Category Archives: wildlife

Wildflowers and Insects

Here in Shiga Prefecture some wildflowers continue to bloom well into November. They attract a variety of flying insects, including butterflies, moths, bees, hoverflies, and wasps.

On November 3, 2018, quite a few insects were feeding along an irrigation canal near rice and soybean fields near my home.

Common grass yellow butterfly (Eurema hecabe hecabe, キチョウ) on Allium pseudojaponicum (タマムラサキ)
Small white butterfly (Pieris rapae, モンシロチョウ) on a dandelion flower
Beet webworm moth (Spoladea recurvalis, シロオビノメイガ
Giant hoverfly (Phytomia zonata, オオハナアブ
Small branded swift butterfly (Pelopidas mathias, チャバネセセリ

Few insects visit tiny flowers such as henbit dead-nettle (ホトケノザ).

Henbit dead-nettle (Lamium amplexicaule, ホトケノザ) flower

Tall goldenrod (セイタカアワダチソウ) grows beside fields and along rivers and ponds. Many species of insects can be seen on goldenrod flowers.

Goldenrod flowers (セイタカアワダチソウ) in Tsuji, Ritto City
Goldenrod and other weeds along Yasugawa near the tennis courts in Deba, Ritto City

On November 5th, 6th, and 8th, I saw insects on tall goldenrod near the irrigation canal in Tsuji, the riverbank near the tennis courts in Yasugawa Athletic Park (野洲川運動公園), and along Oyamakawa (大山川) in Yasu City.

Harmonia axyridis (ナミテントウ, Asian lady beetle) in Tsuji, Ritto City. This ladybird has many color patterns and many English names.
Harmonia axyridis (ナミテントウ, Asian lady beetle) in Tsuji, Ritto City. This ladybird has many color patterns and many English names.
Japanese honeybee (Apis cerana japonica, ニホンミツバチ)
Female Indian Fritillary butterfly (Argyreus hyperbius, ツマグロヒョウモン)
Female Indian Fritillary butterfly (Argyreus hyperbius, ツマグロヒョウモン) on goldenrod along Oyamakawa in Kitazakura, Yasu City
Male Indian Fritillary butterfly (Argyreus hyperbius, ツマグロヒョウモン) along Yasugawa in Deba, Ritto City
Painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui, ヒメアカタテハ) along Yasugawa in Deba, Ritto City

On November 16th a potter wasp was on tall goldenrod at the reservior near Ono Ramp in Ritto City.

Potter wasp on goldenrod flowers at the reservoir near Ono Ramp (小野ランプ) in Ritto City

Other flowering weeds compete with tall goldenrod. Bidens pilosa (beggar’s tick, コセンダングサ) yellow disc florets continue to attract bees and other small butterflies after the white ray florets fall off.

Japanese honeybee (Apis cerana japonica, ニホンミツバチ)
Long-tailed blue butterfly (Lampides boeticus, ウラナミシジミ

Bidens pilosa fruits come off easily and attach themselves to clothing.

Bidens pilosa (beggar’s tick, コセンダングサ) weed along Yasugawa in Deba, Ritto City

Other flowers have continued to bloom and attract insects in November.

Painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui, ヒメアカタテハ) along the road behind Sakura Ryokuchi in Minamizakura, Yasu City
Asian comma butterfly (Polygonia c-aureum, キタテハ) in Kitazakura, Yasu City
Asian comma butterfly (Polygonia c-aureum, キタテハ) in Kitazakura, Yasu City

After mid-November larger insects such as butterflies are becoming rare.

Small branded swift butterfly (Pelopidas mathias, チャバネセセリ) on a dandelion (Taraxacum officinale, セイヨウタンポポ) in Hayashi, Ritto City


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.

Little Egrets at Yasugawa

Little egrets (コサギ) are very active at Yasugawa (野洲川) in early August.

When conditions are just right, many little egrets and a few great egrets (ダイサギ) and grey herons (アオサギ) feed on small aquatic creatures at the weir between Moriyama City on the left bank and Yasu City on the right. I recorded some of the action with video and still photos just after sunrise on August 6, 2018, and again in late afternoon on August 8, 2018.

Video

Photos – August 6

On August 6, 2018, some little egrets and a few great egrets were catching fish in shallow water above the weir in Moriyama City. Others were standing on the weir and feeding on small aquatic creatures.

Often one bird would chase away an interloper. They did not chase other species of birds, but when confronted by an aggressive crow the egrets did not back down.

Photos – August 8

On August 8, 2018, I went to the river late in the afternoon. The sun was behind my back, and there was a strong wind from the northwest (downstream).

As usual, some little egrets bullied others over territory

A few little egrets crowded up close to much larger great egrets (ダイサギ). Sometimes the larger birds snapped at the little ones when they got too close, but real conflict erupted only between birds of the same species. Once a great egret stopped feeding and marched off to confront another great egret.

Sometimes other birds appeared at or below the weir.

Some of the little egrets were feeding very actively.

As we can see in the video above, sometimes they would slip and fall before taking flight. It seemed that they had temporarily forgotten that they could fly. Of course, little egrets fly very well!

Notes

All photos and video clips were shot handheld with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera and M. Zuiko Digital 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens. Some closeup scenes were shot with the camera’s 2X digital teleconverter.

Music: “Kawai Kitsune” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com), licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

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. Photos were organized and edited with digiKam.

Other photos can be seen on my Flickr photostream. Videos are on my YouTube video channel.

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.