Tag Archives: rivers

Eastern spot-billed ducks (カルガモ) at Omoigawa (思川)

On Sunday, October 1, 2017, I rode my touring bike along Japan National Route 1 to Omoigawa (思川) in Iwane, Konan City. The ride out was hard and slow as I fought against a strong southeast headwind, but I enjoyed the emerging fall colors along the small river.

Omoigawa (思川) is now more of a canal than a natural river, but it teems with vegetation and wildlife. Fish attract large birds like this grey heron (アオサギ).

Grey heron (アオサギ) at Omoigawa (思川) in Iwane, Konan City

Local authorities in Shiga Prefecture try to educate people about the importance of keeping rivers clean. For example, an old sign explains the relationship between water quality and species of fish and aquatic animals that thrive in rivers.

Trek 520 touring bike parked along Omoigawa (思川) near Chudebashi (中出橋) in Iwane, Konan City, at a large sign which lists species of fish and aquatic animals that live at different water quality levels

The southeast wind was so strong that I decided to make a u-turn at Tsushima Shrine (津島神社), only about 11km from home.

Trek 520 touring bike at Tsushima Jinja (津島神社) along Omoigawa (思川) near Kamiebashi (上出橋) in Iwane, Konan City

As I was resting, I walked over to the nearest bridge, Kamidebashi (上出橋), and saw some Eastern spot-billed ducks (カルガモ) swimming upstream.

Eastern spot-billed ducks (Anas poecilorhyncha zonorhyncha, カルガモ ) at Omoigawa (思川) near Kamidebashi (上出橋) in Iwane, Konan City

I shot one still and some video clips with my little Panasonic DMC-LX9. At home I edited the video clips with Kdenlive on a Fedora GNU/Linux workstation. Editing was minimal. I trimmed and combined clips, added music and titles, boosted color saturation, and reduced brightness a little.

Music: “Drifting” by Jason Shaw at AudionautiX.com, Licensed under a Creative Common Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) license.

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.

 

Grey herons and great egrets in December – 12月のアオサギとダイサギ

From late March until mid October the rivers and fields near my home in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, are full of grey herons and great egrets. In autumn they fly south. By late November nearly all of them have gone, but each year a few remain. This December, 2015, I’ve seen at least one grey heron and two great egrets.

One grey heron has remained in Omifuji, Yasu City. This bird often stands along Oyamakawa, a small stream that has plenty of little fish to support a small population of herons, egrets, and kingfishers.

Grey heron (アオサギ)

Sometimes the heron perches on the top of the riverbank, on the roof of a nearby factory, or above a pipeline that crosses the river (map).

Grey heron (アオサギ)

A grey heron also appears now and then at the lower pond on the left bank of Yasugawa near Yasugawa Sports Park in Deba, Ritto City. I don’t know if this is the same bird that I see in Omifuji. It often stands on the same large rock (map).

Grey heron (アオサギ)

In early December a great egret and several common cormorants joined the heron to catch fish in the pond, which became isolated from Yasugawa as the water level dropped.

Grey heron (アオサギ) and common cormorant (カワウ)

Grey heron (アオサギ) and common cormorant (カワウ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) and common cormorants (カワウ)

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

Great egret (ダイサギ)

On the 28th of December a grey heron and two egrets were walking along Oyamakawa in Omifuji, Yasu City. The egrets were really shy, but I could get relatively close to the heron.

Grey heron (アオサギ)

Grey heron (アオサギ)

As the three birds moved downstream, they took turns flying to locations near one another. Finally they separated, and one of the great egrets flew to the mouth of Oyamakawa a little upstream from Yasugawa Ohashi (map).

Great egret (ダイサギ) and grey heron (アオサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

I’m looking forward to watching these magnificent birds throughout the winter.

Eastern spot-billed duck close-up facing right, right eye near center.

Oyamakawa in Autumn – 秋の大山川

In November, 2015, I took video clips and photographs of wildlife from along the left bank of a small river, Oyamakawa (大山川), in Omifuji, Yasu City, a short bike ride from my home (map).

Video clips were shot with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk. II camera. I used three Olympus lenses: a 17mm f1.8 for panoramas and old 200mm f4 and 300mm f4.5 Zuiko manual focus lenses for wildlife scenes. Music is from “Perspectives” by Kevin MacLeod (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license).

Postproduction was done with Audacity (audio), FFmpeg (video clip trimming), OpenShot (video editing), and digiKam (still photo editing) on a Lenovo ThinkStation S20 computer running the Fedora Workstation operating system.

Oyamakawa (大山川) is a small, gentle creek that flows from the hills above Bodaiji into Yasugawa just upstream from the Japan Route 8 bridge, Yasugawa Ohashi. The lower part of the creek in Omifuji, Yasu City, is full of vegetation that supports wildlife. The river seems tiny in its deep channel with high concrete banks for flood control.

Oyamakawa (大山川)

Oyamakawa (大山川)

Oyamakawa (大山川)

Usually the mouth of the river is even smaller than we can see in this photo (below), which was taken across the north fork of Yasugawa just after quite a lot of rain. The mountain in the background is Mikamiyama (三上山).

Autumn colors at Yasugawa

The video shows the most common birds there in November, but some appear more in still photos. For example, one grey wagtail (キセキレイ) is very photogenic at the river, but I have seen the bird there only a few times. Usually I see it at a distance, flitting about in bushes across the stream.

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ)

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ)

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ)

Great egrets were very common in early November, but I saw very few after the middle of the month.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Common kingfishers (川蝉) live at the river in at least two locations. At one of their favorite hunting places two older men have planted tree branches as perches for them in the riverbed. About once a week one of the men comes to take photos. Both men have the same routine. They dress in camouflage, sit patiently in folding chairs, and take photos with Olympus cameras attached to small telescopes. I don’t have such patience, but I was able to take a few photos of birds on their perches.

Common kingfisher (川蝉, カワセミ)

Common kingfisher (川蝉, カワセミ)

Common kingfisher (川蝉, カワセミ)

Another kingfisher hunts upstream and often perches on the concrete bank or on rocks in shallow water.

Common kingfisher (川蝉, カワセミ)

Some creatures don’t appear in the movie. For example, quite a few huge joro spiders had webs between trees early in the month.

Jorō Spider (Nephila clavata, ジョロウグモ)

Japanese black kites (トビ) sometimes flew overhead.

Japanese black kite (トビ)

Small birds appeared in trees and bushes, but I had better luck getting photos of them at other locations. For example, in October a Siberian stonechat (ノビタキ) was at the mouth of the river.

Siberian stonechat (ノビタキ)

A bull-headed shrike (モズ) was upstream in Sakura Ryokuchi Park.

Bull-headed shrike (モズ)

Pheasants, turtle doves, and numerous smaller birds live in the bushes near the mouth of the river.

Oyamakawa (大山川).

The Ritto ground gold course, which we can see on the other side of Yasugawa, is just a short walk from my house. It’s great to have so much vegetation and wildlife so close to home.

Great egret standing in still water near bushes, holding a large fish by the head in its beak.

Video: Great Egret with Big Fish

The other day I had just locked my camera on a tripod and set it up for video recording when I saw a great egret hunting nearby. It soon caught a fish, probably a black bass.

The egret took its time eating the fish, but even then it could not swallow it completely. It stood with its head high and its neck stretched for about 12 minutes, and then it managed to dislodge the fish from its throat. Then the bird picked up the fish again and swallowed it. Apparently the fish went down smoothly. After a few minutes the egret began to hunt again.

This video was recorded with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk. II camera and an old OM-System Zuiko Auto-T (manual) 300mm lens with an Olympus OM Adapter MF-2. The lens aperture was f/8, and the camera settings were HD 1080p, 60fps, shutter 1/125 sec, ISO 200 or 250, White Balance Sunny, and Highlights -2. Since the egret spent a long time just standing, I started and stopped recording several times. Post-processing was minimal. I trimmed six (of seven) files with FFmpeg and then assembled clips with titles in OpenShot on a Lenovo ThinkStation 20 running Fedora Workstation, a GNU/Linux operating system.

The audio track may seem pretty boring. That’s intentional. I thought about adding music, as I do with most of my nature videos, but I decided to leave the audio as it was recorded. I wanted to show this event, a bird eating a fish, without trying to manipulate viewers’ emotions with background music. I tried to remain silent as I recorded, but some breathing and vocalizing can be heard along with sounds of traffic, the Shinkansen train, and people playing soccer at Yasugawa Sports Park. Frankly, the sound isn’t very good, but at least it’s authentic.