Tag Archives: Shiga Rivers

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.

Cormorant in foreground, facing left, wings spread. Egret in background, head retracted and neck bent.

A Few Big Birds

Rainy Season seems pretty dry this year, and local rivers are running low. On Monday, June 23, 2014, I rode down along Yasugawa, looking for egrets and other wildlife along the way. Only a few large birds were on the river, mostly a little downstream of Shiga Route 2.

Great egret walking to left in shallow river, left foot raised.

Great Egret in Yasugawa.

Grey heron flying low along river to left below center, wings up slightly, feet dragging in water.

Grey heron beginning flight down Yasugawa

I spent nearly an hour watching a black kite (tombi) on a small tree stump over the river. The kite called continually but quietly. Finally another kite appeared and swooped down, very briefly hovering near the caller. They both flew downstream and circled overhead near each other. After a few minutes one flew to a nearby tree and the other returned to the same location on the tree stump. When I left 20-25 minutes later, the kite was still there, quietly calling.

Black kite on right, back to camera, head turned to right, beak open. Colors match brush and dirt in background.

Black kite on small tree stump, calling.

As I was watching the kite, a kingfisher (kawasemi) emerged from nearby bushes, hovered over the river, dived in, caught a little fish, and returned to the bushes where I could not see it. I did not have time to photograph it, but what a beautiful sight and pleasant surprise! These days I don’t see many birds along the river, but patience can bring great rewards.

Large white bird, a great egret, standing in water facing right.

Cormorants, Egrets, and Herons in Spring

Cormorants, egrets, and herons actively feed on fish in Yasugawa near Shinjo-cho, Moriyama, Shiga, Japan. This area, just downstream from where Shiga Prefectural Route 48 crosses the river, teems with life. It is not yet “developed” for ground golf or other recreational activities, although many people walk nearby. In late spring and summer quite a few people can be seen fishing within a few hundred meters both upstream and downstream.

Here the river flows north-northwest, toward the top of the map. I positioned my tripod on the left bank where the river is closest and shot upstream to the southeast.

Cars cannot enter the area beside the river or the road on the embankment to the west, so I left my car near a park just upstream from Shiga Route 48. From my house it is about 20 minutes by car and 25-30 minutes straight down along the river by bicycle. I usually ride a bicycle unless I’m carrying a heavy tripod and a big telephoto lens.

This area, especially the park, is a popular spot for local people, especially on Sundays and holidays. In the late afternoon and early evening many people jog, cycle, or walk their dogs at the park or on the closed road on the embankment, where some school kids commute by bicycle.

Except for a few people who fish, very few people go near the river here, so it is a good place for wildlife. With nearby traffic, farming, and light industry, it’s not very quiet, but it’s a beautiful place to relax.

Technical notes

I shot the video in mid-May, 2014, with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera and mostly a 1986 Olympus OM System 300mm f4 lens with a circular PL filter. For many scenes I used the camera’s digital converter, which effectively doubles the focal length of the lens. Manual focus was hard at such a great focal length.

Video was 1920x1080p at 29.97fps (fixed on the Em-5), and camera settings were all manual: shutter speed was 1/60 sec., aperture was f16 (in sunlight), ISO was 200, and white balance was set for sunlight. Color balance, saturation, and brightness were adjusted, and images were stabilized, with video editing software (Final Cut Pro X on a late 2008 MacBook).

An additional soundtrack was recorded separately with an Audio-Technica BP4025 mic (with a furry windscreen) and an Olympus LS-100 recorder. I put the mic on the ground in the grass near the camera tripod. The strong wind made the camera audio unusable, even with the external Olympus mic and a windscreen. The sound is what I heard at the camera position far from the river. Camera sound is included, but it has been reduced (-30dB). Ocasionally we can hear a strong puff of wind.

Swallows Return

Adult swallow in a nest, closeup facing right.

Adult swallow nesting on a cool April night.

Swallows have returned to our car port. They have been flying in and out for several days, and this evening two came to roost in a nest was made last June.

Last year in July I made some videos of five baby swallows from July 7th, 13th, 19th, 20th, and 21st, when they flew from their nest.

July 7, 2013:

July 13, 2013:

July 19, 2013:

July 20, 2013:

July 21, 2013 – Young swallows fly:

Many years ago our neighborhood was full of swallows every spring, but since 2007 or 2008 we have seen very few. In 2013 a few more appeared, but they did not nest at our house until June. This year more came in early April. Hopefully, the population is growing.

I’m looking forward to watching swallows up close again this year.

Yasugawa After Typhoon 18

Yasugawa near Ritto City after Typhoon 18 on September 16, 2013. These clips were shot hand-held from a few hundred meters above Yasugawa Ohashi, where the river flows under Japan Route 8. We can see the bridge and two small mountains: Mikamiyama (straight across the river from the camera) and Bodaijisan. The wind was quite strong, so I reduced the audio volume -12dB.

The river level had been higher. At the the high-water mark hundreds of PET bottles were along the riverbank. The river had not risen so high for a long time, so this time it picked up a lot of trash that people had left during summer. Every year I see thousands of plastic bottles along the riverbank in Ritto and Moriyama.