Spring Images

February 21, 2017      The transition from Winter to Spring here in Japan is a very good time to get outdoors and observe nature. All forms of life, from gnats to whales, are being prodded by the changing temperatures, magnetic fields, and other stimuli, to start the next seasonal, biological, or annual cycle in their lives. I, myself was prodded to get out of the house whenever work or weather permitted. These past few weeks,  I have been going to  local Homan river to observe and photograph the brown dipper, kawagarasu (river crow) in Japanese. Occasionally, I would be treated to the subtle, intoxicating fragrance of plum blossoms, putting a spring in my steps and a grin on my face.                                              In my last attempt to locate the nesting site of the brown dipper, I was thrilled to see a pair of crested kingfishers off in the distance, flying away from me up the river. Later, as I was sitting  under some brush, observing a dipper,(in the video below) a crested kingfisher, or yamasemi (mountain cicada) in Japanese, landed on the branch of a tree I was under. I could only manage to get off a few pictures of it’s back before it noticed me and flew away, emitting a loud ke! ke! ke!  I hope the pair of crested kingfishers decide to stay in the area. If they do, courtship and and construction or remodeling of an existing nesting hole  could begin within a month or two.  Perhaps I will be fortunate enough to find and observe the nesting site!

Brown Dipper Nest

Feb. 15, 2017   Last Sunday I went back to Homan River, located at the base of Mt. Onechi to see if the brown dippers (kawagarasu) had started their nest building yet. One of them saw my approach, and it flew off up the stream as fast and straight as an arrow. As I wanted to find the nest, I walked up a few hundred meters more and then found a hidden spot among some bamboo by the river. After 20 minutes or so, one flew past me up the stream with some moss in its beak. I walked up another 100 meters and sat down again, hidden from view, and a dipper soon flashed by in the same direction grasping something in its mouth. In this way, it took a few hours to finally locate the nest under a flat , large rock in the center of the stream. Next morning, a few hours before daybreak, I returned and set up a small blind about 10 meters from the nest entrance. I left the blind alone for a few days to allow the dippers to become accustomed to its presence. I returned before daybreak once again and set up my gear and waited quietly for the sunrise. It was a snowy morning quite cold and overcast, but finally the light rose enough for me to be able to notice their shapes flitting by in the shadows. Over the next few hours, the camera  captured some rather dark video and photos as the nest was situated within the forest under some trees. I plan on returning this weekend before sunset, to try to photograph in western light, and better exposure.

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In the video below, see if you can see the dipper flash by 3 seconds before the end at normal speed.

A few days later, I went to  Shioji mountain where the plum trees where beginning to bloom. There were many birds about, and I was happy to see a male and female red-flanked bluetail (ruri bitaki) cavorting around. They stayed in the same area for some time, and were very preoccupied with each other, so I was able to approach quite close. The first 2 pictures are the male, and the following 2 are the female.

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 A Daurian’s redstart  posing on a plum branch above, and the first plum blossoms of spring below.  I am glad that spring is almost here.

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