Tag Archives: cormorants

Video: Yasugawa at Deba

Yasugawa egrets and herons, black kites, crows, and cormorants at Deba, Ritto City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Shot with 200mm and 300mm Olympus (manual) lenses and an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk. II camera. on August 9 & 10, 2015. Music: Stargazers Pt. 1 by Ben Timm, The Official Karian. License: Creative Commons Attribution.

Cormorants (カワウ), great egrets (ダイサギ), and other birds

Cormorants (カワウ), great egrets (ダイサギ), and other birds

Cormorant (カワウ)

Cormorant (カワウ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) in Yasugawa at Deba

Great egret (ダイサギ) in Yasugawa at Deba

Grey heron (アオサギ)

Grey heron (アオサギ)

In early August the river was full of small fish, and several species of predators were feeding together upstream from the Japan Route 8 bridge, Yasugawa Ohashi (野洲川大橋). It was great fun to watch cormorants, herons, and two species of egrets as they hunted near each other. Egrets sometimes bullied each other, and now and then a Japanese black kite appeared. Although they don’t appear prominently in the video, a lot of crows were also on gravel banks near the river.

Hardware: Shot with 200mm and 300mm Olympus (manual) lenses, Kenko polarizing filters on an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II camera. I used a Velbon Sherpa 545 II tripod and a D-65 fluid head.

Software: Audacity (audio), digiKam (photos) and OpenShot (video) on a Lenovo ワークステーション ThinkStation S-20 running Fedora Workstation.

Note on timing: The day after I shot the last video clip I checked into a nearby hospital (済生会 滋賀県病院) for an inguinal hernia operation, which I had late afternoon on August 12th. I was released from the hospital on Friday, August 14th. The doctor and nurses told me to take it easy for a while, so I did post-production work until today, August 16th. In a few days I should be able to walk to the river again, hopefully with my camera. I’m really looking forward to getting outdoors again, this time with a healthy body!

Cormorant in foreground, facing left, wings spread. Egret in background, head retracted and neck bent.

A Few Big Birds

Rainy Season seems pretty dry this year, and local rivers are running low. On Monday, June 23, 2014, I rode down along Yasugawa, looking for egrets and other wildlife along the way. Only a few large birds were on the river, mostly a little downstream of Shiga Route 2.

Great egret walking to left in shallow river, left foot raised.

Great Egret in Yasugawa.

Grey heron flying low along river to left below center, wings up slightly, feet dragging in water.

Grey heron beginning flight down Yasugawa

I spent nearly an hour watching a black kite (tombi) on a small tree stump over the river. The kite called continually but quietly. Finally another kite appeared and swooped down, very briefly hovering near the caller. They both flew downstream and circled overhead near each other. After a few minutes one flew to a nearby tree and the other returned to the same location on the tree stump. When I left 20-25 minutes later, the kite was still there, quietly calling.

Black kite on right, back to camera, head turned to right, beak open. Colors match brush and dirt in background.

Black kite on small tree stump, calling.

As I was watching the kite, a kingfisher (kawasemi) emerged from nearby bushes, hovered over the river, dived in, caught a little fish, and returned to the bushes where I could not see it. I did not have time to photograph it, but what a beautiful sight and pleasant surprise! These days I don’t see many birds along the river, but patience can bring great rewards.

Large white bird, a great egret, standing in water facing right.

Cormorants, Egrets, and Herons in Spring

Cormorants, egrets, and herons actively feed on fish in Yasugawa near Shinjo-cho, Moriyama, Shiga, Japan. This area, just downstream from where Shiga Prefectural Route 48 crosses the river, teems with life. It is not yet “developed” for ground golf or other recreational activities, although many people walk nearby. In late spring and summer quite a few people can be seen fishing within a few hundred meters both upstream and downstream.

Here the river flows north-northwest, toward the top of the map. I positioned my tripod on the left bank where the river is closest and shot upstream to the southeast.

Cars cannot enter the area beside the river or the road on the embankment to the west, so I left my car near a park just upstream from Shiga Route 48. From my house it is about 20 minutes by car and 25-30 minutes straight down along the river by bicycle. I usually ride a bicycle unless I’m carrying a heavy tripod and a big telephoto lens.

This area, especially the park, is a popular spot for local people, especially on Sundays and holidays. In the late afternoon and early evening many people jog, cycle, or walk their dogs at the park or on the closed road on the embankment, where some school kids commute by bicycle.

Except for a few people who fish, very few people go near the river here, so it is a good place for wildlife. With nearby traffic, farming, and light industry, it’s not very quiet, but it’s a beautiful place to relax.

Technical notes

I shot the video in mid-May, 2014, with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera and mostly a 1986 Olympus OM System 300mm f4 lens with a circular PL filter. For many scenes I used the camera’s digital converter, which effectively doubles the focal length of the lens. Manual focus was hard at such a great focal length.

Video was 1920x1080p at 29.97fps (fixed on the Em-5), and camera settings were all manual: shutter speed was 1/60 sec., aperture was f16 (in sunlight), ISO was 200, and white balance was set for sunlight. Color balance, saturation, and brightness were adjusted, and images were stabilized, with video editing software (Final Cut Pro X on a late 2008 MacBook).

An additional soundtrack was recorded separately with an Audio-Technica BP4025 mic (with a furry windscreen) and an Olympus LS-100 recorder. I put the mic on the ground in the grass near the camera tripod. The strong wind made the camera audio unusable, even with the external Olympus mic and a windscreen. The sound is what I heard at the camera position far from the river. Camera sound is included, but it has been reduced (-30dB). Ocasionally we can hear a strong puff of wind.