Tag Archives: Ritto

Egrets in Summer

Yasugawa (野洲川), Shinkansen, Hira mountain range

View from Yasugawa Ohashi (野洲川大橋)

In late July and August 2016 I spent many hours on Yasugawa Ohashi (野洲川大橋), a bridge that crosses Yasugawa between Ritto City and Yasu City in Shiga Prefecture, Japan (map).

From the sidewalk the view downstream provided a good change to observe large birds, especially great egrets (ダイサギ) as they stood around and sometimes flew, fished, and fought. With my camera I tried to record some of the behavior of these beautiful white birds. Photos presented here are from my photostream on Flickr.

Challenges

Waiting for action

Photographing these beautiful white birds presented several challenges. The first challenge was boredom. Most of the time they stood without moving, often several hundred meters away. Even at a distance, sometimes they caught my attention, especially when they moved in pairs.

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Exposure compensation

The second challenge was exposure of these great white birds against a background that changed as they moved. I had to discard many photos before I learned to underexpose -0.3 to -1.7 EV, depending on the background.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Exposure was most critical with backlit egrets flying in late afternoon light.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Action

The third challenge was capturing action. Timing was critical, of course, but I also tried to keep action in the frame while adjusting the zoom lens and holding the camera level. Most difficult and most interesting were conflicts over territory.

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

A few times I wished that I’d shot video instead of still photos, especially this combat scene.

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Birds catching fish

When I began to take photos from the bridge, I was hoping to see birds catching fish. Sometimes I had to wait a long time, but a few scenes were worth the wait. For example, once a cormorant was after a small fish, but a great egret ran over and snatched it.

Great cormorant (カワウ) and great egret (ダイサギ)

Great cormorant (カワウ) and great egret (ダイサギ)

Great cormorant (カワウ) and great egret (ダイサギ)

Great cormorant (カワウ) and great egret (ダイサギ)

Sometimes egrets seem to dance as they chase fish.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sometimes their diving is pretty intense.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sometimes they use their wings to maintain balance.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sometimes they toss fish in the air to swallow them head-first.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Late afternoon colors

Just before sunset, the colors became very warm.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

 

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sharing the view

Many people passed on bicycles and on foot. Now and then someone would stop to chat, and sometimes people stopped just to share the view from the bridge.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Location

Technical notes

Photos were shot as JPEG with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 II camera and an Olympus 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens. Sometimes I used the Olympus 1.4x teleconverter, and sometimes I used 2x magnification.

Saving only JPEG enabled me to shoot very long bursts at 5 frames per second. Without such long bursts I could not have captured territorial disputes or some fishing scenes. In the future this kind of photography might be done by saving stills from high-resolution video recordings.

I processed the photos with DigiKam on a Fedora Linux workstation and uploaded them to my photostream on Flickr.

 

Pipits in the Woods

Olive-backed pipits

About year ago, at the beginning of 2015, I learned the name of some greenish birds I’d been seeing each winter for several decades: olive-backed pipits, ビンズイ (binzui) in Japanese. Each winter they come to the woods in Yasugawa Sports Park near my home.

Olive-backed Pipit (Anthus hodgsoni, ビンズイ)

Olive-backed Pipit (Anthus hodgsoni, ビンズイ)

Olive-backed Pipit (Anthus hodgsoni, ビンズイ)

Olive-backed Pipit (Anthus hodgsoni, ビンズイ)

Woods in Yasugawa Sports Park

As you can see on the map if you zoom out, this is a noisy location, with nearby car and truck traffic, the Shinkansen and JR Biwako line trains, quite a lot of light industry, and a cement plant with a rock crusher than runs on weekdays.

Considering all the sources of noise, it’s quite peaceful in the woods. A few people walk here and have picnics when it gets warmers, but most people use the busy path that runs along the Yasugawa riverbank. Usually the birds have the woods to themselves.

Mikamiyama from woods in Ritto City

Mikamiyama from woods in Ritto City

Mikamiyama from woods in Ritto City

Other small birds should appear soon. I’m looking forward to seeing greenfinches, tree sparrows, and maybe even tits and woodpeckers if I’m very lucky.

Fireworks, a large red, green, and white spherical firework above a river

Yasugawa Fireworks – 野洲川花火大会 – 2015

Our local summer fireworks festival – 野洲川花火大会 – was held on July 25, 2015. Hundreds of people lined the riverbank along Yasugawa Sports Park to watch a 30-minute display of fireworks over the river. Many arrived in late afternoon, lined up to buy food and beverages, and enjoyed some entertainment before the fireworks began at 19:45.

Before the fireworks began I found a location upstream from the main event area, where I could record in peace away from the crowds. First I set up my tripod and tried different lenses with my camera, an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. I selected an Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8 lens for its focal length, wide aperture, and wonderful manual focus capability.

Yasugawa Ohashi

I wanted to capture high-quality audio, so I mounted an Audio-Technica BP4025 stereo microphone with a Baby Ball windscreen and a Windjammer and a Tascam DR-70 four-track audio recorder on my camera tripod. The camera was mounted on the Tascam recorder and received input from the recorder. I made a four-track dual stereo recording with the secondary tracks recorded at -12dB. This proved useful at first, when the mic gain was set to High. After a few minutes I set mic gain to Low with the recording level knobs at about 11:30. This worked well, although I had to stop recording in order to change mic gain because the Tascam recorder does not have a hardware switch for mic gain.

After minimal post processing with only trimming and overall level adjustment, I posted the finale (05:30) on SoundCloud:

The recording location can be seen on a map at radio aporee ::: maps – Yasugawa Fireworks.

Although I concentrated on video, I also took a few still photos. I tried about 2-8 seconds at various apertures with ISO 200. Some long exposures worked well, but timing can be tricky!

Yasugawa Fireworks Display 2015

Yasugawa Fireworks Display 2015

Yasugawa Fireworks Display 2015

Yasugawa Fireworks Display 2015

Yasugawa Fireworks Display 2015

More photos can be seen in my Flickr album, Yasugawa Fireworks Display 2015

Winter Birds at Yasugawa

Yasugawa (Yasu River) in Ritto City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan, is a short walk from my house. Since the beginning of winter I’ve been spending a lot of time along the river, trying to photograph wildlife, mostly birds.

I spent so much time taking photos and trying to learn the names of birds that I fell behind in file management and uploading. I’ve been sharing on Twitter as @glpjp, and finally I uploaded some of my photos to my Flikr photostream in a new album, Lower Yasugawa Birds.

Waiting quietly, watching carefully

I began on December 22, 2014, sitting quietly on the riverbank and waiting for a kingfisher that did not appear. Instead, a small flock of great egrets landed right in front of me.

Great Egrets (Ardea alba,ダイサギ)

I spent the following week trying to photograph a kingfisher (Japanese: カワセミ or 川蝉).

Kingfisher

From shaky movie clips and bursts of stills I managed to make a short movie.

While I was sitting along the riverbank, I saw a few other birds, such as Eurasian wigeons (ヒドリガモ).

Eurasian widgeons (Anas penelope, ヒドリガモ)

Japanese black kites often soared nearby, and one perched for while across the river from my location.

Japanese black kite

On January 1, 2015, I made a field recording, Wind in Young Bamboo.

Overnight the scene changed as we had more snow than we’d seen in several decades. I didn’t expect to see birds, but a little egret was in the canal where I’d been recording the previous afternoon.
Little Egret

As I walked around in the snow for several days, I enjoyed the quiet, saw some active birds, and made a short movie, New Year Snow 2015.

In January a few birds were active. A brown-eared bulbul (ヒヨドリ) often appeared in a large tree.
Brown-eared bulbul (Hypsipetes amaurotis, ヒヨドリ)

Dusky thrushes (ツグミ) could be seen in Yasugawa Sports Park, in bushes along the riverbank, and in nearby fields.

Dusky thrush (Turdus eunomus, ツグミ)

Diversity

As I noticed other birds that I did not recognize, I tried to take photos and then learn their names.

A lot of olive-backed pipits (ビンズイ) continue to feed under the pine trees in the small woods at Yasugawa Sports Park.

Olive-backed Pipit (Anthus hodgsoni, ビンズイ)

Several species of ducks have appeared. For example, some Eurasian teal (コガモ) have been here at the same place since early February.

Eurasian teal (Anas crecca, コガモ)

A few common mergansers (カワアイサ) were here briefly in early March. They stayed upriver with some cormorants and a great egret near swift water. Twice I saw them hunting alongside a great egret.

Common Merganser, or gosandar (Mergus merganser, カワアイサ) with a great egret

Just as winter ended and spring began I saw a pair of spot-billed ducks swimming in a pond along the river.

Eastern spot-billed ducks (Anas poecilorhyncha zonorhyncha, カルガモ )

Here and there individual small birds hid in bushes and came out now and then. For example, neighbors and I often saw a male Daurian redstart (ジョウビタキ) at the ground golf course near the river.

Daurian redstart adult male (Phoenicurus auroreus, Japanese: ジョウビタキ)

An elusive female hid in bushes at the riverbank. I spent hours trying to get a clear photo of her.

Female Daurian restart (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ)

A bull-headed shrike (モズ) lives downriver near the track in Yasugawa Sports Park. I saw the bird often, but it rarely perched for longer than a few seconds.

Bull-headed Shrike (Lanius bucephalus, モズ) near dirt steps along Yasugawa Sports Park

Oriental greenfinches (カワラヒワ) came to the woods in March. I saw many of them in trees, but it took a while to get photographs.

Oriental greenfinch (カワラヒワ)

Recently I saw a pygmy woodpecker and a willow tit near each other in the same tree. I hope to get photos, but so far I’ve seen them only one time.

Until I spent time outdoors with a camera this winter, I hadn’t known many species of birds. In fact, I hadn’t even known such a diverse winter bird population existed here so close to home. I mistook a few until I got clearer photos, read descriptions of them, and studied photos taken by birders. It took a while to learn their names. Now I really appreciate the knowledge that birders share after their years of close observation and careful study.

Now foliage is coming back, and soon leaves and flowers will make bird photography more difficult. I plan to spend more time doing other activities, but I’ll keep going to the river and watching these beautiful creatures.

Photo sharing

Until last week my winter bird photo sharing was limited to Twitter: Photos and videos by Greg Peterson (@glpjp)

Finally, after organizing older photos, I uploaded some of my photos to my Flikr photostream in a new album, Lower Yasugawa Birds.

In light my experiences this winter, I think my best sequence for sharing is to first upload to my Flikr photostream, then share on Twitter as @glpjp, and finally to post here on Shiga Rivers when I can offer something more substantial than a tweet.

Technical notes

For most bird photos I used my biggest lens, an old Olympus OM-System ZUIKO MC AUTO-T 300mm/f4.5 manual lens, with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 and then an E-M5 Mark II camera and an OM ADAPTER MF-2. For stability I tried a monopod, but soon switched to a lightweight tripod, a Velbon UT-43Q. This tripod is very easy to carry, but I found that the ball head did not work well when I was following birds. Finally I switched to my older Velbon Sherpa 545 II with a Velbon FHD-65D fluid head. This is a bit heavy, but I can use it as a monopod or fairly steady tripod. I seem to take my best photos with this tripod and head.

Photo management became an issue as I took 50-100 photos a day. After some culling in the camera, I uploaded my photos to Dropbox from an old MacBook. The Camera Uploads software changes file names to date/time, which is convenient; however, it puts a blank space between date and time. I dislike spaces in file names, so I wrote a little Bash Shell script to replace each space with ‘T’. Also, RAW and JPEG versions of some photos had different names, with the JEPG name one second after the RAW name. For example, a RAW image timestamp of 14:22:10 might have 14:22:11 for the JPEG timestamp. I those cases I manually renamed the JPEG filenames to match their RAW filenames.

I do all photo post-processing with
Digikam on a Lenovo ThinkStation S20 running Fedora Linux. Digikam works well for my purposes. It handles metadata well, and the editor, Showfoto, is powerful enough for my needs: cropping, resizing, sharpening, and adjusting brightness, contrast, and color saturation. Digikam often fails to start at first, but after restarting it works very well and satisfies my needs. Fedora Linux is proving to be an excellent operating system for multimedia production.

Nutria at Yasugawa

On February 10, 2015, I was getting ready to leave Yasugawa in mid-afternoon when a nutria came very close and stopped to eat.

In the summer of 2013 I saw a nutria in the wild for the first time along the north bank of Yasugawa, the river that flows near my neighbor on its way to Lake Biwa.

Recently I’ve seen a nutria several times in the same place along the southwest bank. It lives under a clump of bushes that overhang the river near the golf putting course in Deba, Ritto City, Shiga Prefecture (滋賀県栗東市出庭11).

Nutria are an invasive species in Japan. They have been spreading throughout western Japan since around the end of World War II. Apparently, they are becoming quite a nuisance as they eat farmers’ crops. The Lake Biwa Museum website has a section on invasive (“alien”) species, 外来生物 (gairaiseibutsu) in Japanese. The section include an English page about Nutria. The information there is a bit general and outdated. If you read Japanese, see ヌートリア.

Some prefectures and municipalities in Western Japan are concerned about invasive species and protecting native plants and animals in the natural environment. For example, Shiga Prefecture has a website (in Japanese), 滋賀県 – 自然環境保全課.

Nutria diving into water to the left.

Nutria at Yasugawa in Deba, Ritto City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan

The End