Tag Archives: field recording

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.

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)

Yasugawa Riverside Ground Golf and Traffic

(Listen to the recording on SoundCloud.)

A well-maintained leisure space runs along the left bank of Yasugawa (野洲川) for about four kilometers in Ritto City and Moriyama City. It begins as a narrow space a few hundred meters upstream from the Japan Route 8 bridge, Yasugawa Ohashi (野洲川大橋) and ends near a dam in Moriyama City.

Ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Many years ago this narrow space overgrown with wild vegetation. Then it became a golf putting course. A large open space just upstream became a ground gold course a few years ago, and last year the putting course was also converted to ground golf. Many older people play ground golf, and every day quite a few people of all ages walk, run, or cycle along the path between the ground gold course and the riverbank.

The riverbed near the camera position in the photo below used to be dry most of the year. There was a bamboo woods, and vegetation covered a large open space. After the government bulldozed the bamboo trees a few years ago, the river changed its course and ran along the embankment for about 250 meters. A large area of topsoil and vegetation was lost. Fortunately, a few trees and bushes remain.

Yasugawa riverbank, Yasugawa Ohashi, and Hira mountain range seen from Deba, Ritto City

Yasugawa riverbank, Yasugawa Ohashi, and Hira mountain range seen from Deba, Ritto City

Quite a few species of birds come to these bushes and trees. While I was there on January 31st, I saw several birds, along with several dusky thrushes and a couple of wagtails.

Meadow bunting (Emberiza cioides cioide, ホオジロ) male in Deba, Ritto City

Meadow bunting (Emberiza cioides cioide, ホオジロ) male in Deba, Ritto City

I think this is a long-tail rosefinch. I could see a long tail in a video that I recorded; however, I am not certain. This was only the second time I’d seen a rosefinch, and this one never came out from the vegetation while I was watching.

Long-tailed Rosefinch (Carpodacus roseus, ベニマシコ) [?] in Deba, Ritto City

Long-tailed Rosefinch (Carpodacus roseus, ベニマシコ) [?] in Deba, Ritto City

I’ve seen this daurian redstart female many time this winter. Usually she darts around on low branches in thick vegetation, but recently she has been spending more time in the open along the riverbed. When I walk through this area, I often pause and wait for her to appear.

Daurian redstart female (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ) along the path near the ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Daurian redstart female (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ) along the path near the ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

As we can hear in the recording, Sunday traffic is pretty noisy. This is not a quiet place, but at least it has not been covered in concrete. Local communities have developed riverside spaces for recreation, and they have tried to preserve natural habitats along the riverbed. In the 35 years that I’ve lived here, I think local people have been doing a pretty job of balancing the needs of humans and wildlife.

Biwako Waves

On October 12, 2015, a strong southwest wind blew across Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Waves crashed against the rocky east shore north of Chomeiji.

This spot is only a few meters from a lakeside road that runs along a steep hillside. Since it was a public holiday, many cars and motorcycles passed as I was recording and taking photographs. However, I was alone the whole time. Very few cars can park along the narrow road, and there are few trails down the steep embankment. We can hear the traffic, but it looks isolated when we face the lake.

Biwako north of Chomeiji

Biwako north of Chomeiji

Biwako north of Chomeiji

Biwako north of Chomeiji

These photos are in a new photo album,
Biwako (琵琶湖), that I started on Flickr

Lake from about 15 meters above on shoreline, framed by tree branches and leaves, fog-covered mountains across the lake, audio recorder and microphone on a tripod in the foreground on the right.

Sounds of Aircraft and a Boat at Lake Biwa

A small airplane and a fishing boat recorded from the shore of Lake Biwa along Shiga Route 25 in Okishima-cho, Omihachiman City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan (map).

We can hear gentle waves on the nearby shore, but internal combustion engines dominate this otherwise quiet environment. Other human sounds include a jet aircraft high overhead and two cars that pass along the road just a few meters behind the microphone.

On June 8, 2015, the morning I made this field recording, I had intended to record the calls of birds in a quiet location along the shore of Lake Biwa. The shoreline between Chomeiji and People’s Holiday Village is one of the few places along the lake that see little car traffic and few personal watercraft, especially on weekdays. The main difficulty is parking. There are only a few wide spots to park a car along along the road. At the first place I stopped I could hear a Japanese bush warbler and other small birds, but men were working nearby. At a few other locations I could not hear any birds.

Side view of an audio recorder and microphone on a tripod in front of a large tree and some bushes.

Field recording at Biwako along Shiga Route 25 in Okishima-cho, Omihachiman City.

When I arrived at the spot where I recorded, I heard one Japanese bush warbler. Hoping the the bird would continue to call, I set up my recording equipment facing the mountain along the road. The bird did not call again, but I heard a fishing boat on the lake. Just after I turned the microphone toward the lake and began to record, aircraft and boat engines overwhelmed the delicate sounds of waves hitting the shore below my location.

My visual and auditory experiences in rural Japan are so incongruous that often I feel betrayed by my eyes. Places that appear peaceful and quiet may suddenly be dominated by the sounds of machinery that people use for work or leisure activities. It is easy to understand why rural Japan is the scene of so many beautiful photographs and so few field recordings. Peaceful soundscapes are extremely difficult to find.

Recorded with an Audio-Technica BP4025 stereo microphone and a Tascam DR-70D recorder on June 8, 2015. You can see the map location and hear the first three minutes of the audio on radio aporee maps (Okishimacho, Omihachiman, Shiga Prefecture 523-0801, Japan).