Tag Archives: egrets

Egrets in Summer

Yasugawa (野洲川), Shinkansen, Hira mountain range

View from Yasugawa Ohashi (野洲川大橋)

In late July and August 2016 I spent many hours on Yasugawa Ohashi (野洲川大橋), a bridge that crosses Yasugawa between Ritto City and Yasu City in Shiga Prefecture, Japan (map).

From the sidewalk the view downstream provided a good change to observe large birds, especially great egrets (ダイサギ) as they stood around and sometimes flew, fished, and fought. With my camera I tried to record some of the behavior of these beautiful white birds. Photos presented here are from my photostream on Flickr.

Challenges

Waiting for action

Photographing these beautiful white birds presented several challenges. The first challenge was boredom. Most of the time they stood without moving, often several hundred meters away. Even at a distance, sometimes they caught my attention, especially when they moved in pairs.

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Exposure compensation

The second challenge was exposure of these great white birds against a background that changed as they moved. I had to discard many photos before I learned to underexpose -0.3 to -1.7 EV, depending on the background.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Exposure was most critical with backlit egrets flying in late afternoon light.

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)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Action

The third challenge was capturing action. Timing was critical, of course, but I also tried to keep action in the frame while adjusting the zoom lens and holding the camera level. Most difficult and most interesting were conflicts over territory.

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

A few times I wished that I’d shot video instead of still photos, especially this combat scene.

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Birds catching fish

When I began to take photos from the bridge, I was hoping to see birds catching fish. Sometimes I had to wait a long time, but a few scenes were worth the wait. For example, once a cormorant was after a small fish, but a great egret ran over and snatched it.

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

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

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

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

Sometimes egrets seem to dance as they chase fish.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sometimes their diving is pretty intense.

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)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sometimes they use their wings to maintain balance.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sometimes they toss fish in the air to swallow them head-first.

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)

Late afternoon colors

Just before sunset, the colors became very warm.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

 

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sharing the view

Many people passed on bicycles and on foot. Now and then someone would stop to chat, and sometimes people stopped just to share the view from the bridge.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Location

Technical notes

Photos were shot as JPEG with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 II camera and an Olympus 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens. Sometimes I used the Olympus 1.4x teleconverter, and sometimes I used 2x magnification.

Saving only JPEG enabled me to shoot very long bursts at 5 frames per second. Without such long bursts I could not have captured territorial disputes or some fishing scenes. In the future this kind of photography might be done by saving stills from high-resolution video recordings.

I processed the photos with DigiKam on a Fedora Linux workstation and uploaded them to my photostream on Flickr.

 

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/).

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!

Goosanders [common mergansers] (カワイサ) in Yasugawa

At the beginning of March, 2015, a small flock of goosanders [common mergansers], カワイサ (kawaisa in Japanese) appeared at Yasugawa near my home, about 12km upstream from Biwako. I’ve often seen these birds at Lake Biwa, but I’d never seen them this far upstream in Yasugawa. They stayed at a distance, but on March 8 they came close enough that I was able to make a short video recording of them feeding beside a great egret.

Every time I saw the goosanders here, they were in swift water near a flock of cormorants or a lone great egret. In the distance I could see them swimming very near the larger birds. They seemed to dive shallower than cormorants. When I saw saw them with the other birds, I wondered if these different species of fish-eating birds were cooperating by fishing near each other.

Common mergansers, or goosanders (Mergus merganser, カワアイサ) with great egret in Yasugawa

Common mergansers, or goosanders (Mergus merganser, カワアイサ) with great egret in Yasugawa

Music credit: “Kamakura” by Ben Timm, “The Official Karian” on SoundCloud (http://soundcloud.com/karian121/kamakura).

Video editing was done with FFmpeg and OpenShot on a Fedora Linux v. 21 workstation.

Great White Egrets

On 22 December 2014 I spent the afternoon at Yasugawa near my home. A chilly southwest wind and a clear sky made the winter light very nice.

At first there was no activity besides a few crows and a kingfisher that flew along the river and disappeared in some bushes along the bank. For over an hour I saw only some sparrows and wagtails, a couple of Eurasian wigeons, and a Northern shoveler.

I was thinking about leaving when I saw some great white egrets (Egretta alba) about 150 meters upstream. As I was focusing my lens, the birds flew away. Then I saw five of them circling overhead. I remained motionless, and four of them landed in the river right in front of me.

As one of the egrets walked toward me, it nearly filled the frame of my viewfinder as it turned and faced south.

Two stood closely together, also facing south for a while.

As the sky became overcast, they flew over to the Yasu side of the river, where some cormorants and herons were standing. One stayed behind for a few minutes and finally flew to join the other birds.

When I left my house, I was determined to make video recordings of the kingfisher that I’d photographed the day before (Kingfisher in Flight). I saw the kingfisher briefly, but it did not go to its its hunting spot.

The great white herons were a wonderful surprise. The few that remain in this area usually stay very close to the riverbank, too far away to photograph. Once again nature has blessed me and rewarded patient vigilance with great and unexpected beauty.