Tag Archives: Japan

End of Summer

The last days of summer 2018 in Shiga Prefecture have been mostly cloudy, with quite a bit of rain and very little sunshine. Whenever it was not raining too hard, I went out with a camera most days September 11-19, 2018.

September 11 – insects in a garden, Yasugawa, nearby fields

Physostegia virginiana flowers (obedience, ハナトラノオ) in a neighbor’s garden attract many butterflies, moths, bees, and other insects.

Yasugawa has been running high but not at flood levels.

Late in the afternoon local farmers were hurrying to harvest their rice before rain the following day.

September 14 – Takano

As soon as the rain stopped in mid afternoon, I walked to Takano Park, just a few minutes from my house. Along the way neighbors’ flowers caught my attention.

In Takano Park a few small creatures appeared after the rain.

September 15 – Yasugawa riverbank, fields in Deba

Scilla scilloides flowers(Barnardia japonica, ツルボ) have begun to bloom along the Yasugawa riverbank. Other flowers grow nearby.

Great egrets and grey herons hunt for fish nearby in the river. Most days a few of these large birds can be seen in nearby fields.

September 16 – Yasugawa riverbank

In late afternoon I was able to take only a few photos along the river before I got rained out.

September 17 – Mizunomori Aquatic Botanical Garden

Kusatsu City Mizunomori Aquatic Botanical Garden (草津市立水生植物公園みずの森) is one of my favorite places. It’s a short drive from my home and usually not too crowded.

On September 17th a large display of Canna flowers stood near the entrance in front of the fountain.

A large number of water lilies are in ponds,

an outdoor tank,

and the Atrium.

Quite a few flowers were blooming in various outdoor locations.

Giant Hibiscus ‘titanbicus’ were blooming near the entrance.

September 18 – Yasu City

The sun appeared now and then as I rode my mountain bike across the river to Yasu City and up Oyamakawa to Sakura Ryokuchi Park. Along the way I stopped to photograph red spider lilies along rice paddies.

September 19 – Rokujizo and Misono

Sunshine! I rode my mountain bike south from my home in Ritto City, first nearby to Rokujizo, where we can see several varieties of flowers in the neighborhood and along Hayamagawa.

Up the valley in Misono red spider lilies bloom along the terraced fields.

In Kamitoyama I saw some globe amaranth flowers in a small garden. As I was admiring the flowers, a painted lady butterfly appeared.

I often see a grey heron at Konzegawa in Misono on my way home. The bird ignores me when I pass along the bike path. If I stop nearby, it flies.

In late summer and early fall rural Japan changes dramatically. Various flowers bloom, colorful butterflies and moths become very active when the weather permits, and fields become empty as farmers harvest their rice. Sometimes it seems gloomy, but even when the sky is dark, there is always something to see if we take time to look closely.

Egret Rookery

Great egrets (ダイサギ), cattle egrets (アマサギ), and other birds nest in the woods at Hyozu Shrine (兵主大社) in Yasu City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan. I recorded the sounds of the rookery on Sunday, May 27, 2018, and posted a six-minute sample on radio aporee ::: maps and SoundCloud.

The woods are between a large shrine and Yasu City athletic facilities (野洲市中主B&G海洋センター). The white spots in the satellite image of the woods are egrets.

The recording location was not very photogenic. White bird droppings covered everything in the area. On the ground near the tree that held my recorder broken eggshells and a feather indicated young egrets above.

Eggshell below a great egret nest

Eggshell below a great egret nest beside Hyozu Taisha (兵主大社) in Gojo, Yasu City

Short feather below a great egret nest

Short feather below a great egret nest beside Hyozu Taisha (兵主大社) in Gojo, Yasu City

Nests and young birds were hidden in the treetops.

Egret nests and young great egrets (ダオサギ)

Egret nests and young great egrets (ダオサギ) in the woods beside Hyozu Taisha (兵主大社) in Gojo, Yasu City

Now and then an adult egret appeared, and I was lucky to see a cattle egret carrying a branch for a nest.

Cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis, アマサギ)

Cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis, アマサギ) in the woods beside Hyozu Taisha (兵主大社) in Gojo, Yasu City

Recording and post-processing

This recording was made with a Sony PCM-M10 recorder and FEL Communications Clippy Stereo EM172 Microphone tied to a tree. Since I was near the south edge of the woods, I placed the mics placed slightly forward of center facing north.

Audio post-processing was done with Audacity on Fedora Workstation, a Linux system running on a Lenovo ThinkStation 20 computer. I trimmed this excerpt from a longer recording and raised the overall volume. No other digital signal processing was done.

Flowering Weeds in Early Spring

In March and April the Japanese countryside comes to life as weeds appear along fields and streams, anywhere with soil. Some of these plants are known for medicinal properties, and some are gathered as food. Most are ignored or cut down.

This year I’m trying to learn the names of flowering weeds as they appear in nearby fields and along the Yasugawa riverbank in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. This photo gallery includes some of the flowers I’ve seen from the beginning of March until mid-April, 2018.

Many of the flowers are tiny! Most of these photos were taken with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mk. II camera and a 60mm f/2.8 macro lens, which I showed on Twitter.

Crows along Yasugawa

On Sunday, March 18, 2018, I was cycling down the north bank of Yasugawa when I heard some noisy crows perched in nearby trees.

When I ride my touring bike, I carry a small audio recorder and microphones. For this recording I used a Sony PCM-M10 recorder and Clippy Stereo EM172 mics by FEL Communications Ltd. To mimic human hearing, a quasi-binaural sound image was made by placing the mics on either side of my bicycle handlebar bag. I prefer to use trees about the diameter of an adult human head, but I use the handlebar bag when I cannot find a tree.

Trek 520 touring bike with audio recorder and mics on handlebar bag in Yasu City

The Compass app on my iPhone shows the location, direction, and time.

Compass and geolocation app on bicycle handlebar bag in Yasu City

As we can see on the map, this location is between a river and near the edge of a suburban area. With aircraft overhead, vehicles on nearby roads, and rural and suburban human activities, this place is quite noisy, even on Sunday.

In everyday life we filter out much of the noise. When the crows are not so noisy, I suppose most people experience this environment as a peaceful and quiet little park, just as it appears in photographs.

Trek 520 touring bike in Yasu City

Trek 520 touring bike in Yasu City

Chinese Pond Turtles (クサガメ)

Migration in November

On November 19, 2017, I was surprised to see three Chinese pond turtles (Mauremys reevesii, Reeve’s turtle, クサガメ) crawling up a nearly empty irrigation canal. The was my first time to see turtles like these with three ridges along their backs. I later learned that this small turtle is an endangered species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (Japan Ministry of the Environment: 環境省レッドリスト).

The turtles were making their way upstream, probably migrating to a small pond along the canal.

Chinese pond turtles (Mauremys reevesii, クサガメ)

Chinese pond turtle (Mauremys reevesii, クサガメ) walking up the the canal in Tsuji, Ritto City.

The closest one withdrew into its shell as soon as it noticed me.

Chinese pond turtle (Mauremys reevesii, クサガメ)

Chinese pond turtle (Mauremys reevesii, クサガメ)

I backed away, but turtle was surprised by a white wagtail (Motacilla alba, ハクセキレイ).

White wagtail (ハクセキレイ)

White wagtail (ハクセキレイ) and Chinese pond turtle (クサガメ)

White wagtail (ハクセキレイ)

White wagtail (ハクセキレイ) and Chinese pond turtle (クサガメ)

Eventually the turtle posed before returning its journey.

Chinese pond turtle (クサガメ)

Chinese pond turtle (Mauremys reevesii, クサガメ)

Chinese pond turtle (Mauremys reevesii, クサガメ)

Chinese pond turtle (Mauremys reevesii, クサガメ)

Sighting in January

On January 2, 2018, I spotted a Chinese pond turtle upstream in the canal near the pond, which had dried out. It was basking in the sun under a little waterfall where food was plentiful.

The turtle was covered with mud and some vegetation.

Chinese pond turtle (クサガメ)

Chinese pond turtle (Mauremys reevesii, クサガメ)

Chinese pond turtle (クサガメ)

Chinese pond turtle (Mauremys reevesii, クサガメ)

This small turtle is not very photogenic, but the survival of Mauremys reevesii as a threatened species makes this Chinese pond turtle a beautiful creature.

Chinese pond turtle (クサガメ)

Chinese pond turtle (Mauremys reevesii, クサガメ)