutes from my house. Along the way neighbors’ flowers caught my attention.

In Takano Park a few small creatures appeared after the rain.

September 15 – Yasugawa riverbank, fields in Deba

Scilla scilloides flowers(Barnardia japonica, ツルボ) have begun to bloom along the Yasugawa riverbank. Other flowers grow nearby.

Great egrets and grey herons hunt for fish nearby in the river. Most days a few of these large birds can be seen in nearby fields.

September 16 – Yasugawa riverbank

In late afternoon I was able to take only a few photos along the river before I got rained out.

September 17 – Mizunomori Aquatic Botanical Garden

Kusatsu City Mizunomori Aquatic Botanical Garden (草津市立水生植物公園みずの森) is one of my favorite places. It’s a short drive from my home and usually not too crowded.

On September 17th a large display of Canna flowers stood near the entrance in front of the fountain.

A large number of water lilies are in ponds,

an outdoor tank,

and the Atrium.

Quite a few flowers were blooming in various outdoor locations.

Giant Hibiscus ‘titanbicus’ were blooming near the entrance.

September 18 – Yasu City

The sun appeared now and then as I rode my mountain bike across the river to Yasu City and up Oyamakawa to Sakura Ryokuchi Park. Along the way I stopped to photograph red spider lilies along rice paddies.

September 19 – Rokujizo and Misono

Sunshine! I rode my mountain bike south from my home in Ritto City, first nearby to Rokujizo, where we can see several varieties of flowers in the neighborhood and along Hayamagawa.

Up the valley in Misono red spider lilies bloom along the terraced fields.

In Kamitoyama I saw some globe amaranth flowers in a small garden. As I was admiring the flowers, a painted lady butterfly appeared.

I often see a grey heron at Konzegawa in Misono on my way home. The bird ignores me when I pass along the bike path. If I stop nearby, it flies.

In late summer and early fall rural Japan changes dramatically. Various flowers bloom, colorful butterflies and moths become very active when the weather permits, and fields become empty as farmers harvest their rice. Sometimes it seems gloomy, but even when the sky is dark, there is always something to see if we take time to look closely.

Butterflies

Shiga Prefecture in Japan is blessed with quite a few species of butterflies. A few species are shown here in photographs taken between April and September 5, 2018, when I also made a short video clip (music from “Redwood Highway” by Jason Shaw at AudionautiX.com.)

Asian swallowtails (Papilio xuthus, アゲハチョウ)

Old World swallowtail (Papilio machaon, キアゲハ)

Common copper (Lycaena phlaeas, ベニシジミ)

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

Common sailor (Neptis hylas, リュウキュウミスジ)

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

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

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

Great Mormon (Papilio memnon thunbergii, ナガサキアゲハ)

Notes

The video clip and most photos were shot with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera and an Olympus M. Zuiko 40-150mm 2/2.8 PRO lens. A few photos were taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX9 camera (Japanese monolingual version of LX10/LX15).

All postprocessing was done on a Fedora GNU/Linux workstation. I edited the video clips and added titles with with Kdenlive, but I did not modify the colors or add any enhancements other than slow motion (1/4 speed) from the middle of the clip. Photos were organized and edited with digiKam.

Young Egrets and Herons at Ten Shrine

In June, 2018, I recorded and photographed several species of egret and heron chicks at Ten Shrine in Moriyama City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan.

My little recorder captured the whole sonic environment, noise and all, with small omnidirectional mics that I attached to my backpack in order to create a quasi-binaural soundscape.

Low-frequency traffic noise was pretty loud, even on a Sunday afternoon. We can hear the birds more clearly by adding a high-pass filter, for example, a -6dB roll-off beginning at 880Hz.

Unfortunately, such manipulation distorts reality. It may sound better to most people, but it is no longer an authentic field recording.

Bird nests filled the trees surrounding this shrine, especially along a road near the entrance, as we can see on the radio aporee map for this location.

Fortunately, we had blue skies on several days during Rainy Season in June.

Many young birds were in the trees, calling and competing with siblings.

Species included birds I rarely see, such as black-crowned night herons.

Cattle egrets stayed close to tree trunks but sometimes showed themselves.

Birds in flight included adults bringing food and youngsters testing their wings.

I talked with several people who live near the shrine. They have to put up with a lot of noise and bird droppings that have increased in recent years as wildlife habitats are destroyed. Nearly all the trees that once lined the nearby Yasugawa riverbank have been bulldozed, leaving only low bushes, weeds, and a few recreational facilities. Many of the remaining trees for colonies of these beautiful birds are in sacred groves at rural shrines.

Egret Rookery

Great egrets (ダイサギ), cattle egrets (アマサギ), and other birds nest in the woods at Hyozu Shrine (兵主大社) in Yasu City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan. I recorded the sounds of the rookery on Sunday, May 27, 2018, and posted a six-minute sample on radio aporee ::: maps and SoundCloud.

The woods are between a large shrine and Yasu City athletic facilities (野洲市中主B&G海洋センター). The white spots in the satellite image of the woods are egrets.

The recording location was not very photogenic. White bird droppings covered everything in the area. On the ground near the tree that held my recorder broken eggshells and a feather indicated young egrets above.

Eggshell below a great egret nest

Eggshell below a great egret nest beside Hyozu Taisha (兵主大社) in Gojo, Yasu City

Short feather below a great egret nest

Short feather below a great egret nest beside Hyozu Taisha (兵主大社) in Gojo, Yasu City

Nests and young birds were hidden in the treetops.

Egret nests and young great egrets (ダオサギ)

Egret nests and young great egrets (ダオサギ) in the woods beside Hyozu Taisha (兵主大社) in Gojo, Yasu City

Now and then an adult egret appeared, and I was lucky to see a cattle egret carrying a branch for a nest.

Cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis, アマサギ)

Cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis, アマサギ) in the woods beside Hyozu Taisha (兵主大社) in Gojo, Yasu City

Recording and post-processing

This recording was made with a Sony PCM-M10 recorder and FEL Communications Clippy Stereo EM172 Microphone tied to a tree. Since I was near the south edge of the woods, I placed the mics placed slightly forward of center facing north.

Audio post-processing was done with Audacity on Fedora Workstation, a Linux system running on a Lenovo ThinkStation 20 computer. I trimmed this excerpt from a longer recording and raised the overall volume. No other digital signal processing was done.

Flowering Weeds in Early Spring

In March and April the Japanese countryside comes to life as weeds appear along fields and streams, anywhere with soil. Some of these plants are known for medicinal properties, and some are gathered as food. Most are ignored or cut down.

This year I’m trying to learn the names of flowering weeds as they appear in nearby fields and along the Yasugawa riverbank in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. This photo gallery includes some of the flowers I’ve seen from the beginning of March until mid-April, 2018.

Many of the flowers are tiny! Most of these photos were taken with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mk. II camera and a 60mm f/2.8 macro lens, which I showed on Twitter.