Tag Archives: river

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.

 

Carp in Yasugawa

On Sunday, April 19, 2015, carp were spawning in shallow water in the north fork of Yasugawa just above the Japan Route 8 bridge (Yasugawa Ohashi). I made some video clips of the scene and produced short movie.

The location can seen on the map below. The satellite image is quite old. The main riverbed has moved southwest, but the small north fork remains the same.

I was surprised to see carp spawning this early, but I’m glad that I got a chance to see them. I rarely to to the north bank of the river. Usually I carry my camera along the south side the river in Ritto City, which we can see in the photo above and in the closing scene of the video. On Sunday I just happened to be in an interesting place with my camera a and small tripod.

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

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.

Empty patch of land with reeds on either side.

Wind and Birds in Lower Yasugawa Reeds

Last year I bought an Audio-Technica BP2045 microphone for stereo soundscape recording. Last week I finally added a good windscreen, a Rycote Baby Ball Gag Windshield with a Windjammer, and a good shockmount and extension handle with a foam grip.

On Saturday, July 5, 2014, I rode to Shinjocho in Moriyama, about 7km from my home. Just upstream from Shinjo Ohashi (新庄大橋), where Shiga Route 48 crosses Yasugawa, the river is bordered by reeds. A patch had been cleared to launch rafts for the Yasugawa Adventure Tournament on June 29th, so I had easy access to the river and the reeds (map).

Shallow river with reed beds on both sides. Mountains dark clouds in the background

Yasugawa and Mikamiyama from Shinjo Ohashi (新庄大橋) on July 5, 2014

Heavy clouds were approaching quickly, but I was able to make a short audio recording with the microphone held chest-high in the reeds. We can hear wind, birds, trucks on the nearby bridge, kids playing in a nearby playground (笠原運動公園), and, as usual, airplanes flying overhead. It’s noisy, but I think it accurately documents the sonic environment here, and I’m happy to know that I can record the wind blowing through something other than the microphone.