Tag Archives: winter

Snow scenes

Ritto City in southern Shiga Prefecture, Japan, was covered with snow for a few days in January, 2017.

January 15th

On January 15th heavy snow covered Takano Park near my home.

Snow at Takano Shrine in Ritto City on January 15, 2017

Snow at Takano Shrine in Ritto City on January 15, 2017

Snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

Snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

Snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

Snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

As usual on Sunday, local children were playing at Takano Park. They seemed delighted by the rare chance to play in a snowstorm.

Children playing in snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

Children playing in snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

Children playing in snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

Children playing in snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

Children playing in snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

Children playing in snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

January 16th

On January 16th more snow was followed by patches of blue sky.

Eurasian tree sparrows (Passer montanus, スズメ) in a snow-covered field in Hayashi, Ritto City

Eurasian tree sparrows (Passer montanus, スズメ) in a snow-covered field in Hayashi, Ritto City

Tree at the end of the ground golf course in Deba, RItto City, during a snow storm

Tree at the end of the ground golf course in Deba, RItto City, during a snow storm

Two spring riders near the tennis courts in Deba, Ritto City, with Yasugawa Ohashi (野洲川大橋) and Mikamiyama (三上山) in the background

Two spring riders near the tennis courts in Deba, Ritto City, with Yasugawa Ohashi (野洲川大橋) and Mikamiyama (三上山) in the background

Snow-covered field in Tsuji, Ritto City, with Mikamiyama in the background

Snow-covered field in Tsuji, Ritto City, with Mikamiyama in the background

Snow-covered field in Tsuji, Ritto City

Snow-covered field in Tsuji, Ritto City

Pink rose in Tsuji, Ritto City

Pink rose in Tsuji, Ritto City

January 24th

We had a bit more snow on January 24th. By noon it was melting.

Snow-covered fields in Hayashi, Ritto City

Snow-covered fields in Hayashi, Ritto City

Mikamiyama (三上山) and the upper ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Mikamiyama (三上山) and the upper ground golf course in Deba, RItto City

Bodaijisan (菩提寺山) and the upper ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Bodaijisan (菩提寺山) and the upper ground golf course in Deba, RItto City

Mikamiyama (三上山) and Bodaijisan (菩提寺山) seen from Yasugawa Sports Park in Deba, Ritto City

Mikamiyama (三上山) and Bodaijisan (菩提寺山) seen from Yasugawa Sports Park in Deba, RItto City

Mikamiyama (三上山) seen from the woods at Yasugawa Sports Park in Deba, Ritto City

Mikamiyama (三上山) seen from the woods at Yasugawa Sports Park in Deba, RItto City

Yasugawa Sports Park on a winter afternoon

Yasugawa Sports Park on a winter afternoon

Appreciating wider angles

This January a few days of snow reminded me to appreciate a wider view of the environment. Most of my photographs have been portraits of birds or closeups of bugs or flowers. I enjoy watching living creatures up close through a telephoto lens, but I don’t want to become too absorbed in such a narrow view of life. I think it’s wise to also see and photograph the world from a broader and more natural perspective.

Small Birds in December

December is a good month for bird photography here in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Several species of small migratory birds begin to appear along with birds that we can see all year. Most of the birds shown here are winter birds. This December I photographed some of these species for the first time.

Brown-eared bulbul (ヒヨドリ)

Brown-eared bulbuls (ヒヨドリ)

Brown-eared bulbul (ヒヨドリ)

Bull-headed shrike (モズ)

Bull-headed shrike (モズ)

Bull-headed shrike (モズ)

Bull-headed shrike (モズ)

Daurian redstart male (ジョウビタキ)

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

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

Dusky thrush (ツグミ)

Dusky thrush (ツグミ)

Dusky thrush (ツグミ)

Japanese tit (シジュウカラ)

Japanese tits (シジュウカラ)

Japanese tit (シジュウカラ)

Japanese white-eye (メジロ)

Japanese White-eye (メジロ)

Japanese White-eye (メジロ)

Long-tailed-tit (エナガ)

Long-tailed Tit (エナガ)

Long-tailed Tit (エナガ)

Meadow bunting (ホオジロ)

Meadow bunting (ホオジロ)

Meadow bunting (ホオジロ)

Oriental greenfinch (カワラヒワ)

Oriental Greenfinch (カワラヒワ)

Pygmy woodpecker (コゲラ)

Pygmy woodpecker (Dendrocopos kizuki, コゲラ)

Pygmy woodpecker (Dendrocopos kizuki, コゲラ)

Rustic bunting (カシラダカ)

Rustic Bunting (カシラダカ)

Varied tit (ヤマガラ)

Varied tit (ヤマガラ)

Varied tit (ヤマガラ)

White wagtail (ハクセキレイ)

White wagtail (ハクセキレイ)

White wagtail (ハクセキレイ)

White-cheeked starling (ムクドリ)

White-cheeked Starling (ムクドリ)

White-cheeked Starling (ムクドリ)

This post does not include waterfowl, egrets, herons, crows, kingfishers, or other birds that I often see. I will post some photos of these birds soon. Also, I hope to photograph more birds that I have not yet seen.

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.

Blue river with snow on both shallow banks, small mountain in the background.

New Year Snow 2015

Scenes of a riverbank and nearby fields January 2-5, 2015. Soundtrack from “Relaxing Music” by Sławomir Królik, chafer on SoundCloud (https://soundcloud.com/chafer). Hear the full version embedded below.

The first two nights of the New Year, 2015, we had heavy snowfall in Ritto City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Nearby fields and the Yasugawa riverbank were covered with nearly 30cm of snow, the most we have seen in more than 30 years. Each day it was warm and sunny and nearly silent, with few cars and trains running slowly. January 2nd and 3rd were the quietest days that I have experienced here in Ritto City.

Birds were quite active. Pigeons, wagtails, starlings, and sparrows were feeding wherever vegetation appeared through the snow. Black kites were soaring, and cormorants, egrets, herons, and a kingfisher were catching fish as usual.

There were only a few signs of other wildlife. I saw the tracks of a fox and and a weasel, but, other than small birds and a little egret in a field, the only other tracks were made by a few humans and dogs. In the deep snow on the riverbed below Yasugawa Ohashi, the Japan Route 8 bridge, the only tracks I saw were mine.

Production notes

Photos and video clips were taken with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera and a Tamron C001 14-150mm zoom lens.

Postproduction was done on a Lenovo ThinkStation S20 running the CentOS 7 operating system. Software included:

  • Audacity (audio editing)
  • digiKam (photo management and editing)
  • FFmpeg (video file processing, driven with shell scripts)
  • GNU Emacs (text and shell script editing)
  • OpenShot (video editing)

Relaxing Music by Sławomir Królik (chafer)

Yasugawa in Winter

This is near my house in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Images and sounds were gathered between December 29, 2012, and January 3, 2013. From here the river gradually slows and then enters Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake.

Shiga Rivers is a series of media productions about rivers in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Yasugawa in Winter is the first video of the series.