Tag Archives: herons

Young Egrets and Herons at Ten Shrine

In June, 2018, I recorded and photographed several species of egret and heron chicks at Ten Shrine in Moriyama City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan.

My little recorder captured the whole sonic environment, noise and all, with small omnidirectional mics that I attached to my backpack in order to create a quasi-binaural soundscape.

Low-frequency traffic noise was pretty loud, even on a Sunday afternoon. We can hear the birds more clearly by adding a high-pass filter, for example, a -6dB roll-off beginning at 880Hz.

Unfortunately, such manipulation distorts reality. It may sound better to most people, but it is no longer an authentic field recording.

Bird nests filled the trees surrounding this shrine, especially along a road near the entrance, as we can see on the radio aporee map for this location.

Fortunately, we had blue skies on several days during Rainy Season in June.

Many young birds were in the trees, calling and competing with siblings.

Species included birds I rarely see, such as black-crowned night herons.

Cattle egrets stayed close to tree trunks but sometimes showed themselves.

Birds in flight included adults bringing food and youngsters testing their wings.

I talked with several people who live near the shrine. They have to put up with a lot of noise and bird droppings that have increased in recent years as wildlife habitats are destroyed. Nearly all the trees that once lined the nearby Yasugawa riverbank have been bulldozed, leaving only low bushes, weeds, and a few recreational facilities. Many of the remaining trees for colonies of these beautiful birds are in sacred groves at rural shrines.

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!

Grey heron in shallow water, walking to left, left foot forward above water.

Grey Heron in December

On a gloomy afternoon in mid-December I walked to the river with my camera. I was shocked to see how much the water level had fallen in only two days.

The sky was so dark with clouds that at first I failed to see a grey heron standing on the opposite side of the river. When it moved, I saw it and mounted my camera and a long lens on a tripod.

The heron walked around a little and the flew about 200 meters upstream.

I didn’t expect to get any wildlife photos on such a dark day. Fortunately, that grey heron blessed me with its presence and reminded me that ideal light conditions are far less important than simply being outdoors with a camera.

Location: Yasugawa upstream from Japan Route 8 on Google Maps

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.