Category Archives: wildlife

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.

Turtle Doves (キジバト) in Hatonomori Park

On May 28, 2017, a couple of Oriental turtle-doves (キジバト) were mating in Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園).

Earlier a solitary turtle-dove was high in a tree, calling to its mate.

Oriental turtle-dove (キジバト) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

As I was looking for small birds, my wife saw the two turtle-doves and called me. I saw them mating, but I was not able to get a clear view.

Oriental turtle-doves (キジバト) mating at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

By the time I found a place to take photos and video clips, the turtle-doves were taking turns grooming each other.

Oriental turtle-doves (キジバト) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Oriental turtle-doves (キジバト) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

While I was moving to another position, the two birds separated and then flew away.

The two turtle-doves appeared together for only a few minutes, but I was moved by their mutual affection as I watched them through the viewfinder.

Notes

Video was shot handheld with an Olympus OM-D EM-5 Mk II camera and 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens with a 1.4x teleconverter.

Music in the video is from “Love Story” (piano) by Sławomir Zając, chafer on SoundCloud (https://soundcloud.com/chafer).

Post-processing was done with Kdenlive running on Fedora Workstation, a GNU/Linux operating system.

Kingfisher (川蝉)

On March 16, 2017, a female common kingfisher (川蝉) took more than a minute to swallow a fish at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園).

When I saw her, the fish was head-first in her beak.

Common kingfisher female (カワセミ, 川蝉) with a fish at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

She repeatedly gripped the fish at different places along its body. Perhaps she was crushing it to make it easier to swallow.

Common kingfisher female (カワセミ, 川蝉) with a fish at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

After swallowing the fish she remained on the same branch for several minutes. She was in the same position when I left.

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

Hatonomori Park

Previous posts about Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Technical notes

I shot the video clips and still photos with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II camera and a Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar f4.0-6.3 / 100-400mm zoom lens at 400mm with lens stabilization (O.I.S.) on. I did not use any special movie mode settings. After a few still photos, I simply pressed the video record button. After the bird flew to another branch, I held the lens on a fence post to reduce camera shake. Fortunately, she remained visible and in focus.

For post-processing I used the free version of DaVinci Resolve 12.5 on a Fedora Linux workstation. Recently I had upgraded my video card to an nVidia GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB), so the software ran smoothly. This professional editing and color grading software works very well, but it has three limitations. First, I could not directly import the video file from my camera. I had to convert the video codec to ProRes, which created huge files (ffmpeg -i kf-1.mov -vcodec prores kf-1-prores.mov). Second, audio does not play without a Blackmagic DecLink card. Audio editing is possible, though, so I edited by sight and listened to the exported video file. Third, export formats are limited to a few formats. For convenience I prefer other editors, but Resolve is great for professional video editing and color grading work on Linux computers.