Category Archives: Yasu

Crows along Yasugawa

On Sunday, March 18, 2018, I was cycling down the north bank of Yasugawa when I heard some noisy crows perched in nearby trees.

When I ride my touring bike, I carry a small audio recorder and microphones. For this recording I used a Sony PCM-M10 recorder and Clippy Stereo EM172 mics by FEL Communications Ltd. To mimic human hearing, a quasi-binaural sound image was made by placing the mics on either side of my bicycle handlebar bag. I prefer to use trees about the diameter of an adult human head, but I use the handlebar bag when I cannot find a tree.

Trek 520 touring bike with audio recorder and mics on handlebar bag in Yasu City

The Compass app on my iPhone shows the location, direction, and time.

Compass and geolocation app on bicycle handlebar bag in Yasu City

As we can see on the map, this location is between a river and near the edge of a suburban area. With aircraft overhead, vehicles on nearby roads, and rural and suburban human activities, this place is quite noisy, even on Sunday.

In everyday life we filter out much of the noise. When the crows are not so noisy, I suppose most people experience this environment as a peaceful and quiet little park, just as it appears in photographs.

Trek 520 touring bike in Yasu City

Trek 520 touring bike in Yasu City

Yasugawa Riverside Park

Just before noon on January 7, 2017, I made a field recording in a large park along Yasugawa in Shiga Prefecture, Japan (野洲川立入河川公園). The recording was made with a small Sony PCM-M10 digital recorder mounted on a tripod near the lower end of the park. I chose this location in order to reduce traffic and train noises from bridges upstream, as well as the rumble of water at a dam downstream. I pointed the microphones southeast toward Mikamiyama.

We can hear the rumble of a nearby dam, traffic, crows, and kids playing in the distance. These sounds are overwhelmed by a recorded public address message broadcast from speakers on a small building on the embankment above the park. The recorded message asks people to obey park rules: no golf, RC cars or aircraft, fireworks, unleashed dogs, fires, littering, or other activities that may disturb people. The same loud recorded message dominates the sonic environment of the park once every hour.

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama, looking with the microphones southeast toward Mikamiyama

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama, looking with the microphones southeast toward Mikamiyama

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama

I often visit this park to look for birds. Egrets, herons, cormorants, and ducks can be found in the river both above and below the dam, and many small birds live in the vegetation along the riverbank.

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama, looking downstream to the north

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama, looking downstream to the north

On January 7th, as I was recording, I walked upstream and saw a few birds.

Daurian redstart male (Phoenicurus auroreus,  ジョウビタキ) along Yasugawa upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Daurian redstart male (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ) along Yasugawa upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Dusky thrush (ツグミ) along Yasugawa upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Dusky thrush (ツグミ) along Yasugawa upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Oriental Greenfinch (Chloris sinica, カワラヒワ, 河原鶸) along Yasugawa upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Oriental Greenfinch (Chloris sinica, カワラヒワ, 河原鶸) along Yasugawa upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Activity in this park varies a lot, depending on the season, the weather, and the day of the week. But whatever they are doing, everyone in the park hears the same loud recorded message once every hour.

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.

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/).

Grey herons and great egrets in December – 12月のアオサギとダイサギ

From late March until mid October the rivers and fields near my home in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, are full of grey herons and great egrets. In autumn they fly south. By late November nearly all of them have gone, but each year a few remain. This December, 2015, I’ve seen at least one grey heron and two great egrets.

One grey heron has remained in Omifuji, Yasu City. This bird often stands along Oyamakawa, a small stream that has plenty of little fish to support a small population of herons, egrets, and kingfishers.

Grey heron (アオサギ)

Sometimes the heron perches on the top of the riverbank, on the roof of a nearby factory, or above a pipeline that crosses the river (map).

Grey heron (アオサギ)

A grey heron also appears now and then at the lower pond on the left bank of Yasugawa near Yasugawa Sports Park in Deba, Ritto City. I don’t know if this is the same bird that I see in Omifuji. It often stands on the same large rock (map).

Grey heron (アオサギ)

In early December a great egret and several common cormorants joined the heron to catch fish in the pond, which became isolated from Yasugawa as the water level dropped.

Grey heron (アオサギ) and common cormorant (カワウ)

Grey heron (アオサギ) and common cormorant (カワウ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) and common cormorants (カワウ)

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

Great egret (ダイサギ)

On the 28th of December a grey heron and two egrets were walking along Oyamakawa in Omifuji, Yasu City. The egrets were really shy, but I could get relatively close to the heron.

Grey heron (アオサギ)

Grey heron (アオサギ)

As the three birds moved downstream, they took turns flying to locations near one another. Finally they separated, and one of the great egrets flew to the mouth of Oyamakawa a little upstream from Yasugawa Ohashi (map).

Great egret (ダイサギ) and grey heron (アオサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

I’m looking forward to watching these magnificent birds throughout the winter.