Tag Archives: nature

Sounds of cicadas at the end of summer

Along Oyamakawa in Omifuji, Yasu City, Shiga Prefecture, cicadas dominate the soundscape in summer. In mid-September, before autumnal equinox, smaller insects join the chorus.

On 2017-09-15 the cicadas were very loud as I rode my mountain bike on a path through a grove of ornamental cherry trees between a small river and a residential neighborhood (radio aporee ::: maps – Omifuji, Yasu-shi, Shiga-ken, Japan).

Araya Muddy Fox mountain bike

Araya Muddy Fox mountain bike near the path along Oyamakawa in Omifuji, Yasu City.

Audio recorder and microphones

Audio recorder and microphones on a cherry tree in the woods along Oyamakawa in Omifuji, Yasu City

A little before 13:00 I mounted a Sony PCM-M10 recorder and FEL Clippy EM172 mics on a tree trunk for quasi-binaural recording. The mics face northwest toward a busy two-lane road, Japan national route 8, with the river and farms to the right and a residential neighborhood to the left.

Audio recorder and microphones

Audio recorder and microphones on a cherry tree in the woods along Oyamakawa in Omifuji, Yasu City

We can hear cars, trucks, agricultural machinery (rice harvester), and other human sounds, but the cicadas compete well and nearly drown out the songs of smaller insects. Soon the cicadas will fall silent, and we’ll wonder how another summer passed so quickly.

Red spider lilies (lycoris radiata, 彼岸花)

Red spider lilies (lycoris radiata, 彼岸花) along an irrigation canal in Mikami, Yasu City, Mikamiyama (三上山) in the background.

Videos of small creatures with a compact camera

At the beginning of summer, 2017, I bought a little Panasonc LUMIX DMC-LX9 compact digital camera. This model has a flip-up LCD screen and enables extreme closeups with a large aperture and a wide-angle view. I have using it mostly for general photography, especially while cycling. As I had hoped when I bought it, works very well for closeup shots of small creatures.

Caterpillar in Hayashi

Closeup of a caterpillar on a sidewalk along a country road in Hayashi, Ritto City (map). Video was shot just before sunset on 6 July 2017. Music: “Before Dawn” by Jason Shaw at AudionatiX Music License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-A) 3.0

Inchworm along a forest road

Closeup of an inchworm at a bridge on a forest forest road in Bodaiji, Konan City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan (map). Video was shot while mountain biking on 15 July 2017.

Shield bug (stinkbug)

Finally, an unpublished clip of a shield bug (カメムシ, 亀虫) at Kashiho Shrine (上葦穂神社) in Kojibukuro, Konan City (map). I discovered the shrine while I was cycling. As was leaving, I noticed this bug in the grass beside the parking lot. I followed it until it flew away. Later I trimmed heavily to remove most of the scene that was out of focus.

Technical notes

This little camera seems to work very well for closeup video of small creatures. To do extreme closeups I zoom out to the widest angle (30mm full-frame equivalent). Depending on the background, I set the aperture somewhere between f5.6 and f1.4. For small insects I must get very close. In fact, the inchworm in the video above actually hit the lens! This camera will not work well with small creatures that are shy. For shy creatures such as butterflies we can get better results with a close focus telephoto lens on a mirrorless or DSLR camera.

I have not done any color grading because I like the natural colors of the raw clips from the camera. I do all post-processing with free/libre and open-source software (FLOSS) on a Fedora GNU/Linux workstation. I trim some clips with FFmpeg and edit with Kdenlive. I use the video editor to trim and join clips and to add titles and sound (music for the caterpillar video).

This little camera has features that I have not yet exploited. I have been shooting full HD (1920×1080) in aperture priority mode and continuous focus tracking. In the future I may shoot 4K video and try various settings; however, my present point-and-shoot style seems to work well. I have to hold the camera very close the the ground, which become difficult, so I may add a bracket or a cage to hold the camera. For more sophisticated editing and color grading I can use professional software such as Da Vinci Resolve by Blackmagic Design.

Turtle Doves (キジバト) in Hatonomori Park

On May 28, 2017, a couple of Oriental turtle-doves (キジバト) were mating in Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園).

Earlier a solitary turtle-dove was high in a tree, calling to its mate.

Oriental turtle-dove (キジバト) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

As I was looking for small birds, my wife saw the two turtle-doves and called me. I saw them mating, but I was not able to get a clear view.

Oriental turtle-doves (キジバト) mating at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

By the time I found a place to take photos and video clips, the turtle-doves were taking turns grooming each other.

Oriental turtle-doves (キジバト) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Oriental turtle-doves (キジバト) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

While I was moving to another position, the two birds separated and then flew away.

The two turtle-doves appeared together for only a few minutes, but I was moved by their mutual affection as I watched them through the viewfinder.

Notes

Video was shot handheld with an Olympus OM-D EM-5 Mk II camera and 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens with a 1.4x teleconverter.

Music in the video is from “Love Story” (piano) by Sławomir Zając, chafer on SoundCloud (https://soundcloud.com/chafer).

Post-processing was done with Kdenlive running on Fedora Workstation, a GNU/Linux operating system.

Grey wagtails (キセキレイ)

In winter I have been delighted to see several grey wagtails (キセキレイ). Here in Shiga Prefecture these beautiful birds are much less common and much more colorful than two other wagtail species, Japanese wagtails (セグロセキレイ) and white wagtails (ハクセキレイ).

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ, Motacilla cinerea cinerea) above Yasugawa dam in Moriyama

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ, Motacilla cinerea cinerea) above Yasugawa dam in Moriyama

In winter I’ve seen grey wagtails most often at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園). The small stream along the park is an ideal location that I discovered in 2016.

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ) in Hatonomori Park, Moriyama City.

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ) in Hatonomori Park, Moriyama City.

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ) in Hatonomori Park, Moriyama City.

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ) in Hatonomori Park, Moriyama City.

In 2017 the same stream remains a good spot.

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県   守山市 鳩の森公園)

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県   守山市 鳩の森公園)

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県   守山市 鳩の森公園)

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Sometimes I encounter grey wagtails along other streams. In December I was able to photograph one as I was cycling along a canal near Hiyoshi Shrine (日吉神社) in Kamitoyama, Ritto City.

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) along a field near Hiyoshi Shrine (日吉神社) in Kamitoyama, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) along a field near Hiyoshi Shrine (日吉神社) in Kamitoyama, Ritto City

Now and then we can see grey wagtails in open areas. After it snowed here in January, 2017, one appeared for several days in Takano Park (滋賀県 栗東市 高野公園).

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

I am hoping to see more of these beautiful, shy birds before they fly away.

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City. Shot at 1/640sec @ f8 ISO 400.

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City. Shot at 1/640sec @ f8 ISO 400.

Daurian redstarts (ジョウビタキ)

In late fall and winter many beautiful small birds migrate to Shiga Prefecture in Japan. One of the most colorful species is the Daurian redstart (Phoenicurus auroreus), in Japanese, jōbitaki (ジョウビタキ).

Breeding males are easy to spot: orange chest and lower back, black upper back, head, and neck, grey crown and nape, and very dark brown wings with large white patches. They often perch out in the open, which makes them easy to photograph.

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

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

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

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

Daurian redstart male (Phoenicurus auroreus,  ジョウビタキ) at the Omifuji Botanical Gardens in Yasu City

Daurian redstart male (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ) at the Omifuji Botanical Gardens in Yasu City

Daurian redstart male (Phoenicurus auroreus,  ジョウビタキ) at the Omifuji Botanical Gardens in Yasu City

Daurian redstart male (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ) at the Omifuji Botanical Gardens in Yasu City

Daurian redstart male (Phoenicurus auroreus,  ジョウビタキ) at the Omifuji Botanical Gardens in Yasu City

Daurian redstart male (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ) at the Omifuji Botanical Gardens in Yasu City

Redstarts are sexually dimorphic. Females are not so colorful. They’re brown above, lighter below, with an orange rump and back-and-orange tail. They’re inconspicuous except in flight. Sometimes they appear in the open, but they tend to stay in or near trees and bushes.

Daurian redstart female (Phoenicurus auroreus,  ジョウビタキ) at a small playground in Ohata, Yasu City

Daurian redstart female (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ) at a small playground in Ohata, Yasu City

Daurian redstart female (Phoenicurus auroreus,  ジョウビタキ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Daurian redstart female (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Daurian redstart female (Phoenicurus auroreus,  ジョウビタキ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Daurian redstart female (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Daurian redstart female (Phoenicurus auroreus,  ジョウビタキ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Daurian redstart female (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Daurian redstart female (Phoenicurus auroreus,  ジョウビタキ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Daurian redstart female (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Daurian redstarts seem to be very territorial and easy to spot if you known where to look. I often see a male in a neighbor’s garden, several males and females along the river in Ritto and Moriyama, a male in the Omifuji Botanical Gardens, and a female in a little playground near the JR train tracks in Yasu City. It is always a pleasure to see such beautiful creatures so close to home.