Category Archives: insects

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.

Early Autumn Insects

We tend to associate insects with late Spring and Summer, but quite a few butterflies, dragonflies, and other insects can be seen here in Shiga Prefecture from late September until early November.

Several species of butterflies and moths were very active in late September and early October. A few remained until late October.

Asian swallowtail butterfly (アゲハ) on a red spider lily (彼岸花)

Old World swallowtail butterfly (キアゲハ)

Humingbird hawk moth (ホシホウジャク)

Common grass yellow butterfly (キチョウ)

Common grass butterfly larva (キチョウの幼虫)

Oriental short-tailed blue butterfly (タイワンツバメシジミ)

Oriental short-tailed blue butterfly (タイワンツバメシジミ)

Eastern pale clouded yellow butterfly (モンキチョウ)

Eastern pale clouded yellow butterfly (モンキチョウ)

Chinese peacock black swallowtail butterfly (カラスアゲハ)

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

A few Dragonlies were still here in October.

Meadowhawk [Darter] dragonfly (Sympetrum darwinianum, ナツアカネ)

Female white-tailed skimmer dragonfly (Orthetrum albistylum, ムギワラトンボ)

Female white-tailed skimmer dragonfly (Orthetrum albistylum, ムギワラトンボ)

In October locusts and other insects were active along the Yasugawa riverbank.

Migratory locusts (トノサマバッタ)

Tropidothorax sinensis (ヒメジュウジナガカメムシ)

Bee and grub on goldenrod (セイタカアワダチソウ)

Sorry this post appears so late!

Concrete picnic table and stools in a wooded park

Hatonomori Park in Summer

Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (守山市の鳩の森公園) is a wooded public park with a few concrete picnic tables, a play area for children, and a small stream on two sides. The park covers 1.86 hectares.

On some weekday mornings local people, mostly seniors, gather to play ground golf. On hot summer days the sounds of ground golf compete with the buzzing of cicadas, murmers of turtle doves, and traffic on a nearby street.

This recording was made in Hatonomori Park, Moriyama City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan at about 10 a.m. on August 1, 2016. Recording was done with a Sony PCM-M10 recorder. Hear the same recording while seeing the map location on radio aporee maps.

Sony PCM-M10 recorder

Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園)

Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園)

Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園)

Hatonomori Park is full of cicadas in summer. Other flying creatures, such as butterflies and birds, hide when people are active in the park, but cicadas keep singing.

Cicada (セミ)

Cicada (セミ)

After the ground golf players leave the park, wild creatures reappear. The park has many beetles and other insects, including several species of butterflies.

Hestina persimilis japonica (ゴマダラチョウ) butterfly

Old World swallowtail butterfly (アゲハ)

Old World swallowtail butterfly (アゲハ)

Old World swallowtail butterfly (アゲハ)

We can see many species of birds in the park, and sometimes we can hear them. One of the nicest sounds in the park is the murmer of oriental turtle doves.

Oriental turtle-doves (キジバト)

Oriental turtle-doves (キジバト)

Two ponds hold carp and other fish. Ducks swim in the ponds and a small stream in winter and spring. In the summer egrets and herons sometimes appear. One grey heron sometimes perches on the foot bridge over the lower pond.

Grey heron (アオサギ)

Grey heron (アオサギ)

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that several species of small birds remain in the park in summer.

Long-tailed tit (エナガ)

Long-tailed tit (エナガ)

Japanese tit (シジュウカラ)

Japanese pygmy woodpecker (コゲラ)

Kingfisher (川蝉, カワセミ)

I often see two brown-eared bulbuls. Recently I discovered that they catch and eat cicadas. When they eat, they first bite off the wings. As they eat, they toss the insect. Finally, an only empty shell remains.

Brown-eared bulbul (ヒヨドリ)

Brown-eared bulbul (ヒヨドリ)

Brown-eared bulbul (ヒヨドリ)

Last winter a bird photographer told me about Hatonomori Park, which is about 25 minutes from my home by bicycle. It’s a nice ride, mostly along the Yasugawa riverbank, and the park is a peaceful place to watch birds.

Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園)

White butterfly with wings up to right, facing left on a flower with white petals and large yellow center.

Butterflies in Late June

June and early July is Rainy Season in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Many days are gloomy, but now and then the sun appears. The countryside is very green, with rice plants growing in nearby fields and wild vegetation everywhere. Many kinds of insects and spiders appear.

This June I often went outdoors with a macro lens and took photographs to add to my Flickr album Bugs and other small creatures. Along with bees, beetles, flies, and spiders, I found five species of butterflies.

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

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

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

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

Silver-studded blue butterfly (Plebejus argus, ヒメシジミ)

Silver-studded blue butterfly (Plebejus argus, ヒメシジミ)

Silver-studded blue butterfly (Plebejus argus, ヒメシジミ)

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

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

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

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

Gray-veined white butterfly (Pieris melete, スジグロシロチョウ)

Gray-veined white butterfly (Pieris melete, スジグロシロチョウ)

Gray-veined white butterfly (Pieris melete, スジグロシロチョウ)

Gray-veined white butterfly (Pieris melete, スジグロシロチョウ)

Asian swallowtail butterfly (Papilio xuthus, アゲハ)

Asian swallowtail butterfly (Papilio xuthus, アゲハ)

Asian swallowtail butterfly (Papilio xuthus, アゲハ)

Asian swallowtail butterfly (Papilio xuthus, アゲハ)

Technical note

All of these photographs were taken with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk II camera and an Olympus M. Zuiko 60mm f2.8 macro lens.