Tag Archives: kingfisher

Kingfisher (川蝉)

On March 16, 2017, a female common kingfisher (川蝉) took more than a minute to swallow a fish at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園).

When I saw her, the fish was head-first in her beak.

Common kingfisher female (カワセミ, 川蝉) with a fish at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

She repeatedly gripped the fish at different places along its body. Perhaps she was crushing it to make it easier to swallow.

Common kingfisher female (カワセミ, 川蝉) with a fish at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

After swallowing the fish she remained on the same branch for several minutes. She was in the same position when I left.

Common kingfisher female (カワセミ, 川蝉) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Hatonomori Park

Previous posts about Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Technical notes

I shot the video clips and still photos with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II camera and a Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar f4.0-6.3 / 100-400mm zoom lens at 400mm with lens stabilization (O.I.S.) on. I did not use any special movie mode settings. After a few still photos, I simply pressed the video record button. After the bird flew to another branch, I held the lens on a fence post to reduce camera shake. Fortunately, she remained visible and in focus.

For post-processing I used the free version of DaVinci Resolve 12.5 on a Fedora Linux workstation. Recently I had upgraded my video card to an nVidia GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB), so the software ran smoothly. This professional editing and color grading software works very well, but it has three limitations. First, I could not directly import the video file from my camera. I had to convert the video codec to ProRes, which created huge files (ffmpeg -i kf-1.mov -vcodec prores kf-1-prores.mov). Second, audio does not play without a Blackmagic DecLink card. Audio editing is possible, though, so I edited by sight and listened to the exported video file. Third, export formats are limited to a few formats. For convenience I prefer other editors, but Resolve is great for professional video editing and color grading work on Linux computers.

Kingfisher in Flight

In a previous post, Waiting for a Kingfisher, I wrote that I wanted to photograph a kingfisher in flight. On Sunday, 21 December 2014, the bird reappeared at its hunting site, and I was able to take a few photos.

This bird typically hunts from a rock along a shallow stretch of Yasugawa a few hundred meters upstream from Yasugawa Ohashi, the Japan Route 8 bridge between Ritto City and Yasu City in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. It sits for a while, from a few seconds to twenty minutes or longer, and then suddenly flies up over the river, darts to the left or right, and hovers. Just as suddenly it dives into the water, eyes on its prey as it falls.

Catching a kingfisher in flight presents two interesting challenges. First is just finding the bird after it leaves its resting spot. So far I’ve been unable to predict the direction the kingfisher will take after it rises up to begin hovering. First it goes straight up, and then it sometimes darts to the right, sometimes to the left. It seems to rise to a similar height each time, so I am learning how far to tilt the camera. Panning is harder to anticipate.

The second challenge is trying to keep up with the bird’s dive and catch. The transition from hover to dive can occur suddenly at any time. On December 21st I was able to take photos of two catches after the bird emerged from the river, but I saw only one dive.

I took these photos with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera and an old (1986) OM-System Zuiko Auto-T 300mm/f4 manual focus lens with an OM Adapter MF-2. I tried a few shots with the digital teleconverter, which effectively doubles the focal length, but I could not follow the bird at that magnification. Most photos were taken at ISO 200 although I had to use ISO 400 when the sky became overcast. Exposure was 1/400 sec at f8 or f5.6. I prefer to use this lens at f11, where it seems sharpest, or even f16 for a more forgiving depth of field. The camera is mounted on a Velbon Sherpa 545 II tripod with a Velbon FHD-65D fluid head made for DSLR video. The fluid head enables me to tilt and pan while keeping the camera firmly mounted and level.

I think the next challenge is a full action sequence: resting, rising, hovering, diving, entering the water, emerging with a fish, flying back to base, eating, and back to resting. For that I may need to shoot movies. Probably it will take a while.

Waiting for a kingfisher

When I walk to Yasugawa, a 15-minute stroll from my house, I often carry an old telephoto lens with my camera, hoping to photograph birds or small animals. Sometimes I get a few nice shots, but often I see creatures only briefly, without time to raise my camera, let alone focus the long lens. Often pheasants fly out right at my feet, cross the river, and disappear into the bushes on the other side. Sometimes I see birds that I don’t recognize, and once a small weasel emerged from bushes along the river, saw me, and quickly vanished.

Several times I’ve seen a kingfisher near the ground golf and putting courses at the upstream end of the riverside path that runs down into Moriyama. Usually the bird is far away or flying over the middle of the river, but a couple of weeks ago I saw it perched nearby. I managed to get one photo before it flew across the river.

A few days later I saw the kingfisher on the other side again, very close to where it had flown before.

I could see that it was hunting and catching fish, so I decided to try to get more photos by waiting nearby. I set up my tripod under a tree, attached a long lens to my camera, and waited.

I was rewarded a couple of times as the kingfisher perched nearby.

The bird seemed to be hunting downstream from my location, so the next day I changed my position, this time standing out in the open.

Good fortune! The kingfisher came over to my side of the river.

I waanted to catch the bird fishing, hopefully with a photo of it emerging from the water holding a fish. I had set up my tripod with a fluid (movie) head and even practiced panning to where I assumed the bird would hover and then dive. But no joy that day. The bird just sat around, scanned the sky, and finally flew away.

So far the kingfisher has not cooperated. I haven’t seen it since December 8th, but probably I’ll set up the tripod and wait again the next time I go to the river.